Marauders without Borders - A Semester at Sea

Marauders without Borders - A Semester at Sea

Marauders without Borders

A Semester at Sea with Laura Saltzman

Hometown: Glenmoore, PA
Graduation: Spring 2016

It’s been said, “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” This fall, Social Work major, Laura Saltzman is preparing to add quite a few pages, as she embarks on a trip around the world as part of the Semester At Sea study abroad program through Millersville University’s Office of Global Education and Partnerships. Setting sail aboard the seven deck, 590-foot MV Explorer, Laura will further her education through a blend of experiential study, interdisciplinary coursework and field labs across 16 ports of call and multiple countries. With these experiences, Laura is seeking a better understanding of the social and economic conditions of the less fortunate in other regions of the world. Learn more about Laura

Check back frequently, as Laura will be posting images and updates about her unforgettable life experience! Interested in Marauders without Borders? Learn more about the diverse opportunities available through the Office of Global Education and Partnerships.

Posts are below in chronological order with the newest one on top.

Travel to Rostock, Germany

September 8th

My friends and I flew from Krakow, Poland to Berlin, Germany. We checked in at our hostel, which was very nice. Then we went out to see the Berlin wall. The art on the wall is absolutely beautiful. One side was detailed pictures and the other side was graffiti. Unfortunately, since anyone can write on the wall, some people drew over the beautiful paintings by just writing their names or profane words in spray paint. What I loved about Berlin was that it is such an open-minded city. They are very pro-active on gay rights and it’s filled with artists and artistic culture. The food in Berlin was great, much better than I expected. I am also appreciating Europeans walking their dogs! I have met so many people walking with dogs and most of them are so friendly. It was a lot of fun to sit near the water behind the Berlin wall and watch the dogs play. One other trivial thing I learned is that in Europe, if I want water, I need to specify with or without “gas” (carbonation).

September 9th

Today we rejoined our ship in Rostock, Germany. We had scheduled a 9 a.m. bus to take us to the port. I asked the bus driver if this was our bus and he said something in German to me, got on the bus, shut the door and drove away without us! I was panicking because the ship waits for no one, if we miss the ship we have to go meet it at the next port. Luckily, some very nice ladies who worked for the company were able to get us on the next bus and they apologized multiple times for how the bus driver treated us. I was just happy to get back to the ship in plenty of time. Overall, my first independent travel experience was a fun adventure and a good learning opportunity. I had so much fun, but there were also times of sadness, fear and anxiety. I do feel I am better prepared for traveling independently in my next ports.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Jen and I posing in front of the Berlin wall. There is a beautiful painting but unfortunately people put graffiti all over it.


Tyler posing below some art on the Berlin Wall.


Anna Roth, German student aboard SAS and her husband (below) Tobias Roth also a student on SAS.


Tobias Roth (Anna Roth's husband), German student aboard SAS.


Interview

Anna Roth and Tobias Roth are German students also attending my Semester at Sea. They just got married a month ago! Nice honeymoon right? They brought a very interesting perspective when interviewing them. It was a pleasure to take time to get to know them and I have become friends with them through this interview process.

What do you like most about Germany?
Anna Roth - What I like is that the communication between Germans is quite direct, people are honest they mean what they say and it makes it a lot easier to live together. Germany has great variety. There are areas where you can ski, hike, go to beaches and it is very diverse - every place has their own rituals. The location is nice because it is in the center of Europe so it is easy to travel. Hiking and swimming are my favorite things to do. School tuition is basically free aside from administration fees.
Tobias Roth - What I like is the Political Social Market Economy. I like the idea of a community-based approach in which we care for the weak but at the same time have free economy. It is much more regulated than in America but you can still engage in free competition. For example there is universal health care. Women are paid for their maternity leave and husbands are also given a period of “family time” off. In Germany we pay about 50% of our income in taxes or all these security systems don’t work. Small family business is quite strong because the Germans have a more long term outlook. They want to make sure that their kids will have a place to work when they grow up. Germany wants to get rid of fossil energy and nuclear power and just use renewable energy or “energiewende” in German.

What do you like least about Germany?
Anna Roth - The people are kind of negative. If a person has a new idea they see the obstacles and problems. They are quite pessimistic in general. Also the weather could be better.
Tobias Roth - The people are overly critical and not easy to approach. It may take some time to break the ice. It is worth it but it is not always easy. Also the weather could be better.

