Understanding the oceans is an essential aspect of appreciating how the world works and how we relate to it as human beings. The sea is so complex that it is impossible to comprehend from the perspective of a single academic discipline. With that in mind, this interdisciplinary semester combines insights from oceanography and the social sciences with practical skills in seamanship, allowing students to deepen their awareness of and appreciation for the ocean through hands-on research and personal experience.
SEA Semester: SEA Summer Session
Application Deadline: This program is currently full, accepting to a waitlist.
Sea Education Association (SEA) continues to monitor advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, helping to guide our thinking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed mitigation plans are developed for each program individually. Read a sample plan.
This program offers students a deeper understanding of the complex marine environment through field-based research, a sailing adventure aboard a tall ship, and innumerable opportunities for skill-building, leadership development, and personal growth both on shore and at sea.
Cruise Track: San Diego, CA » San Diego, CA
Destinations: No anticipated port stops.
When?June 14 - August 6, 2021
June 14 - June 24: On shore in California
June 25 - August 6: At sea
- Develop lifelong skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking
- Conduct environmental research on offshore California ecosystems while gathering real-time data that contributes to a global understanding of our oceans
- Learn about marine conservation efforts and climate resilience initiatives of coastal communities along the US west coast
Who Should Apply?
This program is designed for students of any major who are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of our world’s oceans while aquiring first hand experience in field-research and sailing aboard a tall ship. Students earn 11 semester-hour credits for sucessful completion.
Life & Academics on Shore
The SEA Semester Summer Session begins with an 11-day shore component in California. During this time you’ll undertake coursework with SEA faculty that will prepare you academically and practically for the second part of your experience at sea. You’ll develop a research project, explore the connections between humans and the ocean, and learn the principles necessary to crew a tall ship. You will develop and practice scientific survey skills in local environments, and learn about ocean conservancy efforts off the U.S. west coast and in international Pacific waters. During this shore component you will also work to establish a known COVID-free cohort who will join the SSV Robert C. Seamans.
Life & Academics at Sea
Following the shore component, you will board the SSV Robert C. Seamans for a 43-day voyage sailing out of San Diego, CA. This voyage traverses the western seaboard of the United States off California, exploring marine biology, chemical and physical oceanographic processes, and marine plastic debris in the near-coastal environments of California and further offshore within the Northern Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Students will study the California Current System, upwelling along the continental margin, and processes within submarine canyons that provide deep-water access relatively close to shore. Once on board, students become working members of the crew - one of the hallmarks of all SEA programs. Commitment to the successful functioning of a team, in a supporting role or as a leader, is an essential element of the sea component as students learn the operations of the vessel on deck — steering by compass and by the stars, setting and striking sails, plotting the ship’s position using modern technology and traditional celestial navigation tools — and in the lab — deploying nets to catch marine plants and animals, sending sensing equipment hundreds of meters below the surface, listening to the underwater soundscape to observe dolphin and whale behavior, and otherwise contributing to ongoing research projects focused on human impacts on marine ecosystems.
SEA Semester: SEA Summer Session carries 11 semester hour credits from Boston University for successful completion of the program.
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Learn the fundamentals of sailing ship operation, in preparation for direct application at sea. Navigation (piloting, celestial and electronic), weather, engineering systems, safety, and sail theory. Participate as an active member of the ship’s crew on an offshore voyage.
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.
Ocean ecosystem change in the anthropocene: warming, acidification, fisheries depletion, and pollution. Review principles of circulation, seawater chemistry, nutrient dynamics, and biological production to understand causes and consequences of change. Conduct field measurements for contribution to time-series datasets.
Directed Oceanographic Research (300-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester. Three lab science courses (one at the 300-level or higher) or consent of instructor.
Design and conduct original oceanographic research. Collect data and analyze samples. Compile results in peer-reviewed manuscript format and share during oral or poster presentation session. Emphasis on development of research skills and written/oral communication abilities.
-- OR --
Practical Oceanographic Research (200-level, 4 credits)
Prereq: Admission to SEA Semester.
Introduction to oceanographic research. Design a collaborative, hypothesis-driven project following the scientific process. Collect original data. Conduct analysis and interpretation, then prepare a written report and oral presentation.
Complete an application form
Apply online. (Note: the application fee is waived for students from affiliated institutions. Contact your Admissions Counselor for the code!)
Submit two writing samples (500-750 words each)
List your full name on each. Use either red button below to upload both your essay and your writing sample.
Two-part essay (500-750 words): Why have you chosen to apply to SEA Semester and what do you expect to gain from your experience? How will the SEA Semester program to which you're applying (The Global Ocean, Oceans & Climate, etc.) complement your education? Be sure to address both questions.
Academic writing sample of your own choosing (2-4 page excerpt if longer than 4 pages). This should be a reflection of your best written work from a recent course, and on a topic applicable to your SEA Semester program of interest (science, history, environmental studies, literature, etc.). Please include your name and the context of the sample (course title and brief description of the assignment). Poetry or college entrance essays may be submitted only as a secondary sample.
Request and submit transcripts
Official college transcripts are required for all applicants. E-transcripts must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hard copies must remain sealed and be sent directly from your institution to:
SEA Office of AdmissionsHigh school transcripts are required for students who have not yet completed two years of college. They may be unofficial and should be uploaded using the link below.
P.O. Box 6
Woods Hole, MA 02543
Submit two (2) undergraduate academic references
The online application will provide a link to email the reference form to your professors directly. If you require a PDF version, please click here.
Both should be from undergraduate level instructors; at least one should be from an instructor (i.e. professor, academic advisor) who has taught you within the past year. We also welcome additional references (i.e. coach, academic, personal, etc.). Letters of reference will only be accepted as supplemental to the online form.
Schedule an interview with your Admissions Counselor
Interviews may be conducted over the phone or in person, depending on the Counselor’s schedule. Topics of conversation may include life at your college/university, academic and extracurricular interests, transition from high school to college, your expectations for life at SEA, and how you learned about our program. The interview is also a great opportunity for you to ask questions about SEA.
Submit the Student Participation Approval Form to the appropriate authority (study abroad office or academic advisor) on your campus
This form is accessible through our online system and ensures that you go through the appropriate channels at your school for off-campus study approval (if applicable) and credit transfer. If you're not sure who to contact on your campus, ask your SEA Admissions Counselor.
Apply for a Passport: Please note that all SEA Semester students must have a valid passport - NOT a Passport Card - before joining the program.
Apply for Financial Aid: If you plan to apply for need-based financial aid, download a financial aid application (pdf) and submit it with your application for admission.