“The World is Our Campus” – “Semester at Sea”, the only campus in the world with no permanent address

Imagine an immense cruise ship that accommodates an entire campus: lecture rooms, a library, a computer room, an auditorium, dining rooms, study lounges, leisure halls, a teachers’ lounge, bars and cafes, shops, a spa, a fitness center, dormitories and even a hospital, all available under one roof 24/7. It sounds like an ambitious idea, doesn’t it?

 Well, it’s more than just imaginary! This description corresponds to a very real program called “Semester at Sea”, a unique academic voyage currently sponsored by the Colorado State University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the USA.

Under the motto “The world is our campus”, Semester at Sea has more than 50 years of proud tradition, as the mobile campus initially known as “University of the Seven Seas” has existed since 1963. Throughout the years, aboard more than 100 voyages, nearly 60,000 alumni from all over the world have enjoyed this irresistible opportunity. One can affirm today, without overstating, that “Semester at Sea has changed the face of the global education”. 

The principle is simple: at the beginning of an academic semester, up to 700 international students of different majors and lifelong learners of all ages embark on the Semester at Sea ship, which will become both their school and their home for the next three to four months. During this time they will have the experience of a lifetime while literally traveling the world. Courses across several disciplines of study are combined with practical field labs: in-country educational trips that encourage students not only to discover the world on a personal level, but also to reflect upon various features that characterize a place, a country or a people they have the chance to visit during their voyage. All the homework assignments, as well as practical field labs, are subject to strict deadlines. There are even midterm exams for which to prepare, and at the end of the semester, in order to earn the credits for each class, the students must pass a final exam just as they would in any other institution of higher learning. Depending on their personal course syllabus, the courses the students attend onboard the ship can be recognized by their university of origin when they return.

During the Fall 2014 Voyage, Semester at Sea also arrived in Germany for the first time. While anchored for two days in the Baltic Sea harbor from Rostock-Warnemünde, the MV Explorer, “one of the safest ships afloat”, 180 m long, 26 m wide and weighing 25,000 tons, opened its gates to welcome a few students from Germany, who were thereby given the chance to learn more about the program and its impressive cruise ship and to connect with SAS students, teachers, academic staff and crew members (the current ship of the program is the MV World Odyssey, the sixth ship in Semester at Sea’s history). I was fortunate to be one of the invited “interport students”, a so-called “local expert”, and I can say that being there was indeed a unique experience that got me thinking once again about the concept of unity in diversity, or rather about its overwhelming importance for the world we are living in…

Students and teachers from all over the world are invited to apply for a place in Semester at Sea, the only academic program in existence in which to study abroad means to literally and figuratively pass the fluid borders of the world. Further information about application conditions, costs, eligibility and many more interesting details about the current or the next voyages can be found here.

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