The notion of living on a boat and studying abroad with many of one’s friends has been fodder for several popular television shows like 2008’s “The Suite Life on Deck,” a spinoff series of the Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” with Dylan and Cole Sprouse. To their surprise, however, studying at sea is a real thing — and Gen Z-ers are documenting their travels on TikTok.
Founded in 1963, Semester at Sea is “a multi-country study abroad program on a ship.” With an emphasis on “global comparative study,” the voyage is open to college students of all majors. More than 73,000 students from 1,700 institutions have traveled to more than 60 countries through the program.
Given that the school year has recently kicked off, several Gen Z-ers who are partaking in the fall Semester at Sea program have taken to TikTok to give tours of what their new temporary homes.
Taylor Polcyn (@taylorpolcyn2) of San Diego revealed the interior of her double cabin.
“Oh my god, I’m freaking out,” she said on Sept. 17. “They’re actually so spacious…Mother of Pearl. It’s so big…I don’t know what bed to pick.”
Following the completion of their semester abroad, students will earn 12-15 college credits from Colorado State University that can be transferred to their home institution.
Fellow TikTok users have taken to Polcyn’s comment section to share their excitement over her study abroad experience. Others have made reference to “The Suite Life on Deck.”
“My grandmother did semester at sea in the 70s and it makes me so happy it’s still a thing,” @crocutacrocuta wrote in response to Polcyn’s video.
Some users, however, have taken a more critical stance to Polcyn’s study abroad experience.
How much does it cost?
According to the Semester at Sea website, the fall ’23 semester voyage that Polcyn is on costs $31,650 for a standard cabin and $34,650 for a premium cabin. The program alleges that 60% of its students have received some type of financial aid. Included in the $30,000 price point are the additional amenities students will need for the duration of the semester, including tuition and travel fees, meals and amenities, comprehensive travel health insurance and an email account.
“A study abroad experience is a significant investment — but one of the best investments for a student’s future,” its website declares.
On Sept. 12, Arisa Hall (@arisahall) documented a day in her life as a Semester at Sea student. Waking up to watch the sunrise, grabbing breakfast with friends, going to class and then grabbing dinner, were among her activities.
Olivia (@olivia_l147), a University of Georgia student, also shared her room tour on sea on Sept. 16.
On Sept. 24, Caroline Manning (@carolinemanning) gave TikTok users a look into everything she eats in a day while on Semester at Sea.
While Semester at Sea, to some, may seem like an experience primarily afforded to folks who have more disposable income, the program’s mission seems to align with this generation’s attitude toward learning and the acquisition of global knowledge.
Roberta Katz, a senior research scholar at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Gen Zers are more self-reliant and inclined to immerse themselves in diverse cultures than other generations.
“For Gen Zers living in the United States and Britain (the two places we studied), the “norm” they experienced as children was a world that operated at speed, scale and scope. They developed an early facility with powerful digital tools that allowed them to be self-reliant as well as collaborative,” Katz told Stanford News. “Similarly, because they could learn about people and cultures around the globe from an early age, they developed a greater appreciation for diversity and the importance of finding their own unique identities.”
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