Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

SEA Semester illustrates human impacts

Philosophy and religion have reputations for being deep subjects. But they’re not nearly as deep as the SEA Semester program.

Deep as in the ocean kind of deep.

The semester-long study-abroad program lets students get their feet wet in piloting, celestial navigation, practical seamanship, oceanographic sampling techniques and marine lab procedures aboard a traditional sailing ship. 

The program is not the same as the Semester at Sea sponsored by the Institute for Shipboard Education. The SEA Semester is run by the Sea Education Association (SEA), which has a formal relationship with DU.

Laurie Weitzen, the alumni and parent relations coordinator for the SEA program, says she believes the students get a deeper (no pun intended) understanding of oceans, and the impact that human actions have had on them. 

“Their experience gives insight into global environmental issues as part of a working crew, which I believe also gives them insight into themselves,” Weitzen says.

Jacob Stein (BA ’06), took part in the SEA program in fall 2005. He says he not only learned a lot about himself, but also plenty about teamwork.  

“The value of teamwork was probably the most important thing I learned,” Stein says. “You really rely on all the people on board. They’re responsible for your life.” 

“The entire ship’s crew works to keep the ship in good shape — vital in case of emergencies,” he says. 

Stein adds that being on board a ship also teaches improvisation. 

“If something doesn’t work, you have to make it work,” he says. “You’re in the middle of the ocean, you can’t just go to the hardware store to buy extra pipe for plumbing. It’s really a wonderful challenge, certainly something that can be carried over into everyday life.”

Students can choose between an Atlantic or Pacific cruise track. One DU student participated in SEA Semester in the winter quarter and another will participate this spring. Altogether, 37 DU students have been SEA Semester participants.

But before they hit the water, students spend six weeks on land at Woods Hole, Mass., an oceanographic research center, examining maritime studies, nautical science and oceanography. 

Then they’re at sea for six weeks on board a 135-foot vessel that’s home to 10 crewmembers and 25 students. They conduct research and complete two courses on practical oceanography. 

Students get a break from the ship’s routine by visiting ports of call, such as Mexico, Bermuda or Hawaii.

Comments are closed.