What is the stereotype that German’s have of Americans?
Anna Roth - Americans are noisy and tend to be extreme. They are eating fast food all the time.
Tobias Roth - Americans are very innovative. Everything is always exaggerated (bigger, better). They are disastrous when it comes to sustainability. America has many opportunities for people it is a very open and free country. Americans are risk takers. However, Americans are very welcoming and nice. Americans are superficial. Americans keep like a “bubble” around them. They keep space but make up for it verbally.

In Germany is it common to get married so young?
It depends on what path you choose. If you are in school when you are 16 you leave for vocational training. That takes about three years and then you would start working. If that is the path you choose than it is normal to get married young. If you are still studying it is not normal. It’s more about what period of your life you’re in. Most people wait until they start to work.

What do you know about Human Trafficking in Germany?
Anna Roth - I don’t know a lot about it in Germany. There is only a real problem in big cities, and not in small cities. I am not involved enough to know. Even though I am a political science student we don’t talk about it.
Tobias Roth - Human trafficking happens more in Eastern Europe like Romania and Bulgaria. It is easier in the European Union where it is not as controlled. Prostitution is regulated. No one really knows how to deal with it. There is a big debate on how to deal with it.

I heard from my family when they went to Germany and tried to speak German, the Germans would respond back in English because they could recognize their accent. Is it common that everyone speaks English?
Tobias Roth and Anna Roth - If you ask for them to talk to you in German they will but they are practicing their English just like you may be practicing your German. It is our culture to communicate in a direct manor, say what you mean and not what you feel is appropriate.

What has been the greatest culture shock being on the Semester at Sea?
Anna Roth - I am not used to someone just saying “hi, how are you?” in passing and not actually want to stop to talk. They use a lot of words they don’t need to. I knew English but I did not know the American language “code” of English.
Tobias Roth - The biggest culture shock was the idea of realism “because you have the power you should do something” and I have actually met professors who believe in this, you do it because you can. Americans are very motivated and courageous but they do it all for themselves. Something may have taken multiple people to accomplish it but they want to take all the credit. It is difficult to adapt but now I just try to understand the underlying value system. I really value what ISE (Institute for Shipboard Education) is doing and the program itself, the organization and logistics it takes to make a trip like this happen and how they care for students

Travel to Gdansk, Poland

Before we arrive in each port, we have “a cultural pre-port meeting.” My professor of Political Tyranny and Genocide briefed us about Poland since he is native to Poland. He focused primarily on his family history because his mother and father were holocaust survivors. He knew their tattoo numbers by heart and would frequently tear up while sharing his experience. At the end of his presentation, everyone on the ship gave him a standing ovation. After much consideration, I have decided to keep him anonymous out of respect for him and his family.

On my first day in Poland, I had a field lab with that same professor. He took us to Stuthoff Concentration camp. Stuthoff was not considered an extermination camp, however there were gas chambers, a crematory, a doctor’s room where they performed lethal injections, and hanging bars. I have never been on such an intense field program. For hours, there was nothing but silence. We went through bunkers and through the crematory. They had actual ashes of victims in the crematory. Being in a concentration camp is very emotional and so much more powerful than anything I had previously read or watched about the Holocaust. The experience is overwhelming and depressing. When I left, I just wanted to take a shower. I really appreciated how my professor was so passionate and willing to share some really personal and tragic memories. Meeting someone personally involved with the Holocaust made the whole tour so much more real and personal. I can also see how being there was helpful for my professor. When we got back on the bus, he thanked us for sharing this experience with him. I really wish everyone could visit a concentration camp. It is hard to fathom that this really happened.

September 6th

I traveled independently to Krakow, Poland with several new Semester at Sea friends. Once we arrived, we went to a Salt Mine. It was very interesting to see what it was like for men back then to work in an environment so dangerous. The tour guide said that the mine is so large we could not find our way out if we lost her. Our tour took over 2 hours and we still only saw about 1% of the mine. The mine no longer produces salt, but we were still able to purchase previously mined salt. When we walked the mine, there was water dripping off the walls that we could dip a finger into and taste the salt. One of the prettiest parts of the entire mine was the chapel. It is the largest underground chapel anywhere and it was beautiful. I learned people married in that chapel and can rent out the entire mine for their wedding. When we left the mine, we were taken up a miner lift, which was similar to an elevator. It was really fast, which was good because we had to walk down 53 levels to get to the bottom and that was only half way down!

