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Coolest Campus On Earth

Simone Johnson, Columnist

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Three words: Semester at Sea (SAS).

This innovative approach to study abroad, offered by the Institute of Shipboard Education and sponsored by the University of Virginia, prides itself on being the “coolest campus on earth”. Imagine lugging your belongings into a seven deck, 590-foot ship where you meet new people, learn from world-class faculty and travel to between eight to fifteen different countries.

Pace students have taken advantage of the SAS experience in the past, including junior marketing major Jessica Szczechowicz who participated in a Semester at Sea Voyage during the fall 2013 semester that stopped at fifteen countries including Spain, Russia, South Africa, Cuba and the Bahamas.

“I was impacted the most by the people that we met not only on the ship, but also in port. I met some truly amazing people while on the ship, from inspiring students my age to the passionate professors that I had and even got to know our academic dean on board who was an astronaut,”  Szczechowicz said. “In port, I had numerous conversations with locals all throughout our travels which helped me to learn much more about the culture of the countries that we were visiting.”

Part of the SAS mission statement is “to use global engagement as an educational tool”.

Last October, the program celebrated fifty years since its first departure into a new model of international education and sixty thousand students participating in the program.

On board, there are 75 courses of study across different disciplines, and a set of Global Comparative Lens Series courses to choose from. There are Field Labs or in-country educational trips, and faculty-led trips open to the whole shipboard community. SAS credits are fully accredited and are transferable through the University of Virginia

Szczechowicz’s favorite class was Sociology of Gender and Society.

“We were required to complete port observations for the countries that we visited which encouraged us to write about anything that we may have witnessed in our travels that pertained to gender,” Szczechowicz said. “From the discussions that we had in class, I was able to be much more aware to the gender inequalities that surrounded us which I think was a very worthwhile lesson”.

Taking the Atlantic Exploration Voyage Fall 2014, the Around the World Voyage Spring 2015 or the Northern Europe and Africa Voyage Summer 2015 will still be similar to overseas on-campus study in that following extracurricular and co-curricular activities, among others, will be offered: Students of Service, Student Programming Board, exercise, music, dance and theater groups, cultural clubs, Model UN, LGBTQA groups, Intramural sport tournaments and Greek Life.

Szczechowicz shared one of her favorite memories from the SAS voyage, when she visited Cuba,

“Our first day there we had to attend educational lectures at the University of Havana, which was interesting, but, the best part about that was meeting all of the Cuban students who went there. When we first arrived, we were given a speech about how happy they were to have us visiting their school and their country before they invited us to climb the famous stairs up to campus.” Szczechowicz said. “When we turned around and began the procession up the stairs, they started to play John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’ At this point we were already getting to know the Cuban students, so the lyrics just seemed perfect for the situation because in that moment it did seem like ‘the world could live as one.’”

Packing also proved to be an essential lesson to be learned.

“One very important thing to think about while packing is to bring versatile clothing because you will be wearing a lot of the same things over those 4 months for various different occasions – whether it be a day on the ship or for a day’s adventure in port,” Szczechowicz said.

Semester at Sea is four months of new cultures and developing new perspectives, better understanding of the world, hands-on learning in each country on the itinerary and access to organizations like National Geographic, TEDX and the Clinton Global Initiative.

“I absolutely positively recommend Semester at Sea to anyone who loves to travel and wants to be immersed in a global educational experience. As long as you allow yourself to make the most out of the voyage, it will be an incredibly life changing event.” Szczechowicz said. “My world perspective has most certainly been impacted by this trip and I feel much more educated about cultures that before this voyage I knew little to absolutely nothing about! You will make friends with some truly amazing people, hopefully become totally enveloped in the experiences that you have both on and off the ship”.

The program fee covers “tuition, room, board, SAS Field Labs, premium travel health insurance and e-mail account”. The Institute of Shipboard Education offers four million in financial aid every year and their website provides a comprehensive list of scholarships for prospective students ranging from full tuition Presidential Scholarships to Need-based Grants and Work-Study. International students can also apply for scholarships.

To apply to Semester at Sea, students, as well as adults through SAS’s life-long learner option, have to fill out an on-line application. Deadlines are on a rolling basis and it is encouraged to apply one year in advance. Interested students are encouraged to stop by the Study Abroad Office, or visit http://www.semesteratsea.org/, to inquire more about this opportunity.

 

If you have studied aboard and would like to offer other students study abroad and travel related tips please e-mail [email protected] with your name, major, study abroad program and tip.

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