Blue Abroad: Semester at Sea with Madie


Madie Butler is a University of Kentucky sophomore studying nursing from Frederick, Maryland. She participated in Semester at Sea’s education abroad program in the Fall of 2014.

1. Where did you go on your Semester at Sea voyage? When? What did you study?

We started in London, then went to Russia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Spain again, Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands, Holland, Barbados, Cuba, and ended in Florida. I went on semester at see Fall 2014. I took world geography, world cities, health promotions, and African dance.


2. How did you select this to be your education abroad program?

I got into the nursing program for spring 2015, so this is my only full semester I could study abroad before I graduate, and I knew I wanted to see a lot of countries. My mom always talked about Semester at Sea when I grew up, so I was aware of the program throughout my life.

3. How did the university courses taught aboard the ship compare to the University of Kentucky?

The biggest difference between the two was just the fact that when I learned something whether it be a culture or about a country, I could see it first hand in the upcoming days.

4. What was your best non-educational experience and why?

There are too many just to pick one, but, in general, being able to fall asleep in one country and waking up in the next was unreal.

5. What was your most awkward moment abroad?

Forgetting which country I was in when trying to talk to the locals.

6. Since your term abroad was spent on a ship, did you have interactions with local peoples? If so, how often and in what capacity? Do you feel that these exchanges were equitable to staying with a host family?

Even though I lived on a ship, whenever the ship got to a new country we were allowed to explore for about 4 days in each place. Almost every port that I went to, I stayed off the ship, often in a hostel. While staying in the hostel, I met many locals and this also allowed me to submerge myself in the city around me. If I would have stayed with a host family, I think I would have gotten to know a couple of people more in depth, but generally, I don’t feel like I am any less culturally diverse. I just met a lot more people than I think I would have if I stayed with a host family.

7. How does your education abroad experience impact your studies at UK? Are you an active alum of the program?

I feel like I look at people differently, in a better way. It has made me appreciate people from different walks on life. I am currently not an active alum of the program.

8. What skills did you cultivate abroad that can be applied to your career goals and ambitions? How did Semester at Sea specifically enrich your education abroad experience?

I can now communicate with people in seven different languages. Since the U.S. is a mixing pot of different cultures I can now more easily relate to many other people in my work place as a nurse.


9. Briefly describe the planning your education abroad experience. What challenges did you encounter? What resources at UK did you utilize? How did you finance your education abroad experience?

I decided to do Semester at Sea very last minute. I found out that if I got into the nursing program for the fall here at UK, I could defer and start in the spring. I also knew that if I didn’t get into UK’s nursing program for either fall or spring, I was going to transfer. So I applied to a couple other nursing schools around the country and all of them told me that I could start in the spring of 2015. I knew that no matter where I was going to school in the spring, I would start nursing school then. So, I made the decision to do Semester at Sea. I applied through Semester at Sea and UK, and found out both places accepted me. I used the study abroad office and advisors and they were VERY helpful! I got scholarships, my mom helped me pay for it, and I worked all summer trying to save up.

10. What is the best piece of advice you can offer to a student preparing to study abroad with Semester at Sea?

When the ship has two ports right next to each other, we had the option to do what is called an “overland”. That just means you can meet the ship in the next country. With this you get more time in the country, more freedom, and more fun! One piece of advice is do all the overland’s you possibly can do! Another thing is do all the “dumb academic things”. Even though now it might seem boring so see the Mona Lisa, and you would rather drink wine all day under the Eiffel Tower, you will regret not seeing it. Do as many things you can possibly do! Don’t sleep in when you are in the countries. Even though you might have been out til 5 in the morning, still get up at 9 am to explore the amazing country around you. You can sleep when you’re dead, or on the ship. One major thing is to take chances! Live outside your comfort zone! This is a once and a lifetime experience and live it up to the fullest! Do things that scare you and do things you have always dreamed of! Also meet everyone you possibly can! Don’t settle with 3 good friends on the ship. Semester at Sea is not a normal atmosphere; everyone was great friends with everyone! It was one HUGE family! Also, become great friends with the crew, professors, and staff members. They all have amazing stories and the crew can sneak you some extra food when they “run out”. Speaking of food, prepare for pasta, potatoes, salad, fish, and steamed veggies for every lunch and dinner. The food isn’t bad, but it is very repetitive. So, enjoy the 3 taco days and 2 BBQ dinners you get! But overall just have a blast and enjoy every minute you get while on Semester at Sea!



Photos by Madie Butler

Written by: Sarah Caton, with comments by Madie Butler

Sarah Caton is an Education Abroad Peer Ambassador studying Spanish and Gender & Women’s Studies. She participated in the UK Partner SOL Costa Rica program.