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SEA Semester

About

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!

Website
www.sea.edu
Founded
1971

Reviews

Default avatar
Shelley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

SEASemester is a unique experience to challenge yourself while receiving a lot of support for your growth. You’ll make best friends for the rest of your life, learn how to lead, and thrive when facing a challenge. You also see beautiful sunsets and beaches, have hilarious days with shipmates, and learn life skills like cooking and research. It was interesting keeping watch at various hours of the night and morning, learning celestial navigation, exploring islands. There are times that are scary or miserable, whether you’re too cold, too hot, far from land when something unexpected happens and unable to use wifi/phones, but it’s all more than worth it for what you gain. And we made our own fun: created music with ukuleles and singing, made up games, turned cleaning days into dance parties. There is no better study abroad program!

Default avatar
Daniel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Sea Semester is the most epic, challenging, and life changing at-sea study abroad program out there. It has opened many professional doors to me, as many environmental agencies know how demanding the programs are. I am now starting a new job working on NOAA research vessels, and there is no doubt Sea Semester was one of the main reasons I got accepted. I cannot encourage you enough to apply. Through the program, I have made life-long friends and developed a passion for life at sea. Watch-out, you'll get hooked!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I got to see a water spout in the middle of the Atlantic.
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Oliver
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I did this program in 1988. I can clearly say that this was one of the experiences that shaped me into the person I am today.
The program forced me to accept a new level of maturity & responsibility, from simple student to responsible crew member working in a team. Along the way I made friends for life and learned important lessons about life, myself, how I react to difficult situations and depending on others.
Both shore and sea component were amazing. I can‘t recommend it highly enough .... but it‘s not a holiday/vacation!

What was your funniest moment?
Blowing off steam in Barbados with my watch-mates after not having seen land for 18 days. ... and then having to get up for the next watch and get back to work.
Default avatar
Harrison
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I found sea semester a while back I was immediately drawn in by how unique of a program it is. I also thought that going to sea for 40 days sounded like a blast. However there are so many more aspects of this program that I didn’t account for. The shore portion was amazing and it’s where you get build connections with so many great people. Then you test your connection with these people by learning how to sail a boat together (so much harder than it sounds). You laugh together, you cry together, but most importantly you learn together. All you have on the boat is yourself and your shipmates and everyone works hard for each other. Most of the bonding comes from these moments when you are in a challenging situation and you all have to work together to figure it out. I met some of my closest friends on this trip and everyone there was an amazing shipmate. I think that’s a credit to SEA as they bring in wonderful people from all different backgrounds each of whom have left a lasting impact on my life. For me, and I think I can also speak for a lot of people from my trip, doing Sea Semester was the best decision I have ever made and has given me a new outlook on life that I appreciate so much.

What was your funniest moment?
My funniest moment is one that of course came on dawn watch (1am-7am). They always do. Dawn watch shows everyone’s best and worst traits no matter who you are. I think it’s cause you get to tired to care anymore. For me, everyone got to see my ADHD in full effect and how i get random burst of energy throughout the night. This time, however, my random burst came while I was steering so i couldn’t walk around or did some weird exercises. Instead I decided to sing the first 10 songs of Hamilton word for word with accents, hand motions, and even some dances. I sang it very loudly because it was 5am and i felt like singing loudly. I would point at anyone who walked by and start singing to them and they would rightfully look at me like i was crazy. However, turns out I wasn’t the only one who likes Hamilton as slowly but surely other people on my watch began to join in. 15 minutes later we had a whole musical going on and we thought we were better than the real thing. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip and something that I always laugh at whenever I think about it.
Default avatar
Campbell
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This has been undoubtedly the most magical and happiest time of my life. I made connections to people that were instantly closer and deeper than any I had formed before, and I experienced such amazing experiences they made me wonder if there wasn't some divine entity working in my favor. I learned so much about myself and the world around me, I faced challenges that scared me, but also pushed me to grow, and I learned to really work hard. There is something completely lifechanging to be in an environment where the work you do is necessary for the safety of every person on the boat. It was exhausting work, but for however tired I was I finished my semester ready to spend another six weeks at sea, and wishing I did not have to leave. At the end, we sat on the deck to say our goodbyes and one of the mates told us not to let this be the most amazing thing you do in your life. I wish someday to be able to say that it wasn't, that I found something even more spectacular, but I don't know that I will. There are no words to convey just how spectacular it was, and no words to make anyone who hasn't experienced this know what it was like. If you have the chance to go on this adventure, take it.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I was standing on the deck during a gale in the pouring rain, the boat tipped past 45 degrees, wind blowing me around, standing by a wire with 35,000 lbs of tension on it, trying my best to keep my balance. I was responcible for controlling the speed we brought the Carousel (a piece of heavy, expensive scientific equipment) back onto the boat. Because we had a piece of equipment over the side, and we had no choice to bring it back aboard, we could not maneuver into safer waters, we could not turn into to the wind so the boat wasn't healed over, and we could not go below deck to find refuge. I don't think I realised how scared or stressed I was until well after we had brought it aboard and I'd been relieved of my post. It was we went to sit down to eat after coming off watch and I realized my head was spinning and my heart was racing. I felt like I was coming down off an adrenaline high, like I wasn't in my body. But I sat down and I ate, and then I sat down with my watchmates and told them how I felt, what it felt like manning that wire. I got through it with them, because we'd all gone through it together, and we'd all gotten safely to the other side.

Programs

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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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