You are probably here because you desire to Experience The World, Undergo A College Experience Unlike Any Other, Find your passion, Meet Amazing Individuals, Actually Learn And Retain What Your Studying, Get Away From Reality, Get Transferable Credits, Be Able To Afford To Study Abroad, Get The Best All Around Study Abroad Program, Make A Positive Change In The World, Become More Of A Global Citizen, and Live Life To The Fullest! I was in your shoes four years ago seeking to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime by attending a study abroad fair on campus. I now am a FOUR SEMESTER ALUMNUS (4 Voyages) of Semester at Sea (SAS) and have attended TWO of their Enrichment Voyages ever since to try to keep living the dream of what it was to be on that ship during a semester in college!
Experience The World
The word "study abroad" should not limit you to one country, as the word abroad should indicate the exposure to the world you can obtain from studying outside of your country. With traditional study abroad programs you select a country in efforts to try to immerse yourself and become a part of that culture and country for that semester. In your spare time you may visit surrounding places, areas, countries and cultures within your capability and budget. Now, with Semester at Sea you select from the available itineraries that depend on the semester, political issues, fuel planning, safety, and educational opportunities for being in those places at the time of your study. Common itineraries have been The Mediterranean & North Africa, Northern Europe & The Atlantic, Central & South America, Asia & The Pacific, and AROUND THE WORLD! You travel anywhere between 8 to 15 countries countries during the semester, averaging about 3 days in them, and live onboard of a Cruise Ship reconstructed to create a university atmosphere and community. I underwent most of their itineraries, encompassing a total of 50 different countries in 6 voyages, amounting to about a total of 1.25 years of travel time. Now, being in a country for minimum of a day or a maximum of a week of course does not compare to an actual semester in one place, however, the culture shock that you receive from constantly traveling to new places every couple of days truly gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to adapt and experience the world, enhancing your overall global perspective. This allows for students to visit and experience an array of places, out of which they can ultimately decide if they ever wish to return to any of those countries, perhaps on their second semester abroad. I mention this because as a student in mostly all universities, you are allowed a year of studying abroad, not including summers. WIth all this said, my favorite semester itinerary was the Around The World, since you truly got to see most of the world and its diversity within those three and a half months living and studying at sea.
Undergo A College Experience Unlike Any Other
One of the main reasons your probably wanting to study abroad is to undergo such a unique adventure because maybe your college life lacking something, or you feel there is so much more in to college than what your presently experiencing. I know this was a strong influence for me, and Semester at Sea is by far the BEST COLLEGE EXPERIENCE I've had! There are so many factors that contribute to your ultimate semester with SAS. You live amongst a range of between 500-800 students, 100-200 Faculty and Staff, and about 200 Crew Members. You literally are on a floating campus and you are inclined to interact and create some of the best friendships of your life due to the atmosphere and lifestyle you are to live and study in for the semester. You are always traveling which is what studying abroad should be about, especially since you are spending all that money. Your meals are included (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), although sometimes repetitive, in a buffet method, which for a college student is heaven since you don't have to worry about cooking or spending money. Your classes are spread out between A and B days, minimum of 4 classes maximum of 5 in a Fall or Spring semester, which gives you ample time to catch up your movies and tv shows, sleep, tan, physical fitness, artistic projects, port planning, social life, and of course homework and studying :) You honestly have so much freedom on board the ship, with so many meeting areas and hang out spots, and there is even a nightly event called Pub-Night that allows 18 year olds and over to enjoy a maximum of three beverages (beer, wine, wine cooler) per night. The lifestyle you have on the ship is definitely not as technologically dependent as it is in our modern world, since you are only given 2-4 hours of free internet time during your semester, mainly used for research projects, and its expensive to buy minutes. However, if you have the money and need the internet, it is there, but not strong enough for skype or anything that consumes heavy bandwidth, yet there is unlimited free emailing. But in all honesty, it is this seclusion of the technological world and introduction into the real world that makes this program what it is. You'll have enough time later for catching up with friends and family, posting pictures, and keeping all your followers updated on your travels. Your time on Semester at Sea is so unique in its atmosphere with so much free time on your hands that you'll decide to try out new things you didn't have time to do before. You might learn how to make video projects, play an instrument, learn a workout routine, become involved with a philanthropic organization on board, and actually have time to be involved in school organizations onboard the ship. Lastly, the accessibility you have to people onboard the ship is insanely awesome, since you can hang out as much as you want without having to drive or travel far to reach them, they are a a phone call away, and you live with your professors and their families. This is by far one of the best things of the programs since the professors are experiencing what you are experiencing and can relate that into the classrooms, they are also always there to assist their students due to their proximity to them, and they cater their courses to the itineraries and that which is happening throughout the voyage. You have all the basic necessities and departments on board the ship, like doctors, phycologists, snacks, a library, a computer lab, IT, an auditorium, a spa, a gym, a pool, campus store, etc.
