What Is Semester at Sea?


If you’re considering a one-of-a-kind study abroad opportunity where you can learn while on a cruise, Semester at Sea as an excellent option. Being out on the water and visiting several foreign countries while learning from top educators is a life-changing experience. In this article, we’ll talk a bit more about Semester at Sea and how it’s revolutionizing the way people study abroad. We’ll delve into cost and reviews, and explore which countries you can visit through the program – so climb aboard!

What is Semester at Sea?

Semester at Sea is a study abroad program where you take 12 to 15 credits of college courses aboard a cruise ship while visiting many countries across multiple continents (including several on our list of top 25 places to study abroad). Founded in 1963, this program offers an incredible way to experience the world while taking enriching and academically rigorous college courses.

How long is the Semester at Sea program?

As the name suggests, the Semester at Sea program lasts an entire semester, which is usually more than 100 days. You’ll stop in several countries on your journey, so you won’t be at sea the entire time. On average, you’ll spend four to five days at each stop. While you’ll have the opportunity to visit many different countries, the downside is you’ll be in each destination a relatively short period of time. If you’d like to spend more time settling in and getting acquainted with a particular location (such as to learn Spanish), consider a more traditional study abroad provider such as Maximo Nivel’s University Abroad program, which offers study abroad programs in Latin America year-round. They even offer a Country Jumper Study Abroad program where you spend a semester studying in Costa Rica, Peru, and Guatemala.

What different voyages are available?

The available voyages vary depending on the semester. Voyages are usually around 106 days long with stops in 10 or more countries and three or more continents. The Fall 2019 voyage sets sail from Amsterdam, and sails to Poland, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Morocco, Ghana, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, before disembarking in San Diego.

The voyage for the Spring 2020 semester leaves from San Diego, and heads west to Honolulu, then visiting Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, and the Netherlands.

For European students near Germany, the Fall 2020 program is a good option, as you’ll embark in Hamburg, Germany. From there, you’ll sail to Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, China, and South Korea.

What about the ship?

Originally constructed in Germany in 1998, the ship for the Semester at Sea program is called the MV World Odyssey. It was updated in 2016 and is the sixth ship used over Semester at Sea’s five-plus decades of existence. The MV World Odyssey is a spacious, seven-deck vessel that carries more than 680 passengers. The ship has everything you need for an amazing time at sea. It’s complete with plenty of meeting halls, a library for studying, two restaurants, a salon, gift shop, and even a Turkish bath, a sauna, and a workout room. There’s also an outdoor pool, snack bar, giant chess board, ping pong table, shuffleboard, and plenty of deck chairs for lounging or sunbathing. Check out this video for a more comprehensive view of the ship.

How are the rooms?

There are a number of different room options, including double bunk rooms, inside and outside triple rooms, inside doubles, and outside doubles. All rooms have a bathroom, mini fridge, and closets for storage. The smaller rooms have one desk, while the larger ones also include night stands and a side table. Lifelong Learners (participants aged 30+) and faculty and staff have access to better accommodations.

What are the best parts of Semester at Sea?

Many say the best part of the Semester at Sea program is the lifelong friendships they gain. The friendships forged are invaluable, and the education and college credits are an added bonus. Add to that the opportunity to visit several countries and continents, and you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How do I apply for Semester at Sea?

First, you’ll want to make sure you meet the admissions requirements. For traditional undergraduate students, those requirements include completing at least one full term of college, having a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and submitting a disciplinary clearance form and short essay. Gap year students and post-graduate students have slightly different requirements. To see the full details and to apply, visit the Semester at Sea application.

Do I get course credit for participating in Semester at Sea?

Yes! Participants earn 12 to 15 credits through Semester at Sea. The program partners with Colorado State University to offer course credit for your semester of course work and hands-on learning in many foreign countries.

Do I have to be a Colorado State student to participate in the Semester at Sea program?

No – you do not need to be a student at Colorado State University to earn credit on the Semester at Sea program. You may earn credit as a visiting student if you attend a different university.

Will my credits transfer to other universities?

Yes. The credits you earn through Colorado State should transfer to most universities. The courses you’ll take are fully accredited and meet the generally-accepted standards for transfer. Keep in mind that some colleges require prior approval before accepting Semester at Sea credits, so be sure to speak with an academic advisor at your institution before you apply.

What are the courses and curriculum like?

Semester at Sea offers more than 70 courses and several Field Classes in many different countries. Upper and lower division courses are available, but the ones offered vary each semester, so be sure to check to see the exact offerings for your specific voyage. The course disciplines range from business and economics to communications, political science, and tourism and hospitality. You can also take psychology and human development courses, study Spanish, take anthropology, or even participate in a history, religion, or philosophy class. Every course features an in-country Field Class, and all students are required to take a Global Studies course.

How much does Semester at Sea cost?

With Semester at Sea program fees ranging from around $26,000 to $32,000 for room, board and tuition, the program is not cheap (there are far more affordable programs out there). When you add books, immunizations, personal programs, visas, and airfare, you can expect to pay $35,000 to $41,000 for the full program. Compare this cost to a study abroad provider such as Maximo Nivel, which offers semester-long (14 weeks) programs starting at $4,995 per semester in degree areas such as Anthropology/Sociology, Business, Education, Environmental Studies, Foreign Languages, Hospitality, Health /Medicine, and Animal Science.

How will I pay for Semester at Sea?

Don’t let the price tag scare you. Both need- and merit-based scholarships are available through the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE), the organization that runs the Semester at Sea program. Many other organizations and universities offer anywhere from $250 to $30,000 or more in scholarship funds. You may also consider checking with your university to see if they will provide any scholarships or financial aid. Lastly, check out our list of 200 volunteer and study abroad scholarships.

Does Semester at Sea include volunteer opportunities?

Yes. Many of the field programs you can choose from involve volunteer abroad opportunities. One of the volunteer projects, for instance, is cleaning up a beach in Mauritius – in this eight-hour-day program, students learn about marine habitats and how to protect and sustain them. Interested in other volunteer opportunities? Visit our volunteer abroad programs page!

What do Semester at Sea reviews have to say about the program?

Not surprisingly, Semester at Sea reviews are overall quite positive. How could you not like earning college credit while on a cruise exploring countries all over the world? Some have called it life changing, and the semester of their dreams. While there are several positives, there are a few drawbacks. Some participants complain of experiencing seasickness for the first few weeksYou will need to work hard in order to do well academically. You will be taking college-level courses, so keeping up with assignments and homework is important. If you’d like to focus on traveling abroad without having to worry about school work, consider a full-time volunteer abroad and internship abroad opportunity instead.

What do I do now?

Now that you’ve gotten a comprehensive overview of Semester at Sea, it’s time to decide if the program is right for you. While it can be an amazing experience, it’s certainly not for everyone: spending several months at sea can be a challenge, and it’s quite expensive. If you’re interested in the Semester at Sea program, dig deep to understand all the details, but also make sure that you are researching as many different programs as possible. To help you, we’ve put together a list of the 25 best places to study abroad.

There are a few steps you should take if you feel Semester at Sea is right for you. If you are an undergraduate, be sure to talk to your university to ensure that the credits you earn will transfer. You’ll also want to explore scholarship opportunities through your university. Once you apply, continue to look for scholarship opportunities and wait to be selected. With enough diligence, dedication, and the financial means, you can have an incredible experience with Semester at Sea. And if Semester at Sea doesn’t seem like the right fit, explore more study abroad programs. Best of luck in your study abroad endeavors!

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