A unique learning experience


Given the opportunity would you rather take a typical class in a generic classroom, or would you rather have the opportunity of the lifetime and take classes on a one-of-a-kind shipboard campus?

Semester at Sea provides you with this opportunity, the Semester at Sea shipboard campus is a study abroad program founded in 1963, managed by the Institute for Shipboard Education in Charlottesville, Virginia. The University of Virginia is the current academic sponsor for the program while the program itself is run on a cruise ship called the MV Explorer.

Students have the opportunity to go on many different voyages. The spring and fall semester circumnavigate the globe or explore a world region, visiting up to 14 international countries: Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Students can take anywhere from 12-15 credits during the 108 day voyage. The summer voyage explores a world region, visiting up to eight ports in East Asia or Europe. During the 70 voyage students take 12-15 credits. In May 2001, Semester At Sea introduced a new short-term program or Maymester with a curriculum focused on the UN Millennium Development goal. Visiting up to six destinations this voyage lasts 26 days, and allows students to take five credits.

Students attend classes while the ship is at sea in a variety of subjects and disciplines. These classes are typically humanities classes connecting with one or more of the countries on the itinerary. All students are required to take Global Studies, an interdisciplinary core course. When the ship is in a port, no classes are held. Providing students with the opportunity to travel on sponsored trips or independently within the country.

Prior to arriving at a port, students receive a pre-port briefing on the country they are visiting regarding the culture and societal rules of the country they are visiting. Upon arriving at the port of call, special guest speakers, ranging from community leaders from the country to American ambassadors, give lectures to the students and faculty. The pre-port briefing as well as the guest lecture prepares students for what to expect while visiting the country.

Gaining more popularity each year, nearly 55,000 undergraduate students from more than 1,500 colleges and universities have participated in Semester at Sea. According to the Semester at Sea (, world figures such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Indira Gandhi, Sandra Day O’Connor and Fidel Castro have all met with the program’s participants at various times during its history. Some of the Semester At Sea alumni include:

  • Gary Foster, spring 1982 (producer at Sony Pictures)
  • Bob McKnight, fall 1973 ( CEO, Quicksilver Inc.)
  • Scott Seamans, fall 1978 (Co-founder, Crocs, Inc. Shoes)
  • Arthur C. Clarke, fall 1980 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Each voyage also includes “Lifelong Learners”, non-student adults who enjoy travel that includes educational content. Lifelong Learner participants attend classes, travel on faculty-directed field trips, and often help students understand the cultures of the various countries.

Semester at Sea Evaluative Research: The Alumni Survey, was an independent research project conducted by social scientist Robert C. Weigl, Ph.D., director of the Franklin Center in Alexandria.Surveying 342 Semester at Sea alumni who sailed between 1980 and 2008, the results concluded that.

  • 90 percent report they were substantially influenced by the program
  • 97 percent report Semester at Sea as their most important college semester
  • 73 percent report the Semester at Sea influence on their lives has not diminished with time
  • 38 percent report that the impact has continued to grow over time since their voyage
  • 42 percent report they have been sojourners overseas—spending extended time living and studying in other countries
  • 22 percent report they work or have worked outside the United States
  • 39 percent report they have traveled to revisit and learn more about countries they visited on their SAS voyage

According to the Semester at Sea media kit, some of the main core values of the Semester at Sea program are.

  • Academic excellence, which gives rise to transformative awareness and profound learning experiences
  • Intercultural exchange and global understanding
  • Diversity within our organization and our shipboard community
  • The sustainability of our environment and of our program’s strength and longevity
  • Global service in support of local communities and their needs

The mission statement of the Semester at Sea program is “to educate individuals with the global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world. With the world as our classroom, our unique shipboard program integrates multiple-country study, interdisciplinary coursework, and hands-on field experiences for meaningful engagement in the global community.”

The knowledge and the life experience you gain for this opportunity are something that money can’t buy. The friends you make and the things you experience are something that will be with you for the rest of your life. The Semester at Sea program is truly a once of a life time experience.


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About Rebecca Hall

Rebecca is a junior at Metro State, majoring in journalism and public relations. She expects to graduate sometime in the next decade.

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