Author Topic: Semester at Sea  (Read 4007 times)

College Stash

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Semester at Sea
« on: April 07, 2015, 05:44:09 PM »
I was wondering if anyone here has knowledge of/experience with the semester at sea study abroad program. I am looking at studying abroad next spring and this program is at the top of my list. While it is very expensive, I will be able to afford it and graduate without any debt from my undergrad/masters.

If it helps, my generic goals for life are as follows.
1) Continue to seek knowledge/pursue academic and life interests
2) Travel/see the world. While Cliche, I want to be a globally cultured individual and see as much as possible in my limited lifetime.
3) Retire at a young age affording myself flexibility to do what I want, when I want. I place little stock in most material things and instead like most millennial value experiences and freedom.

Even if you aren't familiar with the program, what is your opinion of the concept? Any additional generic study abroad advice is also welcome. Thank you in advance for the help!

Argyle

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2015, 06:00:34 PM »
I'm familiar with the program and I know someone who taught on it. 

The advantages:
You get to see a lot of different places
The people who teach on it are dedicated and internationally-minded

The disadvantages:
You don't get immersed in a foreign culture; it's more dash-on-to-the-next-place tourism
You're in school with Americans, just like at home
The academics are fairly so-so and the students tend to be more interested in partying than in cultural opportunities

I have quite a bit of experience in this whole field, and what I'd recommend above Semester at Sea is going on a study-abroad program that immerses you in one place you can get to know intimately, with lots of contact with the people who live there.  Best would be one of the programs where you actually enroll as a student of a foreign university, which you can often do via your home university's study-abroad office.  The Scandinavian countries are especially good for this, and university courses there are taught in English (though admittedly Scandinavian countries are expensive).  Britain, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand are other good alternatives if you don't want to be operating in a foreign language.  The fact that they're English-speaking may fool you into thinking the culture won't be that different, but this is an illusion they are very, very different, and the whole experience will be disorienting in just the reason people benefit from going abroad.

Second choice would be a program in which you mix with people from other nations, even if the program is meant for foreigners, for instance the program for French learners at the Catholic University of the West in Angers, France (a very good program). 

Last choice would be a program just for Americans in a foreign country, where at least you get to spend intensive time getting to know a place intimately and having a chance to meet some local people.

The Semester at Sea is not a badly run program, but it doesn't really offer these other advantages.

pagoconcheques

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2015, 06:01:01 PM »
While it is very expensive, I will be able to afford it and graduate without any debt from my undergrad/masters.

Sounds like you can afford it.  I'm assuming you live and study in the USA.

My opinion is that the best value in a semester abroad program is one where you are most immersed in the local culture and acquire competency in another, preferably useful, language.  My feeling is that in a semester at sea program you will be surrounded 24/7 by other American college students and spend all the time speaking English while taking classes from American college professors who are also doing a semester at sea because they want to or have to. 

Tell the study abroad coordinator at your university that you want a program where you will take classes in the local language and that you wish to avoid the party destinations (an experienced and appropriately cynical adviser will know exactly what this means).  Most institutions have relationships or cooperative arrangements with lots of other universities or consortia of study-abroad programs.  You can get an idea of programs at web sites like http://www.iesabroad.org/, but work closely with the adviser at your institution.  Consider finding a program where you can arrive early in the summer and take intensive/immersion language courses so that you can keep up when you take courses in the local language. 

College Stash

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2015, 06:11:06 PM »
Thank you for the replies. For me the biggest selling point of the program is the ability to see so many places in just a semester. While there isn't the full immersion, I see it being difficult to visit many of the destinations in my lifetime. It's a tough decision either way and one I'll certainly have to think about.

College Stash

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2015, 06:13:38 PM »
As another added alternative. I currently have an excellent immersion program lined out for this summer and am in the process of deciding this week if I will be attending. If I attended this program I could probably do it for 8 weeks and an additional study abroad program next spring providing it was more affordable than semester at sea.

Kris

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2015, 07:08:25 PM »
Thank you for the replies. For me the biggest selling point of the program is the ability to see so many places in just a semester. While there isn't the full immersion, I see it being difficult to visit many of the destinations in my lifetime. It's a tough decision either way and one I'll certainly have to think about.

If that's what you want, recognize that it is basically tourism, not travel.  You won't get the cultural benefits or understanding of other peoples/lifestyles doing this program.  You'll be seeing monuments and trying new foods, not learning about other cultures.

Argyle

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2015, 08:36:07 PM »
Once you get the hang of travel, it's easy to go abroad.  Really.  I don't make much money (not up in six figures) and I spend several months abroad every year.  Don't choose a program just on the basis of "I may never have the chance to see this tourist sight again."  In fact, Semester at Sea keeps you pretty much insulated from having to make your own way in foreign countries.  Going on an in-country study abroad program will set you up much better for a feeling that the entire world is your home.  The confidence it will bestow is valuable.  And seeing this or that monument in person is nothing compared to the joy of getting to be friends with people in other countries and not incidentally, being invited to stay with them when you go back.  I never pay for housing when I go abroad.  I stay with friends and getting to know them better, and trading points of view, and building up shared histories that's a whole lot more amazing than seeing this or that monument.  Plus you can go to the monument with them and they probably get a discount anyway!

Imustacheyouaquestion

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2015, 08:53:46 AM »
If your goal is to be globally cultured and experience many places in the world over a short lifetime, you should recognize that jetting from port to port with a ship full of fellow Americans to check off seeing "as many places as possible in a semester" is not really going to fit the bill.

It'll be a great time, it's a fun way to spend a semester, you're sure to make new friends, it might ignite a travel bug that stays with you the rest of your life. But Semester at Sea is more akin to the rapid travel model Americans typically prefer (high spending  levels to try to cram as many experiences into short vacation breaks) than "slow travel" methods (see: http://www.madfientist.com/the-perfect-life/) where you really immerse yourself in a culture, spend money slowly, and live more like a local.

You said you'll graduate with no debt. I'd put whatever money you'd use to pay for the semester at sea costs into a savings account. When you graduate, take a few months before starting work - buy a one way ticket somewhere around the globe and work your way back home slowly, until your money or time runs out. That'll be a much richer travel experience, imo.

SeattleStache

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2015, 10:18:42 AM »
I did Semester at Sea back in 2002 and while I appreciated the opportunity to see so many different places, I would have preferred to have spent more time in a single country and really immerse myself in the culture.  Plus I didn't fit the typical mold of the Semester at Sea students at the time (they seemed to be mostly from very high income families and were given free reign to spend as much as they wanted. It also felt a bit like a booze cruise at night but maybe things have changed).  I went on a scholarship and wasn't able to travel much outside of the ports where the ship docked.  It was still a great experience and I'm glad I did it, but I don't know if it will really further all of the goals you listed. I went back to Vietnam with a couple friends a few years after SAS and was able to travel much less expensively and see much more than when I visited with the ship.  The highlight of the program for me was going to Cuba and attending a "question and answer" (mostly a long speech) by Fidel Castro.  Wouldn't have done that if I was traveling solo.

KCM5

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Re: Semester at Sea
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2015, 10:24:29 AM »
I see that you have gotten a lot of feedback on the Semester at Sea.

Another thing to consider is going after graduation. I was never able to work enough beforehand to be able to not work for a semester in college so I could never afford a semester abroad, but I did go to Britain through BUNAC after graduation. I was able to work to pay for my living expenses while there, got to travel a lot, and it was pretty awesome. One bad thing about this is that I really couldn't begin my job search until after I got back and my degree was a year old. No big deal in my case. But you could also do such a program in the summer.