Find your passion
With so much time in your hands and so many talented individuals around you, you can definitely pick up on a few things by the end of the semester. You may learn an instrument, become politically active, learn about subjects otherwise unknown to you, begin doing service projects, study an elective that will change your life, or like many hope to do by embarking on this program, find who you are and where you want to be in life after college. This seems to be a huge question that students face before going on Semester at Sea, or even college. THey wish to know what they want to do the rest of their lives, and a part of doing that is experimenting and exploring options. It took me a lot of exploration and experimenting to find something I was passionate about, but after my fourth voyage I found what it was. Passions then become careers, and some of them become globally impacting, like Adam Braun, alumnus of 2005, with Pencils of Promise, or Jeff Steitz, alumnus of 2011, with Serengetee. The diverse pool of students allows for an intermix of ideas, projects, and activities that spark passions amongst the students. My passion was traveling before I began this program, and out of that passion surfaced many others through Semester at Sea.
Meet Amazing Individuals
I know it sounds like a cliche to say some of your strongest friendships form on this ship. This is because just like you, there are hundreds of other students looking to have the best experience of their lives during the semester, and for the most part you all experience the same kinds of culture shocks, challenges, cultural events, life on board the ship, and exhilarating traveling scenarios. In terms of student life, the beginning of the semester holds a lot of introductions and networking, as students seek to find their place on board the ship, and meet people with similar interests and aspirations. The student life department facilitates this by hosting an array of events and activities on board to encourage this kind of interaction amongst students. As time progresses though, students begin to form their friend and travel groups, which is good but as a prospective student reading this, you should always aim to meet as many people and travel with as many different groups in order to obtain the most out of your experiences. There are more than 50 campuses that are represented on board the ship, most students came by themselves, and some of them came with their colleagues. This creates a interesting atmosphere because there are different ideals and views from all these students with vastly different backgrounds, and the professors also come from different institutions, so their methods of teaching and hosting a class can vary. Also, there are many opportunities throughout the voyages to meet outstanding individuals, sometimes they live with you for some or most of the voyage. They can range from students to staff, faculty, inter-port lecturers, lecturers, crew, special guests, and life-long learners. Some examples I can think of have been, Desmond Tutu, Bill Nye, Adam Braun (Pencils of Promise), Jeff Steitz (Serengetee), Paul Muldoon, and everyday heroes like professor John Boyer (Plaid Avenger), and many more. This is solely on board the ship, but that is not including the people you meet outside the ship during your travels. You become so intrigued and excited throughout your travels that meeting locals and interacting with them becomes inevitable and some of your classes require those interactions for your coursework or research project. During these interactions you may find yourself meeting some of the most interesting or inspiring individuals or groups. I'll finish this section by mentioning one of the hot topics, being that of dating on board the ship. There are three types of dating scenarios on board the ship: couples before the voyage, couples that form during the voyage, and singles that are ready to socialize. Relationships, no matter what type they are, form a stronger bond between them after being together during the voyage and undergoing life changing events and moments together. I like many, met the most beautiful person inside and out through the program, and went from knowing nothing about her to moving to her city for her because of the bonds we created and the memories that will forever be carried with us.
