Spending a Semester at Sea

Sneha Mahapatra, a student from Wartburg, got the opportunity to spend a Semester travelling the world by boat, taking classes and making stops in several different countries.


Travelling to four different continents in the span of one semester may not be a typical study abroad program, but it is exactly what two Wartburg Students will be doing beginning in January.

Namleng Sina and Elvis Matoya are Wartburg students who will get the opportunity to spend a semester travelling to different locations around the globe through a program called Semester at Sea (SAS), which uses a boat as the campus. Professors and students live on the boat and students take classes while at sea.

“You don’t need to study inside a class[room],” Sina said. “You can study anywhere.”

When the boat lands they are free to explore the new terrain. Sina said she is excited to learn more about new cultures and experience a more global perspective.

“I’m very excited to go to Morocco and South Africa,” Sina said. “I feel like it’s going to be very different.”

Sina and Matoya are not the first Wartburg students to experience this non-traditional study abroad program. Sneha Mahapatra, a fourth-year student, spent her second semester of her second year travelling through SAS.

Mahapatra said one of the most important things she learned while on the ship was to be prepared for anything. She said planning the trip was part of the experience, because when she landed at each location, they had a very limited time to explore.

There was also a lot of preparing to do before boarding the ship for the first time. Mahapatra said she spent her first year at Wartburg preparing and planning for the trip.

Mahapatra said she had to get nine different visas before departing so that she could travel to each country. She said it was at times an agonizing process.

Once on the ship, Mahapatra said there is virtually no such thing as free time.

“You’re always busy [on the ship],” Mahapatra said. “You have to prep for classes, you have to study for exams and you have to plan your travel.”

Sina said she was very excited when she heard she had been selected to be part of the program. She said it was proof that travel can be possible for anyone.

“You don’t have to wait until you are rich . . . to travel,” Sina said.

Mahapatra said the experience was unlike anything else she could describe.

“It’s very difficult to explain to people what it meant to get off a ship every five days and be in a different country,” Mahapatra said. “It’s something that you have to live.”

Mahapatra said although she enjoyed her experience, it is not for everyone. She said it differs from other study abroad programs because students do not get the chance to immerse themselves in just one culture.

If anyone wants to experience a specific culture, then a traditional study abroad program would be a better option, Mahapatra said. Overall, though, she said the experience was worth it.

“It was exciting,” Mahapatra said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

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