Semester at Sea Q&A

Semester at Sea Q&A with Lily Dutra

In Spring 2018, I traveled around the world with a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it is essentially a semester abroad studying at sea!

I lived on a ship for four months, traveled to twelve countries AND took college classes! We took classes on the ship and in the country we were on—experiencing different cultures and having the time of our lives.

It was the most amazing adventure of my life!

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When did you have classes?

Classes ran on an A/B schedule, so it was really simple. When I was on the ship, I took my A/B classes, and when I was in each country I was free to explore without the worry of classes getting in the way. Think of it like a spring break in a new place every couple of days.

How many days do you have in each country?

Our itinerary was different for each country. The days in each country ranged from 4-8 days and unlike a regular vacation cruise, you don’t need to return to the ship each night.

TIP: Rent Airbnbs or stay in hostels with friends so you can travel to different cities further from the port city while being together for a decent price.

How was ship life?

Living on the ship was like living in a very small town. You knew everyone and everyone knew you. There were about 500 students and the other 400-500 people were staff and crew.

Everything gets really repetitive when you are on the ship. Your A day is always the same and your B day is always the same. It’s the same routine! Nights were always spent on the deck with friends, playing card games in Berlin Restaurant, watching movies in your friends’ cabins, or playing silly games to get to know more people.

Everything on the ship is less than a 5-minute walk – the pool, the restaurants, your classes, the gym, your friends’ cabin, etc.

Did you ever get seasick?

The ship’s health clinic really helped prevent seasickness in the beginning of the voyage by giving out free seasickness pills.

It was suggested to take the medicine every morning and night for the first week, but I only took them when I really felt nauseous or had seasickness symptoms like a migraine.

I was lucky and got used to the water unlike others who struggled.

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How did you communicate with your friends and family?

Since we didn’t have cell service or data out on sea, we communicated with everyone through our “seamail” – in other words – e-mail. It was weird getting used to at first, but it just became apart of our life.

Our seamail was also how we communicated with each other on the ship – it was equivalent to texting because that was our main form of communication.

How were the cabins?

The cabins were tiny and had very minimal space but were beyond classy. There were different rooms to choose from, just like college dorms.

I chose an “outside double room” where I shared the space with my roommate. Our outside double included a desk, TV (with only up to 8 channels), two closets, a window, a bathroom and two beds.

I specifically wanted an outside double to have a window (and they are a little roomier than the inside doubles – but pricier). Definitely a lot of room choices to look into for your personal and economic needs.

How much did you pack?

We were ONLY allowed 2 big suitcases/military bags, which seem like very little for the 4-month journey, BUT it was so do-able.

TIP: I brought vacuum-sealed bags so I would have more room in my suitcases.

The hardest part was packing for all culture expectations, different types of weather and of course NOT over packing. On the ship we all wore comfy clothes and lived in our bathing suits, so cover-ups and your go to comfy clothes were definitely a must have.

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Some Semester at Sea advice…

Planning an itinerary and activities in each country seems really stressful, but let me tell you… DO NOT PLAN AHEAD!

This is coming from a me, a girl who always planned ahead and stressed about every little thing in her life yet some of my favorite memories from Semester at Sea were the ones that weren’t planned.

You’ll be meeting new people the whole first month of the program, and your first friends might not be the ones you want to plan every country with.

Keep your options open, and get out of your comfort zone. There are so many people to meet from all around the world.

“Eventually all the pieces fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment and know that everything happens for a reason.”