GoAbroad Interview

Lindsey Romes - Associate Director of Student Affairs

Lindsey received bachelor’s degrees from Ohio University in business and journalism, and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia in Higher Education and Student Affairs. Prior to joining SAS, Lindsey served as Special Assistant to the Dean of Students at Regis University in Denver, CO, and worked at Ernst & Young focusing on communications for clients in North and South America. Lindsey joined the Institute for Shipboard Education in 2013 as Associate Director of Student Affairs after serving on the Summer 2013 voyage. In this role, she is responsible for on-ship operations related to student life and co-curricular programming.

Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Lindsey in the ruins of Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

How did you get involved in the organization? What does your role encompass?

After sailing as a staff member on the Summer 2013 voyage, I accepted a Student Affairs position with the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE), the organization that runs SAS. My job is to focus on the co-curricular piece of shipboard life, including programming, community building, reflection, health and wellness, service learning, intercultural competence, and leadership and involvement. Learning happens both in and out of the classroom, and my role here contributes to the components of holistic development of all participants.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of working for Semester at Sea?

Simple: seeing our students’ lives change! Here’s the thing about Semester at Sea -- it becomes part of who you are and how you define yourself by shaping your outlook on life and your concerns about the future of our global community. This life-changing program will fuel your passion for travel and encouraging others to consider the complexities and challenges facing our great world.

From start to finish, there is a noticeable growth in all participants with regard to their cultural competencies, comfort with international travel, and eagerness to get out and change the world. Students come back from their voyage with significantly stronger identities and ideas of how to use their strengths to affect small and large-scale change.

What is the most interesting thing about Semester at Sea’s programs?

The Semester at Sea experience is unique in that it takes place on a floating campus. Our ship is a true living-learning community bringing together students, faculty, staff, Lifelong Learners, and ship’s crew to create one shipboard community.  A living-learning community that sails around the world!

Other folks that make up that diverse community of learners and teachers include some pretty notable people: Archbishop and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu; former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro; Nelson Mandela; Mother Teresa, and the list goes on. Together, our community works to identify the challenges facing our world, and develop cutting-edge, sustainable solutions to solve them.

And we have a lot of fun doing it! What other study abroad programs host Sea Olympics, Neptune day when the ship crosses the equator, dance parties, trivia nights, and talent shows for both the shipboard community AND the crew?!

What is the most beneficial component of SAS programs?

The chance to (literally) see the world! The comparative nature of our program allows students to experience multiple countries and cultures over the course of a semester. Why pick just one country when you can visit ten?! Depending on the voyage itinerary, participants may visit Russia, Brazil, Cuba, and Portugal, or Vietnam, Burma, India, and Cape Town!

How many students attend Semester at Sea annually?

We have approximately 600 to 700 students per voyage and with two voyages each year (Fall and Spring) we have approximately 1200 to 1400 students each year. Nearly 30 countries and 250 universities are represented on each voyage. Combine that with the fact that the ship visits at least 10 to 15 countries per semester and participants are exposed to a wide range of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. 

How does the organization ensure that living quarters are safe and secure for all participants? 

The health and safety of our participants is our absolute number one concern. Our ship, the MV Explorer, is one of the fastest, safest, and most advanced ships on the water, featuring the latest technology related to safety, speed, and fuel efficiency. We have been ranked in the 99th percentile by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea – which means we are operating far ahead of standards. Furthermore, a surprise 2008 health inspection regarding food preparation and hygienic practices returned a 100 percent excellence score. 

SAS partners with V.Ships, the world’s largest and most reputable international fleet management company in the world. They monitor the technical and operational aspects of the MV Explorer. The ship’s bridge is staffed 24/7 with senior-level officers who continually monitor the seas for safe operation, and our almost 200 member crew is continually trained and tested on emergency procedures and lifeboat drills.

At the start of each voyage, and periodically throughout, all passengers on the ship will undergo lifeboat drills. Each cabin is equipped with the appropriate number of lifejackets, and participants will be asked to follow all instructions and report to their correct muster station, maintaining silence throughout the drill. These drills are taken very seriously and are overseen by the captain, staff captain, senior level officers, and all crew. 

For more information on health and safety with Semester at Sea (both on and office the ship), please click here.

How does SAS staff help participants adjust to life aboard a ship filled with diversity literally around every corner?

At Semester at Sea, we focus on the growth of participants by focusing our efforts on a three-pronged approach to holistic development: academics, co-curricular, and in-country. As the leader in global comparative education, we continually challenge students from country to country to examine their viewpoints and perspectives and view that country through the eyes of others. 

In addition to in-class discussions about upcoming countries, leading up to each port we have evening programming specific to the history, politics, economics, and cultures of the countries and regions we are visiting. We also have a “Cultural Preport” two nights before country arrival, and a “Logistical Preport” the night before arrival. The Cultural Preport educates students on what they might see when they arrive in country from a political, historical, and cultural perspective. The Logistical Preport provides the “must knows:” transportation, currency, crime, port location, etc. The combination of this programming helps prepares students for what they might experience in and how this country may push them outside of their comfort zone.

Following each port, there is a guided “Post Port Reflection.” This allows students to come together to share their experiences, good and bad, with each country. Post Port Reflection may occur in small or large group sessions, and brings the port stay full circle, providing participants a way to process and contextualize their experience.

What sneak peeks can you hint at that we can expect from SAS in the next year?

The next year will be a milestone year for the Institute for Shipboard Education and the Semester at Sea program. We will of course continue to shape student lives through our Spring 2015 and Fall 2015 voyages, but we also have some exciting major developments on the horizon. We are in the process of determining a new academic partner for the program. ISE senior management and representatives from the Board of Trustees have been meeting with prospective academic sponsors to select the Institute’s fifth academic home. ISE is pleased with the interest expressed by a number of exceptional colleges and universities and will decide on the program’s new academic sponsor by early 2015.