SEA Semester is objectively (in my subjective opinion) the best study away program you can choose. If you’re reading this, then you are an Olin student looking for a semester away program. As an Olin student, you are passionate about acquiring knowledge, open to adventure, and hopefully give a damn about the planet. All of those attributes perfectly align with the goals of SEA Semester. Sure, there are other study away programs that will offer to show you the world, teach you stuff, and furnish you with a library’s worth of stories to tell your kids one day, but I didn’t do any of those. So I’m going to tell you what SEA Semester is, why you should do it, and put my contact info down below in case you want to learn more/hear some good stories about the misadventures aboard the good ship SSV Robert C. Seamans.
What is SEA Semester?
SEA Semester (Or Sea Education Association Semester) is a study abroad program meant to teach students tools to become environmentally literate leaders prepared to address the defining issue of the twenty-first century: the human impact on the environment.
In practice, SEA Semester is broken down into a shore component and a sea component onboard one of two sailing research vessels: the SSV Corwith Cramer and the SSV Robert C. Seamans. There are a number of programs with different focuses, so you can pretty much tailor your study abroad experience to your own interests (or desire to travel to New Zealand).
The onshore component consists of fundamental ocean science classes as well as classes in everything from data visualization and communication to leadership. Just to state again, there are a number of SEA programs and they are all different, so you can truly choose your own adventure.
The sea component consists of living and working onboard one of the vessels. As a crewmember onboard, you will be responsible for sailing the ship, conducting science onboard, cleaning (yes, you will have to swab the deck), and cooking for your other shipmates. You may also experience bioluminescent dolphins, the best sunsets/sunrises of your life, the feeling of pure inner peace that comes from being completely out of sight of land, and many more amazing, once in a lifetime opportunities.
During your semester, you will complete multiple projects onshore and at sea that you can also tailor to your specific interests. For instance, if you just saw the movie Moana and really want to learn more about Polynesian navigation, you can write a whole paper comparing Polynesian and European navigation methods as a direct result of their cultural worldview. Based on this work, you will receive grades that count for college credit at Boston University and transfer back to Olin (read: Complete your AHSE! credits in one semester while reading a book in the South Pacific).
Why should I, an Olin student, choose SEA Semester?
There are so many reasons why and your motivation is almost certainly going to be different than mine, but here’s a whole list of reasons why SEA Semester will be the best decision you make:
Lifelong friends ~ Living/Working on a ship with a group of people will bring you closer together in one semester than you are right now with people you’ve known your whole life. Guaranteed.
Exposure to the world ~ This is really what a semester away is all about right; breaking that Olin bubble. There’s nothing quite like staring into the infinite horizon of the ocean to help you put things into perspective.
Fun! ~ Gotta include this one. Whether it’s 3am dance parties in a cottage, stargazing talks on the doghouse, or finding the nearest pub the moment your feet touch land, SEA Semester is some of the most fun I’ve ever had. If you’re lucky, you might even meet the girl of your dreams.
Nature ~ Do you enjoy a good sunset? How about bioluminescent birds taking flight into the sunset? Hikes to waterfalls on virtually untouched islands? Or a fricking moon rainbow?
Networking ~ You might not realize/appreciate it now, but one day you will leave Olin and need a job, housing, etc. SEA Semester has a huge alumni network across disciplines joined by the deep bonds created through the program.
Ability to Explore ~ Given the nature of the program, you will arrive and be dropped off somewhere incredible. I chose to go backpack Mt. Doom with a few friends of the program, but you can use SEA as a jumping off point to a month or more of adventures around the world.
Cost ~ For the opportunity to live, eat, sleep, and work aboard a sailboat on the other side of the world, SEA Semester was downright reasonable. In fact, I paid less to do cool stuff on a brigantine for a semester than I do at Olin. And all of the staff/admin involved were wonderful!
There are so many more things I could say about why you should get outside the bubble and go be a salty sailor for a semester, but I think you’re probably done reading and ready to weigh anchor and get out of here.
If you want to learn more about SEA Semester, see: https://www.sea.edu