After the mine tour, we went to dinner. Lucky for us, the Polish dollar is equal to three American dollars and food was very inexpensive. We had perogies of course! They were amazing and so much better than any perogies I ever had back home. We stayed at an interesting hostel called LETS ROCK HOSTEL. At night, everyone goes down to the lobby to meet the other guests. I met Americans from California and some people from Australia. What I realized that I can learn about different cultures anywhere, I am not limited to Polish culture in Poland. I learned about Australian culture from talking with my new Aussie friends. They were astonished that so many Americans own guns because in Australia they cannot own guns.

September 7th

Later in the afternoon, we went to the market. I bought some very pretty magnets. I also took pictures with the street performers. I really enjoyed my enjoyed my time in Poland.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Laura Saltzman | Poland

The Crematory at Stuthoff Concentration Camp.


Laura-Saltzman | Poland

This is what they called the “death gate” at Stuthoff Concentration Camp. Any sites where victims were killed had flowers out of respect.


Laura-Saltzman | Poland

The Chapel that is located in the mine. There were a few religious locations. Miners would pray every day for their safety because it was so dangerous to do their job.


Laura Saltzman | Poland

A view of the water located in the salt mine. The way it looks at first in the light is like a never ending pitfall, but luckily there would be water to catch you.

Travel to St. Petersburg, Russia

August 24-30

We departed Southampton, UK on our way to St. Petersburg, Russia. It took seven days to get there. With so many people to get to know and the excitement of starting our journey, it can be difficult to get enough sleep. It did not help that we kept losing an hour of sleep as we crossed 3 time zones along the way. We have our most intensive class work while at sea. The biggest culture shock for me thus far has been my classes. My classes require a lot of reading and many of these professors teach at larger schools so they aren’t used to taking time to work one on one with students. Now I know I am WAY spoiled by MU’s Social Work Department but I encourage you not to take our professors for granted. It is such a luxury to be able to meet with your professors. Social Work Department I MISS YOU ALL!

On August 29, the Semester at Sea staff informed us that they are changing our itinerary. We will no longer be stopping in Senegal or Ghana due to safety concerns with the Ebola outbreak. There was just a confirmed death in Senegal. The virus has a three week incubation period. Although it is only passed through fluids a person can be asymptomatic for three weeks. When I left in May there were 1,000 confirmed deaths due to Ebola, now there have been over 3,000 confirmed deaths and half of those occurred in the last month. The most probing questions the Semester at Sea had to consider is what if we were to travel to Senegal or Ghana and then we are unable to enter Brazil, or the States? Would there be a chance of quarantine? What would happen if someone did become affected and then passed it along to the shipboard community? I am very disappointed because observing conditions in Senegal and Ghana were a primary reason I chose this journey. However, due to the safety and wellbeing of all I agree they made the proper decision.

In place of Senegal and Ghana we are now going to Civitavecchia, Italy and Barcelona, Spain. Very different than Africa, but I’m sure I will enjoy seeing both venues. I heard someone say on the ship, “I am so sad we are not going to Ghana. I won’t get my pictures with African children.” If their goal is to “show” everyone the service they have done, they may need to stop and reconsider their priorities. Children are not a tourist attraction and poverty is not a tourist site.

I appreciate how this experience is reinforcing the need to stop generalizing, stereotyping and marginalizing people who may be different. We may not even realize we do it, but we can all get along better if we are patient, listen and try to appreciate the cultural diversity. I do not expect a dramatic transformation that changes my life in an instant. What will change my life is a better appreciation for people from different cultural backgrounds. I don’t need to travel around the world to experience this. There is so much diversity back home in Lancaster City.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Laura Saltzman | Russia- St. Petersburg Orthodox Church

St. Petersburg Orthodox Church: Church of the Savior on Blood


Laura Saltzman | Russia European University St. Petersburg

This is the conference room of the European University in St. Petersburg. It is a master’s program and there were a few US students there to share their input.


Laura Saltzman | Russia St. Isaacs Cathedral

St. Isaac’s Cathedral: The gold tier is pure gold - 150 kilos of gold. In total there are 300 kilos of gold throughout the cathedral.


