Semester at sea - is it worth it?

<p>Hi all -</p>

<p>Many of you provided excellent counsel on college choice two years ago and I'm hoping to find honest advice on the Semester at Sea program. My daughter is interested in going on a Fall voyage ($25K) which circumnavigates the globe. I have many concerns, topping the list is safety, followed by expense. If anyone has sent a daughter or might be able to speak about likelihood of financial aid from SAS - I would really appreciate the help.
Thanks!</p>

<p>Is this for high schoolers? I would be interested in hearing from anyone with real life experience of this as well.</p>

<p>My brother's wife did this ages ago and loved it. The ship and program have transferred ownership several times since then. Really, it was probably in the 80's.</p>

<p>The nickname for the program is Booze Cruise. I would not spend any of my money on it.</p>

<p>I know several students that have gone on the semester at sea over the past few years and loved it. It is what you make of it as is everything in life. There is "Booze" available wherever a college student is whether it be on campus or abroad, you just have to be responsible enough to make the right decisions.</p>

<p>D2 looked into this for her semester abroad. The tour sounded great - I wouldn't mind taking one of those trips - but it's very, very expensive. In the end, she decided that she would rather have the opportunity to live in a foreign culture and meet the people there rather than spend time with a bunch of wealthy Americans and take day trips into tourist areas. YMMV.</p>

<p>We know a few students who have done the Semester at Sea...and they loved it too. We considered it for DD for the summer (there is a summer shorter one)...but unfortunately her school on quarters got out too late in June to do it. Otherwise that is how she would have spent a summer.</p>

<p>The drinking age abroad is 18 in most countries. If you're worried about booze, you probably don't want to send your kid abroad to study at all.</p>

<p>I know someone who did it, visited great places, but did no studying at all. Like a vacation</p>

<p>
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The nickname for the program is Booze Cruise. I would not spend any of my money on it.

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</p>

<p>Also known as The Floating Mattress. </p>

<p>There are some really fantatic study abroad programs out there. Sticking five or six hundred American college students on a cruise ship for semester of partying is not one of them. Sorry.</p>

<p>If you want an Amazing Race style program that involves travelling around the globe, check out the IHP programs:</p>

<p>International</a> Honors Program: Home</p>

<p>My daughter did the* Cites of the 21st Century program a few years back that involved spending a month each living in homestays in Argentina, China, and India. Fabulous program. Not a booze cruise*.</p>

<p>
[quote]
The drinking age abroad is 18 in most countries. If you're worried about booze, you probably don't want to send your kid abroad to study at all.

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</p>

<p>The issue, for most of us, is not whether or not our college kids will drink, but whether we want to spend $25,000 so they can spend a semester on a cruise ship with other American kids doing nothing but drinking. No cultural immersion. No particular academic value. Pretty much nothing to show for the semester except a party boat cruise.</p>

<p>I believe they have tightened things up on the academic end since UVa took over sponsoring the thing. Other things might never change--even if the college is planted solidly in the Iowa cornfields. When you factor in the sort of student who is likely to be attracted to such a program--you have some fun happening.</p>

<p>Here's the UVa site with comments by recent faculty and students.</p>

<p><a href="http://www.publicaffairs.virginia.edu/uvatodayblog/abroad/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.publicaffairs.virginia.edu/uvatodayblog/abroad/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I've known students who went on Semester-at-Sea, and a neighbor was a professor on Semester-at-Sea. It was pretty lightweight, and very heavy on the sorority/fraternity crowd. (Part of that may be that it is quite expensive, and many students of more modest means can't afford it.)</p>

<p>The academic program has become a lot more rigorous since UVA took over. That's caused some complaints, since students come from all over and many of them did not, at least initially, expect the classes to be difficult. Several also fell afoul of UVA's strict honor code: a couple of kids, who'd copied their essays out of Wikipedia, were sent home in mid-voyage without a refund of the (high) tuition. Now that UVA has been running the program for awhile the reputation is beginning to change.</p>

<p>The UVA faculty that have gone on Semester at Sea have been excellent--it's considered quite a desirable gig. Faculty who are not from UVA need to be approved by the relevant departments, and so do the syllabi for their courses. The emphasis of the courses is supposed to be on global studies.</p>

