Why I Want To Do Semester At Sea

I consider myself a pretty well-traveled person…at least here at home. I’ve lived in California and Washington state (for school…), visited Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Idaho, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Florida and Hawaii, been to Mexico a few times, even up to Canada. But one thing I’ve never, ever done, is cross the Atlantic, or even leave North America for that matter. I have tons of friends who have studied abroad in places like Spain, England, Greece and China. I almost took my 2nd semester of sophomore year to study in Chile and Argentina…unfortunately the credits didn’t transfer and I know hardly any Spanish so it never happened. Ever since researching studying abroad, I have been interested in going to South America. Ever since talking to my friends who have been to Europe or Asia, I’ve been interested in going there. Ever since I can remember, my dream vacation has been New Zealand/Australia. My point is, I’ve had my fair share of vacations, but never to a country or culture that I consider vastly different from my own. Doing Semester at Sea this summer would give me the perfect opportunity.

The 2011 summer voyage is supposed to go to the Bahamas, Barcelona, Naples, Athens, Istanbul, Morocco, Croatia and Egypt. Wow. So many different cultures, so much history, so much to do and see over 66 days! Plus, the voyage ends in Boston, one of my all-time favorite cities, so maybe I could swing spending a couple days there as well! Anyway, my time to earn school credits while traveling is running out. I don’t know if I could put myself in any better situation after this year. A huge cruise ship with hundreds and hundreds of college students with similar intentions to me, hanging out all day and then exploring Europe and parts of Africa and South America? Don’t even get me started on the opportunities this trip would give me to further my cultural knowledge and therefore expand my ability to write!

Obviously, there are a couple of roadblocks…

1) COST – my god…including all the fees, airfare, personal money for expenses, textbooks, etc., I would want to budget around $15,000 for this trip. In the end, money is just paper…but it is really hard to move around without it. I’m avidly searching for a job on campus right now to start saving. I know my beautiful, wonderful, loving parents would throw a small bit of money my way, but realistically I’m looking at around $10,000 otherwise. This is where selling drugs comes in…JUST KIDDING. This is where financial aid, scholarships, work study, grants and loans come in. Luckily, Semester at Sea offers a 10-month payment plan option. So basically, starting in January (I believe…), I would pay around $1,200 to them every month to cover the basic trip fees. Along with saving up that extra $500 or so to set off to the side each month for extra expenses. I know for sure that I can get a $2,000 work-study scholarship…basically I agree to work 2 hours a day on the boat and they give me $2,000. According to a friend from University of Washington who did the trip a couple years ago, that’s a really good, easy way to cut some costs. He told me that the work is simple and that it allows you free internet access on the boat (not usually free). Also, I can apply for need-based and normal financial aid. And I’m curious to see if I can keep a travel blog to promote Semester at Sea with all my experiences. That would give me practice as well as giving them free advertising? That warrants knocking off a good five or six grand, right? But in all honesty, I’m going to work my tail off to make this happen. I have a meeting with the abroad office here at WSU in a couple weeks and will be emailing my academic adviser this week with questions. Lastly, I’m in contact with the Semester at Sea “recruiter,” so I should be able to ask him a few questions tomorrow over the phone.

2) CLASSES – Probably even more important than the money is, will my credits transfer? Will they have English and/or Communications courses on the ship that will transfer back into one of the 8-10 remaining courses I need for my majors? Will any of it count as English 498 “Internship” credit? (Ugh, that would be amazing, what a pain in the butt to get out of the way!) My parents are worried that even if they do transfer back, that if I still had to go back to Pullman for Fall semester 2011, it would be a lottttt of money to spend, and rightfully so. Factoring in a new house lease (current one expires August 2011), paying for more classes, etc. it may just not be worth it. That’s why it all comes down to the classes. If I can get 2 courses knocked out on the ship, or 1 course and English 498 credit, that would be ideal. This is why I need to meet with so many people. I have one full semester of college left, no matter how I look at it. Classes are harder to come by in the summer, so I want to be able to plan my registration for this Spring as best as possible. But, ideally, I will take 15-16 credits at WSU in the Spring and be left with 9-10 that I can take on the boat…

Either way, the application is going out tomorrow and we’ll go from there. I understand the financial and logistical constraints of this possibility, but the adventure bug is calling and I really want to answer it. Unless something goes absurdly wrong, hellooooooo Bahamas, hellooooooo Europe and helloooooooo Africa! Pencil me in for summer!

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