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Semester at Sea: Profile by a Former Voyager

The MV Explorer, anchored in Petropavlovsk, Russia
The MV Explorer, anchored in Petropavlovsk, Russia
Valerie Schmidt

After Senioritis, wanderlust is the most common disease among students and recent college graduates.  And who can blame them?  With the wide world of taxes and babies and trading uncomfortable pleasantries at the water cooler looming before you, getting outside the country starts to look pretty good.  Most college provide a wide range of options for studying abroad, usually camped out at a university in an exotic destination like Auckland or Exeter.  These programs are excellent, if you've been dreaming of that one place since you were knee high to a cricket.  For everyone else, those of you with an itch on the bottoms of your feet that cannot be appeased by four months in one country, there is Semester at Sea.

Semester at Sea is exactly what the name suggests: a college located conveniently on a ship.  For over fifty years, it has been the top program for shipboard education and although the price tag is fairly daunting, the experience is absolutely unmatched.  It offers both spring and fall semesters, which last four months each, and usually hit 10-12 countries, making  almost a complete circle of the globe.  In addition, there is a 2-month summer program that touches 7-8 countries, and usually focuses on an area like the Mediterranean or the Pacific Rim.  The ship, appropriately labelled The MV Explorer, has seven decks, two dining rooms, workout facilities, a pool, wireless internet, and the largest floating library in the world.  She can take several hundred students, as well as faculty, staff, the family members of faculty and staff, and crew.  Although the cabins could not be described as luxurious, you may find that they still compare favorably with certain dormitories. 

The course of study varies depending on the faculty, which changes with every voyage but is consistently excellent.  Classes will relate to the countries you are visiting, but range within 20 disciplines.  Once the ship lands in port, classes come to a halt, passports are stamped, and the student body is turned loose on the local populace.  You may participate in programs through SAS for an additional fee per program (visit a Zen monastery, take a tour of an orphanage, see the white dolphins of Hong Kong), but you are equally welcome to poke your nose around the country on your own.  The choice is yours, to see as little or as much as you want.  The entire program is run through the University of Virginia, and any school that accepts transfer credits from UVA will accept them from Semester at Sea.  Ohio State University lists it along with their other study abroad options. 

If all of this makes you stamp your feet and chomp the bit, now is the time to apply.  The summer voyage is approaching in June, and making a circuit of the Mediterranean Sea.  With an application deadline of March 15th (March 12th for students requesting financial aid, which is granted to about 40% of voyagers), you will want to get started now.  For students considering the fall voyage, your deadline is not until April 15th, but you should be advised that students who are confirmed before March 1st will receive a $500 grant toward internet minutes, field programs, and other voyage-related expenses.  Spring students, you have the luxury of hanging out until September 7th.  But if you've ever dreamed of truly seeing the world, the time to apply is now.

Keep your eye on this page; we haven't finished with Semester at Sea.