Alumni Spotlight: Tiffany Bumgardner

Tiffany sailed on the Fall 2012, Semester at Sea -Atlantic Exploration- Voyage sponsored by the University of Virginia. Tiffany is from Ohio and was studying psychology and sociology with Ohio University-Eastern when she attended the Semester at Sea program. At the time of the voyage Tiffany was a 21 year old freelance photographer whom worked as a photographers assistant while studying abroad with the SAS program. Her travels with the program included 14 countries on the continents of Europe, Africa, South America, North America and Islands in the Caribbean. Overall Tiffany has traveled to 17 countries in total and hopes to travel to many more.

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Why did you decide to go abroad with your provider?

Tiffany: I decided to study abroad with Semester at Sea because it enabled me to see more of the world and experience vastly more cultures than a traditional study abroad program.

Like many students thinking about studying abroad I found I wanted to see more of the world than I could have studying with my home institution where I would be in one country with that one culture for a prolonged period, in addition I was having a hard time deciding what country I would want to study in.

Semester at Sea was the answer to all my problems, it provided variety of travel, culture, experiences and I wasn't regulated to deciding which country would be the best fit for my student needs. This provider enable me to really see and experience the world and cultures everyday as on the ship there was a variety of nationalities as well, and that was something traditional couldn't get me.

Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?

Tiffany: My photographs are by far my most meaningful souvenirs, while they may not seem traditional they allow me to reflect on my trip every time I look at them. These photographs have allowed me to share my travels, the moments that make me smile or even shed a tear with others.

I have used these photographs countless times to allow potential students to see what life was like on a ship or in a particular country. Of late they have been used as teaching aids about the inequalities faced in other country's. Essentially my photographs are more than reliving a memory they are proving visual aids for potential travelers and helping educate others on the sad realities faced by many people in third world countries.

semester at sea students

A tee shirt, African drum or outfit could not give me the vast meaning and depth I get from my photographs or allow me to introduce the world to those who have not experienced it. Photography is the only language that transcends language barriers and is understood by all making photographs truly invaluable.

What is one piece of advice you'd give future students traveling with your program?

Tiffany: Semester at Sea uses the slogan 'Your once in a lifetime is now' and it is 100% accurate. This program provided me with my most significant semester of college, I learned more with them in 107 days than I have learned sitting in a lecture hall in four years.

Traveling with them is a scary and thrilling experience, so if you are considering the program or are nervous just take a leap of faith and go all in. Live for every moment, meet new people, make new friends, forget hundreds of peoples names multiple times and end up making friends with them as you lay on the dock staring up at the stars in a country that isn't your own.

Don't be afraid to go beyond your safety net, to make blunders in a foreign language or not even know the language! Learning a phrase or two will impress the locals, make them smile while showing you care and not knowing the language can lead to some incredibly delightful moments and new friends!

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The best advice I can give anyone in regards to this program is DO IT. Forget the cost, borrow the money, you only live once and this is something we are privileged to do and when it is over and you are home you are more aware of the world, more caring and this experience will provide learning experiences you are still discovering two years, ten years, forty years after the fact.

The greatest mistake would be not to experience the world and Semester at Sea is by far the best option for that first time student wanting to become a global citizen.

Describe your program socially and academically.

Tiffany: Semester at Sea is the worlds first and only floating campus. Students live, study and even work on a cruise ship that has been outfitted as a college campus featuring a library with 9000+ books, a computer lab, classrooms, two campus dining areas, snack bars, pool, basket ball court, gym, spa and health center.

It has virtually everything a land based campus has with the perk of changing location to a new country every so often. Academically there is a vast number of courses students can take from the traditional languages, history's, psychology to the arts of photography, painting and even courses in African drumming, dance or clowning.

All classes are taught by faculty from around the world with vast experience or by those equally talented and renowned in their field. Socially Semester at Sea offers a unique campus where you live, eat and dine with staff and faculty in close proximity it fosters a developing family environment and close connections as you are always meeting someone new or enjoying a game of apples to apples with your professors.

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The culture is diverse from crew, staff, faculty, students, dependent children and life long learners coming together for dozens of different cultures and sharing their experiences and knowledge with each other. At the start of the voyage semester at sea feels like an alien world filled with a thousand strangers but by the end they are family, you are invested and caring about their goals and the continuation of the program because it is like home and family to every person who becomes a part of it.

Do you think your program changed you as a person?

Tiffany: Yes. Without a doubt Semester at Sea change me as a person. It made me more confident in who I am, what I want to do in life and it opened me up socially.

Before semester at sea I was just another student studying in a field that hundreds, thousands go into without any real clue as to what I wanted out of it besides a degree. Semester at Sea allowed me to home in focus for my real passions and inspire me to take the chances in life for things I want now verse waiting on them. I have found strength in who I am and success in my passion in large part due to the confidence I gained traveling with this program and the encouragement received from my friends all over the world.

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Semester at Sea was an experience that gave me a global family each trying to do something in the world, it provided a vast network for service projects, business opportunities and continued travel.

Before Semester at Sea the idea of traveling solo or reaching for my goals and dreams before having the almighty degree seemed like a bad idea but since returning and putting my new found confidence to work I have achieved things that would have taken me many years and I will forever be thankful for this program for inspiring me and giving me a global family who supports and lifts me up as well. One thing I am sure of is I wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world and I would do it all over in a heartbeat because it has made me who I am today.