Actually Learn And Retain What Your Studying
Most people select electives to be taken through this program, but for me out of 16 courses (48 credits) only 2 were electives (6 credits). I chose to do core classes on the ship because you are applying what you are studying to the real world, and you actually get to practice your discipline, making as they say "the world your classroom!" This is one of the reasons I kept coming back since your studies went beyond the textbook, and your classroom was always adapting to its surroundings and making the most out of your experiences and your time in ports. Needless to say, the electives I took were amazing too, and by far the most impacting for me. One of those electives was Geography of Wine, and aside from being an appealing course itself, I can honestly say that this elective has allowed me to find a career path and a desire for further continued education in what I studied on Semester at Sea. Since your education coincides with your memories while traveling the world, the lessons you learn leave an everlasting impression on you that you will always remember and cherish. Some courses even have a philanthropic aspect, almost like service learning, in which your lessons allow for your involvement in a local community and consequently allow you to make a difference while the class makes a difference in you.
Get Away From Reality
Being on Semester at Sea is unreal! I know when I first heard about the program I was like there is no way you can live and study on a cruise ship while traveling the world. But I took a chance and applied and six voyages later am very proud I took that chance. You are like I had mentioned, isolated in a floating campus traveling around the world, and you are facing the world and the challenges of traveling by yourself. An experience such as this enhances your personal independence, allows for you to mature, enables you to become involved in global issues, and expands your global perspective. Many programs suggest they mold students into global citizens through their programs, but in my experience, there is only one program that does that, and it is Semester at Sea. Your reality during your travels and semester abroad is never ending fun, constant learning both internally and externally, and is based on you and what you wish to accomplish and how far you wish to be adventurous.
Be Able To Afford To Study Abroad
The biggest challenge students have of doing this program is primarily based on financial aid. This program can be up there in terms of the price for the semester, however, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED BY THE PRICE! I know it seems like so much money when you first see it, but take it from me, a four time voyager that is more broke than your average broke college student. I'll be upfront and explain my situation to hopefully give you some insight into how you can make your dream of going on semester at sea come true. My mother passed away right before college, her being my sole guardian and financial supporter. I decided to not give up and go to college, worked 2 jobs, was an A/B (3.5+ GPA) student, and had a lot of financial burdens due to the loss of my mother. Nonetheless, I saw the opportunity of sailing with Semester at Sea and decided to apply. I applied with time because there are many logistics to take care of before sailing and I needed time to financially plan my trip. I applied to almost all the scholarships of Semester at Sea, along with about 5-10 outside scholarships per voyage, and received a substantial amount through those outlets, and the remaining amount I negotiated and talked to my campus's financial aid office to transfer any available amount to Semester at Sea. My last resort was loans, but I also obtained those. In total for four voyages I ended up with a 23K loan, so about 6K per voyage. I also took out extra for personal expenses I was to do while traveling. So my advice would be to 1) apply to semester at sea early 2) apply to as many SAS scholarships you can 3) apply to as many outside scholarships as you can (its better to spend a couple of days working on an scholarship than paying off a loan) 4) talk and work with your school's financial aid office to see how much you can transfer to Semester at Sea 5) work your butt of saving money for the trip so you can have as much fun as you can 6) talk to semester at sea about your situation if things come up to see how you can work to remedy it 7) and lastly, get loans if you have to (these loans are going to be the best investment of your life).
Get Transferable Credits
This is a huge topic amongst prospective students since they are wanting to make sure their time abroad counts toward their curriculum. In college I studied International Business, Anthropology, Spanish, and General Liberal Arts Courses, and I was able to find equivalents for all my degrees. There are many different disciplines being taught by Semester at Sea, and students from all kinds of majors find ways to relate a course or find substantial coursework that adapts or qualifies for courses being taught back at their home campuses. Aside form financial aid, this is another one of the biggest burdens of the program since some schools are very particular about their courses and are not as friendly about the idea of their students taking core classes abroad. Nonetheless, it can be achieved, one must just apply themselves to make it happen and find substantial evidence with course syllabi, expectations, goals, and negotiations with department chairs, registrars, and faculty.
