During my sophomore year of college, I began to get restless. I was enjoying college, but I wanted to get out and see the world. None of the study abroad programs offered by my school fit my academic track very well, so after an initial suggestion from a friend I decided to sign up for Semester at Sea. It was one of the best decisions I made in college.
Semester at Sea is like any other small college — up to 720 undergrads are enrolled at any time, there’s a wide variety of interesting classes to take, you can join a sports team or get involved in an extracurricular academic group — except that it’s on a boat, traveling around the world. The ship, the MV Explorer, is equipped as a modern college with classrooms, a library, dorms, and even a student union.
I embarked on the MV Explorer in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We began with an Atlantic crossing to Galway, Ireland. We traveled around the British Isles before crossing the English Channel to Belgium, then down the coast to Portugal and Spain. From Spain, a longer voyage down the coast of West Africa brought us to Ghana and on to South Africa.
Cape Town, South Africa, was a highlight for me because my Environmental Geology course had a field lab on coastal management. (All courses include a field lab at some point during the voyage.) We got to talk with local officials and see firsthand the strategies they were using, as well as how successful they had been. It was amazing to put together the subjects we had been studying for months with a real-life application.
In other ports, I was able to go on field trips. In Antwerp, a local guide brought us around to historic churches and other buildings, explaining the architecture and historical significance of each. I was even able to stay with a local family in Cadiz, Spain, and try out my language skills.
From South Africa, we again crossed the Atlantic to Argentina, then worked back up the coast. I was sad to disembark in Florida. The opportunity to live aboard a boat with hundreds of like-minded adventurers was incredible. It was a brand-new experience living on a ship, but at the same time it was the most comfortable and convenient way I can imagine to see the world, with our floating homebase accompanying us everywhere we went. Semester at Sea’s connections helped us to experience the local culture in a deep way that would normally take much longer on your own.
My semester was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would not trade for anything. If you’re looking for a unique opportunity to travel while taking fantastic college courses with field trips in Asia, Europe, or Africa, check out upcoming voyages with Semester at Sea. You won’t regret it!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons