Hey everyone! My name is Grace VanHooser and I am a 4th year studying Political Science with a minor in Spanish. I studied abroad in Spring of 2022 with Semester at Sea and it was the most impactful experience of my life.
We all grew up on Disney channel and dreamed of living in their whimsical world. Semester at Sea is the real life version of the show “Suite Life on Deck”, and gives students the opportunity to live on a cruise ship for four months, taking classes and traveling the globe. The program is sponsored by Colorado State University and professors from all over the world to come together to teach and travel. While the program is open to all majors and has classes ranging from the history of rock and roll to economics, it is a program geared towards students with an interest in international interactions and global connections. Their curriculum is based around the United Nations Sustainable development goals and teaches students about each country as the ship approaches it. By the end of my program, I had visited 16 new countries, and had a basic understanding of the culture and history of each place.
Every student on Semester at Sea is required to take ‘Global Studies’, a course that prepares students for each country prior to their arrival along with the history and current events that would also be applicable. My program took place during the start of the Russian-Ukranian conflict, leading to students from those countries giving presentations about their homes and giving pre-context to the conflict. Near the end of the voyage, our ship took on a family of four Ukranian refugees fleeing to Germany, our final port of call. I was inspired to see my classmates come together to support this family and others affected.
My favorite port of call was Valleta, Malta. We were there during “Shipwreck day” and had the opportunity to participate in country wide celebrations in the street. While in Copenhagen, my friends and I met a woman from Uganda who works in HR for the United Nations. She took us out to lunch and invited us to her home for a home cooked meal.
‘Shiplife’ is unlike any traditional on-campus experience. Students share a very small cruise ship cabin with a roommate and live in close quarters with everyone on-board; this includes your professors. A unique aspect of SAS was the community that was built between students, faculty, and the crew of the ship. The minimal internet access fostered an environment of organic relationships and appreciation for everyone on board.
Fun facts: The SAS ship, the MV World Odyssey, functions at the MS. Deutschland during the summer and becomes a regular cruise ship instead of a school. Das Traumschiff, a German soap opera, was filmed on this ship for 15 years. We had fans awaiting our arrival in Germany, just to see the ship.
If you’re not sure where to study abroad, Semester at Sea gives you a perfect taste of each country. It teaches flexibility and forces students to adapt and overcome. The community of SAS extends all over the word and greatly reminds me of the wonderful UGA alumni community.