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Student Stories

Marissa Shaw

Marissa Shaw

SEA Semester Class:

S-245 (Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures & Ecosystems)


Middlebury College



SEA Semester Research Focus:

Scientific Research - Zooplankton
Humanities Research - Polynesian Herbal Medicine, Ecotourism, and European Importation

Why did you choose SEA Semester?

I chose to do SEA Semester to get the opportunity for a more hands on learning classroom setting, and what better way to get that experience then by learning to sail a tall ship at the same time?

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

It was dawn watch on Valentine’s Day, and everybody on my watch was feeling pretty homesick, and just as the sun was rising over Nuku Hiva I took the helm, and it was as if the universe knew we all needed a pick me up, and a pod of about 25 dolphins joined the Seamans, and escorted us into our anchorage. It was the most beautiful and poetic experience of my life.

What were the strongest aspects of SEA Semester?

The most positive aspects of SEA Semester was how it changed me as a person well beyond the academic portion of the experience. It made me grow as a leader, a teacher, and as a student, and truly makes you part of a community who puts their lives in your hands and who you put your life in the hands of.

What were the most challenging aspects of SEA Semester?

The most challenging aspect of SEA Semester was dealing with people that you wouldn’t necessarily choose to work with, day in and day out, but at the same time it is this challenge that led to a lot of my personal growth, so in the end I’m grateful for it.

Words of advice for future SEA Semester students?

Take in every moment, and write some of it down. Having a journal to look back on to remember how you felt and thought and the little funny things that happened each day is a treasure to have.