This spring Julie Kiefer ’00 (Spanish, elementary education) ’04 (MA, curriculum and instruction), study abroad advisor in the UIndy Center for Global Engagement, traveled to six Asian countries with a group of college students as part of Semester at Sea, something she first did in 1999. While abroad she had the opportunity to visit Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and India.
The “Semester at Sea” can be broken down into two parts: time spent in port and time spent at sea while traveling between countries. While at sea, Kiefer attended lectures about the culture, language and history of upcoming countries and attended meetings with groups of fellow adult passengers.
“My favorite part was meeting and getting to know many of the 500 college students on the ship, with some of whom I remain in contact,” Kiefer said.
While in port, passengers were able to either explore the countries on their own, or to participate in Semester at Sea-sponsored excursions with local guides visiting sites such as Hiroshima, Japan, the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, Cambodia and the Taj Mahal in India; as well as interacting with local citizens through home stays, school visits and on the street.
Kiefer is sure this experience will help her in her role as UIndy’s Study Abroad advisor. “I help students and faculty plan their own independent and faculty-led study abroad experiences,” Kiefer said. “On this voyage I was able to experience study abroad again from the perspective of a participant, which reminded me daily of how life-changing study abroad truly is.”
Kiefer originally participated in Semester at Sea as a senior at UIndy. She always wanted her husband to have the opportunity to experience a voyage with her, and this year, she got her wish.
“Study abroad, in many ways, shaped who I am and has been an integral part of my life for over 20 years,” she said. “I have been fortunate to visit 50 countries, and all seven continents. Every trip continues to open a new window to the world.”
Kiefer has a little help as she tries to open those new windows – in all of her travels since the first in 1999, she has been accompanied by a mascot, “Simon the World-Traveling Monkey” (pictured below). “Simon is a conversation starter and an icebreaker who knows no language barriers,” Kiefer said. “He creates many opportunities to interact with locals that would not otherwise happen.”