Preserving Semester at Sea Memories in Print and Video Journals

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Alexa O'Connell and Jiaer Zhuang
Aug 20, 2014


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Preserving Semester at Sea Memories in Print and Video Journals

Student Madeline Renedzer paints and draws to capture experiences she's had in ports this summer.
Madeline Renezeder paints and draws in multiple journals to capture experiences she’s had in ports this summer.

Whether it’s pen to notebook, paintbrush to paper, or digital video to computer, students on the Summer 2014 voyage have created poignant documentation of their new experiences, friendships and adventures — on and off the ship in the past 10 weeks. Here’s a glimpse of just a few ways some creative voyagers are making keepsakes to help remember their summer of a lifetime.

A junior at University of Utah, Madeline Rencher is a longtime journaler: “I love looking back on my life; seeing where I started, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve changed, the people in my life, the things I’ve experienced.” Rencher has journaled every day since her freshman year of high school, but she puts together bigger travel journals when she goes on trips.

Writing, taping, gluing, and cutting for hours each day on the ship is time consuming, but Madeline looks at it as time worth spending on something so important. “Mainly, I don’t want to forget anything because life is made up of all the little things, not necessarily just the big things. The smallest jokes and comments are all in here because I don’t want to forget them,” she explained.

Student Madeline Rencher gets crafty with her personal travel journals.
Madeline Rencher gets crafty with her personal travel journals.

Especially since Semester at Sea is the longest Rencher has been away from her hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, the journals she’s created this summer — three in total — are more than just her daily activities, but an outlet for her feelings and emotions. Because they are so personal, don’t ask her to read her journals; instead, write her a note and she will tape it into her journal to read again in the future.

Upon the start of the voyage, Madeline Rencher met Madeline Renezeder, photography major at the University of Notre Dame. Not only do they have astonishingly similar names, but they also share a love of journaling. Nearly every day since the ship’s embarkation from Southampton in mid-June, the duo journals together outside on Deck 7. “We sit at one of the glass tables with all of our stuff and no one else can sit there because there is no room,” Rencher said.

Additionally, the girls enjoy each other’s company when they are in port. “We travel differently than other people. We look for the hidden gems,” Renezeder explained. One of their favorite moments in port? Stumbling upon a secondhand shop in Sweden where they found old stamps and bank notes to include in their journals.

The "two Madelines," otherwise known as "Madeline squared," journal together on Deck 7 and watch the movie "Frozen" as the ship heads to Norway.
The “two Madelines,” otherwise known as “Madeline squared,” journal together on Deck 7 and watch the movie “Frozen” as the ship heads to Norway.

Artist Madeline Renezeder takes a slightly different approach to journaling, constantly doodling, drawing, and sketching in her primary journal for Semester at Sea, one she started in her junior year of high school on a trip to Peru. “One of the reasons I started a drawing journal is because I don’t like the idea of someone being able to read my thoughts. I draw them so no one can tell,” Renezeder said.

The little black book that has traveled the world with Renezeder has become simultaneously dedicated to Marit Berg’s “Mixed-Media Travel Journal” course on the MV Explorer. “I love the class because it disciplines me to work on the journal often,” she explained. Additionally, the class was provided with small accordion journals with just enough room for two pages per port. While on Semester at Sea, Renezeder has been influenced by the city’s layouts as well as their styles of local art. Within these influences, she focuses on what she spent the most time doing while in port. For example, her spreads on Ireland are leafy and green because she spent the entire time in West Ireland, while Scotland is a map of Edinburgh based on an artist’s work that she saw there. “I don’t know if I would ever do this accordion style journal again, because I probably won’t be on a trip like this again, but I will be so happy to have this to look back on,” Renezeder said.

Marquette Hovan works on her video journal that includes this photo of her at a cooking class field program in Lisbon, Portugal.
Marquette Hovan works on her video journal that includes this photo of her at a cooking class field program in Lisbon, Portugal.

Marquette Hovan from Ohio Univeristy is working on a video to wrap up her Semester at Sea voyage. She has created small video projects in classes in high school, but this is her first video of such large scale.

“I want to put every picture of me in and in order as much as possible of each day,” Hovan said. In addition to pictures of the cities and their residents, Hovan also added the “bad pictures” – of her making funny face or those that are upside down. “I want the video to go through being as realistic of my trip as possible,” she says.

For background music, Hovan decided to use traditional local songs for each country she visited. For example, She is going to use Fado as the music for her pictures in Portugal in the final editing process. Street music Hovan recorded along the way will also be added into the video.

Hovan chose to document her summer experience in video versus writing about it in a journal because it enables her to replay her journey in the future. “ It’s gonna be an awesome thing to look back and just to play,” Hovan said. “You can write good and bad things in journals, but you are not going to see those embarrassing pictures of me or pictures of people just walking down the street. With videos, I can see it and even look at the views of what’s going on around me.”

Kelsey Spencer with the opening scene in her video journal.
Kelsey Spencer with the opening scene in her video journal.

Kelsey Spencer, from University of Colorado, also composed a video of her experience. Instead of just pictures, she added many small videos that replay her experience in famous cathedrals and sites such as the Cliff of Moher, strolling through cities, enjoying the nightlife, or just hanging out with friends.

She has made similar projects in the past, so Spencer is very familiar with this video format. She said it’s time-consuming to put everything together as a video, but it’s a much more interactive format than just a slideshow of photos.

Spencer put some thought into picking which pictures or videos to include in the final project. “I usually go with ones that are my favorite, and also something that not only I care about but also those who watch this but wasn’t here would also care about,” she said. “It would help remind me and my friends how amazing and wonderful this experience has been.”

Xinyi Wang shows a clip of her and a friend dancing in port.
Xinyi Wang shows a clip of her and a friend dancing in port.

Xinyi Wang, of the University of Minnesota, also decided to make a video of her journey. Instead of just pictures and videos with friends or of each country, Xinyi started to film clips of video of her dancing with friends to the song “Happy” – a music video that Academic Dean David Gies has played in every mandatory preport meeting and that the 2014 Summer voyagers are too familiar with.

In Finland, Wang found a couple of locals to dance with her in front of the landmark Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral. When asked why she chose this particular song, Wang said, “Because this journey is happy happy.”

Ruowei Ding and her "accordion journal" from the Mixed-Media Travel Journal class.
Ruowei Ding and her “accordion journal” from the Mixed-Media Travel Journal class.

Ruowei Ding, who attends the College of William and Mary, drew her way through ports, contributing to the journals she had complete for the “Mixed-Media Travel Journal” class. “I took this class because I really like drawing, painting, and anything related to art. For the class after each port, I drew things that left the strongest impression on me: beautiful architecture, great shows, or interesting people.”

Like many students in the class, Ding says that the artwork has been time-consuming, but well worth the effort: “These journals are things I’ll keep forever. When I flip through them after Semester at Sea, I will think of the people I have met, the adventure I have been on, and all the touching moments. It will become something very important to me.”

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