Spend a Semester at Sea

Take classes on the open sea and explore the ports along the way


If traditional study abroad programs seem too tame for you, how about taking courses with the rolling sea as your background and foreign lands as your classrooms? Educational programs that take place on a ship at sea are a popular way to learn about distant lands and cultures while earning credit and having a truly unique experience.

The most well-known school-at-sea education program is probably Semester at Sea, a program run by the Institute for Shipboard Education in conjunction with the University of Virginia.

Each fall and spring semester, this floating university takes more than 600 students on a voyage around the world on board the MV Explorer, a 24,500-ton ship that includes classrooms, a computer lab, a student union, two dining rooms, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.

Students can choose a 100-day, full-semester voyage that circles the globe, or a 65-day regional program. More than 75 accredited courses are available, and all credits should be transferable to your home school. Classes are held daily while the ship is at sea, and when in port, students can choose from a wide range of activities, from homestays with local families to visits to historic sites.

Sea-mester of Sarasota, Florida, offers 80- to 90-day semester voyages as well as 40- and 20-day voyages during the summer. The program focuses on marine science, practical seamanship, and oceanography, as well as the development of communication and leadership skills. Students can choose a voyage around the Caribbean aboard the S/Y Ocean Star or a global journey aboard the S/Y Argo.

Woods Hole, Massachusetts-based SEA, also offers a 12-week, 17-credit undergraduate semester program. During the first six weeks, students stay on land and study marine-related science classes and design a research project that they will take on the boat with them. Once at sea, they will participate in onboard classes and labs and conduct shipboard activities such as navigating and maintaining equipment.

Costs for the above programs range from $17,000 to $31,000 for a full semester, and anywhere from $4,000 to $24,000 for a summer program. Financial assistance is often available. As with all study abroad programs, if earning credit is important to you, be sure to check with your home school to make sure credits will transfer before enrolling.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article was written by Paula Andruss

Paula Andruss is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications including Parents, WomensWallStreet.com, Marketing News, Crain's Chicago Business, and Cincinnati magazine.

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