I remember the first time I saw Semester at Sea online. I was absolutely giddy at the thought of living on a ship for months, traveling to 15+ countries, and making global-minded friends.
Then I saw the cost, had a heart-attack, and died – right there in front of my computer.
Okay, so I didn’t die, but the closest thing to it. The average student probably pays somewhere between $25,000 to $30,000 because of the insane tuition costs from the sponsoring university and the individual trips we take in each country.
So, yeah, I closed the website and tried for forget over the next few years that I had ever seen Semester at Sea. When that didn’t work, (surprise, surprise) I looked online again at the program and found the massive amounts of loans, grants and scholarships available to SAS students. I had reached heaven. With divine help, financial aid, and penny pinching, I was able to go on Semester at Sea and meet Deaf worldwide.
Meeting an Elderly Woman in India
Even with the help, though, I’m still paying off student loans acquired from Semester at Sea. So, the question that comes up time and time again though from friends wanting to do SAS is the following: Is Semester at Sea worth the insane cost?
The answer is absolutely-positively-smackeroni-blowyourmind-ee YES!!!
Here are my 10 reasons why Semester at Sea is worth the cost:
1. You can see every mile of your journey.
Most travelers sit on a plane, watching a tiny screen with an airplane flying over a map. With SAS, you get to see EVERY. SINGLE. MILE. (Well, okay, so if you didn’t have to sleep, you could see every single mile.) The point is, anytime, day or night, you can walk out onto a deck and just watch the sea pass. This was a selling point for me – traveling on a plane is too convenient, too time efficient, and too anti-climatic. Nothing beats sailing at sea for days at a time before finally pulling into a port at sunrise, knowing that the next few days will be the best in your life. Nothing.
Docked in Dominica
2. SAS is not just about touring world wonders.
If you only want to see the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China, you’d be better off going with a cheap tourist agency. Semester at Sea is not about touring, it’s about traveling. Each country has trips to see world wonders, but they also offer humanitarian trips with a variety of organizations, hikes to natural sites, visits to music and art venues, and the opportunity to meet with each country’s political leaders.
Painting at a Ghanaian SOS Children’s Village for former child slaves.
3. You are find yourself in a new location every day.
It’s the craziest feeling to wake up each morning in a completely different part of the world than when you went to sleep. Change is constant. When I got back, it took everything in me to not get bored of being in the same place everyday. I missed seeing the longitude and latitude coordinates change on my cabin TV each minute and seeing what country we were currently passing by.
Leaving the dock at Mauritius
4. “Anything goes” is a prevailing theme.
Where else will you not get a second glance when you 1) shave your head on Neptune day, 2) wake up 60 seconds before class and attend lecture in your pajamas, 3) pay back a debt with rupees, dong, and yen, 4) use the phrase “when we were in Tibet” during a dinner discussion, and 5) wear pants from India, a shirt from Vietnam, bracelets from Ghana, and shoes from Brazil…all at once.
Exibit A of “Anything Goes”
5. You get to disconnect from technology.
I mean really disconnect – not just freeze your Facebook account for a couple of weeks. Yes, you have computers and such for homework, but what would possess you to spend hours at a computer when you have the sea outside your window, amazingly diverse friends around you, and professors who know tons about everything? It’s worth the cost to find out what it was like to live before the internet age and truly get to know people. When was the last time you had a five hour dinner with friends where not one person had a phone with them?
Long, uninterrupted conversations on the ship.
6. Everything seems possible when you live on a ship.
Some of the best memories I have of Semester at Sea are of us sharing with each other our dreams to make a difference in the world. This was a common topic on board. There is something about living on a ship, traveling the circumference of the world, that opens our minds to the possibility of global change. Nothing is shot down, every idea is applauded, because every person on board that ship has already reached an “impossible” dream by being on that ship. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime environment.
Dream Come True: At the Taj at Sunset
7. Semester at Sea is how I saw Tibet.
SAS gives you the opportunity to see and experience things that are hard (or impossible) with other travel options. Tibet is nearly impossible to go to right now with the political turmoil and human rights violations by China, but I was able to go and learn what “Freedom of Speech” really means…or rather, what it means when a people does NOT have it. SAS also gives students the opportunity to go up the Amazon River and through the Panama Canal. They have amazing connections with humanitarian organizations to help students “give back” and they also provide unique trip opportunities like my South Africa elephant-back safaris and rafting a river on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica.
Patola Palace, Tibet
7. Everyone needs a safe place when traveling the world.
I’ve said it before, but most people say “How fun!” when I tell them I travel the world. Visiting so many countries at once is not fun sometimes. There is so much pain and suffering in the world that you have to process. There were hard days when returning to the ship was the happiest part of the day. There I was able to cry with my SAS family and process through all that you’ve seen throughout your trip. I can’t imagine traveling from country to country and not having time inbetween to settle my soul before taking on the next set of challenges to my once overly-protected American perspective. Semester at Sea is worth the cost because it gives you time needed to change from the inside out.
A picture I took from the bus as we passed through a poor section of New Delhi: A Sea of Heads
8. You never, ever stop traveling afterwards.
Semester at Sea makes you undeniably addicted to travel. So, if you think about all the money you’ll spend on traveling over a life time, $30,000 doesn’t sound like a lot of money…at least, that’s how I like to look at it. Though, since my Semester at Sea experience, I’ve found dirt cheap ways to travel. But here’s the deal: SAS was the foundation to my traveling career. It gave me a global perspective that is simply not achieved by living in one country or backpacking westernized Europe.
Standing on a street in Azores. One of the 13 countries I have seen since Semester at Sea.
9. Semester at Sea doesn’t end when you reach your last destination.
Ask the thousands of alumni who have done SAS, the experience changes the course of your entire life. SAS alumni have become world leaders in every area of study. Why? Because SAS is the beginning of a life outside of yourself. There is something about going out and seeing the world as a single entity that makes world change seem feasible. So funding SAS is not just a single semester abroad, but funding your life’s dreams to make a difference.
Discussing Deaf rights with Deaf South Africans.
10. You will gain a new family.
Some of the closest friends…or should I say family…you’ll ever have in your life were on that 590-foot long floating home. Something happens when a group of people are put together in close quarters without viable internet or phones for several months. You see each other in the best of times and the worst of times. You cry together, laugh together, discuss hard topics together, and share in each others’ learning experiences. There is nothing better – this amazing family alone makes Semester at Sea worth the cost.
Some of my SAS Family at the end of the semester.
Feel free to check out my posts from each country:
Bahamas Mauritius Hong Kong
Dominica India China
Brazil Singapore Tibet
Ghana Vietnam Japan
South Africa Cambodia
You might also appreciate my other post: 8 Recommendations for Semester at Sea
Or Buzzfeed’s post: 47 Telltale Signs You Went on Semester at Sea
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