In-Country: Wonder Awaits

Experiential education lies at the heart of Semester at Sea. On each voyage, participants visit 10-15 different destinations, each providing unique opportunities to bring the learning of the classroom to life.

Time in-country comprises approximately 40% of the voyage and plays an important role in the academic experience. Semester at Sea provides a variety of programs and resources to help ensure participants maximize their time in-country. To learn more about the destinations we visit, please visit the voyage home pages.

Classroom Earth

Academics in the Field: Each Semester at Sea course except for Global Studies has one required, uniquely designed, 8-hour Field Class that takes place usually on the first, second, or last day in one of the destinations. Field Classes are developed by the professors to apply concepts learned in the classroom to the field through meetings and activities with local experts and organizations. While Global Studies, the Required Core Course, does not have one specifically designed Field Class, it does have a field component as well. Students will choose one Global Studies Credit Eligible Field Program from the slate of optional field programs that matches their interests and schedules. This program is also included in tuition at no additional cost and will enhance the intercultural learning from that course.

Meaningful Travel: When students are not in Field Classes, they have the option of participating in SAS-designed In-country Programs or to travel independently. 

Field Classes

Prior to the voyage, each professor selects a port that aligns well with their course content. Once identified, an eight hour in-country experience known as a Field Class is designed in order to provide a truly experiential day of learning to connect classroom to in-country content. Field Classes and their respective assignments are a required part of each course and constitute approximately 20 percent of a student’s grade, as well as 20 percent of the course’s required contact hours.

  • Students register for their courses and their Field Classes at the same time.
  • Participation in a Field Class is limited to those students enrolled in the companion course.
  • The cost of required Field Classes IS included in voyage tuition.
  • Participation in In-country Programs or independent travel must be planned around Field Classes.

For more information about Field Classes, visit the “courses” section within each voyage.



Field Programs

Field Programs are optional experiences ranging in duration from half-day to multi-day and are classified into three categories:  Impact, Interconnect & Illuminate.


Impact programs feature a volunteer or service component and are focused on the “win/ win/ win” model of positively impacting the traveler, positively impacting the host community and minimizing impact on the environment.


Interconnect programs offer a unique cultural insight into the host community through people-to-people interaction and intercultural learning.


Illuminate programs are designed to showcase the best of the destination and often feature “bucket-list” experiences, city orientations, visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites and all the “can’t miss” things to do and see in each port. Illuminate programs are categorized as: Nature/ Conservation; Adventure/ Active or History/ Culture. 


Faculty-Led Field Programs feature an SAS Faculty member as a lead facilitator. These programs provide a great opportunity for the entire shipboard community to learn from the Faculty outside the classroom and on-ship environment.

Global Studies Credit Eligible Programs

To enhance the intercultural learning within the Global Studies core course, each student will participate in one “Global Studies Credit Eligible” Field Program. This serves as the field component of Global Studies and is included in program tuition.

  • Why Field Programs?
  • In-country Field Program fees are not included in voyage tuition, with the exception of the one Global Studies Credit Eligible Program per student.
  • Field Program registration usually opens 3-4 months prior to voyage departure. Participants register and pay for programs using MyPassport. Many In-country day Programs do not have a registration deadline and participants can continue to register after the voyage starts. However, many overnight programs (especially those requiring flight reservations) do have deadlines. Most programs have a maximum capacity and some sell-out quickly, so booking early is recommended.
  • Participation in Field Programs or independent travel must be planned around Field Classes.

To see each destination’s In-country Program offerings, visit the “In-country Programs” section within each voyage.

Independent Travel

Semester at Sea believes independently-arranged travel experiences (designed responsibly and with health and safety in mind) play an important role in achieving our mission and desired learning outcomes. We do not discourage independent travel. Rather, we believe the time in each country is best spent with a thoughtful and intentional combination of independently-arranged travel and Semester at Sea Field Programs. We hope our voyagers learn to become smart, responsible, and respectful TRAVELERS (not tourists) who spend a lifetime traveling as informed and engaged global citizens.

The In-Country Resources Planning Packet contains tips and resources to help voyagers plan meaningful, safe, and responsible independent experiences.

Benefits of SAS In-country Programs:

Participate in Responsible Tourism

Traveling in a responsible and sustainable way is challenging to do on your own. It takes dedication, time, energy, and resources to do so mindfully. Not all tourism is created equal; some can actually cause harm to host communities and ecosystems. SAS employs a team of people to build relationships on the ground in each destination and to design programs that take this into consideration. We aim to minimize the negative impacts of tourism on the environment and maximize the positive contributions our program can make to local communities.

Transform a "Cool Trip" into a Life-Changing Experience

Semester at Sea In-country Programs are designed to deepen the travel experience and exponentially increase learning and impact. We do this through:

  • Intentional itinerary and activity design
  • Off-the-beaten-path activities in nontraditional locations
  • Facilitated processing of the experience
  • Utilizing the expertise of ship faculty and staff and local guides
  • Meaningful interactions and cross-cultural exchange opportunities
  • Opportunities to give-back through volunteer and service work
  • Investing in long-standing relationships and partnerships with local Universities, NGOs, and tour operators

Travel with Trusted Providers and Guides

All SAS In-country Programs are carefully planned in close collaboration with trust-worthy providers that have been carefully vetted and are among the most reputable in the industry. These providers are fully insured, use well-maintained transportation equipment, hire qualified drivers and guides, and prioritize accommodations and food establishments that provide an enriching experience while considering safety.  All providers have crisis response plans and are in direct contact with ship management should any problems arise. In addition to contracted local guides, an SAS Trip Liaison (usually a faculty or staff member) accompanies every In-country Program.

Be Aware of Risks of Independent and Third-Party Travel. Please consider the following:

  • Semester at Sea cannot be held responsible for any independently planned trips.
  • Be prepared with a health, safety, and emergency plan. Be sure to research potential providers thoroughly.
  • The student code of conduct applies to official SAS trips as well as independent travel.
  • Thoroughly compare SAS In-country Program costs with other vendors. Unless otherwise indicated, In-country Programs include all transportation, meals, accommodations, licensed guides, admission fees to various sites, airport transfers, and gratuities.