Kinesiology student Leeza Voyevoda eager to experience all Semester at Sea program has to offer

Leeza Voyevoda has never been afraid to expand her comfort zone. That intrepid spirit gave her the confidence to leave her hometown university for what she hoped would be a better experience at the University of Lethbridge, and now, it has led her to an international educational opportunity as the Brawn Family Foundation scholarship recipient and the Semester at Sea student.

Leeza Voyevoda's excursion began in Dubai and will conclude in Germany.

“It was one of my co-workers who told me he was doing this exchange thing and how he was going to all these amazing countries and taking a semester of school,” says Voyevoda about being introduced to the program. “I literally went to my computer at work, looked it up and started applying 20 minutes later.”

Semester at Sea is just as it sounds — close to 600 students board a ship and set sail for a semester of learning in shipboard classrooms, through field experiences and service projects as they visit 11 countries and three continents over the course of 106 days. Voyevoda departed Dubai on January 5, 2023, and will conclude her semester by docking in Germany on April 20.

For the fourth-year kinesiology major, the excursion is the perfect ending to her post-secondary journey — one that started at University of Calgary before she realized she needed a more personal experience.

“I felt like I needed to be able to make connections with my professors and after my first year at U of C, I heard some good things about the U of L, so I decided to give it a shot,” says Voyevoda. “Within my first few classes here, I was able to go up to a professor and have a conversation and that made a world of difference to me.”

Before long she was enrolled in independent study opportunities, working closely with her professors and getting hands-on experience. She gravitated to research studies with Dylan Brown and Drs. Scott Rathwell and Jon Doan, and now is considering a career working as an athletic therapist with high performance athletes. Before that though, she’s eyeing graduate school, and Semester at Sea may well help lay the foundation.

“I’ve always been travel-focused and after high school I was able to travel around the Baltics a little bit and visited Sweden and Russia,” she says, noting her family is originally from Russia. “I’ve always had the itch to travel and one of my big goals is to do my graduate school outside Canada. I love to explore and get different perspectives, opinions and world views, and I see this as a step towards that.”

She’ll take four courses over the semester, including a required global studies course and another — disability across the lifespan — that’s in the realm of kinesiology. But, having already completed all her core courses and electives at ULethbridge, she had the freedom to expand her interests and one such opportunity was to study art.

“I never had the time to take art before, but I’ve always loved it and if I hadn’t taken kinesiology, I’d have studied art. Whenever I travel, I go to museums and different art installations and now I get to do it as coursework in these amazing countries — I’m so lucky,” she says.

She’s especially enthused about the first few stops on the voyage, including ports in Kenya, where she’ll get a chance to go on safari, and India. She also recognizes how fortunate she is to be chosen as this year’s scholarship winner, noting it would be impossible for her to pay for a trip of this magnitude.

“I still can’t even comprehend it,” says Voyevoda. “I’m just so grateful to the Brawn family and how generous they are. This will quite literally change my life in the most amazing way possible.”