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The Suitest Life: 10 Reasons why Semester-at-Sea is the Greatest Study Abroad.. Ever

The real-life way that you can spend your study abroad in 14 different countries, traveling the world by sea. And why it is the BEST.

You know what sounds unrealistic? Living on a cruise ship with all of your friends and circumnavigating the world for 4 months, for class credit, as a study abroad, and your parents being okay with it… Oh, but it is real. It didn’t seem real until I did it, and it still feels like a dream. As one of my Semester-at-Sea shipmates said, “I googled how to do The Suite Life on Deck in real life, and Semester-at-Sea (SAS) popped up!” For all of you normal, non-Disney addicts out there, The Suite Life on Deck is basically a TV show about kids who go to school on a fancy cruise ship. Well, SAS is so much sweeter, er, suiter, and so much more than your average cruise. SAS is a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and in my opinion, the most fantastic way to study abroad and see the world that you will ever find.

Like any other Study Abroad, you enroll into SAS to take 12-15 course credits in a foreign place, where you hope you learn as much as you can, and perhaps live like a local. The difference is that you are living on a ship, and you are experiencing the world on a global level rather than from the lens of a single country or region. I visited 13 different countries on my voyage, and 4 different continents. SAS allows you to see the world and understand it in a way that is simply impossible for most. You can spend a few months, a year, or the rest of your life in one place, but you can only go on a voyage like SAS once (unless you do SAS once and then find yourself determined to get right back on the ship again somehow, which does happen, rather often). My list of why this program is fabulous is a endless, but here are 10 of many reasons why SAS is the greatest study abroad program… ever.

10. Sunrise, Sunset… Every day. Every night.

Oh, and the green flash. Really, even when you aren’t in port travelling, you see the beauty of the world, like all the time. Out on the ocean. It’s actually inescapable and I don’t think anyone ever missed a sunset, brought to you by the rotation of the earth and Semester-at-Sea.

9. Middle of the ocean life.

When you aren’t in port, you’re living on a ship. When you’re on a ship, you’re surrounded by ocean. Being out in the middle of the ocean on the other side of the world just… melts away petty worries and I’m pretty sure it generates happiness and an itch to explore. Oh, and dolphin spottings like 4 times a week.


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Ocean rainbows are the best

8. You get a taste of EVERYTHING.

If I had studied abroad in one country for an extended period time, which I have in fact done, it would be wonderful and I would immerse myself in the culture. On SAS, you get a taste of everything- the world is a smorgasbord of culture, and you get all of it! You figure out where you want to go next. You learn about what you love, and why you love it. You learn more about yourself. SAS is for those with a really large travel bug that they can’t get rid of with a visit to Europe.

7. Just like, living on a ship. IT IS SO FUN.

Okay, besides travelling in port, regular school days on the ship at sea are a blast. You learn the difference between port and starboard, and you will forever correct anyone who says lets go to the “front” of the ship. You go to class on sea days for a few hours, and then you hang out on the deck, study, read, play games and just enjoy one of those magical days of being away from all other forms of civilization other than you and your ship.

 6. Oh, the places you go!

Part of the SAS appeal is the myriad of foreign countries you get to visit. They aren’t your typical places to study abroad, and they aren’t always places that you would want to spend an entire semester in, but they are not to be missed. You really get to see it all. Myanmar? Check. India? You bet. And a few weeks later you’ll find yourself in South Africa.

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SAS travelers at their best

5. The classes! They’re cooler than normal classes.

Call me a nerd, but in a regular semester do you get to take Astronomy, so you can study the stars in the middle of the Sahara desert? Are your Travel Writing assignments based on that trip that you went on in Japan last week? Does your political science class take you to the US Embassy in Vietnam?? Probably not.

4. Being able to go places no college student has gone before.

Okay, technically any college student can go anywhere, but SAS makes it ridiculously easy to travel around places like Asia and Africa that are simply really hard to get to. SAS streamlines transportation, visas, travel buddies, and trip organization for you, and it is never going to be any easier to travel than it is now. There are also opportunities to visit countries that most people cannot actually get to. I’m talking about places like Cuba and Tibet, where SAS has recently taken students. ONCE IN A LIFETIME PEOPLE, I’M TELLING YOU!

3. Winging it adventures!

Yes, there are many opportunities for random adventures when you do a conventional, single country study abroad. However, I have to say that there is something special about getting to a country you know very little about, without knowing the language, and getting six days to SEE EVERYTHING. Let me tell you, spontaneous exploration shenanigans ensue. And lots of crazy cab driver encounters.

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Holi festival in India

2. The shipboard community.

On SAS, you share your ship with hundreds of other students from all over the world, but you also find yourself hanging out with the faculty, the Lifelong Learners (people over the age of 40 who can participate on SAS just for fun), the fabulous crew and of course the dependent children, who have the time of their lives running around a ship with a bunch of college kids. This group of many different kinds of people really becomes your family. You share tight quarters with them, workout next to them, eat meals with them, and get to know almost everyone, to some extent, by the end of the voyage. Because of the nature of the program, the people you travel the world with really do become your family in a way, and you will probably be surprised how much of a relief it is to see a friendly SAS face when lost in a market in Vietnam. This happens a lot… everywhere you go.

1. The friends you make

When you spend every waking minute with someone, while also exploring, getting lost, McDonald’s hunting and travelling the world with them, you can’t help but become best friends. Really, study abroad friends are the best friends, and SAS friends are even better. And you will ALWAYS have someone to travel with for the rest of your life, because you will always just get each other’s passion for seeing the world. And you will need someone to counsel you through that post study abroad, and your SAS friends will always be there (shoutout to my SAS bff’s).

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Study abroad friends are forever!!

Semester-at-Sea really is the most incredible way to study abroad and to see the world, and I would recommend it to any human who has that insatiable thirst to see everything and go everywhere, that we like to call true wanderlust. You can spend the rest of your life in one place, but now is the time to embark on your voyage around the world.

Jenna Peck

Southern Methodist University | 17 stories

Jenna Peck is a senior majoring in History and English at Southern Methodist University from Long Beach, California. She has studied abroad in Italy, England and has recently returned from a voyage around the world on Semester-at-Sea. She loves to travel and really finds it difficult to stay in one place for a long period of time, but when she does she loves to read, explore the world of the internet, blog and find exciting things to do right at home in Dallas, Texas!

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