Vive la SEE – Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

This weekend, I went to visit some famous castles in the Pays de la Loire Valley (the region that I’m staying in). I visited the Château de Chenonceau and the Château de Chambord.

Château de Chenonceau:

This castle was inherited by the royal family, and throughout time, many people of the royal family have made themselves guests in Chenonceau. But the most significant piece of history of this castle is how King Henri ll decided to offer the castle to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers and not his Queen, Catherine de Medici. They both hated each other, and Catherine de Medici was very angry that her husband gave the estate to Diane de Poitiers. But in 1559, after Henri ll passed away, Catherine de Medici got rid of Diane de Poitiers very quickly, and gave the estate to her son Henri lll. And when Henri lll passed away, his wife, Louise de Lorraine moved into the castle to mourn her husband. During World War l, the castle became a military hospital, which I got to visit the hall where many soldiers were being hospitalized. 

Château de Chombard: 

In 1519, this castle was built by Francois l, as a hunting lodge. He built the castle to resemble Renaissance architecture, and it became the largest castle in the Pays de la Loire region. After the death of Francois l, his decedents Henri ll and Louis XIV, continued the construction of the castle, as both of them enjoyed hunting. In the castle, there were over 400 different rooms, yes I got very lost. But many of the rooms resembled rooms from Versailles, which were constructed by Louis XIV at the time. This castle was one of my favorites because it’s full of history and so many historical figures have made a presence in this castle, and it’s so amazing that I got to see the remnants of that history. 



Vive la SEE – St. Malo and Mont St. Michel


 This past weekend, I went to St. Malo and Mont St. Michel. This was my second time seeing these places, the last time I was in France, I also visited these places. So I am very grateful to have been able to see it not only once, but twice!

St. Malo is a walled in city just off the coast off the English channel, located in Normandy, France. The walled in city protected the people from enemies, and the location makes St. Malo a great port. But as time passed, the civilization grew outside of the city walls, and is an exporter for seafood. While I was here, we walked the perimeter of the walls and there was a beautiful view of the sea and ocean. We also explored the city within the walls, and of course spent the day on the beach.

     After St. Malo, we drove to Mont St. Michel. Mont St. Michel is an abbey off the coast of France as well, it’s like an island. Usually at high tide, during the summer, the abbey becomes an island. And at low tide, during the winter and spring, it looks as if a drought happened around Mont St. Michel (there’s a bunch of sand surrounding the town. Within Mont St. Michel, there is a town, with a lot of stairs and inclines just to get around in the town! But also, Mont St. Michel use to be a monastery, so there’s a church that is probably the most prominent structure on the abbey. We got to tour the church and walk around the city. 


Vive la SEE – Visiting the Troglodytes & Saumur

So last week, I went to the French troglodytes and Saumur, France. The French troglodytes were houses under the earth, in caves. We got to see how this community thrived and lived, also how they managed to live in caves for such a long time. The last person to live in these specific troglodytes was in the 1960s, although there are also other troglodytes that people live in today. The homes were built into caves or cliffs, for commoners to live in, and they used the nature around them as best as they could. The main production they’re known for was the production of wine. Since they were below the earth, they had gardens above them, which is where they would grow vines. And when the grapes from the vines were ripe enough and had fallen off, they would fall and roll down into the cave or holes that led into the caves, where the people had structured different machines to press and prepare the wine. The caves were great for storing wine, as the temperature inside would keep the wine cool in the summer, and away from the bitter cold in the winter. We got to tour the different buildings in the troglodyte homes, such as where they kept the cattle, where families would sleep and cook, and where members would gather for fun. 


Vive la SEE – Castles and Cathedrals

Hello everyone, my name is Vanhessa Xayaphet and I am a SEE Scholar studying abroad in France this semester!

So I am staying in Angers, France (pronounced On-shz-ay) it’s in western France in the Pays de la Loire Valley. I attend l’Université Catholique de l’Ouest, participating in a international student program called CIDEF. I just take French learning courses, in French at CIDEF. But in the city of Angers, there’s a beautiful cathedral and a castle called Château d’Angers, a defensive castle located right next to la Meine river, which was a perfect location for the castle because they could use the river as a defense mechanism. I live in a host family and take the tram to classes every morning. That’s all for now!


