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Kelly Adams-Smith: From One Voyager to Another

Kelly Adams-Smith serves as keynote speaker for the Fall 2014 voyage. Photo by: Joshua Gates Weisburg
Kelly Adams-Smith serves as keynote speaker for the Fall 2014 voyage.
Photo by: Joshua Gates Weisberg

Painting a vivid image of land fading slowly into the distance, Kelly Adams-Smith recalls her own departure with Semester at Sea in Fall 1988 – an experience the shipboard community would echo only hours later.

As Adams-Smith opened as keynote speaker for the Fall 2014 voyage she candidly recalls emotions of nervousness and excitement from her embarkation in Vancouver 26 years earlier. Similar to many in the audience, her journey to the ship was not an easy one but her persistence and drive prevailed. “I told my parents a journey like this would change my life, “ stated Adams-Smith.

Adams-Smith addresses her captive audience in The Union. Photo by: Joshua Gates Weisburg
Adams-Smith addresses her captive audience in The Union.
Photo by: Joshua Gates Weisberg

Gazing out over the shipboard community, she shared the delights and challenges she faced along her own journey. Adams-Smith admitted to spending much of her semester on a personal mission of discovery. “I was constantly in search of just what I needed to find myself,” she said.

While her voyage took her around the world she was completely entranced by an experience with local students in Odessa, Ukraine – not far from the MV Explorer’s next port of call. During a homestay in Odessa she met college students her own age who broke cultural barriers and engaged her in conversations. She was touched by their similarities to herself and was forever changed by the experience. After returning home, she studied Eastern Europe and began a two-decade Foreign Service career focused in that area.

Impressed by her credentials and drive, on-looking student Sarah Fritsch of University of North Carolina was in awe of the impact the program had on Adams-Smith’s life. “It was cool to think that (Semester at Sea) really changed her life…and it could change (my) life too.”

While Semester at Sea was Adams-Smith’s first journey outside the United States, she made sure it was far from her last. She sought out a career in Foreign Service with the United States government and has lived in five countries and traveled to more than she can remember. Her stations have included Estonia, Bulgaria, and even the White House. She is currently working as a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Embassy in London.

She wishes voyagers well on their journey and encourages them to step outside their comfort zones. Photo by: Joshua Gates Weisburg
She wishes voyagers well on their journey and encourages them to step outside their comfort zones.
Photo by: Joshua Gates Weisberg

She stood in front of the shipboard community leaving seasoned words of wisdom on their morning of departure. Adams-Smith concluded, “Be adventurous, be safe and be open to the chance encounter that might not be chance after all.” Much as it was for her, this would just be the beginning.

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  • Alumni

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