An Unparalleled Learning Experience

Semester at Sea offers global comparative education in academic partnership with Colorado State University, integrating comparative experiential study, interdisciplinary coursework, and relevant field classes in multiple countries.

Role of Academic Sponsor

Semester at Sea is proud to have Colorado State University as its academic sponsor. Founded in 1870 as a land-grant institution, CSU combines intellectual classroom pursuits with hands-on experience in the field and laboratory— similar in approach to the Semester at Sea global comparative experiential learning model. As the recipient of the 2013 Senator Paul Simon National Award for Outstanding Campus Internationalization, its significant role in the founding of the Peace Corps, and its emphasis on the importance of diversity and global education, CSU is a natural partner for the SAS program.

Appoint the academic dean

Approximately two years prior to launching each voyage, a distinguished faculty member is selected to serve as Academic Dean. Criteria include demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and publications, as well as administrative and international experience.

Approve all faculty and course syllabi

Academic Deans review faculty applications, interview selected candidates, and discuss specific courses to be included in the curriculum. Faculty credentials and the syllabi they develop with the guidance of the Academic Dean then undergo a comprehensive review process by the appropriate academic department at Colorado State University.

Issue course credits and transcripts

Semester at Sea students enroll for a minimum of 12 semester credits on Fall and Spring voyages. All academic credit is awarded by Colorado State University, and an official CSU transcript documenting the letter grades earned is provided at the end of the semester.

Acquire and maintain library resources

The onboard library (with a significant collection of volumes tailored to the international academic focus of Semester at Sea) is updated each semester by a Colorado State University appointed librarian. Voyage faculty members recommend the purchase of library materials for their discipline and the collection is further supplemented by access to Colorado State University’s vast online library resources. CSU also provides the voyage librarian.

Maintain overall academic standards

Prior to the voyage, syllabi undergo a comprehensive review that includes examination of course objectives, topics, field requirements, assignments, methods of evaluation, required readings and overall academic content and rigor. During the voyage, the Academic Dean and faculty set high academic standards and emphasize academic integrity but also monitor student progress and assist students in meeting these standards.


The Semester at Sea experience is fueled by the best and brightest minds in education, giving students unparalleled access to faculty, staff members, in country experts, and unique partnerships.

Voyage Leadership Team

Every voyage sails under the leadership of an executive dean, academic dean, and dean of student life. The executive dean is the chief administrator of the voyage, while the academic dean oversees faculty and curricula. The dean of student life promotes and ensures student learning and development in a safe, inclusive community.


At the core of the Semester at Sea academic experience is a team of innovative, stimulating educators who are passionate about international education. Selected for their global scholarship and excellence in the field of experiential learning, 100% of faculty hold doctorates or other terminal degrees and 100% have international experience and expertise in one or more of the regions visited.

Semester at Sea attracts nationally renowned, award winning faculty.

Our voyages include faculty who are internationally recognized experts in our varied fields of study on Semester at Sea voyages. Our faculty are selected not only for their accomplishments in the field, but for their excellent teaching skills and ability to connect with students both inside and outside of the classroom.

Semester at Sea faculty move beyond the confines of the ivory tower.

With the world as their classroom, SAS professors teach in a global context and excel in the field of experiential learning. Almost without exception, faculty members find the voyage to be so professionally and personally rewarding that they apply to sail again.

Semester at Sea faculty are selected for their teaching excellence and rigor.

100% hold doctorates or other terminal degrees and 100% have international experience and expertise in one or more of the regions visited.


The shipboard Semester at Sea voyage staff focuses on developing a dynamic and synergistic relationship between academic instruction and co-curricular learning. Our voyage staff includes a student life team, medical team, and administrative team. The home office of the Institute for Shipboard Education serves as both a guiding organization and an extension of the shipboard team.

World Leaders and Special Guests

Semester at Sea has long-standing relationships with leading international universities, businesses, and individuals to bring renowned world scholars and lecturers into the classroom. World figures, leaders, and Nobel Laureates have been a part of many Semester at Sea voyages.

Notable lecturers and guests have included:

  • Fidel Castro, former Cuban President and Prime Minister
  • Anwar Sadat, former Egyptian President
  • Indira Gandhi, former Indian Prime Minister
  • Mikhail Gorbachev, final leader of the USSR
  • Corazon Aquino, former President of the Philippines
  • SHRM King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco
  • HRH Moulay Rachid, Prince of Morocco
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate
  • Mother Teresa, Nobel Laureate
  • Nelson Mandela, First President of South Africa, Nobel Laureate
  • Arthur C. Clark, Author of 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Pete Peterson, First U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
  • C.H. Tung, first Chief Executive of Hong Kong after end of British colonial rule

Interport Students and Lectures

Interport students and lecturers are temporary members of the shipboard community who come aboard the ship in the port prior to the student or lecturer’s homeport in order to help orient the shipboard community for that country or region.

