Class Afloat - West Island College International

Class Afloat


Founded in 1984, Class Afloat - West Island College International is one of the world’s leading experiential education opportunities. This Canadian school offers rigorous and internationally acclaimed academic programmes for Grade 11, 12, University and GAP year students, while sailing aboard a historic tall ship and exploring over 20 ports of call worldwide. Attaining high standards in academic excellence, community service, leadership, and personal development, more than 1500 Class Afloat students from around the world have had the experience of a lifetime, developing as individuals, excelling as citizens, forging lifelong friendships, and exploring the world.



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Yes, I recommend this program

This past year has been incredible. There are no words to accurately describe nine months spent at sea, let alone in a short review. Just trust that every moment is breathtaking. From painstakingly beautiful sunsets to dolphin calls that offer a break from classes, I know that nothing will live up to my life out at sea. It is a year that takes away all your comforts and rips you from everything familiar. All this builds an environment where you live, truly live, in the rawness and authenticity of moments.
Class Aflaot allows you to travel, sail and learn all at once. You get the opportunity to delve into areas and places you would never have imagined yourself in. If you like sailing, go up to the bridge and ask questions. If you like galley, go down to the kitchen and offer help. If you're interested in any school subject, your teachers are right at hand, literally living with you, and are ready to answer any questions you have. Even the engineer is open to showing you around and teaching you what his or her job entails.
It's a massive year of growth and learning, but the strength you find in yourself and the community that becomes so tight-knit is beyond compare. This experience brings out the worst and best in you and those around you, so be ready to challenge yourself and find comfort in the discomfort.
If you want to read more about my year aboard the Gulden Leeuw, visit my blog

Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

The best experience I've had to date I still look back on it incredibly fondly nearly 10 years after the fact. Challenge, excitement, community. I made life long friendships and had experiences that profoundly shaped who I am today. I would recommend it to anyone.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Class Afloat is without a doubt the most transformative experiential based education program I know of. You cannot get this type of learning in a traditional school or classroom. My advice is to find a way to make this opportunity available to your son or daughter. You won't regret it and it will change them profoundly.

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Yes, I recommend this program

My son Josh is an artist, curious about everything and everyone. Class Afloat opened up the world to him. He learned to love the earth and people everywhere. The world was his classroom for that year—the education invaluable.

He faced his own mortality and the loss of a dear friend on his journey on the Concordia. The opportunities and challenges have defined him.

What would you improve about this program?
I would take that journey.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

My sister, who's only a year older than I am, did Class Afloat the year before me. Upon her return, I visited the ship that had taken her across the Atlantic Ocean three times in the past nine months. She brought me up to the t'gallant, the highest yard on the mast, and, with the breathtaking view and a beating heart, she asked me if I would pass an opportunity like this one up. The answer was no, most definitely not.

I was not only interested in Class Afloat because of the travel opportunity (22 ports in 20 different countries) or because it is a program that offers authentic sail training, but also because I knew I would meet people with similar interests to mine. I would live with fourty other students from 10 different backgrounds and create unforgettable memories with them. Who could pass it up?

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

The Class Afloat community is so tight knit that alumni are so readily accessible and available to answer questions. That's how I acquired most of my information before beginning my year. Because my sister had completed the experience before I had, she was my most helpful resource and I was ready to go with her help. However, my program provider helped me choose my academic courses for the year. Even though I was a Gap year student, I still had to take two or three online courses with Acadia University. Once I had been enrolled, Class Afloat representatives helped me choose which courses I could take.

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

Definitely do not expect to be spending a year on a cruise ship. You are going to be working hard all year, doing things you never expected to be doing. We cleaned for an hour every morning, had to fulfill Galley Duty (working in the kitchen), woke up for two hours each night for watch and then completed more watch throughout the day. It isn't an easy year, but it's the most rewarding thing you'll ever do.

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

When at sea, your schedule is planned out over a 5 day cycle. Each day, you will have an hour of each of your three courses (or two courses if you're a Gap year student and that's what you choose, but if you take 2 courses, you do four hours of watch per day) and two hours of watch per day. On an average day, you will wake up at 7:20, eat breakfast and then muster (or assemble) at 8. Then you will clean for an hour and at 9, the daily schedule begins. You might have two hours of watch or class, and throughout the day you'll have breaks. At 11:30 there's lunch and then classes start up again at 13:00.

A snack is provided at 15:00. At 18:00, you muster again and then your day is done, unless you have watch from 18-20:00 hours. Dinner is at 18:30, and then there's study hall from 19:00-20:00, which is when your teachers are available to answer questions or you have time to do homework. Afterwards, there is sometimes an activity planned such as a movie showing or a talent show. The five day cycle keeps going until you hit land, where you will have shore leave and get to explore each port. There's no school when you're in port, which is why you don't have "weekends" out at sea.

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 think I was most afraid of losing a year of school back home. It didn't take long before I realized that there was so much more to life than following a conventional schooling pattern. In the adventures I was living every day and the cultures I got to delve into, my anxiety over my education quickly dissipated.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Jennifer Freele

Job Title
English Teacher

What is your favorite travel memory?

Hiking through a cloud forest with my students on the remote island of St. Helena.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I've come to truly understand the positive impact that developing caring and supportive relationships with your students outside of the classroom can have inside the classroom.

I've learned how to work on the fly - when things are literally flying around the classroom because a rogue wave hit the side of the boat - and to teach without ready access to technology and supplies.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

That this program challenges them to learn and grow in ways they never thought imaginable. That they leave with an entirely new family, a family that in some ways understands them more than their closest friends and relatives ever could.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Class Afloat, as a teacher, for the full school year. It's worth it to commit to the entire experience, and to prepare yourself to be traveling and teaching for 9 months.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I've been so privileged to work with such a group of dedicated, caring, and hard-working professionals. The teachers who work with this school care so deeply about the well-being of the students on board, as well as their academic successes, that they put every effort into making each day great.

I was proudest when we came together to plan and execute big events and ideas, all with the aim of improving the program for the students.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Effective communicate and genuine passion.