Melissa on Semester at Sea!
Today we're hearing from Melissa Sanford, a rising fourth year majoring in English and Religious Studies. She studied abroad with the Semester at Sea (SAS) program, which during the spring and fall semesters allows up to 720 undergraduates to travel across the globe on a cruise ship for up to 100 days. Melissa's voyage included travel to nine different countries over the course of 66 days. I studied on a cruise ship that went to England, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Malta, France, Spain, and Portugal. We took classes when we were at sea, but in port we were free to explore either on our own or sign up for SAS-organized trips.
What made you choose this place?
I had heard so many great things about Semester at Sea from friends who had done the program in the past, and I knew that I wanted to use my study abroad experience to visit as many different places as possible. SAS allowed me to explore a region of the world that I had never seen before and learn about each place in a unique setting, all while providing a home base to come back to at the end of the day.
What classes did you take?
I took three classes - Travel Literature, Comparative Religion, and The United States and the Contemporary Mediterranean World. Semester at Sea offers a whole host of courses, ranging from sciences to Comm to literature and everything in between, but these were the three that most piqued my interest. Each class was tailored to the itinerary of the program, so the material we focused on was relevant to the next country we were visiting. It was really incredible to learn about something in the classroom and then step off the ship and experience it first-hand.
What was the biggest learning experience you had?
Besides learning about so many different people and cultures, I think the biggest learning experience I had was a lesson in independence. Never had I done something like this before, and I didn’t realize just how much I was capable of until I was hopping on last-minute trains to Sevilla or figuring out how to get back to the ship during a labor strike in Athens. Even after returning home this new self-confidence has stuck with me, and I definitely look at the world through different eyes after doing this program. Studying abroad changed my life, as cheesy as that is to say, and I’m so glad to have had this opportunity! I also now work for Semester at Sea here in Charlottesville, which is just another way that this experience has opened doors for me.