Elliot Evins - 2011 Program Participant

Boys doing backflips off a boat in the Caribbean

Backflips in the BVI

What attracted you to the idea of studying abroad?

Before graduating high school, I applied for every scholarship I could find. When it came time to study I had a surplus at the end of each semester and figured I could use those funds to study abroad. I enjoyed college but I always seek new experiences and getting out of the library seemed like a valuable endeavor at the time. I could have done some kind of exchange or studied music at a different school, but I don’t believe that’s really the point of studying abroad.

If you want to go somewhere and study, then choose somewhere unique. Choose a place that can teach you things you won’t learn anywhere else.

Why did you choose Sea|mester?

I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with Sea|mester through their high school community service programs and knew that it was the type of organization worth risking a semester abroad to study beyond the scope of my major. Living onboard a 112’ schooner for three months studying marine science and conducting oceanographic research doesn’t have much to do with music composition, so while it was a stretch getting the credits to count towards anything, I knew this experience offered something you could never get at a traditional university. 

Students studying navigation aboard a boat

Ben studies for his Navigation Master at the helm of Argo

What makes a voyage with Sea|mester unique?

The people you meet from all over the world, the most unique environment on the planet, and the skills you pick up along the way without even realizing it. The program offers such an amazing variety of traditional academics, practical training (from making cookies to dropping anchor), and fun, that in retrospect I couldn’t imagine choosing any other program. I almost got tired of describing it to people before I left because it just sounds like the coolest experience a person can have and everybody wants to know more. 

What is one thing future participants need to know about Sea|mester programs? 

This program challenges you; it makes you grow as a person in ways you can’t even imagine. You get to be whoever you want to be onboard. You step on the program without a reputation and you have the choice to kick bad habits and strengthen the facets of your personality that are irrationally discouraged.

You face triumph as well as failure, but no matter what the boat keeps moving forward. You create a little microcosm with the other people onboard. It’s a certain type of person that seeks out an opportunity like this and because of that you make friends that stay with you while also learning to navigate conflict. You’ll have ups and downs but that’s what makes this program so worthwhile. You really do come back having changed for the better and memories of experiences you’ll have to share for the rest of your life.

What did you like most about the program? 

There’s nothing more empowering than approaching a place you’ve never been on a sailboat. You know that you and the people onboard just moved it there using only what you have with you. The feeling of stepping off into a completely different place from the last time you stood on solid ground. Late nights and early mornings getting to know your crewmates better than you’ve ever known anyone before. Learning about the way the world works by getting out in it and seeing it for yourself. It doesn’t stop being inspiring. 

Scuba diving in the British Virgin Islands

Shipmates dive the Rhone in the BVI

What's one thing you would have done differently?

Stayed onboard. Kept a journal. Taken more pictures. Worked harder. Played harder. In retrospect, I would never say that I didn’t properly appreciate the experience, but every moment, interaction, and experience seems precious. I suppose I could have reflected on that more at the time. 

What was a typical day like as a Sea|mester shipmate? 

There is no such thing as a typical day on a boat that circumnavigates the world. You can expect to be challenged, you can expect to laugh, you can expect something new, and you can expect at least one moment that makes you step back and compare your current surroundings with how you would live back home. 

Did you experience culture shock? How did you overcome it? 

Of course, that’s the point isn’t it? That’s the greatest thing about Sea|mester, it’s a situation very few people find themselves in and by stretching your comfort zone you find that it grows. The program is set up in a way that’s meant to show you how capable you are with minimal risk.

Sunset view in the Caribbean

Another beautiful Sea|mester sunset in the Caribbean

Now that you're home, how do you think studying abroad has impacted your life?

It’s something that you don’t really notice while it’s happening. You come back home and the place you left behind has stayed the same. Life went on while you were gone, but you were having experiences every day that changed who you are. 

I weigh options better and make decisions quicker. I feel more confident in my ability to lead and I’m not as afraid of misfortune, conflict, or failure. I can safely say I’m a better person than I thought I could be because of my time onboard with Sea|mester.