Laura Saltzman | Russia Dacha Community

I went to a Dacha Community. A Dacha is a house that normally three generations share. They do not live there all the time, it is more of a second home that they stay at on weekends and summers. Most have their main houses in St. Petersburg. The family was so nice, Lisa, Katherine and Igor. We had a traditional tea, with cookies and croissants filled with rice or beef. It was very good. Then they gave us homemade ice cream with jam that they made by hand with the berries they grew in their back yard. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Beautiful table setting at the Dacha Community. They build their houses themselves. It reminded me of a house in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.


Laura Saltzman | Russia | Dacha Family

From L to R: Lisa, Igor, Me, Katherine
Here I am handing out my first T-shirts. It was a wonderful gift to be able to give for people who were so hospitable towards me.


August 30th - Field Lab

The first thing I noticed about St. Petersburg was that the architecture is beautiful. I was blown away. I should clarify the difference between a field lab and field program. A field lab is one planned by the professor that directly corresponds to the class. Field programs are optional trips that SAS offers, at an additional cost.

The field lab was excellent, so much better than I expected. We went to see multiple political museums and memorial sites. The most impactful sites for me were the ones dedicated to victims of Stalinism. They were very emotional. I was glad I could take breaks between exhibits. We had a 4 course Russian lunch prepared for us. It included beet soup, beef and potatoes, salad and ice cream. The water in Russia is very bad. The locals don’t even drink the tap water, so we all were given bottled water. After touring all the museums, we had tours of some of the popular attractions in St. Petersburg. We also visited a local college. We met the administration and some students. And then we went shopping!!

Lisa

Lisa is 26 and has lived in her Dacha for many years with her Mom and Dad (Katherine and Igor). Lisa studied for a while in the States and speaks very good English. She also speaks Italian and works for an Italian architecture company that builds roads outside of St. Petersburg. She said, “It is not very difficult to get the news and the people can speak about whatever they like. We may not be in agreement with everything Putin does, but there is good and bad with every government.” She continued, “There are not really any stereotypes that I have heard about Americans. In all the places I have traveled, people are people and there isn’t that much difference between people.” When I asked her about Human Trafficking, she was confused with what I meant at first. I explained what we “hear” about human trafficking from the United States about how Russian women are tricked into becoming brides and then forced into sex slavery. She acknowledged that she knew what I was talking about, but she had only heard about it happening in Asian countries. She said that Asian men would trick Russian women into marrying them. They then take their visas, which forces them to stay. I found this very interesting because I had not heard about that scenario. I feel inspired to learn more and I will do some research.

I’m wondering if Russian news sources would even acknowledge that human trafficking occurs within Russia. I also wonder if Lisa did know about human trafficking within Russia, if she would actually feel comfortable and safe acknowledging it. I’m realizing how we all get filtered news. In my situation, if it is not happening in the U.S. or concerns the states, I may never hear about events in other parts of the world.

Boarding the MV Explorer - Southampton (London), England

Friday, August 22

On Friday, August 22, the work-study students and Global Impact Scholars (about 40 of us) rode a bus to Southampton and were able to board the MV Explorer early. I can’t believe how nice the boat is. It is immaculate, modern and not as claustrophobic as I feared. That evening, family members were invited onto the ship for a tour and reception to meet the faculty and crew. My dad attended and I know he was impressed because he kept saying he was not leaving. However, he did reluctantly leave. I am glad he accompanied me, but now I am at the official start of my 3.5 month adventure of a lifetime.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Here is the MV Explorer. It is so big I was not able to take a picture of the entire boat yet. It is really interesting because we live with our professors and eat meals with them. It’s a much more relaxed environment than normal college classes. I like having close, personal connections with the faculty.


MV Explorer

This is the student union. It can hold 300 students, but since there are over 600 students on the boat, some students have to watch seminars from classrooms on TV. All our cabins have a TV with a live feed to the student union as well.

I am excited and naturally somewhat anxious about this trip. One thing that helped soothe my mind was that my resident director (RD) said to us, “Don’t be comparing your experience to everyone else around you. If you are having a good time and enjoying what you are doing, that is all that matters.” I was feeling a little envious because some schools have groups with over 30 students on SAS, so they arrived with lots of friends. I made friends with the work-study kids and numerous people I connected with on the SAS Facebook page. My first official assignment was to greet the remaining 600 students boarding the ship on Saturday. I liked being the first person to welcome the students onto the ship. I met everyone and even began to get to know the staff.

