Why did you choose this program?
Before attending my college's study abroad fair in my freshman year, I didn't even know Seamester existed. But as soon as I saw the table and spoke to the Seamester ambassador, I knew I could not live without it. I literally called my mom as soon as I got back to my dorm room and told her I wanted to do it. It appealed to me because I have always loved the ocean and knew I wanted to get SCUBA certified.
I chose Seamester above other similar programs because of the guaranteed small class sizes, their long-standing relationship with the Caribbean and all the places and people we'd be visiting, their hands-on teaching style, and because I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my career studying Caribbean archaeology and I figured what better way to start than by sailing the waters, visiting the islands, and seeing the culture.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My college is very study-abroad-friendly, so it was easy to take a leave of absence from school and, upon returning, very easy to transfer in the credits I'd earned while on the boat.
Seamester helped me make my travel arrangements to the Caribbean; they connected me to a program alumnus who was able to give me a ton of fantastic advice before I left, and they were very helpful getting tuition and scholarships arranged.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The one thing I'd change is how I packed - I would pack lighter and smarter. Lighter because you don't have much room to store stuff when you're on the boat and you honestly do not need as much as you'd think - maybe two weeks worth of clean clothes. And smarter - you want to make sure everything you have is light, easy to move and sweat in, and quick to dry.
I brought a lot of cotton t-shirts and I wished I had had more quick-dry clothes and quick-dry towels. You'll definitely want a really good pair of sandals like Tevas or Chacos (on the trip we called them our science sandals or four-wheel-drive flip flops). And finally, buy yourself a few big ziplock bags or waterproof plastic bags to store things you don't want to get wet or salty, like your laptop, other electronics, important documents, etc.
Other than packing advice, all I'd say is be ready to work hard and play hard - it's an incredible experience, but definitely not a pleasure cruise.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The best part about Seamester is that every day is different - literally. By definition, living on a boat means you'll likely wake up in a new place every day and each and every day will be uniquely incredible.
Usually, it's a combination of diving, sailing, hiking, sight-seeing, and class time - but each and every dive, sail, hike, tour, and class will be new and exciting.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was my inexperience - I'd never sailed before, I'd never gone diving - and I had just signed myself up for an entire semester of just that. But by the second week on the boat, I felt like I'd been sailing all my life.
Most of your peers will be literally in the same boat - total greenhorns. But the crew is there to teach you everything you need to know and they're all incredibly patient, knowledgable, and passionate. There are absolutely no dumb questions and it's a very comfortable, open learning environment.
What do you miss from this trip?
One thing that surprised me after leaving the boat was how much I missed eating dinner with my crew. Dinner was a ritual onboard Ocean Star. Every meal it’s the same process: counters are dirtied, things are cooked, food is eaten, and clean-up is meticulous. Everything done is undone. When all is complete, the galley was left like no one has ever even so much as thought about food prep in its five-by-five-foot space. We ran a tight ship. Our captain always reminded us to take care of Ocean Star like she takes care of us.
This ritual was something so foreign to me on day one that by day 80 it felt like second nature. I didn't realize how much being on the boat altered my concept of what day-to-day life should be - what it could be - until I was back home. So when people ask me what I miss most about my time on Ocean Star, I could say the places I visited or the things I did or the people I met (and those are all things I definitely miss!). But what I'd often say, with a smile and a faraway look in my eye, was everything. I miss everything about being on the boat because the experience was so different, so foreign, so completely and utterly out of the realm of my normal life, that I can't just name one thing.
I would return to Ocean Star in a heartbeat, if only for one last night of cooking, eating, and cleaning under the Caribbean sky with my crew.