Interport students and lecturers are typically natives of a country on the itinerary, or, at the very least, have a significant level of international expertise and experience in one of the countries and/or major geographical areas of focus. Interport students and lecturers make themselves available for informal discussions with individual students, faculty, and staff to help prepare them for the country they are about to visit. During their time as members of the shipboard community, interport students and lecturers are ambassadors for their respective countries of focus.

Voyage Partners

Semester at Sea provides access to remarkable organizations that help enhance the voyage experience both on the ship and in the countries visited.

  • TEDx
  • The United Nations Association
  • Clinton Global Initiative
  • TOMS
  • Global Grins
  • Global Mamas
  • City of Refuge
  • Heifer International
  • NOAA
  • American Foreign Service Association
  • The National Society of Collegiate Scholars
  • Association of International Educators
  • Colorado State University
  • Overseas Security Advisory Council
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • National Geographic
  • Rotary Club
  • $100 Solution
  • S. Department of State
  • American Council on Education
  • National Society of High School Scholars
  • Unreasonable Institute
  • FrontierMEDEX
  • Association of Public & Land Grant Universities

Semester at Sea Course Information

Semester at Sea offers an unparalleled educational program in conjunction with Colorado State University. Courses on Semester at Sea are CSU courses, are fully accredited, and meet the generally accepted standards for transfer. The University appoints the academic dean from among their most accomplished faculty, approves all course designs, field classes and syllabi on Semester at Sea prior to sailing.

Academic Requirements and Credit

  • All students register for three courses in addition to the required Global Studies course for a total of four courses, or 12 credits.
  • Each course has an in-country Field Class, which you must consider when planning your schedule.
  • Each course is three credits.
  • Lower-division courses are designated with 100- and 200-level numbers.
  • Upper-division courses are 300- and 400-level.

Frequently Offered Courses (12 credits)

Semester at Sea offers up to 75 courses across several disciplines of study. Course syllabi reflect the expertise of the faculty member and the itinerary. For example, on voyages that travel to a specific region you are likely to find that the “World Literature” course focuses mostly on literature from the nations visited on the itinerary, rather than the entire world.

  • About 2/3 of our courses are upper-division and 1/3 are lower division.
  • About 2/3 of our courses are offered on every voyage, while the remaining 1/3 of courses are unique to that voyage.

The Global Studies Course (3 credits)

The core course for the voyage, Global Studies, is required of all students and provides an integrated, interdisciplinary introduction to each of the countries visited on a given itinerary. The course examines the traditional and changing systems and values of a country and its cultures, while providing the fundamental knowledge necessary to prepare students for field activities in the host country. Global Studies is designed to help students deepen their understanding of specific features of contemporary life and culture (such as politics, religion, environment, art, music, family systems, and health). This common course is also designed to take maximum advantage of the opportunity for students to think critically about their own societies and global change. Specifically designed pre-port and post-port class sessions examine patterns of cultural interaction and communication to promote intercultural competency and self-awareness among Semester at Sea students.

Field Classes (Included as part of Tuition)

Faculty design one Field Class, or in-country educational trip, for each of their courses. A Field Class constitutes an additional day of class and the same expectations are placed on these courses as on a class day at sea. 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 and lifelong learners enrolled in the companion course. The cost of required Field Classes is included in voyage tuition.

Academic Credit & Transfer

Semester at Sea students are enrolled as visiting students of Colorado State University (CSU). Grades are recorded at CSU and students receive official CSU transcripts. Courses on Semester at Sea are Colorado State courses, are fully accredited and meet the generally accepted standards for transfer. Colorado State University appoints the academic dean from among their most accomplished faculty, approves all course designs, field classes, syllabi and faculty on Semester at Sea prior to sailing.

Since 1963, students from more than 1,700 colleges and universities have participated in the SAS program.

Steps for Credit Transfer

Semester at Sea credit easily transfers to most universities. We work with students and their home university’s study abroad offices to ensure smooth transferring processes. Please note that many schools require prior approval in order to transfer credits earned through Semester at Sea.

Students are responsible for meeting with their study abroad and/or academic advisor prior to SAS enrollment to determine the transferability of credit. Study abroad offices can provide guidance on how to integrate study abroad with a course of study at the home institution.

Questions students may ask when inquiring about Semester at Sea credit transfer:

What is SAS credit?

Semester at Sea academic credit is equivalent to academic credit from Colorado State University. CSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The College of Business at CSU is accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science are accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.

