Alumni Spotlight: Adam Ziegler


Adam loves exploring and doing research on the vast realms of the ocean, whether it be from hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean or plankton at the surface.

Why did you choose this program?

SEA Semester offers the adventure and exploration of a traditional study abroad, but also adds independent research with various scientific equipment. They also offer programs to remote locations that are not frequented by many people, which truly shows the beauty of nature when it is not disturbed.

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

SEA semester was very supportive and helpful throughout the entire application process. Whenever I sent them an email, I would usually have a detailed response within 24 hours.

They awarded me an academic scholarship for a portion of the tuition. And my college awarded me with a student opportunity fund for travel costs.

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

Do not worry about seasickness or sleeping on a boat. Within a day of being out on the water, your body becomes completely accustomed to the wave motions.

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

Each day, you are on watch for six hours. Depending on the schedule, the six hours you and your assigned group work will vary in the day. During those six hours, you will be plotting the boat course, conducting science deployments, adjusting sails, and steering the boat. After the six-hour shift, you have the rest of the day off.

You can do assignments from your classes such as policy readings, data processing, work on your independent research, or just relax. Once a week, in addition to your daily work shift, you will have a policy class discussing readings on the upper deck and a brief lecture class on different scientific topics.

Lastly, on Sundays, you will have safety drills and field day. The safety drills are to make sure everyone knows how to react in case of various emergencies. Field day is a thorough cleaning of the boat which is a nice way to take pride in the boat.

Whenever you are anchored next to an island, the schedule differs, but you are guaranteed a day to explore the island and snorkel on the coral reefs which are the best days.

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 being responsible and capable of being in charge of a watch. Toward the end of the trip, one student is in charge of each watch rather than one of the mates. They teach you everything you need to know the weeks leading up to this period, but it is still daunting.

When the time finally came for me to lead the watch and make sure the boat remained on course and maintained the speed it needed I was a nervous wreck. My group of watch mates, that also became some of my closest friends, supported me and made sure to get the job done. They listened to my orders and even did things I did not ask of them to make the shift go smoothly.

Does being at sea with no land in sight affect people?

A lot of people were concerned prior to boarding the boat that not seeing land for about a week was going to affect them. I would argue that it did but in the most positive way. When you are out at sea, you lose worries and just live one moment at a time.

Everyone on the boat gained a calmness and actually enjoyed watching the waves, always searching for possible tuna jumps and whale flukes. It's quite soothing honestly. So if you are worried about going "mad at sea", it's not a real thing and you truly appreciate what nature has to offer.

Lastly, writing blog posts for our parents and family back on land helped us keep some contact with the land without fully taking away from the sea experience.