<p>My own feeling is that it's a good program if you can afford it, but probably not as enriching culturally as going to a foreign country for a semester and really immersing yourself in the culture and language. The port stops are fairly short and I don't see how they can involve more than casual tourism.</p>

<p>It ought to tell you something that the Booze Cruise is not on the approved list of programs for the top colleges in the country. Swarthmore publishes an excellent essay on what to look for in a study abroad program here:</p>

<p>Swarthmore</a> College Off-Campus Study Office</p>

<p>It's well worth the read. Of particular relevance is their disdain for "island programs":</p>

<p>
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Fifth, in the study abroad trade some programs are called (by sponsors as well as outsiders) 'island programs'. These are not programs that occur on islands. Rather, they are programs that ghettoize American students, often in Americanized environments with American teachers brought over to teach them, and do little or nothing to foster or encourage student involvement in the host culture. Mainly, this office does not recommend such programs.

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<p>I can't think of a worse example of an "island program" than a program that sticks 600 American college students on a cruise ship. What's next? A semester of bar hopping and wet t-shirt contests in Cancun? Push your kids to dig a little deeper in selecting a study abroad program. There are some great programs out there for $25,000 a semester. They can take cruises when they get old.</p>

<p>Many more selective schools don't give credit for or even encourage "The Love Boat" experience. Fact is, there is a world of cheaper, more academically and socially challenging programs out there.</p>

<p>So interesting to read people's comments. I went on Semester at Sea in 1980 and, of course, it has changed in many ways over the years so my experience is only so helpful but I had an incredible time. </p>

<p>By and large, there wasn't that much drinking (there was a particular group of kids who partied A LOT but there were many who didn't) and the threat of being sent home for drugs of any kind eliminated that problem. </p>

<p>Someone made a reference to Cancun...the majority of the countries we went to were third world and, both in the third world as well as the other countries, we had tours you went on when in port. Yes, there is (was) a pool on board and, yes, I sunbathed on occasion but I never went to a beach when in port--I don't think it was ever an option that I recall. It's easy to make assumptions about a program but do dig a little deeper to see the reality. </p>

<p>We all took a core course that followed the itinerary--we learned about the political, economic and cultural aspects of each country we went to in advance of arriving in each country. Once in port, we went on different excursions--some rather academic (museums, historical sites, etc.) and some more touristy. Once back on the ship, in addition to the mandatory core course, I took 3 other courses, one of which was intro to Biology which fulfilled a requirement back at my college (I can't remember the other two classes I took). At night there were optional activities, both social and more academic; I recall I took a non-credit sign language class and can still sign to this day.</p>

<p>UC Berkeley accepted 3 of the 4 classes I took onboard. If SAS is similar to the way it was when I attended, I think it's a great option for a student who wants to see many places around the globe. It's also a great option for a student who isn't proficient in a foreign language but still wants to study abroad (as an option to a semester in London or South Africa, for example).</p>

<p>Again, I'm only going on my experience 30 years ago but I'm not sure why people assume kids will drink or sleep around more than they would at their home institutions; in fact, you're in closer quarters on SAS so it's actually harder to get any distance from that one night stand, if a student is so inclined to have one...</p>

<p>Forgot to mention...SAS was $3,500 when I attended and Cal was $250 a quarter (before it switched to semesters)...ah, how things have changed!</p>

<p>
[quote]
The issue, for most of us, is not whether or not our college kids will drink, but whether we want to spend $25,000 so they can spend a semester on a cruise ship with other American kids doing nothing but drinking. No cultural immersion. No particular academic value. Pretty much nothing to show for the semester except a party boat cruise.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Exactly why we told our D2 -NO! She just finished a semester abroad in a program that included cultural immersion, academic rigor and many opportunities for travel. She loved it and has no regrets that we said no to the cruise (not sure her school would have accepted anyway). </p>

<p>There are so many programs that are exciting for students and academically challenging that I cannot see doing the cruise semester. Give you kid a cruise after they graduate.</p>

<p>I think idad's info is as out of date as his terminology. Who cares what one small LAC most people have never heard of thinks? Have they reviewd the program since UVa took it on? I doubt it.</p>

<p>Well I for one am interested in idads opinions.</p>