Student Life

About Student Life

At Semester at Sea, our mission guides us. Our mission is to educate students with global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world.

Our mission also delineates how learning occurs on Semester at Sea: our unique shipboard program integrates multiple-country study, interdisciplinary coursework, and hands-on field experience for meaningful engagement in the global community.

Finally, our mission proclaims that the world is our campus. Learning on Semester at Sea occurs across three distinct milieus: in the Classroom, in the shipboard Community, and In-Country (also known as “the field”).  The Faculty are the primary stewards of Classroom learning (both onboard and In-Country Field Classes) while the Student Life and Field Staff are the primary mediators of onboard Community life and In-Country Programs, respectively. Both Faculty and Staff collaborate to insure that seamless learning opportunities are appropriately integrated and extend into each of these environments.

Student Life has a diverse and complicated set of responsibilities. The work of Student Life enhances and supports the academic mission by encouraging independent thought and teaching interdependent behavior, advocating for the common good and championing the rights of the individual, and encouraging intelligent risk taking and setting limits on behavior.

Student Life provides programs and services directly to students and can be expected to:
  • Help students explore and clarify values
  • Encourage development of friendships among students and a sense of community
  • Create opportunities for students to expand their aesthetic and cultural appreciation
  • Teach students how to resolve individual and group conflicts
  • Provide programs and services for students who have learning difficulties
  • Help students understand and appreciate racial, ethnic, gender, and other differences
  • Design opportunities for leadership development
  • Establish programs that encourage health living and confront abusive behaviors
  • Provide opportunities for recreation and leisure-time activities
  • Help students clarify career objections and explore options for further study.
Student Life shares assumptions and beliefs that shape their work, including:
  • The Academic Mission Is Preeminent
  • Each Student Is Unique
  • Each Person Has Worth & Dignity
  • Bigotry Cannot Be Tolerated
  • Feelings Affect Thinking & Learning
  • Student Involvement Enhances Learning
  • Personal Circumstances Affect Learning
  • The Co-Curricular Amplifies and Extends Learning
  • A Supportive & Friendly Community Helps Students Learn
  • The Freedom to Doubt and Question Must Be Guaranteed
  • Effective Citizenship Should Be Taught
  • Students Are Responsible For Their Own Lives

The Student Life Team

The Student Life Team is responsible for the purposeful and holistic promotion of student learning and development that enhances the overall educational experience. To that end, Student Life Staff work collaboratively with all voyage Participants to develop a vibrant living-learning community that supports students’ intellectual, emotional, and intercultural development.

Student Life Team understands that student success is not solely defined by grades. Through clubs and activities, leadership and service opportunities, Semester at Sea students grow as individuals and learn to invest in both the shipboard and global community.

Led by a passionate, student-focused staff, the Student Life Team serves as a hub for a variety of programs and services that are all designed to enrich the shipboard experience. The team includes the Dean of Student Life, Assistant Dean of Student Life, and six Resident Directors, Ancillary members of the team include the Lifelong Learning Coordinator, the Dependent Child Coordinator, and two Counselors.

The Dean of Student Life is the Student Life team leader. Reporting to the Executive Dean and a member of the administrative team, the Dean of Student Life provides vision, leadership and oversight to efforts to develop an integrated learning environment.

The Assistant Dean of Student Life is responsible for community standard education, conflict resolution, and student conduct adjudication. Reporting to the Dean of Student Life, the Assistant Dean of Student Life is an ancillary member of the administrative team.

Six Resident Directors are primarily responsible for community development in their respective residential communities (known as “seas”). They do so through programming, reflection groups, 1:1 student advising, and serving on-call in port for situations that need attention.

Several Student Assistants assist the RDs and Student Life team to develop community through programmatic and activity outreach.

Co-Curricular Learning

On Semester at Sea’s living-learning campus, there are no boundaries to learning–it extends from the classroom into the shipboard community and into the field. Faculty and staff work collaboratively to integrate learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom.

Learning on Semester at Sea is directed by Voyage Learning Outcomes. The goal of the Voyage Learning Outcomes is the ensure that students gain the knowledge, skills and intercultural competence necessary to succeed as responsible international citizens in the complex 21st  century world.

Through participation in the Semester at Sea Program, students will:
  • Employ active methods of comparison and contrast to achieve a deeper awareness of Euro-American culture and its historical and contemporary relationship with other cultures.
  • Gain comprehensive knowledge of and empathy with the peoples, cultures and geography of the regions visited on the voyage.
  • Understand and critically assess the focus of globalization and nationalism that are stimulating global integration as well as conflict within and between regions.
  • Develop keen powers of observation and employ writing skills and various communication technologies to record and evaluate experiences throughout the voyage.
  • Gain a sophisticated knowledge of global and regional developmental issues during ocean crossings and port visits.
  • Achieve a deeper self-knowledge, self-confidence and autonomy through meaningful interactions with other voyagers and with individuals, organizations, and institutions in the ports of call.
  • Understand the diversity of cultures and traditions in the world and develop tolerance and appreciation of differences.

