Sammy Angel Lam - 2014 Program Participant

What inspired you to travel and partake in a study abroad program?

I had just lost my mother before entering college and I was constantly seeking to find something, I didn't know what it was particularly, but maybe a feeling that what I was doing was right and something my mother would be proud of. I felt that studying abroad would be something she would really support me doing especially since she never had the chance to, and I wanted to take the idea of being a first generation college student further. In the midst of it all, I also sought to study abroad to hopefully find a passion and direction to where it was I wished to be once I graduated. I felt the exposure and experiences abroad would aid me in my search for myself. But psychologically, I feel maybe I was trying to escape reality and begin a new one, at least temporarily.

Semester at Sea is a unique program - why did you chose them above more conventional study abroad programs?

I researched a lot of programs before I chose Semester at Sea, but all the other programs would just place me in one location, and I wanted the world. Semester at Sea was offering the chance to sail around the world, exploring new countries and new subjects I had never even heard of. The program would allow me to visit eight countries in the summer and about 12 in the fall, and at that time my school's financial aid package was willing and able to support me in my endeavors. I wanted to see the world, but at the same time be secluded of it, and by that I meant getting away from technology and from our modern day lives, to a more surreal atmosphere that you only dream of. Semester at Sea promised this and so much more, and as I began my semesters abroad with Semester at Sea, I got hooked and ended up doing six of their voyages. On a side note, my mother also loved cruise ships, so I felt she would have approved.

What was your favorite part about the location of your program?

Well, with Semester at Sea there is no particular location, as the floating campus is always in route to somewhere and its itineraries constantly change due to semesters, fuel economy, country restrictions, political issues, enrollment, popularity, and other influential factors. This is why I enjoyed the program so much, since you are never stationed anywhere for more than a week, making you constantly want to squeeze the most out of your time in port without wasting anytime. You visit a list of countries during the semester, and are always looking forward to your next adventure. Best part is that you live on a ship so you never have to worry about getting a hotel, hostel, or place to stay, since you are always covered by the ship. Most ports are located in the downtown areas of the port cities, and the ones that are not provide transportation to the downtown areas, allowing for students, staff, and faculty, to have accessibility to the touristic destinations.

The program also provides an array of tours allowing for participants to enjoy the most out of their time in port, with unique programs only designed for Semester at Sea. When at sea, you are living in the ship sailing across a beautiful ocean with a view that is so amazing it always takes your breath away. The ship hosts a very warm and outgoing community that encourages educational and personal success, and allows for students to share port ideas and travel plans and formulate groups based on similar interests and goals in port. There is never a dull moment in the ocean or in a new and intriguing country, and you truly wish it never ends.

What makes Semester at Sea such a unique program?

The definition of studying abroad and the promotion of global citizens can only be expressed through the program Semester at Sea due to its unique nature and program offerings. Living in a cruise ship with other students, staff and faculty, enables for strong bonds to form throughout the voyage due to the proximity everyone has to each other. This allows for a tight community to build, and no matter what country you’re in, you are bound to stumble upon one of the other 600 to 800 participants of the program with whom you can tag along sharing port ideas and excursions, plans, or experiences. You get the most out of the country and never feel like you’re traveling alone.

You travel to so many countries in one semester and your global perspective becomes enriched more and more throughout your travels. The lecturers and faculty on the ship are incredible and are all inspirational individuals that are easy to talk to and are glad to listen and help you in whatever you may need. Ultimately the program promotes great academics, student life, safety, entertainment, fun, health, personal enrichment, and activities that come together to create the best semester a student can ever have!

What is the staff support like during Semester at Sea?

Ever since I was just learning about the program, all the way to after the voyages were over, the Semester at Sea staff continually made an effort to keep in touch and learn more about my current status as a student, aid me in any financial aid issues I was facing, prepare me for the upcoming months traveling the world, help me find ways to be active with the program, and assist me in having the best semester of my life.

