SEA Semester was a life-changing, unbelievable, outstanding program!!! Past Review

By (Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College) for

Sea Education Association: Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
SEA Semester showed me how strong and courageous I can actually be. I had no idea I had this person inside of me all this time, just waiting for a chance to shine. SEA Semester helped me to be the person I didn't know I could be.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Especially during the shore component, the workload is HUGE, but everything is so new and exciting and interesting that it's totally worth every second. You'll cram a ton of information into your head in a very short period of time and it's AMAZING. I chose this program because I was an Anthropology major and wanted to learn more about the history and culture of the Caribbean; this was the BEST possible way to learn because it was all hands-on, and I got to do direct field research in the places I was studying. As a "non-sciency person" I was nervous about the oceanography component, but the program is designed for humanities majors so their approach to learning science is carefully crafted to suit the students. Plus, the net deployments and chemistry tests and the amazing flora and fauna that you see and collect are so fascinating that you totally forget you're doing science!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

On the ship, we had to bring everything we would need for five and a half weeks at sea, and we had to fit all of it into tiny, cramped bunks with only a curtain for privacy. There were certainly days when I was frustrated by the tight living conditions and claustrophobia, but it was all worth it for what I gained in self

* Food:

Jenn Weber was our steward and she was THE BOMB. She taught all of so much about cooking and food safety, and the meals were always delicious! She was flexible when we were choosing our menus for our Assistant Steward days and always made it fun, even when the ship was rolling and heaving and you had to fight through the seasickness to get food on the table for the crew. I have to admit, my favorite thing in the world is homemade bread, and we made EVERYTHING from scratch, even pita pockets and hamburger rolls and bagels! Jenn was also one of my closest confidants and I am still in contact and good friends with her to this day.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

One of my favorite stories is from our port stop in Samana, Dominican Republic. We decided to use our day off to take a trip up to a waterfall we had heard about, so six of us hired a motorbike-rickshaw to take us up the mountain. Well, with so many people to carry, the poor little bike overheated and started spitting flames out of the tailpipe! We pulled over, the driver put out the flames, hit the tailpipe with a rock, and kept going! Fortunately, we made it there safely and he even gave us an uneventful ride back to the dock. My favorite story is of the night I was at the helm and the rest of my watch group was off handling other duties around the ship, except for Stephanie, who was in the doghouse looking at charts. It was only a week into the trip, so I was still pretty nervous at the helm. It was pitch-black, because we needed our night vision to work in the dark, and the ship was heaving something fierce. All of a sudden, something goes flying past my headon the starboard side, just inches from my face, smashes into the back rail and falls to the deck. I can't see anything, so I shout, "Oh my God! Stephanie, get the flashlight!" She comes running of the doghouse with the light and shines the light back to where a very unfortunate flying fish is flopping about on the deck, incredibly confused and gasping for air. Apparently, the captain heard me shout, because he comes barreling down the deck and comes around the corner to find me jumping around, trying desperately not to step on this poor fish and not release my grip on the helm at the same time, and Stephanie just standing there, totally at a loss for what to do. Seeing that the situation was not as dire as he had feared, Steve sighed, shook his head, picked up the fish and walked away without a word. In the official logbook, in which we recorded our location, navigation, sail plan and weather conditions every hour for the entire trip and which was submitted to the US Coast Guard at the end of the voyage, there is an entry for that night that reads, "Helmswoman almost taken out by flying fish."

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We all understood that the ship was a dangerous place, and took safety very seriously, but the various scrapes and bruises we sustained were well-tending and certainly well worth the experience.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Don't be proud; take the seasickness meds. You'll only be sick for a day or so, so don't let it stop you from experiences everything you possibly can. Find your courage, find your strength. Boot and rally and always, ALWAYS keep your eyes open, or you might miss something profoundly beautiful.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:


Course Department:
Instructor: Chief Scientist Dr. Jeffrey Schell, Super Hero
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I cannot speak highly enough about Jeff Schell (AKA Chief Hero) and the amazing things he taught us. I never thought science was a strong subject of mine, so it was amazing to see how he made it accessible to everyone and really opened our eyes to the world around us, both through the lens of a microscope, and with our own eyes. He was there beside us through the entire process of researching, designing, implementing and reporting on our projects, and the patience he demonstrated was remarkable. On shore, he gave amazing lectures and took lots of time to answer any questions we had and even brainstorm with us about the new ideas swirling around in our brains like Pteropods in a beaker, but it was at sea that he really shined. He was up at all hours of the day and night helping us with our data collection and analysis, getting at least as excited as we did, if not more, when we found or learned something new. I never get tired of the disbelieving stares I get from people (especially my family) when I tell them I researched "Preferred Environmental Conditions of the Dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus." For the first time ever, I really enjoyed a science class!
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Maritime History and Culture

Course Department:
Instructor: Elizabeth Fisher, Pirate Queen
Instruction Language: English
Comments: As an Anthropology major, I CANNOT overstress how valuable it was for me to have the opportunity to do first-hand field research. Getting to talk to people in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica about the things I had spent so much time researching was incredible. Liz Fisher was an amazing professor, as well. She led lively, interesting discussions in addition to her fascinating lectures that were packed to capacity with information. She pushed all of us farther than we every imagined we could go; I have never worked so hard on a research project as I did on the two 20-page papers we wrote for her in just a couple weeks. She pushed me to dig deeper, to write better, to use proper citation formats. More importantly, she showed me how a highly educated, strong woman can both be academic and also a tough-as-nails sailor.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Nautical Science

Course Department:
Instructor: Captain Steve Tarrant
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was the most fun I have ever had while receiving credits! Everything from celestial navigation to knot-tying to line chases to piloting was all so unbelievably fascinating I forgot I was technically in school. You just can't beat learning to sail on an actual sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, and Captain Steve is just the BEST. He was both knowledgeable and entertaining, both a solid leader and a very kind man. He taught me to "stand on the shoulders of giants, people!" and that "We are all cosmic plankton." I gained both leadership and teamwork skills as I took my turns leading my watch group as the Junior Watch Officer, and taking direction from other watch-mates. We all learned to pool our knowledge together to accomplish sail handling maneuvers and navigational assignments, learning that no one of us had learned all the information we needed to complete the task, but together we had everything we needed to figure out the challenge. On top of the valuable interpersonal skills I learned, I also learned to work quickly and calmly under pressure, and I felt a greater sense of accountability for my work, which directly affected the safety and morale of everyone on board.
Credit Transfer Issues: