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SEA Semester


Through its world-famous study abroad program, SEA Semester, Sea Education Association (SEA) has been taking students out to sea to teach them about the marine environment since 1971.

Located in the oceanographic research hub of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, SEA owns and operates two 134-foot tall-ship ocean-research vessels, the SSV Corwith Cramer and the SSV Robert C. Seamans. These ships sail in the waters of the Caribbean, North Atlantic, and South Pacific, with regular port stops including Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and Dominica, to name just a few.

SEA offers semester and summer programs for college undergraduates, as well as a special program, Atlantic Odyssey, for Gap students. In addition, there are summer programs, on shore or at sea, for high school students.

Visit SEA's Go Overseas listings to explore which program is right for you!


PO Box 6
Woods Hole, MA 02543
United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

I had always wanted to attend a study abroad, but never really knew when would be a good time to do so. I had spoken to some people about SEA Semester and got really interested. I would not trade the experience for anything. Receiving college credit for standing as lookout on the bow of a ship or counting phytoplankton while undersail is a pretty unique experience. The bonds that were built between students will last a lifetime, as will the memories of the amazing sights encountered while at sea.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Climbing up to the very top of the mast of the ship, I overcame this by asking myself when else would I get the opportunity to climb to the top of a tallship?
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Yes, I recommend this program

The SEA Semester is unlike other study abroad programs. Spending several weeks out in the ocean may seem daunting, but life out at sea is incomparable to any other study abroad. The Protecting the Phoenix Island program comprised of three weeks on the Woods Hole Campus, and then six weeks out in the Pacific Ocean. During the time at Woods Hole, a strong camaraderie is built among all students. All the classes at Woods Hole are well structured, and although they are only three weeks long you learn a lot from them. During the time at sea, all of the information you learned on land is applied in your independent research and policy discussions. Actually being inside of a marine protected area and seeing it ecosystems while discussing how to better protect them provides more depth and gravity to the topic than just a lecture in a classroom. Just as important as the academic component, the social aspect of SEA is spectacular. Through the Protecting the Phoenix Islands program, you form strong bonds with all of you shipmates leaving lasting friendships. You are also able to experience the culture of the people on Kanton with a large celebration party with everyone. Life at sea offers its own culture as your values and your perception of day to day events change. It is not uncommon to feel stress free, appreciate all the little things, and often reflect on who you are as a person and what you are going to take away from this experience. Lastly, and probably the most important to people considering this program is the coral reefs and islands. The coral reefs you are able to snorkel on display vivid hues of green, purple, and blue. All the reefs are expansive, and seemingly undisturbed by man kind. There is a plethora of ocean wildlife to see, from whales and dolphins, to sea turtles, sharks, and manta rays. On days when we were allowed to explore the islands, everyone would just spend hours looking at all the birds, consuming numerous coconuts, and realizing just how beautiful nature can be. This program was once that truly changed my perspective on what I want to do with my future career, and what I want out of life. If you are looking for a study abroad program with lasting impacts and exposure to vibrant oceanic landscapes, this one is perfect!

What would you improve about this program?
It was all amazing. The only thing I would improve is giving maybe $50 more a week for groceries during the land portion.
Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

I went to PIPA on S-287 in summer of 2019. This trip has had a serious impact on me, and I am not sure I will ever experience anything like it. If you are at all into the outdoors, the ocean or communal living, sailing with SEA is a great experience. I can’t speak to a social scene, because for six weeks I saw no one but the 40 people living on Kanton in Kiribati and the 35 people on the SSV Robert C. Seaman’s, but the people I met on this boat have become extremely close friends, and the things I’ve seen are unlike anything else. I learned so much about the kind of life I want to lead, and am so thankful to SEA for making this kind of adventure accessible to students. I wouldn’t recommend this to folks who are not okay with being constantly active or uncomfortable, as sailing can get really crazy, and the watches make for an intense schedule.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
The six weeks on the boat go super quickly. Don’t waste time and appreciate every moment, even the ones that aren’t picturesque.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Every part of this program was well worth the price. The staff were great, the classes were interesting and informative (for someone with little science background), the facilities were phenomenal...there really was nothing I did not like. I completed this program after college due to scheduling conflicts, and I am so glad I did, because I can say with confidence that I have never been happier than during those two months at sea. Granted, if you get sea sick easily, you might not enjoy it as much as I did. But I highly recommend you give it a shot if you have any interest at all in sailing.

The best part of this program is that you are the crew. You may be a student, with classes and homework, but you are also responsible for the function of the ship. It is not easy, but it is a hands-on learning experience that will teach you a lot about yourself as well as the topics covered in class. I want nothing more than to go back to French Polynesia to sail once more. I did Semester at Sea as well during my college years, and while it was informative and fun circumnavigating the globe, it was not nearly as rewarding as actually steering the ship, navigating using nautical charts, and setting sails.

An absolute ten out of ten adventure from start to finish!

What would you improve about this program?
I wish it had been longer. I had a fantastic time learning all about sailing, oceanography, nautical science, and marine cultures, but it was all compressed into such a short period


Displaying 1 - 4 of 4
SEA Semester
SEA Semester Undergraduate Study Abroad Programs
Multiple Countries
10 •4 reviews

The importance of understanding the ocean is more important now than...

SEA Semester
SEA High School Summer Programs
United States of America

SEA offers two unique summer high school programs for current high...

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SEA Semester Summer Programs for Undergraduates

SEA Semester offers two summer programs for undergraduates in 2020...

SEA Semester
SEA Semester Gap Year Program: Atlantic Odyssey
United States of America

Start your gap year off on an adventure with a purpose... Immerse...

Alumni Interviews

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

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.

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