SEA Changed My Life! Past Review

By (Florida State University) - abroad from 02/05/2018 to 05/08/2018 with

Sea Education Association: Programs at Sea - Oceans and Climate

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I became more confident, made new friends, learned so much science, and got to experience life at 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: Oceans and Climate was the most rigorous semester I've had in college but everything I learned was used when I was on the boat. In addition, I've been able to apply most of what I learned since I've been back at my home institution and this experience has set me apart from other undergrads who haven't had this amazing opportunity to learn how to do fieldwork. In addition, the professors at SEA actually care about you as a person and a student. They check in with you about deadlines, give specific and helpful feedback, and are receptive to extenuating circumstances which makes the heavy workload bearable yet still challenging. I've never felt so well-supported in my college education and as a result, I was able to keep up with the intensive pace and retain more of the information that we covered on shore and at sea.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The student affairs office was INCREDIBLE. Our particular program had quite a few weather situations, including blizzards on-shore and a tropical storm at-sea. The administration made sure that we were comfortable even when we didn't have power on-shore in the cottages. They gave us access to a heated building with means to cook and charge our devices. During our squalls at sea, the director of student affairs communicated honestly and effectively with our parents so that they were aware of everything happening with us. She responded to emails promptly and kept our families in the loop, which was really important in building trust between families and the program itself. Safety was the number one priority all of the time and SEA managed to not only minimize risks for students and staff, but also made sure to communicate any remaining risks honestly with both students and families. The student affairs office also made sure that we would have no problems with our travel to join the ship and gave us explicit instructions. For an example of how well-organized they are, they gave us a signed travel letter for us to bring with us through airports so that we didn't have to worry about explaining our plans to leave the country (since we were leaving by boat rather than by plane). This made traveling much less stressful. In addition, the resident assistants who lived on campus with us in Woods Hole took care of us no matter the situation, be it setting off the fire alarm or preparing for a winter storm. They checked in with us every night to make sure we didn't need anything and helped us adjust to life in Woods Hole and in the cottages.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living arrangements at sea were exactly what you would expect on a tall ship and I have no complaints there. The housing on-shore was sufficient and promoted community-living as well as eco-friendly behavior - recycling and compost facilities were available. The only downside to the cottages in my experience is that they aren't at all fancy; they are purely functional. It really isn't a problem for this sort of program where you're incredibly busy but it is important to know that the wifi can be slow in the cottages, there are no TV's in the cottages, and if campus loses power, you need to go to the classroom building for heat and cooking. The cottages don't have AC which is pretty standard for Massachusetts but in the summer it can be rather hot (I lived in the cottages during a summer period as well for an unrelated program). Otherwise, the cottages are cute and have enough space for everyone to live and work effectively. All appliances worked and cleaning supplies etc. would be delivered to your door whenever needed.

* Food:

On the boat, our amazing stewards made sure that we never ate the same meal more than once or twice and that every meal was accessible to a multitude of dietary restrictions. We had everything: homemade bread, bagels, and pastries, to curries and homemade soups, chili, pulled pork, pasta, pizza, salad, fruit, nachos etc. On the shore component, we were given a food card for the grocery store which allowed us to facilitate a community among our housemates. We would take turns cooking and cleaning up after meals and we had enough money to have interesting meals that suited everyone's needs.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Oceans and Climate is inherently a less "cultural" program due to the fact that it is mostly a blue-water passage. However, our policy class taught us so much about Polynesia and marine protected areas in the region as well as climate-change mitigation strategies. We were able to approach these communities with an understanding of what stakeholder issues were involved, which allowed us to maximize our field trip time on shore in French Polynesia. In addition, in preparing to go to sea, we had lectures which taught us about the culture of Polynesian wayfinding, as well as the history of sailing as a whole. This allowed us to engage with the culture of French Polynesia before we had even stepped on shore there.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Seasickness was the only health concern I saw aboard and the emergency medical officer(s) had many levels of support for students struggling. By about two weeks in, everyone had found their groove with medicating and the medical officers kept close tabs on those taking more "serious" medications for their seasickness.

* Safety:

Safety was the #1 concern. We practiced man-overboard, fire, and abandon ship drills and each of us felt comfortable with our roles aboard in any possible emergency. In addition, wearing harnesses was required when aloft, when conditions were rough, and when doing any work that put you leaning over the side of the ship. Staff was careful to keep an eye and ear on all students and always knew who was on deck, how long someone had been on a boat check, who was feeling seasick, etc.

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

SEA was the best thing I've ever done; I learned so much about science, sailing, policy, and myself and made lifelong friends with amazing shipmates, both students and staff.


* 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)

Everything you need is included other than your flights and any travel that you do after the program. I'd recommend having some more money saved for the semester in addition to plane tickets if possible so that you can travel a bit before and after your voyage, but you certainly don't need to have tons and tons, especially if you don't want to travel or do so cheaply.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? On shore: 60/week (dinner out, gas, alcohol) At-sea: 0 Gear for sea: 0-400 depending on what you own already Traveling before and after: 2000
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't book your travel until you get to campus; lots of people are going to want to travel and will likely split a van/rental car/airbnb/tent etc. with you (except for your flight there; this can be booked early, but it may be nice to travel with another student if possible). Don't try to eat out a lot in Woods Hole; it's an expensive area and your food card can go pretty far: rely on your shipmate's culinary skills and save your money for traveling. Don't buy all new clothes for the boat; they're going to get gross. I recommend buying good foul-weather gear, a compressible sleeping bag, a comfortable-to-carry duffel bag, and warm gear but your under-layers don't need to be state-of-the-art Patagonia etc.: they're going to get messy.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Shipmates
  • Sailing
  • Science
* What could be improved?
  • Campus Wifi
  • Cottages
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Everything you do on shore is important for your time at sea; don't rush anything and do your best work (especially on your research paper). It's much easier to write a paper on shore with wifi than in rolling seas on a watch schedule.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.