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Student Stories

Ivan Duong

Ivan Duong

SEA Semester Class:

S-244 (Oceans & Climate)


Carleton College



SEA Semester Research Focus:

Scientific Research - Phytoplankton Size and Total Primary Production in Four Distinct Oceanic Environments

Why did you choose SEA Semester?

I knew I was going to study abroad with SEA Semester the second I saw a poster with the SSV Robert C Seamans, as a freshman. I have always been an adventurous individual and previously had had the opportunity to sail on a 30 foot sailboat around Hong Kong. It was challenging and I had a blast, when I learnt that I could do something similar but on a much larger scale, I was sold. The way I explained it to my parents and friends was that, this is quite literally a once in a life time experience. There will very likely never be another chance to sail a 134-foot brigantine across the Pacific Ocean for 6 weeks, ever again.

What was the singular most memorable moment of your SEA Semester experience?

There are a lot of memories that stand out to me, the most vivid memory I have, isn’t of us sailing through a squall, or of the deck crew trying to catch squid during a quiet science deployment, or of the crew setting all the square sails for the first time, or my experience as a junior watch officer. It was a rather mundane moment, during a port stop at Raitea. It was a beautiful evening with the sun setting in the distance. After a day of working hard and cleaning the Seamans, we had dinner and a number of us decided to eat on deck. We ended up sitting on top of Wayne’s world, enjoying the orange and pink tinges of the sunset with our full plates and incredible Polynesian fruit drinks. A group of us just talked. We talked about our experiences, our ups and downs. What really struck me was how happy and content and how connected everyone was. The level of understanding and appreciation between shipmates that I experienced, is something that I still actively try to recreate in my everyday life since my return to land. There were never any questions when I had to pitch in to help fellow shipmates, I considered and treated everyone of my shipmates as family. Our priority system on the ship was laid out clearly for us and really resonated with me: Ship, Shipmate, Self. The shipboard life: technology-free, distraction-free, drama-free, is something that I have come to appreciate and miss so much. Out there, how you hair is, how you look, how you smell, what you wear, simply doesn’t matter. What does matter though, is the people around you, the relationships you form and what you do for your ship, your shipmates and yourself. And I truly loved and actively miss every minute of that.

What were the strongest aspects of SEA Semester?

SEA staff and crew were amazing. SEA did a great job of building a community during the shore portion.

What were the most challenging aspects of SEA Semester?

Working with students from a wide variety of schools who have different styles and speed of learning was challenging for me at times. The physical aspect of SEA was somewhat challenging but something that I expected.

Words of advice for future SEA Semester students?

Do it. This will be the best decision of your life. The intellectual and personal growth that you will go through cannot be found anywhere else. Always remind yourself periodically that this is going to end (even if you’re over the rail chumming), enjoy every second of it.