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Paying for a Priceless Semester at Sea Experience

From left, Grace Rybak, Samantha Wojdynski and Jina Kang, who sailed on the Maymester voyage.

When deciding whether to sign on for a Semester at Sea voyage, many students have one main question: How can I pay for it?

Though the Institute for Shipboard Education prides itself on the amount of financial aid it provides (approximately $4 million annually), some voyagers have found additional ways of financing their travels.

Several students on the current Maymester voyage, which ends Wednesday in Nassau, shared their experiences of working, borrowing and, in some cases, winning their way onto the MV Explorer.

Samantha Wojdynski – Boston University


Graduate student Samantha Wojdynski put together a hodgepodge of funding sources to pay for her second Semester at Sea voyage.

As an alumna (Summer 2009), Samantha automatically received a 10 percent discount on her Maymester voyage. In addition, a relative of hers won a Twitter contest for the most creative tweet about Semester at Sea, and gave the $500 prize to Samantha. Lastly, she earned a work-study position on the ship, giving faculty and staff parents a break by occupying their children for about one hour each sea day.

For one of Samantha’s field experience programs – which was offered through her course, “Building Healthcare in the Caribbean” – she visited a traditional Garifuna village in Honduras, where she saw community members working against HIV/AIDS. Touring a local community center, she particularly enjoyed the youth drumming and dancing performance.

“As a recipient of SAS aid, I have been given the opportunity to see the world in a meaningful way, and this opportunity is priceless.”


Grace Rybak – Columbia University

For the first time ever, Semester at Sea gave away voyages with contests and raffles to spread the news about the inaugural short-term Maymester voyage. While attending a conference on the U.N. Millennium Development Goals – the focus of the current voyage – Grace Rybak’s cousin dropped her name in one of those raffles and won.

But instead of sailing on a fully paid voyage on the MV Explorer, she gave the ticket to her favorite cousin, Grace.

“It was an incredibly kind gesture on her part,” Grace said. “It was the most amazing gift I could have gotten.”

The raffle covered room and board as well as tuition for two classes. Grace is paying for her flights to and from Nassau, as well as any purchases made outside of ship for meals, field programs and independent travel.

Grace said she had always wanted to go on Semester at Sea but didn’t think she could afford it. The first-ever giveaway made it all possible.

But what did her cousin get out of the deal?

“I invited her to some New York City Broadway shows,” she said. “I can’t begin to repay her for this trip, but it was the best thing I could do.”

Jina Kang – Chung-Ang University

Jina Kang found her way onto the MV Explorer the traditional way: working and saving.

“I saved my money when I was in an internship. I collected all my money for traveling,” she said. “I wanted to go all around the world.”

Jina’s study abroad experience has taken her from Korea to the University of Hawaii in Hilo and then to the University of Colorado for the spring semester. Her savings allowed her to sign on to the short-term voyage, during which she participated in service visits, volunteering at such places as a school for disabled children.

“There is a wide variety of SAS trips. I’m focusing on the trips that are service-based,” she said. “We are here to help people and to use our knowledge for them.”

Jina also economized on board, for example, avoiding the snack bar between meals.

“I save the money and spend it when I get to port eating local food,” she said.

  • Education
  • Life at Sea
  • Service

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