When Linda Kang ’10 decided to travel her junior year with the Semester at Sea study abroad program, she was unprepared for the dramatic effect it would have on her life. She said seeing several cultures over four months gave her a “perspective of the world,” making it “the best experience” she’s ever had.
Now, other students hoping to study at sea no longer have that option.This spring, the University quietly removed Semester at Sea from the list of pre-approved programs for studying abroad after an International Education committee vote. Fall 2011 will be the last voyage for University students.Director of International Education Stephen Appiah-Padi said some departments did not approve of the program’s classes as substitutes for the University’s, and since the “primary goal of studying abroad is academic enrichment,” the issue was brought to the committee. The committee then voted to remove the program, he said.
Semester at Sea allows students to voyage to many different countries, spend time at various ports where professors assign field work and study in a traditional classroom setting on the ship. There are 20 disciplines of study with more than 75 course offerings in the fall and spring terms and over 30 in the summer term, according to the women’s and gender studies portion of the University’s website.
Professors are concerned students do not learn sufficient material, but students see the program as a chance to reevaluate themselves, their country and their world.
Appiah-Padi said because there were dozens of students going on these trips, the program’s approval was questioned. Although Appiah-Padi said it was not a factor for the committee, Semester at Sea is also more expensive than a semester at the University.
The itinerary for the program changes every year, but this semester includes ports of call in Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana and Brazil. The ship visits nine countries in 107 days.
The University’s website explaining “multiple country” abroad options shows the Semester at Sea program costing around $30,000.
Upperclassmen and alumni who have participated in Semester at Sea are upset about its removal. A Facebook group called “Don’t let Bucknell take away Semester at Sea” has 46 members and many comments that say future students should have the chance to participate. Members also claim it offers a completely different experience than any other abroad program. Some wrote that it helped them stand out in the job interview process.
Sara Baughn ’10 started the Facebook group and hopes to change the thoughts of the committee overseeing the International Education office. She said she’s disappointed program alumni were not notified of its removal, and that future students would not be given the chance to have “an experience unlike any of the other programs Bucknell offers.”
Baughn said she had hoped to sit in on a committee meeting and voice her opinion, but was told to contact the two student representatives instead.
“I learned so much inside, but especially outside of the classroom,” Baughn said.
Kang, a religion and psychology major, said she plans to write a book promoting the program and is disappointed the University has removed the option due to academics.
She said she found it an invaluable supplement to her degree. “Where else could I have possibly gotten to experience so many third-world cultures and world religions first-hand in one semester?” she said.