Assignment 1: Making the best of your Semester at Sea experience

When one thinks of the term “study abroad,” they may  think of a semester in London, or Madrid or some other famous Metropolitan “must see” city where they knew someone who once visited and had the time of their life. Semester at Sea is the type of “study abroad” that takes that idea and blows it out of the water, literally.

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton

On Semester at Sea you will be living, studying, and circumnavigating the globe aboard a ship for approximately 100 days, taking classes, exploring different countries, and gaining a new world view.


If you’re interested in a Spring or Fall voyage you can expect:

10-12 international ports

12-15 transferrable credits to your home university

Voyages last 100-110 days

If you’re interested in a Summer voyage:

8 international ports

8-12 transferrable credits to your home university

Voyages last 65-70 days

The Ship:

Yes, you live on a ship. I know the  idea of living on a ship may make people  a little uneasy but rest assured there is nothing uncomfortable about life on the M.V. Explorer.  This amazing cruise ship was built in 2002 and  is one of the fastest and safest passenger ships in the world.

The M.V. Explorer  has  6 decks, a pool, gym, and salon, making life at sea more than bearable.  There are 9 classrooms on the ship where students take classes,  study,or simply use to lounge  in. One should not be concerned about the lack of space at sea among your peers. There are two dining halls, along with outside decks which are perfect for dinner and enjoying epic sunsets over the sea. The ship also offers a computer lab, library, and campus store which help remind you that you are in fact in school and not just on vacation.

The cabin accommodations offer inside and outside views, depending on price. A port hole is one’s view to the outside world and can offer quite the show during rough waters. The rooms consist of two beds, one wardrobe (with two compartments) two night stands and a desk. A steward that does your laundry, makes your bed daily, and folds your clothes, comes standard with each room. This makes life aboard this floating academy that much more appealing and desirable. The amenities of a cruise ship and the feeling of community make ship life enjoyable for students, teachers and staff alike.

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton

The Classes:

While on Semester at Sea one can expect to take classes the days the ship is at sea and is free from study while in port.  Every student is required to take Global Studies, in which you learn about each culture and country before you step foot on its soil. Each voyage  has its own unique Global Studies theme that is woven into each lecture.

Students are then expected to take 3 or 4 more classes of their choosing. It’s best to research the classes beforehand and get the approval from your home university to make sure what you are taking is transferrable. Although there is a wide variety of classes to choose from, many students save general ed classes such as art or science to take while at sea.

Professors on the ship are handpicked for each voyage and are just as excited to be exploring the world as their students. As a student, you will come to see your Professors as part of your community and should be ready for a unique and enriching experience both in and outside these floating classrooms.

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton

Trips and Field activities:

“Field activities” are set up through the ship and offer students educational and unique learning opportunities in each port.  Field activities are a great way to spend time with your fellow students and teachers, while exploring an aspect of the country you are docked in. Touring an orphanage in India, exploring an African inspired museum in Brazil, or visiting the townships of Cape Town South Africa, are all trips that may be offered on your voyage.

The ship is docked at each country for about 3-7 days and in that time you are free to explore at your own leisure. In some countries you may want to skip out on your own, other times you may want to sit back and have someone else do the planning. A safari in South Africa, a trek to the Great Wall, and a excursion to the Taj Mahal are all examples of trips offered through Semester at Sea.

The best advice while planning for these adventures is to really think about the trips you want to plan on your own and those you want to sit back, relax, and let someone else plan for you. Once you’ve sorted through the details of what you want in each country, choosing your  SAS (Semester at Sea) trips becomes a lot easier.

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton

photo by: Mallary Santucci

photo by: Sven Hassleberg

photo by: Amanda Throckmorton


Once you decide  that Semester at Sea is the study abroad experience you’re looking for, there takes some preparation. Checking out classes that will transfer to your home university, financial aid, and of course all the needed vaccinations. These will all be outlined for you very clearly once you’re accepted into the program.

University of Virginia is the academic sponsor of Semester at Sea so the credits you receive will be transferred from them. To be eligible to apply you must be enrolled full time at a degree-granting, accredited university (domestic or international) and you must have completed at least one full term at post-secondary level.  You  also need a cumulative  G.P.A of 2.75 or higher.

It would also be wise to check with your own university’s study abroad office to see if any additional applications are required. Each university has its own study abroad policies so find them out early in the process.

When it comes to packing for the trip, make sure you account for all the souvenirs, clothes and trinkets you’ll pick up along the way. It is very common to pick up more luggage on your trip to accommodate for the extra baggage acquired. It is also smart to do some research on the countries you will be visiting and possibly plan out what it is you want to explore while you’re there.

When asked her opinion on the Semester at Sea program, Mallary Santucci, who sailed on the Spring 2006 voyage, described it as  “the best way to sample all that the world has to offer. You get a small taste of each culture you experience and it leaves you wanting more. It opens your eyes, makes you wonder what else is out there, and that curiosity stays and grows forever.”

Semester at Sea is a taste test of the world. A study abroad program that ignites permanent global inquisition.

For more information:


4 thoughts on “Assignment 1: Making the best of your Semester at Sea experience

  1. Great first assignment, Amanda! Super informative and really made me want to do this. You’re a great ambassador for the Semester at Sea program and you covered all of the basic and necessary information really thoroughly.

    I felt that while all of that information is certainly helpful, the best parts of the article were when you mentioned the port outings and places visited. Those were the parts that really drew me in and made me want to participate and get excited about the experience. I definitely hope that you will write more about your experiences off the boat!

    Looking forward to seeing more of your work.


  2. Amanda, great post! Semester At Sea sounds like it would be such an amazing experience. I wish I had known about it while I was in school! Very interesting!

  3. Great article Amanda! 🙂 I really like it! I like the way you wrote it. I can’t really think of the right words to portray what I am trying to say…but it kinda feels like more of a novel or a more professional blog post. I can’t wait to read what you write next!! Oh, and I like how I made an appearance in the post! 🙂

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