Cole Timothy Lewis - 2015 Program Participant
Diving the sculpture garden in Grenada
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I applied for an international program because of my love for adventure. My family and I have always loved traveling and finding new places. I love being immersed in different cultures and trying to learn local languages and customs. I feel like experiencing and exploring different cultures plays a crucial role in how you view society and the world.
Why did you choose Sea|mester?
I chose Sea|mester for many different reasons. After applying to a bunch of colleges when I graduated high school, I was accepted to my school of choice for the spring semester. This left me with a fall semester where I had nothing to do. After some research online, I had discovered lots of programs that would allow me to take classes during the fall.
I decided to apply for Sea|mester because it sounded like the best option for me. It offered four college classes with transferable credits, scuba diving certifications (I obtained my Divemaster on my trip), and sailing certifications. All of this while sailing throughout the Caribbean for 80 days sounded pretty awesome to me. I was overjoyed when I was accepted, but I had no idea how amazing it would actually be.
What was your favorite part about the Caribbean?
I loved everything about the Caribbean. The warm sunny days, cool breezy nights, unbelievable stars, it was all fantastic. One of the best parts of this program is all the different locations we visited. We traveled 1,235 nautical miles and got to visit 12 different countries, mostly in the Eastern Caribbean. My favorite countries were Saba, Bequia, and the British Virgin Islands, but I fell in love with almost all the islands we experienced. Everyone was always so friendly, the views were incredible, and the weather was beautiful.
Ocean Star in all her glory
What makes Sea|mester voyages unique learning experiences?
I think the most unique part of Sea|mester is the "learning by doing" aspect and the high level of student involvement. The goal of the trip was to get the students to become completely self sufficient and be able to sail Ocean Star (our vessel) by ourselves. Whenever they could, the staff would step back and let us solve problems among ourselves. Halfway through the trip, we were doing completely student-led passages and sailing Ocean Star country to country with little to no staff help. Of course, they were always there when we really needed help, but for the most part they would let us learn by doing it ourselves; this method of teaching was extremely effective. I have never learned so much, so quickly. Everyone worked together so well and it felt like we were more of a family than a crew.
I would say the whole program is the definition of unique. I mean, how often do you see 16 young adults sailing an 88 foot classically rigged schooner across the Caribbean for 80 days? Not often.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
I couldn't imagine a better staff than we had on our trip. They were so awesome and so helpful. I can't even imagine how many questions we asked them and how happily they answered. They were so helpful and involved with any issues we had. They kept us safe and made sure everything was running smoothly every day. They were all natural born leaders and I felt so safe and comfortable in their hands.
The best part about them is that they weren't just our leaders and teachers, they were our friends. They were part of our big family we had aboard and everyone absolutely loved them.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
If there was a way to make the program longer, I would have done that.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
Every day, wake ups were at 7 a.m. We would have breakfast at 7:30 a.m., and during breakfast we would be briefed on what we were doing that day. We had a "job wheel" which determined what job you were assigned that day, such as chefs, dish cleaning team (dishies), deck cleaning team (deckies), skipper of the day, etc. Each day you were assigned a different job and you would complete your tasks throughout the day.
Our days consisted of a new adventure almost every day. We would have a class every morning after breakfast and every night after dinner, but during the day we would do some sort of activity. Most of our activities related to our classes in some way. We would explore the islands, hike mountains, scuba dive, sail, and many more things. We were always accompanied by one or two staff members while doing an activity like hiking or diving.
We also spent a good bit of our time studying. Our classes were serious and took priority in most cases. At almost every island we would be given a few hours of free time to explore all the different countries on our own. If you hadn't completed an assignment, you would not be allowed to go to shore until you turned it in.
Dinner was at 6 p.m. every night, and it was a special part of our program. We would set up a long dinner table each night on deck and eat dinner like the big family we were. At the end of each dinner, we would do something called "the squeeze." This is where we would share our favorite part of that day and then the skipper of the day would come up with a question to ask the whole crew. This was another unique part of the program and something that everyone looked forward to each day. Our days would wind down at about 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., and we would either study, talk among the crew, or sleep. We would do so much in a day that you would fall asleep as soon as your head hit the pillow. At the end of each day, you would feel so happy and satisfied at all you had accomplished that day.
What was your favorite activity during your program?
My all time favorite thing we did was night passages. Sailing during the night and using the stars to navigate is one of the coolest things I've experienced in my life. There is no better feeling than turning off our engine and only hearing the waves and the wind carrying us to our destination. I think my favorite memory on the trip was at 3 a.m. on our passage to St. Barth's, when I stayed on the helm for almost two hours. The stars were out like I had never seen before, the wind was strong, and it was just amazing. No words can describe that feeling.
What was your accommodation like?
I was quite comfortable in my bunk, considering I am a 6'4" 195lb guy. I lived in the fo'c'sle of Ocean Star with three other shipmates. I never had a bad night of sleep. It was usually pretty cool down there; the ventilation was good. When there were strong winds, it almost got chilly down there. Each bunk was equipped with a personal reading light and a surprisingly strong fan. Most of the students lived in the saloon, which was the boat's common area, so the best part about where I lived is that it was always quiet. Overall, I was very happy with my accommodations.
Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?
Sea|mester has truly impacted my life in a way that nothing else has before. I discovered my true passion for adventure and sailing. I thrived during this program and developed excellent leadership qualities and a lot of confidence. I made 19 life-long friends that I will never forget. They say that the true impact of this trip won't fully affect you for a while, but I can already tell that it changed me as a person. You can bet that I'll be sailing for the rest of my life and who knows, maybe you'll see me as the captain of Ocean Star.