The most incredible journey of my life! Past Review

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/10/2017 to 11/20/2017 with

Sea Education Association: The Global Ocean

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained not only a newfound knowledge and love of sailing a tall ship, but also an incredible community of friends. The skills I learned countless; everything from (literally) scrubbing the deck to setting and striking sails to learning the paths of the stars. I gained confidence, strength, and a true love of the ocean.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I didn't fine this program too academically challenging. We had three main courses while ashore: Oceanography, Nautical Science, and Maritime Studies. All were engaging and the professors were wonderful, but the science side of things was relatively basic. Across all three courses, we had a total of four exams and two essays; all but two of the exams were take-home.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Ashore: The house-style living is a really solid idea, but my program ended up squishing thirteen people in a house that comfortably would have held eight. However, living with all your program mates and being collectively responsible for things like cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping was a good way to bond. On the ship: Bunks aboard the Cramer are, as should be expected, pretty small.I could sit up comfortably, and lie flat, but not much beyond that. Don't overpack, and realize that the only time you really spend there is to sleep.

* Food:

Ashore: Food is made by you and your shipmates, so it really is luck of the draw on this. My crew happened to be pretty talented, but grocery shopping for a house of 13 was definitely stressful. On the ship: Food is EXCEPTIONAL. I never eat this well in daily life, to be honest. We ate six delicious fresh meals a day (okay, three meals, and three snacks), and the steward (cook) makes fresh bread daily! Students spend at least one day of the voyage as full-time assistant cook, and get to plan the meals for the day; this ensures that the menu is varied and that everyone's tastes are shared. Can't say enough good about how wonderful the food is.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Ashore: Since I'm from New England, and the school's shore component takes place in Woods Hole, MA, there wasn't much cultural adjustment. It's a beautiful town and everyone was welcoming. On the ship: Ship culture is a strange thing, but a wonderful one. It really is build by those aboard the ship at any given time, so we were able to create a really solid ship family. Grenada (final destination): Although we spent a day touring around the island, I didn't feel at ease in the local culture. We weren't introduced to it very well, as we were just sent ashore for a few hours each day without much guidance. But part of this is the fact that we were only in Grenada for a few days, and those were not the focus of the program.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

First and foremost, this trip is completely in the middle of the ocean; helicopters will not fly out to get you if there is an emergency, and you can be many days of sailing from the nearest land. The communication with hospitals on shore is limited to the satellite phone so, while they can get advice on medical issues, there isn't much on the ship. The highest trained medical person is the medical officer, who is typically a WFR or WEMT. I'm a type one diabetic, and I had more trouble convincing SEA Semester to let me sail with them than I have had on any other expedition-based program I've done - and many of those were remote, backcountry trips! That being said, once I'd actually been cleared by their medical review team, I had no problems on this front; the medical officer and the rest of the crew didn't make a big deal of it, and were considerate of my needs. The other factor of any sailing trip is seasickness. It's pretty brutal, if you're prone to such things; as it turns out, I'm very much a person who gets seasick. So I spent a solid few days hanging over the rail whenever I was awake. The medical officer on board can give some seasickness medications and encourages everyone to start taking them, but they only do so much. And while you won't be allowed to leave watch if you're seasick, the crew takes good care of you - everyone's been through it at some point.

* Safety:

Because medical access is so limited, safety is stressed heavily on SEA semester. While 'on watch', all students and staff wear chest harnesses. These can be clipped onto the railings, and this is actually required whenever you are working over the side of the ship - deploying nets, ect. All sails can be set and struck from the deck, but those who wish to go aloft (climb up in the rigging) have to undergo safety training. We did full ship safety drills for man overboard and abandon ship.

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

SEA Semester was truly life changing, and the program that I did (Ocean Exploration) had the sailing component that I was really seeking. I liked sailing on the Atlantic, and ending in the warmth of the Caribbean was stellar. I would also consider doing a similar program in the South Pacific, which is also offered by SEA.


* 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)

There were no necessary costs that the program did not cover, except when reaching Grenada. Even then, SEA provided meal options for those who did not want to spend money on shore. Once on the ship, there's nothing to spend money on at all, which is very thrifty.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you don't go out to eat, you honestly don't have to spend money at all. And since all meals are provided, that isn't a problem.


* 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?
  • Community
  • Sailing
  • Laboratory work
* What could be improved?
  • Seasickness medication
  • Housing on shore - less crowded would have been nice
  • More academic support for the gap year students - some of them were not prepared for a college workload.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That I was going to get really seasick!

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.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Maritime Studies

Course Department: History
Instructor: Craig Marin
Instruction Language: English
Comments: By far my favorite class. Craig Marin was not only extremely knowledgeable about the subject, he also was very passionate. His lectures were interesting and he managed to turn what could have been a dry subject (18th century maritime history) into a truly engaging one. I participated in class more than in my home institution, but that was mostly because very few other people talked. We were assessed with two significant essays, and based on class participation.
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Nautical Science

Course Department: Sailing
Instructor: Jason Quilter
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class is definitely challenging, especially if you are not naturally a meticulous person. Charting a course on paper is an exacting art, and if you aren't patient enough to do it carefully, it can be really frustrating. That being said, Jason was an excellent teacher. Having been a SEA captain for years, he knows the ins and outs of the subject very well, and breaks the sometimes confusing art of Celestial Navigation into manageable chunks. We had two exams on shore, and three assignments aboard the ship.
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Course Department: Marine Biology/Geology
Instructor: Chuck Lea
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was not challenging for me. It was all fairly basic geography, with very little biology. Chuck definitely knew a lot, but I didn't find his lecture style to be very engaging. We were assessed with two exams.
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Course Name/Rating:

Oceanographic Field Methods

Course Department: Marine biology
Instructor: Chuck Lea and assistant scientists Farley Miller, Grayson Huston, and Gabo Page
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I loved the lab component of this course - which was pretty much the entire course. While the lab work was basic (pH and alkalinity probes, identifying species) it was all hands-on. There's nothing quite like setting out a sample net by the light of the moon, watching it glow as phosphorescent organisms drift by. We spent about six hours every day (or every other day) in the lab, so we were all very familiar and constantly engaged with it. We were assessed with a lab practical and a final lab report based on our research.
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