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Maymester Is Just the Latest Life Voyage for Adult Student

Kaye Webb is a student on the “Engineering a New Tomorrow” voyage.

Kaye Webb’s entire life has been a personal Semester at Sea voyage. Now that she’s on an actual voyage, she’s seeing even greater vistas.

Kaye, 57, is a student on the four-week Maymester “Engineering a New Tomorrow” voyage as a junior at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, having returned to complete the bachelor’s degree she had started more than 35 years earlier.

“I only learned about Semester at Sea about a month and a half before the voyage from a classmate, Travis Renz, who went on the Fall 2010 voyage,” she said. “Something always tells me I have to do things at a certain time.”

And the Maymester voyage came along at the right time and with a focus on the environment, the developing world and the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. Financial aid from her university and Semester at Sea helped make it possible.

“Real Communities, Real Problems, Real Solutions,” taught by Julie Ellis and Bernie Strenecky of Western Kentucky University, was the perfect fit for Kaye’s interests. The class is studying the Creole community of Gale’s Point in Belize, looking for $100 Solutions to job creation, hurricane shelter, water supply and energy generation. They will visit Gale’s Point during the last stop on the Maymester voyage.

“There were lots of interesting sounding classes,” she said. “Something told me to take that one.”

Kaye’s voyage actually began much earlier when, after two years at the University of Kentucky, she chucked her formal education and headed for Oahu, where an older sister was living. That was in 1973.

Her sister soon left, but Kaye stayed four years.

“I loved it,” she said. “I loved the Polynesian people. I learned the language, the culture. I was considered one of them.” Working an assortment of jobs, she finished a two-year degree and set sail for Tahiti, where she lived for six months.

A globe-trotting career with Club Med took her to Hawaii, Mexico, Switzerland and back to Tahiti. At age 28, “I knew there was more to life than Club Med,” and she embarked on another kind of journey.

She investigated U.S. ashrams, joined a Sufi ashram in New Mexico, picked up some Arabic, learned chanting and belly dancing, and worked on fitness of body, mind and spirit.

Another U-turn: She was married for a while to a Brazilian yacht captain and they sailed together. She designed yacht interiors, which, she says, helps her appreciate the MV Explorer. “This is a very well built ship,” she said.

Licensed as a massage therapist in Florida, she returned to Kentucky to care for her 91-year-old mother after she had broken her hip. College beckoned.

“I was looking for a job to do with fish or wildlife, but they seemed to all require bachelor’s degrees,” she said. “That pushed me.” She started back in the spring 2011 semester.

She’s in the Whitney Young School of Honors and Liberal Studies, with a minor in aquaculture, and her Semester at Sea voyage has shown her a new direction.

“I want to go to developing countries to set up fish farms for food,” she said. She has seen tilapia farms during various field programs and how EARTH University in Costa Rica uses aquatic plants to filter water.

She would like to graduate from Kentucky State in May 2013 with a degree that she says, will simply validate all she has learned on her life’s voyage.

  • Education
  • Life at Sea

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