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Spend a Semester at SEA

Spend a Semester at SEA

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Ready for a change and a challenge? Do you have a passion for the environment? Are you looking to break out of the classroom and gain hands-on practical experience? Are you interested in doing real research that influences change?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, spending a semester at SEA may be right for you.

Why Spend a Semester at SEA?

  • Earn transferable college credit through Boston University.
  • Gain real experience aboard an ocean research vessel.
  • Get off the beaten track. Typical cruise tracks include multiple port stops in New Zealand, Polynesia and the Caribbean.
  • Develop teamwork and leadership skills, challenge yourself and discover what you’re made of.
  • Explore a different career path.
  • Join a strong and influential network of SEA Semester graduates. Many students who spend a semester at SEA go on to exciting careers in the fields of ocean and marine science.

Sea Education Association is a world-renowned study abroad organization focused on the ocean. We are a global teaching, learning and research community dedicated to the exploration, under-standing and stewardship of marine and maritime environments. Located in the oceanographic research hub of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, we’ve educated more than 8,500 college students about the ocean since 1971. We’re dedicated to empowering students with life-changing sea voyages of scientific and cultural discovery, academic rigor, and personal growth. Our SEA Semester program features an interdisciplinary curriculum and dynamic leadership development experience at sea aboard tall ships and on shore.

SEA was founded in 1971 Corwith “Cory” Cramer, Jr. and Edward “Sandy” MacArthur. A passionate advocate of learning-by-doing,  Cory’s idea was to create a program to give undergraduates the opportunity to study the ocean from multiple academic perspectives, and to do it from the deck of a traditional sailing vessel during a semester at sea. Since those early days, the program has evolved dramatically – with two state-of-the-art specifically designated sailing school vessels operating in two oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific.

Why Study the Ocean?

The global ocean covers nearly three-quarters of Earth, yet 90% is largely unexplored. It provides half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, regulates the planet’s climate, and delivers food security for the world’s population. However, multiple threats jeopardize its health and sustainability.

Acknowledging that human actions underlie environmental change, SEA Semester programs approach these issues from a variety of disciplines including science, history, culture studies, and policy. Our flagship study abroad program, SEA Semester, is a multidisciplinary learning community that addresses the critical environmental issues of our time:

What Makes SEA Semester Different?

SEA Semester is a unique study abroad adventure. Spending a semester at SEA is very different from your home campus, and from what you can expect from most other study abroad programs.

Who Spends a Semester at SEA?
SEA Semester welcomes college undergraduates of all majors, as well as gap year students. Our students come from all over the country, as well from overseas. Some of our students know how to sail, most don’t. We teach them. Our students all have several things in common: they like a challenge.


Our Study Abroad Programs
A semester at SEA is typically 12 weeks, and results in up to 18 credits.  SEA currently offers seven different semester programs with areas of study that include Anthropology, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conservation and Management, Environmental Policy, Environmental Studies, Humanities, International Studies, Leadership, Marine Science, and Sustainability. Two summer programs are also offered.


Students who spend a semester at SEA choose from many programs with cruise tracks in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific. Port stops include islands in Polynesia, New Zealand, as well as Jamaica, The Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.


What is a Typical Semester at SEA?

Your Adventure Begins on Shore
At the beginning of every program, up to 25 students come together on SEA’s residential campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a world-renowned hub of oceanographic research and discovery located on beautiful Cape Cod. With your fellow classmates, you’ll build a living and learning community, and undertake coursework designed to prepare you personally and intellectually for the second half of your experience at sea.


The SEA Semester Campus
SEA’s Woods Hole campus is ideally located within a world renowned ocean research community which includes the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Woods Hole Research Center.  The SEA campus, situated on beautiful grounds, consists of a main building housing a classroom, library, lecture hall, computer room, library, map room, and faculty and administration offices. Students reside in double and triple rooms in five residential cottages where they study and socialize together, prepare their own meals, and evolve from classmates to shipmates in preparation for going to sea.

The Adventure Continues at Sea
Following your shore component, you’ll join one of our two sailing research vessels on an academic expedition in the Atlantic, Caribbean, or Pacific to put classroom theory into real-world practice. You might sail thousands of miles across the open ocean for a truly blue-water experience, or you might investigate a smaller area of the marine environment more closely, engaging with coastal communities through a variety of port stops.

Regardless of the program, you’ll become an integral member of the ship’s company at sea, fully participating in the scientific mission and sailing operations of the vessel. You‘ll be exposed to every aspect of shipboard life: from employing celestial navigation, to collecting and processing oceanographic samples, to helping prepare meals in the galley. A phased leadership approach will allow you to assume the majority of shipboard responsibilities under the watchful eye of faculty and crew.