SEE at Sea – Forwards Always, Backwards Never

Going to Ghana was a life changing experience. Being able to sail on the same path of my ancestors who were starved to death, tortured, treated inhuman and jumped/thrown overboard was an emotional time but an honor. For the first time in my life I was not a minority and it was liberating. Being surrounded by my sistas and brothas is a feeling I will never forget. On my first day I received my Ghanaian name Abena (Ah-beh-nah), meaning I was born on a Tuesday. Within the four days of being there I learned so much more about my history than my whole 20 years of living. I was so welcomed in Ghana and everyone let me know I was home. I made some connections both professionally and personally. I’m extremely grateful to be able to have this experience in particular because it has taught me so much and shown how little I knew. Forwards Always, Backwards Never. #BlackIsPower

While in Ghana I had a field class where we visited a more Urban hospital and a rural one as well. But for the most part I hung out with Locals who showed me around the town and taught me the history and stories about certain landmarks. I Loved it there! It was such a cultural experience I will cherish forever.

-Sadeja Harper


SEE at Sea – Whales, Mountains, and Morocco!

As of today i have been at Semester at Sea for 10 days now. Within these past 10 days, I have experienced and learned so much then I have my whole 20 years of living. There are students from all over the United States and the World. I’ve met people (students and staculty) from India, Jordan, Pakistan, Uganda, Ghana, China and Vietnam. Meeting these people I have learned about their culture first hand from their personal lives which has been enriching. The gentleman from India showed me his brothers’ wedding and Hindu weddings makes American’s weddings look like a joke. Life on sea is a unique one, you literally never know what you’re going to get or see. On day three, I experience a minor case of sea sickness which is no joke. I could feel the ship rocking and riding every wave we encountered. Although the water can be rocky it is extremely beautiful. The way the sun hits the waters during the day and watching the sunset at night is so gorgeous. The food here is delicious and we have meals from different cultures such as jerk chicken, paella, Mediterranean Sea chicken, Vegetable glass noodle soup, etc. (It’s buffet too!). So far I’ve seen whales, mountains and Morocco for the first time in my life.

Our first port was Barcelona, Spain and it was GORGEOUS! During my experience in Barcelona I experienced the beach for the first time at the Mediterranean Sea! One of the media staff wrote about my experience and posted it on the Semester at Sea story! In Barcelona I had a field program at the facility called CRAM. At CRAM I learned about how dangerous pollution to the marine life and all to us as humans. Fun Fact, it is expected by 2050 there will be more plastic in the water than fish. My next port was in Valencia, Spain. It was a less tourist experience and more cultural experience. In Valencia I went to the beach and got in the water and road the waves. After the beach I went to a restaurant called Tampas and had the Valencia Paella. In the Paella it was chicken, rabbit, snail, green beans and rice. Although I didn’t eat the snail, I ate everything else and it was tasty. While talking to locals, I learned about a different view of tourism. Tourism is major income for most locals and countries in general but for the locals its becoming a disturbance to their sense of community. I thought it was interesting because I never thought about it in that light and made me become more aware of the type of tourist I am. Semester at Sea has brought me so many life lessons, new beginnings and so many memories I cannot wait to see what’s next for me.

P.S. I brought my stuffed animal Raffael and everybody loves him he even made an appearance on our embarktation video!

Until Next Time,
Sadeja Harper

SEE at Sea – Getting to the Ship

As of today, I have been in Hamburg, Germany for a day now. The journey here was long and tiring. I drove from St. Louis to Kansas City which was a four-hour drive then the flight in total was twelve hours, so sixteen hours in total of traveling. Luckily, I traveled with a fellow student from the university, so it made the trip just a little bit better. I had a 2 hour and 40 minutes lay over in Iceland where I received my first stamp! Once in Germany, we decided to take the cheaper route and take the train and walk to the hotel. The walk was a bit more than what I expected but 360 euros over 20 euros made it worth it. Oh, and did I forget to mention the hotel doesn’t have air conditioning (thank God its cool around here) so we use a more natural air approach. Down the street is a strip filled with food and shopping stores. Yesterday, I had my first Germany meal it was like a beef wrap and it was delicious. I did a little exploring since I’ve been here but not much.

Today, my travel buddy and I walked to the ship to see where we need to go and see MV Odyssey in person. The ship is GIGANTIC! Like it was everything I could imagine and much more. Seeing the ship made the journey to get to this point worth it. To see my progression of setting a goal, achieving the goal and soon living it was such a beautiful feeling and I’m so proud of myself. Seeing my new home (for the next four months) let me know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I am so ready for this life changing journey! I cannot wait to see the world, explore different cultures, eat exotic foods, take pictures and meet so many people. This will be challenge being away from my love ones, but it will be worth it. I board the ship Sunday September 9, 2018 at 10:00a.m.

-Sadeja Harper