SEA taught me so much about so many different things - mostly about the ocean and myself. Past Review

By (Geography and Cartography., Middlebury College) for

Sea Education Association: Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This program trained to be truly insightful about who I am, and what my role is, within any team or community of which I am part. I will never learn the leadership and team instincts I got from SEA.

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.

Sea Education Association provides an academic and life experience unlike anything you can find anywhere else. There were so many different kinds of top-notch learning going on all the time - traditional classroom lecture, discussion, and research; practical sailing, navigation, marine lab, kitchen, and engine work; field research, team and leadership training... the list goes on. The instructors were all unbelievable at teaching and helping us learn all of these different things. The classroom component of the program was so interdisciplinary that the instructors had to explain to us why the course titles were problematic. All three of our professors taught us things about maritime history and culture, natural history, Caribbean history and culture, and everything in between. They had an innovative schedule for the shore component that allowed us to build connections between all those subjects in a remarkable way. The final, and in some ways most important, aspect of the academic experience was living and working with our professors and assistant instructors during the sea component. We all learned from each other, came to trust each other, came to love each other, in ways that can never happen in a traditional academic environment. SEA has a strong curriculum in place for leadership training. We quickly took responsibility for most aspects of the ship, under the watchful eye of the crew and faculty, and we could not help but feel empowered when at the end of the journey we could do most things on the ship by ourselves. We learned how to run a sailing ship, but most of all we learned to trust ourselves, to learn quickly, to follow leaders well, and to lead others exceptionally.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The SEA administration did a pretty good job overall, although the communication process leading up to the program seemed a little disorganized. Once we were there, everything was very clear and well-run.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The first six weeks were spent in Woods Hole on the SEA campus, and in some ways this was one of the happiest six weeks of my life. The dorms were very practical, and we felt a fair amount of ownership over the space by the end. All the students on campus (two ships' worth) quickly became close friends, and were able to cohabit the houses and the campus well. It was such a simple existence - lots of academic work, and plenty of exploring to do around Woods Hole, but so much more peaceful than traditional campus life. The second six weeks were spent at sea, and it was one of the most rewarding and educational living experiences I've ever been through. We all loved the Cramer right from the start - how could we not, when it quickly became clear how much our Professors, instructors, and the ships' crew loved her. We were forced to take good care of the ship, and remain accountable for her state of cleanliness and functionality at all times. Shipboard routine took some quick getting-used-to, but after a week or two I found that it was my favorite way to live. After growing up on land, in such a complicated human world, it was enlightening to suddenly live in a small and simple world like a ship, in the middle of the wide and impenetrable ocean.

* Food:

Food was fine. Extremely good, under the circumstances of a ships' galley, seasick students, and limited stores. Head Steward Jenn Webber did a wonderful job of managing the galley and the ships' stores, teaching us to cook for the ship, and helping us take ownership of our responsibilities, which eventually included managing and cooking all meals.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There is so much to say about the social and cultural experiences possible with SEA. The entire component at sea is a social and cultural experience, in that we learned how to live in our own, micro-society and culture on board the Cramer. Both port stops, in Samana in the Dominican Republic, and Port Antonio in Jamaica, were educational in different ways. They were very different ports in some ways, and similar in others. SEA planned great field trips in both locations, and with our free days' the students also managed to learn and experience much about those cultures. In hindsight, I can see that SEA pulled off some remarkably complicated and commendable planning and networking to get us to these locations on time, across hundreds of miles of ocean, only to then present us with different kinds of experts in the fields we had studied on shore and were trying to write papers about at that moment.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Health and safety are always concerns on a ship in the middle of the ocean. The only reason I gave 4/5 stars is because there was never any guarantee that accidents or sickness wouldn't happen. That said, the crew and faculty did an unbelievable job keeping us safe, and teaching us to watch out for and be responsible for ourselves and each other. It was very clear that safety was a predominant concern, and we knew that in order to keep everyone safe we had to learn quickly and well how to run the ship.

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)

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? Keep your eyes open - the instructors will help you learn about anything and everything available to you.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Nautical Science

Course Department:
Instructor: Captain Steven Tarrant, with Mates Bryce Potter, Meredith Helfrich, and Rachel Greenough
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Captain Steve Tarrant was easily one of the most dynamic and devoted instructors I've ever had. Early on in the program he was in charge of teaching early nautical history - the origins of sailing ships and navigation methods. As an amazingly experienced sailor, he had tons of practical knowledge to bring to us, and seemed a little rusty on the history. It didn't matter - his unbelievable energy, and his skill in explaining the nuts and bolts of how sailing and celestial navigation actually WORK, had us spellbound from the start. SEA's nautical science curriculum is so well-honed after decades of instruction that before we realized it we were used to throwing charts around, grabbing compasses and slide rules, and plotting a course for an exam in the classroom or a watch at sea. Captain Steve helped me form a clear understanding of a person's place on a ship, a ship's place on the ocean, the ocean's place on the earth, and the earth's place in the universe. His devotion to our experience - academic and personal - was unprecedented for me. In some ways, this course embodied the entire experience, and Captain Steve was the heart and soul of it.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Oceanography I and II

Course Department:
Instructor: Chief Scientist Dr. Jeffrey Schell ("Chief Hero"), with Assistant Scientists Maia Theophanis, Erin Roach, and Adam Traina
Instruction Language: English
Comments: As someone who was never a "science person," I was actually most excited for the science component of this program because I knew how hands-on it would be. I was not disappointed - every one of Chief Hero's lessons was well-prepared, well-explained, and strongly tied to the maritime world we would inhabit during the sea component. He guided us to form our own interests and follow our own curiosities, helping us to make the material personally relevant. Once we were at sea, he became an inspirational leader of what we quickly saw were the SSV Corwith Cramer's complicated and important scientific missions. The assistant scientists took over much of our oceanographic instruction onboard the Cramer, and they were extremely apt at getting us excited about the material and teaching us to use the scientific equipment. It was pretty unbelievable to study marine organisms while in the middle of the Atlantic. In the end, we all couldn't help but do good work and grow in appreciation of marine and oceanographic science.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Maritime History and Culture

Course Department:
Instructor: Professor Elizabeth Fisher ("Pirate Queen")
Instruction Language: English
Comments: It's hard to imagine a better instructor for this course than Liz Fisher. The course material for a traditional Maritime History and Culture course, and the idea of an education at sea, is in her blood, and while ours focused more on the Caribbean specifically, we could always tell how strong of a maritime background she had. We learned a remarkable amount about the European nautical and naval tradition that led to the European dominance of the Americas, and learned to appreciate aspects of that history and be heavily critical of others. The course also asked some really interesting questions about the idea of cross-cultural influences via maritime methods - ships. Liz Fisher kept a good balance of lecture, discussion, and student leadership. A young professor, if her inexperience showed at all it was in the occasional stilted or condescending question or point. They were few and far between, and she will only get better with more experience.
Credit Transfer Issues: