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Semester at Sea Now Offered via Study Abroad

August 24, 2011


MACOMB, IL – "Semester at Sea is a journey that will take you to new places," according to its latest brochure. And while the 48-year old program's destinations range from the Amazon Basin to Vietnam and many places in between, students who enroll in Semester at Sea get more than just 12-15 credits and a semester-long journey to exotic locales across the globe. Some of the "new places" that Semester at Sea can take students to include new areas they find within themselves.

"It helped me realize that the point of traveling isn't necessarily to see all of the places, or go everywhere, but the connections I made weren't necessarily at the tourist destinations. … I really connected with these average people [who] were just sitting on the train, and we just happened to be stuck together for a while," said Eleanor Goodrich, a Semester at Sea student who appeared in a video on the Semester at Sea YouTube channel (see youtu.be/Zn9wz5-HC4I).

Western Illinois University's Office of Study Abroad is now offering this unique experiential learning program as part of its many study abroad opportunities, which students can learn more about during the annual Study Abroad Fair next week. This year's Study Abroad Fair is slated for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31 on the University Union Plaza. (In case of rain, the Study Abroad Fair will be held in the University Union Lincoln Room; Semester at Sea will have a representative on hand to answers questions for interested students.)

"Sea"ling the Deal

According to Emily Gorlewski, study abroad assistant director in Western's Center for International Studies, the Semester at Sea offering at WIU came about as a result of student interest. She noted that while, in previous years, students could take advantage of Semester at Sea, as of this academic year Western has established an agreement with the program to provide WIU students with the ability to utilize their financial aid, as well as to directly incorporate the courses they take while enrolled at Semester at Sea into their individual academic programs.

"We would consistently get questions at orientation or Discover Western events about Semester at Sea, and a couple of our students had actually attended Semester at Sea and then transferred the credit back in," Gorlewski explained. "Because of the interest, we decided to formalize Western's participation through an official agreement, so now our students can enroll in Semester at Sea through our study abroad office and get WIU credit. Although they are taking their Semester at Sea courses under the auspices of the University of Virginia (the institution through which the courses are offered), WIU's new agreement with the program enables students to apply the credit they earn while at Semester at Sea automatically toward their individual WIU degree programs. In addition, if they are enrolled at Western when they go into the program, they are eligible for financial aid. Previously, if a WIU student enrolled in Semester at Sea, he or she would have to pay for it on his or her own. The student could apply for aid through Semester at Sea itself, but he or she couldn't get his or her federal financial aid or state aid to help pay for it. Now, with our agreement, students are able to apply their financial aid toward the costs of their Semester at Sea programs."

In the program's brochure, according to Institute for Shipboard Education/Semester at Sea President Les McCabe, Semester at Sea "is driven by the intention to educate individuals with the global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world." For students who enroll, he noted, "You will reach new depths in your knowledge of how the world works, an understanding of how the global economy operates and you will discover your connection to people of different cultures, faiths, political beliefs and backgrounds."

Gorlewski explained that McCabe's statements are more than merely selling points to recruit students for the Semester at Sea program. She said that research has shown that enrolling in Semester at Sea benefits intercultural learning, and it is a program that helps create globally engaged students.

"On the Semester at Sea website, there is information about three independent research initiatives that have measured or are measuring the value and learning outcomes associated with the Semester at Sea global comparative program," Gorlewski said. "According to data gathered in just one of the research initiatives, those students who participated in Semester at Sea reported an increased understanding and awareness of various cultures, as well as their impact on global society. Participants also reported an increased proficiency in language; an increase in viewing themselves as global citizens; and even an increase in overall well being," she explained.

As Gorlewski noted, in addition to now being able to apply their WIU financial aid funds, interested Western students can also apply for financial assistance through the Semester at Sea program itself. According to the Semester at Sea website, the Institute for Shipboard Education makes $4 million available in the form of need-based grants, merit and endowed scholarship funds, as well as work-study opportunities.

Semester at Sea offers courses in many disciplines, including biology, communication and journalism, cultural studies, economics, English, geography, music, linguistics, psychology, sociology and more. Gorlewski said, through the program, undergraduate students can enroll in required general education courses, as well as take courses that will apply to their individual major areas of study.

"I think it would work well for every academic level of student, freshmen through seniors. There are also graduate programs available, which are geared toward students studying education," she explained. "It's very well supervised, and Semester at Sea has the level of student services on the ship that you find here at WIU. For example, they have medical services, counselors, judicial officers and other student affairs personnel working on each ship."

Gorlewski said that interested students can check out the Semester at Sea website (semesteratsea.org/) and social media networks (including Facebook at facebook.com/SemesteratSea and YouTube at youtube.com/SemesteratSeaChannel) to learn about the unique experiences students have gained through the program. She added that WIU students are eligible to enroll in Semester at Sea as soon as Spring 2012.

For more information about WIU's Semester at Sea study abroad opportunity, contact Gorlewski at (309) 298-2504 or EJ-Gorlewski@wiu.edu. Learn more about WIU's study abroad programs in more than 50 different countries at www.wiu.edu/studyabroad.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606