Curiosity at Sea February 17, 2019

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/24/2018 to 12/20/2019 with

Sea Education Association: The Global Ocean

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a lot. I learned how to find autonomy in a space that seemingly provides you with little opportunity for autonomy.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Your professors are among the most passionate and knowlegable individuals you will ever know. Take advantage of them, because you will learn more than you thought was possible if you are committed and practice curiosity. They want nothing more then for you to succeed.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Really fantastic. They answered all of my questions and reached out to make sure there wasn't a question I didn't ask.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?


* Food:

Sabrina is the most incredible steward. You will be well fed regardless of your dietary restrictions. The one thing I found difficult was the heavy use of oil in cooking.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

SEA never claimed to know how to integrate with the Maori culture. We asked ourself that question. We saw Maori films, read Maori books, studied Maori history, and went on Maori cultural tours. SEA was brilliant here, in my opinion, because they were always trying to intentionally navigate cultural immersion. I think it would be very difficult for any Semester program to suggest that their students will be integrated in the local culture. SEA allows you to be respectively critical.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Heath insurance is a bit expensive, but you can look into other insurance! And SEA will accommodate you.

* Safety:

I was always thinking about safety and risk management. The leadership course, readings, and drills will prepare you very well.

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

SEA is difficult in many ways. You are virtually deprived of your agency because you are living on a ship; have little control over sleep, food, and hygiene; and are drowning in class work and research. HOWEVER, being in the space that I just described promotes a lot of growth. Being able to find autonomy in such a space is an incredible skill that will in turn teach you how to find happiness virtually anywhere (which isn't necessarily hard when you are out at sea). However, this program really taught me to look around. It taught me how to be resourceful of human written sources, and the environment in an academic setting. It taught me how to ask questions and really get stoked about the world. However, in retrospect, I wish I were more present and less stressed about academic work. I wish I learned to love the sea more.


* 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)

You don't have to spend money at all. If there is pressure from your classmates to spend money traveling around the cape, explain to them your financial situation--there are more than enough free things to d.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Maybe $10 if I bought a meal when we went to explore the cape.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? You really don't have to buy anything. Pack a lunch if you go explore.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

It's English-speaking so technically yes, we were encouraged to use the language. However, we did try to learn Maori.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Fluent
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? This is my first-language
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? English is most people's first language who study with SEA (especially for the NZ program)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • 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?
  • Research!!
  • Spending time at sea with friends!
  • Learning about maori culture and history
* What could be improved?
  • Workload
  • Timing of data availability
  • Timing of sailing knowledge
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would spend time really thinking about what it means to spend two months on a tall ship.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Leadership in a Dynamic Environment (300-level, 3 credits)

Course Department: Outdoor Education and Leadership
Instructor: Elliot Rappaport
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course wasn't challenging. The material was very manageable and fun. I loved reading the case studies, and always thought about what it meant to be a leader--especially while on the ship. I would recommend doing the work for a more meaningful experience in class .
Credit Transfer Issues: not sure
Course Name/Rating:

Maritime History & Culture (300-level, 4 credits)

Course Department: History
Instructor: Rich King
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Rich is absolutely fantastic. I learned so much about 19th century whaling and colonialism. I was nervous for this course because I spend a lot of time in STEM. But I was able to write my final paper on right whales and make a GIS map and really had such an incredible experience. We read mostly primary literature, which was a really cool approach to learning history (because my experience has been to learn history via textbooks). The course demanded a lot of time for a transcription of a whaling log, the papers, and the readings--but so worth it.
Credit Transfer Issues: not sure yet
Course Name/Rating:

The Ocean & Global Change (300-level, 4 credits)

Course Department: Oceanography
Instructor: Kerry Whittaker
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Kerry is amazing. She really wants students to be able to look at raw data and be able to explain what that data may suggest. She will spend so much time with you one and one to make sure you understand concepts. I found the course to be time consuming because I did all the readings--this isn't necessary. The lectures were also a bit broad and did not give you the opportunity to apply knowledge. We had a lot of assignments--an independent project, exams, responses, powerpoint, etc. I enjoyed how diverse the assignments were, and how the assignment asked you to be able to communicate science to the lay person. This was a valuable experience, but difficult because there was so much material.
Credit Transfer Issues: not sure yet
Course Name/Rating:

Cultural Landscapes & Seascapes: A Sense of Place (300-level, 3 credits)

Course Department: Anthropology
Instructor: Rich King
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course looked at literature as a way of exploring Maori and pakeha identity and culture. In turn, we were able to discern our own assumptions of indigenous culture and work out those ideas in essays. And then we explored those assumptions in museums and cultural tours. I learned so much in this course. Rich is absolutely fantastic and will have raw and genuine conversations about pretty difficult and sensitive types of knowledge.
Credit Transfer Issues: not sure yet
Course Name/Rating:

Directed Oceanographic Research (300-level, 4 credits)

Course Department: Biology
Instructor: Kerry Whittaker
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was absolutely incredible. We read literature, designed a research project from scratch, conducted an experiment while at sea, and processed and analyzed that data. I loved how curious you could be in this course.We took advantage of our geography and investigated how phytoplankton biodiversity shifted as we sailed across different ocean currents, latitudes, and more. We then ran a complementary experiment to see how biodiversity shifted in an incubation experiment. It was difficult however to meet with your partners provided the watch schedules. Also, our project was very time consuming and perhaps overly ambitious, but we got our project done although it was far from perfect. This project really allowed me to learn a lot about field research. I spent a lot of time talking to my professor and reading books. I was in lab outside of watch to learn how to identify phytoplankton species and got to learn how to use a new program for multi-dimensional statistical test. I felt like I had a brilliant opportunity to learn how to ask questions and how to be resourceful to find the answers. Kerry was so supportive and helpful and brilliant--really, Kerry is an encyclopedia who will teach you so so much. Wow. This was an amazing experience, (although stressful), thank you!!!
Credit Transfer Issues: not sure yet