Get The Best All Around Study Abroad Program
This program has been around for more than 50 years, and is becoming more and more well known around the world. It has surfaced in our pop culture through such outlets such as Buzzfeed, as well as in movies like 22 Jump Street, and TV Shows like MTV's The Real World. You are never going to regret going on Semester at Sea as it is a program that has so much to offer to you personally and academically. The program takes you to popular destinations as well as destinations you'd never thought of going but are glad you got to witness and experience. Faculty and staff are top notch, lecturers are phenomenal, student life is bar-none, housing and meals are all taken care of for you, and living at sea is something so amazing and beautiful that cannot be easily described. Just imagine a serene sunsetting afternoon outside feeling the breeze while reading a book relating to your next travels in port, all while the whistling waves crash against the ship and at a far distance dolphins chase the MV Explorer (the ship), and you pause to take a deep breath and admire the view while snuggling in your cozy Semester at Sea hoodie and blanket and drinking a delicious hot tea, all while being excited that tomorrow you reach the port of Cape Town, South Africa. This is just one of those everlasting memories that will linger in your mind after undergoing the program.
Make A Positive Change In The World
Many people come on board with projects to help communities in need around the world, others are looking into aspects of foreign service and global politics, some just came for the free donuts and coffee. But no matter what you do in the program you will be given many opportunities to make a change in the world, and its up to you to take advantage of them. Semester at Sea is a gateway into finding opportunities of getting involved with local communities revolving around the areas the ship visits, as well as other programs for students seeking more of a political aspect, such as visits to the United Nations, local embassy home-stays, or lectures from globally influential individuals inclined toward social or political change. The most important aspect, I believe, is to know about the issues that are being faced by the people of this world, and discuss ways in which to address and solve them. Knowledge is power, and through the lectures, opportunities and exposure given to students on Semester at Sea, it is more likely that as a student you will feel inclined to make a positive change no matter how small that change may be. From my experience, about 70% of students who do Semester at Sea continue to do projects abroad, or continue to travel avidly after the program finding ways to make an impact in the communities they visit.
Become More Of A Global Citizen
The only way you can be an active global citizen is by traveling and learning about the places you are traveling to. Semester at Sea is the only program that truly allows for the individuals undergoing the program to become global citizens. There are many ways to get involved in the communities you visit even after you have left and your travels there have ended. On board you learn about the issues the countries you are visiting face, and you first handedly experience them. You are exposed to the beauty and sometimes harsh realities of our world, but travel amongst many moved individuals whom wish to make a positive change and actually go on to do so.
Live Life To The Fullest!
No matter what you do or seek from this program your goal should be to live life to the fullest and try to find a passion you can continue to foment. No matter how lost you are in a port, chances are you'll run into one of the 800 or more Semester at Sea students, staff, or faculty. Safety is a top priority of the program, and students tend to always travel in groups, allowing for support of each other during their stays in ports. You are going to take the program for granted once you are on board, but it will honestly be the one experience you can never seem to describe yet always imagine and wish to relive every day of your life. So just to recap, with this program you will travel the world, live on board a cruise ship, meet amazing individuals, encounter good life-changing moments with others, eat so much amazing food, see breathtaking views, monuments, and natural environments, see a world unlike anything you've ever seen, learn from exciting and interesting professors that care and understand, live a low stress life, hike majestic trails, swim in crystal clear waters, learn so much about different disciplines, be a part of a unique college experience, shop till you drop in ports, enjoy nightlife with others with Semester at Sea, eat healthy, sleep healthy, live healthy, and make the best memories of your life!
There is so much to tell you about the program, so please feel free to contact me and I can help answer any of your Semester at Sea questions. Also, if you wish to have a small peek into my travels look up Dance the way I feel - DJ L3opard on Youtube and you will see me dancing around the world with Semester at Sea. You can also email me at [email protected] or call me at 956-212-7848 and i'll assist in the best way that I can!
I hope this helped you a bit on your decision and process in studying abroad and I hope you one day also experience what I experienced and continue to help others achieve their dreams and allow for them to witness this world we all share and live in.