Principles of Community

In partnership with Colorado State University, Semester at Sea subscribes to a set of Principles of Community. We believe that a collaborative and vibrant community is a foundation for learning, critical inquiry, and discovery. As a result, each Semester at Sea Participant has a responsibility to uphold these principles when engaging with one another and acting on behalf of the Semester at Sea Program.

  • Inclusion: We create and nurture inclusive environments and welcome, value and affirm all members of the community, including their various identities, skills, ideas, talents, and contributions.
  • Integrity: We are accountable for our actions and will act ethically and honestly in all of our interactions.
  • Respect: We honor the inherent dignity of all people within an environment where we are committed to freedom of expression, critical discourse, and the advancement of knowledge.
  • Service: We are responsible, individually and collectively, to give or our time, talents, and resources to promote the well-being of each other and the development of our local, regional, and global communities.
  • Social Justice: We have the right to be treated and the responsibility to treat others with fairness and equity, the duty to challenge prejudice, and to uphold the laws, policies and procedures that promote justice in all respects.

Additionally, Semester at Sea has long supported and emulated six principles that defined the kind of community every college and university should strive to be. These principles emerged from a survey of college and university presidents conduct by Dr. Ernest Boyer 1990 for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (and published in a book called Campus Life: In Search of Community, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

  • Semester at Sea is an educationally purposeful community, a place where faculty and students share academic goals and work together to strengthen teaching and learning on campus.
  • Semester at Sea is an open community, a place where freedom of expression is uncompromisingly protected and where civility is powerfully affirmed.
  • Semester at Sea is a just community, a place where the sacredness of the person is honored and diversity is aggressively pursued.
  • Semester at Sea is a disciplined community, a place where individuals accept their obligations to the group and where well-defined governance procedures guide behavior for the common good.
  • Semester at Sea is a caring community, a place where the well-being of each member is sensitively supported and where service to others is supported.
  • Semester at Sea is a celebrative community, one in which the heritage of the institution is remembered and where rituals affirming both tradition and change are widely shared.

Programming, Activities & Organizations/Clubs

Shipboard life is a unique and magical living/learning experience. Imagine a contained 24/7 oceangoing environment where you live and learn together with Students, Lifelong Learners, Faculty, Staff, their Families, and Crew. Shipboard life has been called “the eleventh port” by some Semester at Sea alumni—comparing their love for the living-learning shipboard environment to in-country experiences.


Evening and “no class” day co-curricular programming provide a rich menu of learning opportunities that complement classroom offerings. A sampling of programs is noted below.

  • Evening Seminars. Held each evening at sea between 7 pm and 9 pm in both large and small group settings, these  lectures, panel discussions, workshops, etc. are intended to both extend classroom learning, and introduce a rich menu of co-curricular topics.  Any member of the shipboard community can request to present an evening seminar.
  • Films. Also held each evening between 7 pm and 9 pm in the Theater. To provide context and amplify learning, frequently a Faculty member will facilitate a pre or post film discussion.
  •  Pre-Port.  Held the evening before arrival in each port, the shipboard community comes together to learn critical logistical, safety, health, and cultural information.
  • Diplomatic Briefings/Foreign Service Information. As part of our sustained relationship with the U.S. State Department, SAS invites diplomats and consular officials to sail from the previous port or to meet with the shipboard community upon the ship’s arrival to port. Diplomats provide participants with briefings on security, politics, etc. and often meet in small groups with students interested in a career in the foreign service.


A number of traditional shipboard-wide activities – with a several-decade history – occur on each Semester at Sea voyage. These events are open to the entire shipboard community and all are encouraged to participate.

  • Alumni Ball. As each voyage nears its conclusion, the Alumni Ball Committee (in conjunction with the Student Ambassadors and voyage staff) coordinate the Alumni Ball. This semi-formal event brings the community together and celebrates the progression from students to alumni of Semester at Sea.
  • Auction. This event is a kickoff to the shipboard drive, which provides funding for Semester at Sea student scholarships. All shipboard participants are invited to auction items of interest in the live auction, silent auction, or raffle.
  • Neptune Ceremony. A maritime tradition dating back 100 years, the transition from pollywog to shellback forms one of Semester at Sea’s most memorable traditions. Each time the MV World Odyssey crosses the equator for the first time during a voyage, festivities ensue in which Participants pay homage to King Neptune by kissing a fish among other zany optional activities.
  • Sea Olympics. A tradition on each Semester at Sea voyage, the Sea Olympics are fun, zany, competitive team games where participants —organized into “seas” — compete to gain points. This event is one of the largest and most actively participated events of the voyage. It is open to every member of the shipboard community including the faculty and staff, dependent families, and life-long learners. The event takes place over the course of a “no-class” day, and events can include synchronized swimming, rock paper scissors competition, trivia, and sporting events. The Sea Olympics Committee helps plan and execute the shipboard Sea Olympics.. There are a variety of roles on this committee including planning and coordination, set-up, judging, and team captains.
  • Talent Show/Open Mic. A wonderful display of shipboard talent, this show encompasses acts that range from vocalists to comedians, and instrumentalists to poets. All Participants are encouraged to audition for this event by sharing their talents or just attending the event. The ship’s crew usually also has a separate Crew Talent Show.