I really like my roommate. Her name is Gen. She is very funny. I had all the Millersville t-shirts that I will be handing out in my closet and Gen said to her friend Kyle, “Maybe she is like a cartoon character and has to wear the same shirt every day.” I am so glad she has a sense of humor and we can joke. We are both messy – what a relief, because it takes some of the pressure off me to be neat.

The ship is literally like a hotel.  Angelito comes and cleans our room every other day. They switch our towels once a week and they even make our beds. So far, the food has been great. There is always pasta, bread, potatoes and some fish. It is a LOT of carbs. I have not felt seasick yet (knock on wood), but when the boat is moving and it is wavy, everything rattles! Take a look at my YouTube link for a tour of my cabin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AkHR_Wntkc).  I decorated my side of the cabin. All the pictures of Miley and Ray make me feel more comfortable, but I miss them so much. I have a ritual when I go to bed.  I think about “what did I do today that really mattered?” It can be as simple as holding a door and encouraging the other students, or doing community service activities. Either way I want to make each day count! We leave August 24th at 17:00 off to St. Petersburg, Russia!

Thank you for reading.   Please send me your questions and comments: laura.saltzman.fa14@semesteratsea.org.


Some SAS Facts:

  • 71.5% girls and 28.5% boys. The boys have a nice ratio going on. The students are predominantly Caucasian, but students from 13 different nationalities are on-board. We have students from Egypt, Russia, Italy, Jordan, China and Germany to name a few. • I really appreciate that we have plenty of hot water in the showers. The hot water does not shut off or run out.
  • The water is fresh and clean. I can drink right from the sink and it tastes completely normal.
  • We had an activities fair. I joined a Bible study group and signed up for a Prevention of Human Trafficking trip and sunrise/set yoga classes. • We have a concept called our “extended family.” We are paired up with a staff member and other students and have lunches and dinners together.
  • The crew on the MV Explorer is very friendly and most have been working on this ship for many years.
  • There is a spa on the ship. After class, we can go to the spa and relax.
  • SAS Alumni had a tradition of writing messages on the backs of the pictures in our rooms. One person found $100 bill that a SAS alum had challenged them to find from the writing on the back of the picture. SAS has now bolted and glued the pictures down. Kids were trying to pull them off the walls and some actually had to pay damages for breaking glass and such.
  • I suspect I will get seasick since I easily get carsick. Fortunately, SAS provides free seasickness medication for students to pick up if needed.
  • Our professors are all very prestigious and seem they will be a wealth of knowledge.
  • I am wondering who we might have as special visitors on our trip. The last voyage had Desmond Tutu come speak to them. When my aunt Amy attended SAS about 10 years ago, they had Fidel Castro speak to them at the University of Havana. FYI – she said he would not stop talking and was very boring!

England - 3 days till departure

Thursday, August 21st

I liked London more than Iceland. My Dad kept telling me that everything would be more expensive in England so I was getting nervous, but food was a third of the price it was in Iceland and they had a “Pound” store which is their equivalent to our Dollar stores. There is a stereotype that the British are rude and think they are better than Americans, but I thought everyone was really nice and most were very funny. London is known for pubs and the first pub my dad and I went in was an Indian Pub. It had really good food and I was inspired by the diversity that I saw in London.

Our London hotel was small, but I could at least move in the bathroom. Since the hotel was recommended by SAS there were other students there so I was able to meet people and go out to dinner with them.

The next day my friend Kristen arrived in London and we went on a double decker bus tour. It was a long day but we got to see pretty much all of London in a day. Some of the stops that were highlights for me were Big Ben, London Tower/Crown Jewels, London Eye and Buckingham Palace. I would say the sights of London were what I expected and I did not feel like it was that different from America. I learned how to take the tube (subway) into the city and I feel much more confident now going into my independent travel.

I am excited to board the ship now! Thank you for reading!

Big Ben is a lot larger than I expected. We got lucky because the weather was nice when I took the photo. It soon turned to a typical London day – cold and rainy.


Selfie at the gates of Buckingham palace! There was a young boy that was like, “I just saw a women I think it was the Queen!” SO funny. I said to my Dad I hope they just let him think that and make his day!


Here is the London Eye with Kristen and I inside going up. It was really slow and we got an awesome view of London.


