Alumni Spotlight: Matthew Hollfelder


Matt graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2018 with a degree in Criminal Justice. During his college career, he took a trip with Sea|mester and afterward began working for the sister program ActionQuest during the summers.

Why did you choose this program?

Doing a circumnavigation has always been the top of my bucket list, and while I won't ever do one non-stop, the Indian Ocean was a great leg to start with.

The trip goes to some remote locations that I likely would never have gone to and the starting and ending location were places I'd always wanted to go to.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I was actually transferring schools right after the program, so I did not interact much with Florida Gulf Coast. Sea|mester was very helpful though with all of my questions, comments, and concerns. They made sure my application was completed and made sure I had everything I needed to transfer my credits from Sea|mester to my new school.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

My biggest advice is to say yes to anything and everything, or else, you may regret missing out on something. Whether it is helming the boat, helping cook, helping staff with something once at a new location, or doing what you might think is the worst job to have.

Say yes to every single opportunity you can and you'll get the most out of this experience as you can.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

There are generally two kinds of days.

The first being on passage, which is scheduled into watch teams. You'll spend 3-4 hours on deck on watch driving the boat, doing boat checks and on bow watch. Following that, you have 6-8 hours off watch which is filled with sleep, classes, homework or taking a bit of time to yourself.

The second type of day is a shore day. By that I mean you're on anchor or on a dock. During this type of day, you may have a class or exam, you will spend some time in the area you're in and you will likely have an excursion at some point as a group.

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 probably being nervous about juggling my time correctly as I've always struggled with that. Specifically on passage, where you're on an irregular schedule, running the boat, and taking classes.

Passage life turned out to be my favorite part of the entire trip due to how structured it actually is.

What makes this trip special?

It's a very unique environment obviously and is not without its challenges. It's because of the challenges that you learn so much about yourself and your team around you though.

What I love looking back at are the pictures of the beginning and the end of the trip. In the beginning, it was a group of strangers who were all in a location they were unfamiliar with and getting settled which makes the picture look a bit stiff. But our last picture is us having a family dinner out at a restaurant on one of the last nights, recounting stories and memories together.