Semester At Sea

by Roma Patel

Photography courtesy of bu.edu

The idea of studying abroad produces fantasies of shopping in Milan, roaming the souks of Marrackech and ice climbing in Patagonia. BU’s vast variety of options can be incredibly overwhelming and students frequent the Study Abroad Office. Semester at Sea (SAS) is a unique program that breaks through this BU bubble. With an emphasis on global comparative study, it is essentially a multi-country experience on a ship for college students of all majors.

The program is administered by the Institute for Shipboard Education and Colorado State University. It has taken over 63,000 students from 1,7000 institutions since it started in 1963.

Each of the program’s six ships offers luxurious dormitories with maid service and vary in price according to the view and room size. The ships offer state-of-the art classrooms, extensive libraries and online research databases. Each has 10 decks; a bookstore; indoor and outdoor dining; a pool; a fitness center; a spa and hair salon; and a medical and counseling center. These facilities ensure the comfort of all students.

“It’s a very interesting lifestyle to get used to,” said an SAS graduate. “But, it’s a very easy lifestyle to get used to. The vibe on the ship is absolutely incredible and one of support.”

The program offers approximately 75 courses covering various subject matters. With classes like “Environmental Conservation,” “Women in Art History” and “History of Rock and Roll,” there are certainly plenty of classes for every student.

The academic curriculum onboard differs from that of a traditional American university. Students participate in a field class at each destination. These classes facilitate students’ engagement with local cultures and advance their knowledge of a chosen subject matter. Along with field classes, the program offers Explorer Seminars, Seaside Chats, Preport Seminars, Diplomatic Briefings and special events, like Neptune Day to mark crossing the equator, to enhance student experience and create memorable moments.

Professors aboard the ship are leaders in their field, as they all hold terminal degrees and distinctions from their home institutions. Students are able to interact more with professors than they might in a traditional study abroad, as they live, eat, and travel alongside them.

“Our professors encouraged us to sit down, grab a seat and eat with them on a daily basis,” said a current SAS student, “to talk to them about life, the future and our plans.”

The voyages typical last 100 days in length and visit 10 to 13 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. With four to five days at each port, trips are packed with a variety of events to give students a comprehensive understanding of the culture and the destination.

For example, the upcoming Voyage Around the World trip in Fall 2018 has already generated a jam-packed itinerary for a 3-day visit to Ghana. Students will visit Cape Coast Castle and slave dungeons in Ghana’s capital. They will also experience the wildlife with visits to Wli Waterfalls and the Shai Hills Game Reserve, which is home to baboons, antelopes and monkeys—the country’s native animals. While in Ghana, students will live in homestays, engage in pottery-making, kente-weave with villagers and trek through the Accra Plains. They will also participate in several community-service projects as well. This provides students with an incredible opportunity to live like locals.

“If you make yourself open to experiences and try to maximize your time with these opportunities,” said a SAS alum, “you can reach untallied levels of personal growth.”