Semester at Sea: Zoe’s Story

Semester at Sea: Zoe’s Story

The National Society of Collegiate Scholars offers its members over a million dollars in scholarships each year. In our continued support, we partnered with Semester at Sea to provide more opportunities for our members. Semester at Sea provides an experience for students to study abroad in numerous countries aboard a ship, including Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Costa Rica, Spain, and many more. In partnership with Semester at Sea, NSCS awards $60,000 in scholarships for members to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Scholarships are available to members for both the Fall Voyage and the Spring Voyage.

Zoe Tauxe from Colorado State University is currently experiencing the exciting life of Semester at Sea. Zoe is a psychology major with a concentration in Mind, Brain, and Behavior. She won a $5,000 Semester at Sea Fall Scholarship from NSCS. We interviewed her about her experiences thus far and why she decided to go on the voyage this semester.

How did you hear about Semester at Sea?

I’ve known for many years that there was a program called “Semester at Sea,” but I had never looked into it. Last summer, my university (CSU) shared that they were becoming a new academic partner for Semester at Sea. I thought that was very cool, but I had still never pictured myself doing it – I had never even considered studying abroad. It wasn’t until I ended up doing undergraduate research my first semester of my freshman year for Toni Zimmerman, the Academic Dean of our voyage, when I finally looked into the program. Once I saw that I could travel the world and take college classes on a cruise ship, I was immediately hooked. If I remember correctly, I applied in late October or early November of last year, so I had almost a year to look forward to and plan this experience.

Have you traveled extensively before?

Not extensively, but still probably more than most people my age. I had been to a few Caribbean Islands, Canada, England, Wales, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic before my voyage. My family has always valued travel and the incredible experiences you gain from it.

What has your experience been like the first few weeks of the voyage?

My experience has been amazing. The first leg of the trip was 9 days at sea from Germany to Greece, which involved a lot of getting used to ship life. Lots of people got seasick, but I somehow managed to escape that. The next month after that was spent with Monday-Friday in port (Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco), so we only had classes for two days (Saturday and Sunday) every week. Overall, though, I realized very soon into the voyage that this was perhaps the best decision that I had ever made in my life. This is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What are you looking forward to the most?

One of the things I love the most is waking up in a new country every week and then just heading out for the next few days to learn and take in as much of the culture as I can. On this voyage, we get to experience such different cultures and traditions. We started off in Europe, then headed to Africa, and now we are on our way to Latin America. We get to see so much of the world in just one semester!

What makes the Semester at Sea experience so unique?

Every aspect of Semester at Sea makes it unique. Life on a ship is very different from life on land, you visit at least 12 countries throughout the semester, class material is always connected to the ports, days of the week mean nothing, and you spend over 100 days with the same 600 people creating a close community. Something else that is also very unique about Semester at Sea is the diversity of the people involved. Most of the students and faculty reside in the United States, but there is still a huge number from countries all over the world, so we get to learn about many different perspectives. I have talked to students from Brazil, Spain, India, China, Bolivia, Singapore, Iceland, and more. Two of my teachers are from Costa Rica and Ecuador, and 80% of the crew members are from the Philippines. Overall, it is so unique to have people from so many different backgrounds all in one place eager to learn about everyone else’s cultures and perspectives.

How do you think this experience will enhance how you see your major?

I want to do research on the brain and how it connects with people’s behavior. I would especially like to do this with children as they go through developmental stages. On the ship, I am taking two courses that are very relevant to this: Adolescent Psychology and Children/Youth in Global Context. Studying and being exposed to people in different cultures is extremely important when you want to study people and their behavior because culture plays such a large role in this. Therefore, I think this experience will help me so much to better understand the psychology of people.

There is now an NSCS chapter on board; tell us how that works on a ship.

There are about 70 NSCS members on this voyage. Having so many members on the ship is fun because we get to meet other NSCS members from all around the nation and branch out from our home campus chapters. We meet after every port, mainly to reflect on our experiences.

If you got the opportunity to do one thing while on your voyage, what would it be?

One unique opportunity that I get a lot on Semester at Sea is to take part in what we call IMPACT programs. These are programs that you can sign up for to go do something positive for the community you are visiting. I personally signed up for all of the programs that visit local schools. So far, I have spent a day with high school students in Italy, spent an afternoon playing with kids at an after-school program built in the slums of Casablanca, and had dinner with local university students in Dakar. I will be participating in many more programs like this in our upcoming ports. The connections I’ve made and experiences I’ve had through these unique opportunities have been some of the best and most rewarding memories on my voyage so far.

What would you tell an NSCS member who is deciding whether to apply for Semester at Sea?

Stop thinking about it and apply. If the price tag seems scary, don’t worry about it. There are tons of ways to get the price down. Semester and Sea and NSCS both offer great scholarships! Semester at Sea will also work with you and your specific situation to find a way to help you go, financially and academically. Thanks to scholarships, it is actually cheaper for me to participate in Semester at Sea than if I were to stay at my home institution for a semester. So, go ahead and apply and see what happens – it can’t hurt!

What advice would you give an NSCS member for their scholarship application?

Just talk about what you are passionate about and why you want to participate in the program. Remember all the ways that this experience will create an impact on your life: academically, socially, physically, mentally… you will be a different person by the end of it! Think about your own experiences and how participation in Semester at Sea will shape your future goals.

Interested in learning more about Semester at Sea? Check out www.semesteratsea.org. The 2017 Semester at Sea Fall Scholarship is now open! Apply by April 20, 2017, on the portal!


wardSteven Ward is a Film Major and Playwriting Minor from Rancho Cucamonga, California. He currently attends Howard University in Washington, D.C.

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