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Semester at Sea, CSU, and the Spirit of Service

Gardenier, second from right, poses with Fall 2017 Voyagers and local college students during Professor Sarah Sloane’s Intermediate Creative Writing Field Class in Vietnam.

After sailing around the world with Semester at Sea, students are naturally affected by what they see in-country, and with that comes the desire to make a positive change in the world. Similarly, Colorado State University, Semester at Sea’s partner institution, carries on the spirit of service through its commitment to the Peace Corps.

The MV World Odyssey had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Karen Gardenier, the Assistant Director of Academic Programs at Colorado State University, while sailing from Myanmar to Vietnam. Dr. Gardenier helps faculty and other groups on campus add international content to their courses. In addition, she works closely with the international development studies program, the Fulbright scholars, and the Peace Corps recruitment team. Dr. Gardenier thoroughly enjoyed her time on the voyage.

“Everyone has been incredibly warm and welcoming so that’s been fantastic,” she shared. “And I can understand why people enjoy shipboard life. It’s pretty fun! It’s a great community. I love looking out at the ocean and there are just great people on board.”

Dr. Gardenier’s favorite aspect of her job is interacting with driven people and watching them make a true difference in the world. Dr. Gardenier was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan for two years. During her time abroad, she primarily taught English as a foreign language at Naryn State University. Dr. Gardenier shared during an evening lecture that her experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer altered and shaped her life and professional career.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind your own place in the world in terms of how you move through the world and how that impacts people in other countries in ways that you might not even know, so I see volunteering as one way of doing that.”

On Semester at Sea voyages, students learn that volunteering is an important way to understand the circumstances and stories of other people’s lives. Dr. Gardenier believes that this is how Semester at Sea prepares students to make a difference in their communities. In addition, she sees many parallels between Semester at Sea and the Peace Corps.

“Semester at Sea is a really excellent comparative program that allows you to compare one place to another. Peace Corps is the best way that I can think of to immerse yourself in another culture in the sense that they provide different types of international experiences. I think in both instances, they are probably linked in providing a sense of global citizenship and finding your place in the world. Students on SAS start to see connections between different places of the world.”

Through academic classes and interport lectures, SAS students develop a broader understanding about the historical and geographical facets of various cultures. In fact, Fall 2017 Voyager Matthew Zittritsch was selected to work for the Peace Corps starting next year. After the voyage, he will move to Armenia to help plan and implement after-school programs for youth.

“Semester at Sea introduced me to a multitude of global issues,” Zittritsch said, “and the Peace Corps gave me an opportunity to then get involved and make an impact as a global citizen.”

Dr. Gardenier believes that Semester at Sea will continue to develop ways to positively impact the countries and people that future voyages will visit. Dr. Gardenier shared that she has high expectations for students post-voyage.

“I hope that the students of this program can take what they’ve learned on Semester at Sea and really build on it. I want them to grow and continue to take the experience and make it meaningful in their own lives, and in the lives of others. I would like for them to continue building their own awareness and understanding of what is happening in the world and create experiences to improve the lives of many people.”

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