Learning at sea: One student’s Semester at Sea experience

A CSU student on Semester at Sea stands atop Machu Picchu.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was fascinated to first learn about Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca citadel, located atop a mountain ridge in Peru. And, while it took my breath away every time I saw it in my textbook, I never could have imagined that one day I’d be visiting these historic ruins myself. In 2019, I made that dream a reality, thanks to my time studying with CSU and Semester at Sea.

The dream

I think that when some students consider studying abroad, they often have one specific destination in mind. But I didn’t have just one destination in mind — I had multiple. Semester at Sea was able to fulfill my desire for travel as a study-abroad program where the world becomes your campus. You travel to many countries — studying both at sea and on land in those countries — and set yourself on a voyage of discovery and global awareness. As you travel, learn, and soak up the cultures of the world, you’ll be earning college credits and fulfilling the same degree requirements you would on campus.

The logistics

I began my journey on the CSU Semester at Sea website, and applied through the online application, where I provided general information about myself and learned where the ship would be traveling to throughout my semester (it can vary on destinations). At this stage, there are also ambassadors who can help answer any questions that you may have — and I highly recommend you use these people as you start to think about your own journey. Ambassadors answer you and your family’s questions, give you application tips, and handle almost anything else that comes up, including scholarships and grants.

Once you are admitted, you’ll pay a deposit and select your cabin, which I found to be one of the most-exciting pieces of the beginning; this is where you will be sleeping for the next four months of your life! I ended up with an “inside triple cabin” — a shared cabin with two other individuals — who both became really good friends. After the application and admission process was complete, my urge to travel grew bigger and bigger the closer I got to my sail date. I can say with confidence that when your own sail date arrives, you’ll be as mesmerized by the size and glamour of the ship as I was. And, once you set foot on the ship, you’re promising yourself endless opportunities and lifelong friendships from all over the world.

The locations and the learning

I had the opportunity to travel to 13 different countries throughout Europe, Africa, and South America. This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the support of the Office of Financial Aid at CSU, the education abroad office, and scholarships provided by Semester at Sea. One of the main scholarships I received is called the IMPACT Cohort. The group that I was a part of allowed us to work with two NGO (non-governmental organizations) in Ghana and Morocco. We learned about international development, sustainability, responsible tourism, and education. I took courses about foreign policy, intercultural communication, and international mass communication on the ship. The best part of the courses on the ship is that professors will tailor their lessons plans to the countries you are visiting. For example, for my international mass communication course visited the World War II museum in Poland to learn about the influence rhetorical messages had on the world.

All aboard!

If you are considering doing Semester at Sea, know that it’s one of the most incredible ways to learn and totally worth the work to get there. I know the fourth grader in me would have been so proud that I decided to do this program even when I doubted myself and my ability to pull it off. CSU has resources that can help you make Semester at Sea a possibility, regardless of your financial situation. If you are considering Semester at Sea, of the best places to start is with your advisor once you are on campus. If you have any questions about my experience, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Learn more about studying abroad or with Semester at Sea.

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Miguel headshot

Miguel is a first-generation college graduate from Colorado State University. He is an admissions counselor dedicated to supporting students finding their place at CSU. Miguel is pursuing his master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration with the goal of continuing to make higher education accessible and equitable for future students. During his free time, you can find Miguel checking out restaurants or admiring Colorado’s scenic views.