Semester at Sea students are enrolled as visiting students of Colorado State University. Courses on Semester at Sea appear on the transcript as regular CSU courses. Grades are recorded at Colorado State University and students receive official transcripts from CSU directly.

Although credits earned are fully transferable, admission to Semester at Sea does not constitute admission to Colorado State University. Students from other institutions of higher education take Semester at Sea as a single global educational experience, returning to their home institutions upon completion of the voyage.

How do credits transfer back to students’ home universities?

Students need to speak with their study abroad, academic, or equivalency advisor at their home institutions to ask them how the Semester at Sea courses transfer into major or elective requirements. Students can coordinate with CSU to discuss the credit transfer process and expectations.

As a student, what part do I play in course selection and the transfer process?

Students are expected to schedule an appointment with their academic advisor to select their courses while sailing with SAS. Students are encouraged to view the course catalogue before their appointment and generate a list of classes they are interested in. Advisors then can help counsel students on which credits are transferrable back to their university and applicable to their degree path. It is also recommended that students bring with them a course syllabi and the biographies for professors teaching the courses to their advising meeting. All of this information can be found on the specific Semester at Sea voyage pages.

Some questions they might ask you: 

  • Will I receive letter grades?
  • Does my school’s financial aid apply?
  • Do I need to complete any school specific study abroad applications?
  • Will my school pay Semester at Sea directly?
  • What deadlines do I need to keep in mind?
  • What forms will I need?
  • Will I need course by course approval?
  • Will I be required to take a leave of absence in order to participate on Semester at Sea?


What part does SAS play?

Semester at Sea will attempt to be as timely as possible posting necessary information on the website. We will provide the course description of every course listed for our voyages. We also try to upload the course mnemonic and number (ex. ANTH 101) with the attached syllabus as soon as a course is approved by Colorado State University departments. If a home institution has any questions or concerns regarding the academic rigor or standards of our courses, we would be happy to speak with their representative by email or phone (; 1.800.854.0195).


Post Voyage – Transcripts

After the semester is over, a courtesy copy of a transcript from Colorado State University will be sent to the student’s current school. Any additional copies will need to be ordered from their CSU RAMweb portal or, if a student sailed on a voyage with the University of Virginia when the academic sponsor, use the link(s) below:

Frequently Offered Courses

The courses listed below are the SAS standard offerings. Syllabi will vary depending on the expertise of the faculty member and the planned itinerary. For example, on voyages that travel to a specific region, you are likely to find that the “World Literature” course focuses mostly on literature from the nations visited on the itinerary, rather than the entire world. The approved titles of the courses may change slightly from the courses listed on the standard list of courses, but the content of the course remains the same. The complete curriculum planned for each voyage will differ, but in the link below are a sample of courses we plan to offer on upcoming voyages:

Semester at Sea Frequently Offered Courses

You should not regard the presence of a specific title on this list as a promise to offer that class on a specific upcoming voyage or to secure a seat for a specific student.

Port Preparation

Beyond SAS courses, field classes, and excursions, additional programming opportunities provide a valuable international and preparatory context for the destinations on the itinerary. Semester at Sea taps resources in the U.S. State Department, hires host national lecturers and students, and fosters an environment of constant learning and exchange.

Diplomatic Briefings

As part of our sustained relationship with the U.S. State Department, SAS invites diplomats and consular officials to meet with the shipboard community upon the ship’s arrival to our destinations. Officials provide shipboard participants with an in-country political briefing.

Interport Lecturers & Students

Interport lecturers are international scholars or professors living abroad who are selected for their deep knowledge of a culture, practice, or field of study. They join a segment of a voyage and participate in intercultural briefings. Interport students are undergraduates from universities around the world. They contribute to classes and give presentations about their culture.

Cultural & Logistical Pre-Port Orientations

On the evenings immediately before arrival in each port of call, the community gathers for presentations intended to enhance cultural understanding and to promote health and safety preparedness. There are often presentations by faculty, interport lecturers, medical staff, and senior administrators who have had experience in the country or region, and even relevant student presentations.

Post-Port Reflections

Post-port reflections occur the evening the ship leaves port. Participants gather in small groups, or a single large group, that is facilitated by faculty and staff and share meaningful and key learnings from their in-port experience.

Evening Seminars

Evening Seminars are non-credit learning opportunities presented by shipboard participants each evening while at sea. The central focus of an Evening Seminar is to promote learning about upcoming ports. Other seminars feature student development topics (e.g. intercultural issues, career development, religion and spirituality, academic success, health education and promotion, student leadership, service learning, etc.).