Looking back on your voyages with Semester at Sea, is there anything you would have done differently?

If I could do something different it would be to have done more voyages with Semester at Sea, no matter what kind they were, and to be awake for every second of the voyage because it went by so fast!

What is a typical day like as a Semester at Sea voyager?

Imagine this: Sitting on the aft of the MV Explorer at the back of the ship at sunset while reading up on your class's reading assignment relating to the next port being Cape Town, South Africa, which is the following day's destination for Semester at Sea, while you snuggle up in your Semester at Sea sweater and blanket. You suddenly sip on your hot tea which makes you pause to admire the aesthetic of the view around you and you see dolphins from afar chasing the ship as the sun is devoured by the endless ocean and in minutes the starry sky and a full moon appear to cover the infinite space above you.

You look back down to finish the page you were on, take the last sip of your tea, and head down to the auditorium to hear the pre-port presentation about Cape Town, and you learn about all the do's and don’ts, some local language phrases, safety concerns, and best touristic destinations to visit while in port. You leave the auditorium and get ready for bed, but right before prepare your backpack with your essentials of traveling and set your alarm for 6 a.m. to catch the sun rising from the water as it guides your ship into port. Before you know it, you hear a familiar voice over the speaker announcing the time has come for disembarkation into your week of non-stop adventure and exploration!

What was your favorite activity outside the normal agenda of your program? 

There is always something new to do or learn about when onboard the ship and even more when off the ship. Throughout my travels however, I loved working on a video of mine that depicted me as I traveled around the world dancing. It really took forever to edit and create, but is what I always look back to when remembering my experiences.

What was living on a ship like?

The housing on the ship can vary a bit depending on the category you apply for or are placed in. You can range from having a room all to yourself to a suite that has four roommates. The rooms hold enough space for the designated amount of people in them, although throughout your voyage you tend to increase the amount of souvenirs and things you acquire, and that space slowly becomes smaller and smaller. Nonetheless you don't need a lot of room, since you are mostly around the ship engaging in other activities, and come back at night to sleep or watch a movie. The meals on the ship were always good for me - pasta, potatoes, salad, fish, a type of meat, soup, dessert, fruit, and of course certain meals catered to those with meal restrictions. However they can be repetitive at times, but that's where your culinary creativity comes in and you find ways of making the best meals! You could also have fancy dining if you wished for an extra cost.

You live on a ship so your views are always amazing and breathtaking, and everything is rather close from each other, so make sure to use the stairs and not the elevator to squeeze in some extra exercise in your daily routine! Since you’re restricted to three meals a day, and can't leave the ship for food, make sure to bring back snacks to the ship from your time in port, or hit up the ship's snack bar to load up on snacks. You have a well equipped ship with two snack bars, a spa, a gym, a health center, a computer lab, a library, an auditorium, a sports deck, a pool, plenty of lounging chairs, and two dining options. You will never be bored on board the ship and quiet hours are normally after 11 p.m., but there are places on the ship to continue your socializing or study groups. The best part was having a window and constantly seeing a new view outside, and witnessing the sunsets in the middle of the ocean are a very romantic and peaceful sight to see.

How have your voyages with Semester at Sea impacted your life?

I am constantly looking for ways to be involved with this program and getting back on that ship I used to call home. After six voyages I still have not had enough, and feel jealous of those going on the present voyages. However, I get really excited and feel happy as I help others travel with Semester at Sea since they are to experience the best semester of their life and I get to travel vicariously through them. This program helped me find what it was I was looking for when I went into college, which is a passion, and I am now seeking to build a career out of this passion Semester at Sea bestowed on me. Some of the best friendships I have ever had came from Semester at Sea, and I met the most beautiful girl on my last voyage, and for her I am forever thankful to Semester at Sea. There are so many ways that Semester at Sea has positively impacted me, and it has truly allowed for me to mature and become more confident of who I am and where I want to be!