Where Will You Go Next? Study Abroad with Semester at Sea

In this new series, the Varsity Tutors Blog will showcase unique study abroad programs that offer college students a world of educational possibilities. Have you participated in an unusual study abroad program? Let us know at blog@varsitytutors.com.

If you’re seeking a study abroad opportunity that will allow you to explore many different countries and cultures during one semester, Semester at Sea might be the right fit. Over the course of a semester, you will travel thousands of nautical miles, visiting 10-12 destinations spanning four continents.

Originally known as the University of the Seven Seas, the first voyage was held in 1963. Since then, the program has evolved to offer classes in about 20 focus areas and has over 40 majors represented each semester. The ship offers students nine classrooms, a library, a union, indoor and outdoor dining halls, a pool, and a fitness center.

Looking for a unique study abroad experience that will introduce you to a variety of cultures and hands-on learning opportunities? Keep reading to see if Semester at Sea’s study abroad program is right for you.

How do students learn during Semester at Sea’s study abroad program?

With Semester at Sea, you are eligible to earn college credit through Colorado State University that can then be transferred elsewhere. (As always, inquire with your particular college for details.) Frequently offered classes include anthropology, business, ecology, literature, and political science. Your classes will involve both classroom study and field study. Field classes are a required portion of each course, and they consist of eight hours spent in a country on the first, second, or last day at port. You can also participate in optional in-country programs. These programs, however, are not included in the course tuition and must be scheduled around field classes. In total, around 40% of your voyage will be spent “on the ground” in countries.

The ship offers a multitude of extracurricular opportunities as well, including intramural sports, sea council, and theater, music, and dance groups.

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Why is Semester at Sea’s study abroad program unique?

Through Semester at Sea, you are able to deepen your cultural awareness, thanks to the ability to experience other cultures’ customs and traditions. You will be on a ship with other eager students, as well as experienced faculty and staff, and will have the opportunity to learn from guest lecturers. Past guest lecturers have included Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. Unlike some study abroad programs where students will travel with other students from their school, this program allows you to connect with individuals from around the globe.

Another unique benefit of this program is the opportunity to disconnect. Internet is available on the ship, but it is expensive. You are given a Gmail account and a list of free resources to reference when doing homework. You will not have cell phone service while on board. Each cabin room has a phone, but it costs money to make and receive calls, and service is unavailable at certain times. At first, this might be startling to some students. But you can still communicate with family and friends through email, and you are given the unique opportunity to disconnect from technology and truly experience the world around you.  

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Is Semester at Sea’s study abroad program right for you?

This study abroad program may sound enticing, but is it right for you? Typically, the ship welcomes traditional undergraduate students, in America and abroad. Requirements for traditional students include:

  • Full-time enrollment at an accredited institution

  • One full term at a post-secondary education level

  • A 2.75 cumulative GPA and good academic standing.

Gap year and post-graduate students may be eligible for the voyage as well, but must meet different admissions requirements. Before beginning the application process, make sure to check any requirements that may apply to you.

In addition to academic requirements, it’s important to examine if this study abroad experience will fit your interests and needs. For instance, if you tend to get sea sick easily or have had poor experience on ships in the past, you may want to rethink your application to this program. Also, if you have other commitments that will make disconnecting and having limited technology access for a semester difficult, this might not be the right fit for you. Examine the countries listed for your intended trip to make sure these are locations you will feel comfortable visiting and are excited to learn more about. The locations don’t vary too much between voyages, but you may find a future voyage is better suited to your interests. Make sure, too, to conduct your own research in regard to safety, both in this program and in the visited countries.

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Semester at Sea provides students with the opportunity to gain global literacy, meet a multitude of different people, and experience hands-on learning in a variety of countries. Students can use this study abroad experience as a gap year, a way to explore new languages, or simply as a way to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures.

Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at blog@varsitytutors.com.