When you step off the ship, you’ll take away with you academic credits, newfound confidence, skills, knowledge about yourself and the world, and a sense of direction that will serve you well throughout your life.

Our Tall Ships

SEA owns and operates the SSV Corwith Cramer and the SSV Robert C. Seamans, both custom designed and uniquely built educational platforms. Unlike some other programs that take students to sea, our ships are U.S. flagged, inspected, and regulated vessels, and have been designed and built specifically for SEA with student and crew safety foremost in mind.


Our ships are United States Coast Guard (USCG) certified and regularly inspected for ocean service. As Sailing School Vessels (SSVs), our ships are required to meet safety standards different from those for passenger vessels on a comparable route. The SSV Corwith Cramer and SSV Robert C. Seamans meet or exceed the safety requirements for their USCG and American Bureau of Shipping class designations and possess all required equipment for navigation and emergency situation response.

Rig: Brigantine
Displacement:  280 Tons
Construction: Steel; built 1987 ASTACE Shipyard Bilbao, Spain
Length Overall: 134 feet
Length on Deck: 98 feet
Draft: 12.5 feet
Beam: 26 feet
Sail Area: 7,500 Sq. Ft.
Auxiliary Engine: 500 horsepower Cummins diesel
Complement: 38 persons


Rig: Brigantine
Displacement: 350 Tons
Construction: Steel; built 2001 J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding, Tacoma, WA
Length Overall: 134.5 feet
Length on Deck: 111.4 feet
Draft: 13.9 feet
Beam: 25.5 feet
Sail Area: 8,554 Sq. Ft.
Auxiliary Engine: 455 horsepower Caterpillar diesel
Complement: 40 persons

SEA Semester Admissions & Financial Aid

Admissions Overview

SEA Semester welcomes applications from U.S. students as well as from students enrolled in international universities who are seeking a semester’s worth of undergraduate credit. Limited programs are also open to gap year and winter start/spring admit students.

Sea Education Association admits students of any race, color, gender, orientation, and national or ethnic origin to all programs and activities made available to students at SEA. SEA does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, orientation, or national or ethnic origin in administration of its educational programs, admissions policies, or financial aid.

A semester at SEA programs are limited in capacity with a maximum of 24 or 25 student spots per class. Therefore, we welcome applications as early as one year in advance of the program start and encourage students to apply early to ensure placement in their preferred program.

SEA Semester operates on a rolling admissions basis. We review all applications on a first-come, first-served basis until each program is full.

Questions? Contact us at or call 800-552-3633 x770


Admissions Process

  1. Connect with your SEA Semester Admissions Counselor
    We’ll help you navigate through your semester at SEA choices, and direct you to resources on your home campus.
  2. Choose your program
    Decide which summer or semester program is best for you!
  3. Work with your home institution
    Think about logistics including study abroad approval, credit transfer, academic planning, and internal application deadlines.
  4. Submit your application
    Access application requirements and apply online.
  5. Consider your funding options
    Meet with your home institution’s financial aid office to determine what aid will transfer to SEA Semester. Learn more about additional funding opportunities.

Financial Aid

Committment to Affordability
You can afford a semester at SEA! We award over $1 million per year in need-based and merit aid to qualified and motivated students. We are committed to making SEA Semester as affordable as a term on your home campus.

Tuition and Fees
Published costs include tuition, room and board, lab and book fees, all shore-based excursions, student support, parent resources, and health services. They do not include travel to and from the ship or personal expenses. View current program costs.

Financial Aid and Scholarships
Talk to your home institution’s financial aid office to determine what scholarships, grants, and financial aid are transferable to SEA Semester. Between these resources and SEA’s generous financial aid program, we can make a semester at SEA a reality for you. More than half of our students receive some form of financial assistance; out of those, 95% receive aid from SEA.

For questions about financial Aid: | 800-552-3633 x 535

Life After a Semester at SEA

At SEA, we are invested in our students’ futures and in their success. SEA Semester programs develop lifelong skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking: all of which will serve students well no matter what career path they choose. In fact, 92% of our alumni report that SEA Semester provided them with skills that have proven useful in their careers today.

More than three-quarters of our alumni report that a semester at SEA increased their passion for ocean stewardship. Many of them have brought their experience into careers at major organizations supporting ocean conservation, including Conservation International, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Biological Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Nature Conservancy, National & Massachusetts Audubon Societies, New England Aquarium, Smithsonian Institution, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Many are also now scholars and faculty members who teach environment related courses at institutions including Boston University, Colby College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Smith College, and Stanford University.

Our Alumni Network
The unique experience a semester at SEA offers has created a strong, active, and supportive alumni community. Always eager to help, our former students have proven to be an invaluable resource for personal and professional networking, and for employment opportunities in all career fields.