Learning Outcomes

Over the past several years, three independent research initiatives have been conducted to measure the value and learning outcomes associated with the Semester at Sea global comparative program, which traces its roots to 1963. These studies include the Global Perspective Inventory (GPI), Study Abroad for Global Engagement (SAGE) research project, and Semester at Sea Evaluative Research: The Alumni Survey. A few of the recent findings are summarized below.

The Global Perspective Inventory (GPI)

The Global Perspective Inventory is a quantitative scale developed by educators Larry Braskamp, David Braskamp, Kelly Carter Merrill, and Mark Engberg to measure how college students’ global perspectives evolve when exposed to international study abroad experiences. Semester at Sea is one of 76 universities and study abroad providers that use the GPI (see a list of participating institutions on the GPI website).

The GPI features a 64-item survey that is administered prior to an international study abroad experience (pretest) and after being exposed to cultures that differ from the students’ (posttest). The instrument is comprised of three subscales that assess change across cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal dimensions. The cognitive dimension addresses the question “How do I know?” and reflects increased complexity in thinking (i.e. moving from absolute certainty to a relativist perspective). The intrapersonal dimension addresses the question “Who am I?” and reflects the process of becoming more aware of one’s personal identity and values. The interpersonal dimension addresses the question “How do I relate to others?” and reflects an individual’s ability to accept and interact with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Participants enrolled in Semester at Sea during the Summer 2009, Fall 2009, and Spring 2010 voyages were asked to complete the GPI online while aboard the ship. The GPI was administered to participants prior to reaching the first country of the respective voyage and then again after departing from the final country of the voyage.

Scores on the GPI generally increased from pre to posttest on almost every sub scale across all voyages. Significant differences, as defined by a .10 mean difference or more between pretest and posttest results on the subscales, are listed below. The largest gains were as follows (in order):

Figure 1: Changes after semester of study abroad by GPI scale

Source: AIEA Annual Conference 2011, Larry Braskamp

  • Cognitive knowledge: Participants reported an increased understanding and awareness of various cultures, their impact on our global society and an increased proficiency in languages. This was significant for all three voyages yielding the highest gains of all assessed dimensions.
  • Intrapersonal identity: Participants reported an increased awareness regarding their unique identity, purpose in life, and meaningful philosophy of life. This was significant for two of the three voyages, with the last voyage coming very close to significance.
  • Participants reported an increase in viewing themselves as global citizens. This was significant for two of the three voyages.
  • Participants reported an increase in overall wellbeing. This was significant for two of the three voyages.
  • Intrapersonal affect: Participants reported increased respect and acceptance of cultural perspectives that were different from their own as well as a higher degree of emotional confidence when processing encounters with other cultures. This was significant for two of the three voyages.


The SAGE Research Project

Initiated in 2006, the Beyond Immediate Impact: Study Abroad for Global Engagement (SAGE) research project seeks to examine the long-term personal, professional, and global engagement outcomes associated with study abroad experiences that occur during the college years. Global engagement, as conceptualized by SAGE, is the contributions a person makes to the common good by means of civic engagement, knowledge production, social entrepreneurship, and philanthropy.

SAGE is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and developed by co-principal investigators Gerald W. Fry and R. Michael Paige. The report draws on 6,000 study abroad participants from 22 U.S. colleges, universities, and education abroad providers nationwide, including the Semester at Sea program.

The findings indicate that Semester at Sea participants were strongly impacted by their education abroad experiences.


Semester at Sea Evaluative Research: The Alumni Survey

This independent research project was conducted by social scientist Robert C. Weigl, Ph.D., director of the Franklin Center in Alexandria, Va. with Carol Baker, Ph.D., former director of the Office of Measurement and Evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh. The 2009 report summarizes findings from an online survey of 342 Semester at Sea alumni who sailed between 1980 and 2008.

Survey Results:

  • 55% report the program had a “huge” impact on their lives, 36% say the program had a great deal of impact. Total yield results 90% very substantially influenced.
  • 85% report the program had a great deal more impact on their lives than any semester on their home campus; add 12% who report “somewhat more” impact at sea than at home, and a total 97% report Semester at Sea as their most important college semester.
  • 73% report the Semester at Sea influence on their lives has not diminished with time; 38% report that the impact has continued to grow over time since their voyage. Thus, nearly 40% of alumni experienced a program “sleeper effect.”
  • 42% report they have been sojourners overseas—spending extended time living and studying in other countries.
  • 22% report they work or have worked outside the United States.
  • 39 % report they have traveled to revisit and learn more about countries they visited on their SAS voyage.

Information for Study Abroad Advisors

Semester at Sea looks forward to working closely with you and your organization to provide helpful information about our academic program in conjunction with Colorado State University, credit transfer, floating campus, health and safety, admission requirements, and how to contact our admission staff.