Kristen and I are photo bombing the English guard. He did not show any emotion. Everyone around us was trying to make him laugh but they never laugh.

Iceland

Sunday, August 17th

My father and I arrived at the first stop on my itinerary: Reykjavik, Iceland. The Reykjavik Airport is small. When we arrived, there was no available jetway. Passengers had to walk down the steps and ride a bus to the terminal. As someone who likes to stay “connected,” I really appreciated that everywhere in Iceland has free WiFi (even the public buses). The hotels in Iceland are very small and expensive. Our hotel room was smaller than a dorm room and with all my luggage, I barely could make a path to my bed. But that wasn’t even the most difficult adjustment...It was having to share the small room with my dad, the snorer!

Monday, August 18

I discovered jetlag and don’t recommend it.  However, I persevered and my dad and I went to the Blue Lagoon. It was an awesome experience. Outside of the actual swimming area, it was very cold. However, the Blue Lagoon is like an enormous hot tub, mineral bath and steam room, all in one place. It felt so nice and relaxing.  The people around us used the mineral cream provided by the lagoon as mud masks and sun protection as they relaxed in the water. My Dad and I took pictures joking “There might be a zombie apocalypse!”

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

This is the entrance to Blue Lagoon, the #1 tourist attraction in Iceland. Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in the youngest lava field in West Ireland. The water is known for its numerous minerals.


Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The best way to explain Blue Lagoon is like a giant hot tub. The water temperature averages around 98-102ᵒ, but in certain areas it is much hotter. In the background where the steam is rising, that water was so hot it will burn you if you get too close.


Blue Lagoon, Iceland

People were using mud masks at the Blue Lagoon. My Dad and I were laughing about a pending, “Zombie apocalypse!”


Later that night, we took the advice from a hotel concierge and went to an authentic Iceland restaurant. The restaurant served whale and horse!  My sister has a horse and I am very supportive of protecting whales, so my father and I decided to find another option.  Iceland is known for their seafood and we realized that almost all the better restaurants serve whale.   We found a local pub restaurant that didn’t serve whale or horse and happily dined on salmon and asparagus. I had olives and nuts as an appetizer and my father read the menu wrong and ended up getting a Caesar Salad meal as an appetizer along with his salmon dinner.  For desert I had Creme Brulee. The food in Iceland is ridiculously expensive. Our dinner bill was over $120 American dollars. I teased my Dad and said, “It’s only that much because you bought two meals by accident!”

Tuesday, August 19

After a continental breakfast provided by the hotel, my father and I went on an all day tour called the Golden Circle. We made various stops along the way. My favorite stops were the Great Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall. We hiked down to the Gullfoss Waterfall and took pictures. The Great Geysir was fun because we would watch for the water to start sinking down and flowing back up again which was the indication of a pending eruption.  Then the water would shoot out from the spring hole. I kept trying to have my Dad snap a picture of me in front of it while it was erupting, but his photography skills were not up to par. Lunch was over $50 American dollars for soup, chicken fingers, fries and water.  I am now very appreciative of food prices at home. Once we got back to the hotel we went right to sleep because we had to leave for the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Great Geysir, Island

The Great Geysir erupts into the air about every 15 minutes.


Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

This is Gullfoss Waterfall, which is actually two separate falls. The first fall has an 11 meter drop and the second has a 21 meter drop. When looking at it from a distance, it looks like steps. The water travels so fast and falls so hard, that we were misted by the water just walking along the side on the trail.


My first interview: Marek Montana, Hotel Concierge

Laura Saltzman with Marek Montana
Marek was an inspiration. He is so kind, (as were most in Iceland). He took the time to answer my questions and listen to my personal interests. By the end of the interview, I considered us friends. My father and I had to leave at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight and he had breakfast for us, even though it’s normally not served until 7 a.m. I hope all the people I meet are as kind and hospitable. Thanks Marek!

What do you like best about Iceland?
Iceland is healthy. They use almost all renewable energy. The people are really nice. There is virtually no crime. The police don’t even carry guns. Guns are illegal to have here. The nature is beautiful and the atmosphere is very relaxed, especially compared to New York City during the holiday.

What do you least like?
They could have more cities. There are only two big cities.

What are the winters like?
Winters are very cold. It can get as cold as -20ᵒC. People stay inside much more often.

What is the strangest law in Iceland?
Probably that we can hunt whales.

