Alumni Spotlight: Nico Caruso

Nico Caruso sailed on the Fall 2012 Semester at Sea Voyage, which visited countries in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. He is now 21 years old and lives in Columbus, Ohio, studying civil engineering at The Ohio State University.


Why did you decide to study abroad with Semester at Sea?

Nico: My passion since a young age has been teaching myself foreign languages. I had not travelled very extensively outside of the United States until my time with Semester at Sea and I was not finding very many opportunities to practice most of the languages I had been studying except when I would chance upon somebody from Morocco or Argentina or wherever.

A major appeal to SAS was that it would show me such a large part of the world and give me immersive experiences in multiple languages. Plus, of course, there is something unbeatably exciting about traveling around the world on a ship.

Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?

Nico: I’m going to take this very literally since the word “souvenir” is French for “remembrances”. My most meaningful “souvenirs,” hands down, are the people I met both on the ship and in ports. People are the most dynamic and substantive part of traveling, and I think that is one of the most important lessons Semester at Sea has taught me.

My voyage took me to a lot of incredible places; but, save a few powerful personal moments spent alone, those places wouldn’t have had the same greatness without people there to share them with and go back years later and remember them with. Not to mention, you meet people from all over the U.S. (and the world!) on SAS and the road trips and adventures after SAS to go visit them are a blast.

mt. teide

What is one piece of advice you'd give future Semester at Sea students?

Nico: I think the most useful piece of advice is to keep an open mind AND to be aware that that is more difficult than it may sound.

Most people like to believe that they are open-minded, but sometimes by just telling themselves that they are, they can become complacent about what they’re doing, where they are, and whom they are around/with.

The thing to remember—no matter where you are in the spectrum of open-mindedness—is that you can always open yourself up even more to new cultures, religions, languages, people, ideas, foods, life experiences, whatever it may be. Don’t let yourself get complacent.

A good ship friend of mine and I always challenged ourselves by admitting that we only knew ourselves in the situations we had been in before, so we got to know ourselves better by putting ourselves in new situations and stretching our comfort zones however we could.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

sea view from boat

Nico: Some of this goes without saying. SAS is the opportunity to sail around the world with a group of adventurous people of all ages who are hungry for whatever is out there—who are “Mad to Live” as Jack Kerouac puts it.

To be surrounded by that mentality in and of itself is pretty extraordinary. Also, unlike more conventional study abroad programs, SAS can take you to over a dozen countries in one semester.

You may spend, between transoceanic crossings, spend 10+ days at sea on a ship waking up to ocean sunrises, bonding with shipmates about what you all did in past ports and what you’re going to do in upcoming ones. You cultivate life-long friends and memories from SAS.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the starry night sky…” - Jack Kerouac “On the Road”

Do you think your program changed you as a person?

volunteering in ghana

Nico: Absolutely. Any time that you are about to embark on a new chapter in your life—going to college, moving out of your parents’, studying abroad, etc—parents and family tend to almost nauseatingly over-emphasise how you’re “going to change”.

I kind of laughed this off and pushed it aside because I was just excited to travel, and I didn’t really FEEL myself change during my semester abroad. I don’t think I noticed changes in myself until about three months or so after getting home, but they were undeniably there when I did notice them.

I became more aware of how people interact, I started looking for different qualities than I used to in people I hang out with, I started to think about how to apply civil engineering to help people in developing countries, and I’m constantly finding ways to travel again, among many more things.