Seminole State College of Florida students, faculty, staff and community members explored destinations around the world this summer as part of the College's 2011 Travel Study programs.
Participants journeyed through Southeast Asia May 18-28, taking in the sights and sounds of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Highlights of the trip included visits to palaces, temples and terraces as well as tours of the War Remnants Museum and the Chu Chi underground tunnel system used to hide Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War.
"The trip completely surpassed my expectations," said criminal justice student Robbi Vega, 23, who briefly lived in Bangkok as a child. "It was such a culture shock for me, and I was blown away by the things we saw and did."
One of the biggest surprises, Vega said, was the floating markets, in which merchants sell produce and other goods from small boats in the rivers and canals.
"A lot of these people live out on the water with their family," Vega said. "They have everything they need with them in their boat. It's amazing and humbling that they can survive with so little."
He also was surprised by the history and culture that seem to envelop each country.
"The temples were so detailed and well-preserved," he said. "You could see how important their religion was to them in that day. It was all really beautiful."
The trip was led by Professor Rachel Braaten in collaboration with EF Educational Tours.
Also in May, Travel Study participants visited Eastern Europe, where they spent 11 days exploring Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. The trip, which began May 10, included stops at palaces, cathedrals and monuments, along with tours of the former communist district Nowa Huta and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp.
"You hear about what happened in the Holocaust, but going to the concentration camp opens your eyes to a lot of things you don't learn in school," said UCF forensic science student and Seminole State alumna Jessica Kindell, 22. "As we were walking down the hallway to the gas chambers, I felt such a heavy weight on my shoulders. It was really sad."
The group also visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland, a 900-year-old mining site that includes hand-carved salt sculptures, subterranean lakes and an underground museum.
"The salt mines were incredible," said Kindell's mother, Christine, 49, a Seminole State art student who also traveled to Eastern Europe. "Everything was made of salt and wood, and there was a beautiful chapel at the bottom cut completely out of the salt. It was gorgeous."
Another highlight, Christine Kindell said, was the "magnificent architecture and beauty" that surrounded each city.
The trip was led by Professor Richard Harmon in collaboration with EF Educational Tours.
From May 29-June 5, two honors students attended the Salzburg Global Seminar International Study Program in Austria. Amanda Palmeira and Lauren Vinson, the seventh consecutive group of Seminole State students to participate in the seminar, joined scholars from across the United States to complete international projects and study what it means to be a "global citizen."
"I really enjoyed meeting people from all over and talking with them about their perspectives and experiences," said Vinson, 19, a pitcher for Seminole State's fastpitch softball team. "A lot of them were more open minded than the people I encounter on a regular basis, so it was really interesting to hear their view points."
The trip to Salzburg was largely funded by donations from Art Grindle, a longtime Seminole State supporter and the namesake of the College's Art & Phyllis Grindle Honors Institute. Dr. Debbie Socci, interim director of the Honors Institute, accompanied the students.
Following the seminar, Vinson and Palmeira opted to extend their stay in Europe by two weeks, visiting Vienna, Venice, Florence, Barcelona and Paris before returning to the United States on June 18.
Plans are already under way for the College's 2012 Travel Study programs, which will take participants to Ireland, London and Paris. All Travel Study programs are accompanied by an optional three-credit course.
For more information, please visit the Travel Study Web page.
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