Have you ever tried whale? Did you like it?
Yeah, I have tried it. It tasted kind of like beef and was very gummy.

What do you like best about tourism and what do you like least?
I most like meeting people of different cultures. It is difficult though because everyone’s culture is different and if I am having a bad day, I may take something personally, when that is just how they may talk in their culture.

Are you aware of any human trafficking that has taken place in Iceland?
Yes. A few years ago something happened. Iceland is a very feminist society and when it was brought to light, they closed down all the strip clubs. It is completely illegal to operate a strip club or perform in one. There is a program called Big Sister that helps with finding these victims and shutting down trafficking rings.


Thank you for reading my blog! I welcome your comments on my information and photography. Please feel free to contact me at Laura.Saltzman.FA14@semesteratsea.org.

Preparing for my semester at sea—August 15, 2014

Laura Saltzman Saying GoodbyeSaying goodbye is not easy for me. I will be away from my fiancé, Ray, my family, and my friends for 3.5 months. I know once I am on the plane starting my journey, it will all be worth it. I am excited about the opportunity to learn more about myself and lifestyles and cultures in other parts of the world. I get to share my Semester at Sea experience with a diverse group of 600 students from all over the world.

I anticipated the tears of joy (and sadness that I will be away) from my family and fiancé. What really surprised me is that I am pretty sure my Chihuahua, Miley has figured out I am going away. Over the past few weeks, she has attached herself to my hip nonstop and cries like a baby anytime I am leave her.

I am not quite sure what to expect on my journey.  My emotions are mixed.  I am so excited about this chance of a lifetime to visit 19 ports in 16 countries around the world.  (http://www.semesteratsea.org/voyages/fall-2014/).  However, I also have a lot of anxiety about being away from the important people (and pets) in my life for such a long time.  Will I get homesick?  How often will I be able to talk to Ray and my family?  Will I get seasick?  Will I like my roommate(s)? Will I like the food?  I think once I am on board the MV Explorer ship and busy assimilating to my busy schedule of academics, meeting new friends, and exploring new places, I will be fine.

Laura Saltzman packing for her Semester at SeaPacking is another challenge. I started practice packing about three weeks ago. SAS recommends that you set out everything you want, and then put half of the stuff back. I put out everything I wanted, and made it all fit. It’s all a bit tricky because I will be experiencing a full range of weather and need to have appropriate clothes (or layers of clothes) based on the local weather. I put a suitcase inside of a larger suitcase so when I return home I will have an extra suitcase to use. I have become an expert packer. Miley was my big helper, she would sit in my suitcase while I was packing.  My dad will be thrilled once I finally have all my clutter packed or put away.

I have wanted to attend Semester at Sea since I was 12 years old. My aunt Amy and my cousin Sarah both attended Semester at Sea. I guess I am carrying on a family tradition. Both Amy and Sarah said their Semester at Sea journey was a “transformational life event” and it influenced their career paths.  Amy is now a child advocacy lawyer and Sarah is working on green environment initiatives.  I wonder how it may influence my life plans! I knew the day I started college that this fall journey was the trip for me.  It took a lot of convincing, saving, and a few scholarships to make it possible.  

My trip departs out of Southampton, UK about 2 hours from London.  I am glad my father will accompany me to London to see me off on my journey (and carry the heavy bags!).  He found the best airfare on Iceland Air so we are also going to spend a few days in Iceland and a few days exploring London before I board the ship on August 22nd.

I am thrilled that Millersville University has been so supportive of my trip.  They have even provided me with a box of Millersville T-shirts to share with interesting people I meet on my journey.  I am also thrilled that Millersville University is encouraging me to share my adventure with our community.  Thanks for reading my blog.

Sincerely,
Laura Saltzman

About Laura

Hometown: Glenmoore, PA
Graduation: Spring 2016

Laura Saltzman is entering her junior year as a Social Work major and is part of Millersville University’s Honors College. Laura was inspired to pursue a degree in social work after extensive involvement with various community service organizations, including internships with the Maryland Disability Law Firm, the Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County and the YWCA of Lancaster. Through these internships, Laura developed a passion for helping victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes. “Be the change you want to see in the world” is her favorite quote. When not in school, Laura enjoys make-up artistry, photography, and spending time with her fiancé, Ray Golden (also a student at Millersville) and her Chihuahua, Miley.