Why did you choose this program?
I knew that I wanted a less traditional abroad experience in college, so I started looking at programs that were onboard ships. I chose Seamester over comparable programs like SEA semester for a few reasons.
First of all, while SEA focuses heavily on scientific research, Seamester provides a great balance of science courses, seamanship courses, and cultural exploration opportunities. The experience of sailing is very important to me, so that was an important part of my decision.
Secondly, Seamester offered certifications in First Aid and CPR, International Yacht Training Crew, and SCUBA. On my trip, a became a certified Advanced Open Water diver, with about 15 dives in some of the most beautiful dive locations on the planet.
I knew that I wanted my time abroad to be an unforgettable adventure. Seamester did not disappoint.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Seamester assisted with pretty much every step of the process. The application process was very simple and intuitive, and they responded very quickly to any questions or concerns. When I was admitted, I worked with the program's travel agent to arrange travel to and from the South Pacific, and she was an absolute lifesaver and did a brilliant job of getting students from all around the country (and world) to where we needed to be.
Seamester also provides a very detailed packing list, which I highly recommend following as closely as possible. Space is tight on a boat, and packing right is very important!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
This program is not for everyone, mostly because life at sea is not for everyone.
Onboard Argo, I lived in a cabin roughly half the size of my dorm room with five other guys. On the 112-ft ship, there were 31 people. Passages at sea may go a week or more before seeing land. Small things that wouldn't become problems on land can easily blow up in the close confines of ship life.
So the advice I always give in regards to this program is, know yourself.
If you are an adaptable person who has no problem rolling with the punches or even enjoys having to react to the unpredictable, this program may suit you very well. If you aren't capable of getting along with a wide assortment of people, or react poorly to stressful situations, life onboard a ship will be challenging.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The daily routine changes significantly depending on if you are anchored somewhere or underway to another destination.
During your time underway, you will be spending much of your day with your watch team, in my case 8 students and two staff/crew members. When your team is on watch, you are responsible for steering the ship, trimming the sails, keeping a bow watch, doing regular boat checks, and just generally keeping the boat running smoothly. When not on watch, you will either be sleeping, taking a class (either Marine Bio, Oceanography, Leadership, or Seamanship), or participating in other shipboard duties, like cleaning or cooking.
When you are anchored, there is a little more free time usually. A typical day will probably have a normal class, a SCUBA class and training dive, and an excursion onto whatever land we are anchored near. This could be anything from a jungle hike in Moorea, a dance class in Raratonga, or seeing kangaroos and wallabies at sunrise on a beach in Australia.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was most worried that I would not like the group of people I was traveling with. I knew that we would be stuck close together for 80 days with little opportunity to take time to ourselves, so I was worried about the possibility of not getting along with people.
I quickly found that there will always be people you don't get along with, but the ability to get past that and not allow it to influence your enjoyment is one of the strongest lessons I learned with Seamester.
And largely, my fears were unfounded, as I got along incredibly well with almost all of the crew and the staff. I made some incredibly strong friendships onboard Argo. I would gladly throw myself into a similar situation again because now I appreciate just how close you can become with people after sharing an experience like Seamester.
What was your favorite part about Seamester?
There are a few experiences I had onboard Argo that I consider favorites. First was swimming in the open ocean over the Tonga Trench, the second deepest point in the ocean at about 35,000 ft deep.
The second was going on my first-night dive, and getting the chance to see all the brilliant flora and fauna that only come out in the dark.
The third was anytime we had great winds. I absolutely love the feeling of crashing through the waves in a sailboat, and it has never been more fun than in the middle of the Pacific, days away from land in any direction.