Clubs and Organizations

Student interest in involvement and co-curricular learning emerges to up to 40 organizations and clubs on each voyage organizations. These clubs and organizations are an excellent way for members of the shipboard community to get involved, share their passion and skills, and learn from each other. The following list is a sampling of the clubs and organizations that formed on a recent voyage.

  • Intramural tournaments (basketball, ping pong, volleyball, soccer, etc. )
  • Group exercise (dance, yoga, Pilates, step aerobics, kickboxing, martial arts, etc.)
  • Game clubs (chess, scrabble, Apples to Apples, etc.)
  • Musical groups (a capella, bands, orchestra, etc.)
  • Dance groups (Salsa, tap, merengue, step, capoeira, etc.)
  • Theater groups (including putting on plays for the shipboard community)
  • Foreign language practice (Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, etc.)
  • Coffee House
  • Self-help groups
  • Spiritual and religious services and discussion groups
  • Amnesty International
  • LGBTQA groups
  • Educational films with discussion
  • Students of Color
  • Model UN
  • Sustained Dialogue
  • Environmental Club
  • Healthy Eating Club
  • International Student Association
  • Muslim Student Group
  • Latino/Caribbean Club
  • Asian Students Club
  • Fraternity & Sorority (Greek) Club
  • Writing Club/Sketch Words
Involvement Fair

Occurring on the second night at sea at the end of orientation, this event is designed for Participants get a preview of all involvement opportunities and then rotate to clusters where they can learn more about and sign up for activities, clubs and organizations of interest. See a sampling of clubs and organizations below.

Extended Families

Extended families provide an opportunity for students to join faculty, staff, or Lifelong Learners and form small “family” groups (usually 4-6 people) for the purpose of onboard socialization and support. Extended families plan gatherings may include sharing a meal together in the dining hall, playing board games, in-port excursions, etc.  This program is consistently one of the highest subscribed on all voyages (usually 300-400 participants).

Students of Service

SOS draws together students interested in service learning and community service who wish to work with staff, faculty, and peers to make a difference in local communities visited on the voyage.

Global Ambassadors

Onboard, GAs greet, host and engage diplomats, VIPs, Interport Lecturers, and othe distinguished guests.Post-voyage, GA’s spread the mission, vision, and values of Semester at Sea. Because half of SAS voyage participants learned about the program from an SAS Alum, Global Ambassadors are a big part of passing along the SAS experience to others on their home campuses.

Sea Council

Sea Council is made up of representatives from each sea and serves to present the interests and concerns of the student body to the Program administration.

Programming Board

The Programming Board coordinates dances, talent shows, open-mic nights, coffeehouses, etc. This is a great opportunity for students who have been involved in leadership on their home campus as part of a programming board or for creative and enthusiastic participants who want to gain that experience while on Semester at Sea.

Vicarious Voyage

Since the Fall of 1991, each Fall and Spring voyage Shipboard Volunteers share the world and their global experience with K-12 teachers and their classrooms across the United States. If you are interested in volunteering on board, or a teacher inquiring about enrollment, please visit the Vicarious Voyage Blog for further information.

Information for Students with Disabilities

Academic Accommodation

Semester at Sea provides academic accommodations for students with diagnosed learning disabilities. If a participant wishes to request accommodations, the student should request that the appropriate office at their institution email a letter of approved accommodations to the contact listed in the Course Registration Packet on a specific voyage’s Courses and Field Classes page.

Participants should submit these materials as soon as possible, but no later than the deadline reflected in the Packet. Requests for accommodations submitted after this deadline will be reviewed, but may be declined if found unreasonable due to time constraints–some accommodations require more lead time to provide on the ship than they would on a land-based campus.

Physical Disabilities

Students and other passengers in the past with a variety of disabilities have negotiated the challenges of Semester at Sea, including those in wheelchairs. To be sure, it is a challenge, but it is very doable.

Flexibility is the watchword on our voyages. In the past, students using wheelchairs have been accompanied by caretakers who assist them physically, carrying them up and down the gangway, carrying the wheelchair or other equipment, etc., and negotiating similar variables in-port as well.

Participants with physical challenges (crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.) need to provide documentation from their physician indicating the level of functioning independence. Please contact ISE for further specific information.

Voyager’s Handbook