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  • Locations: At Sea, Multi-Destination; Woods Hole, MA, United States;
  • Program Terms: Spring
  • Homepage: Click to visit
  • Restrictions: AU applicants only
  • Budget Sheets: Spring
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Advisor: Christina Pondell Advising Required: Yes
Language Pre-requisite: None Minimum GPA: 2.75
Class Level Required for Admission: Sophomore standing Non-AU Students Accepted by AU: No
Language of Instruction: English Language Courses Offered: No
Housing: Shared House, Ship Internship: No
Program Type: Not Direct Enrollment
Program Description:


SEA semester

The global ocean covers nearly three-quarters of Earth, yet 90% is largely unexplored. It provides half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, regulates the planet’s climate, and delivers food security for the world’s population. However, threats such as climate change, marine pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing jeopardize its health and sustainability.

Since 1971,we have taken nearly 8,000 students safely to sea and home again while providing an experiential opportunity to gather firsthand knowledge that will influence students’ lifelong relationships with the ocean. As our society becomes more aware of how integral the oceans are to the planet, from climate patterns to energy production to the origins of life itself, we must also understand how to conserve these important resources. Moving beyond the textbook toward practical application, hands-on research, and personal experience, SEA Semester prepares students to take a more active role in solving today’s environmental problems.


Academic Excellence

SEA Semester offers the sailing adventure of a lifetime grounded in academic coursework for transferable credit. All 12-week SEA Semester programs carry 17-18 credits; the Summer Sessions offer 3-11 depending on the program. Credits are issued through Boston University and will appear on your AU transcript as in-residence credit. 

In the classroom, SEA Semester has a maximum student-teacher ratio of 8:1 and 3:1 while at sea. All program faculty have the highest professional degrees in their fields, and many are alumni of the program.

SEA has received funding for our shipboard labs through the NSF, NOAA, and NASA as a result of the long history of success of SEA in ocean research and education.  119 of our alumni are faculty members who teach in environmental disciplines at 112 colleges/universities including Stanford University, Colby College, Smith College, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, and Columbia University.

We foster learning communities that allow students to work together to tackle large scale global issues from multidisciplinary perspectives. Students develop teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving skills in a real world environment while assuming increasing levels of responsibility at sea. Practical skills gained include critical thinking, written and oral communication, inquiry and analysis, and information literacy. About 75% of SEA alumni reported improved self-confidence and self-reliance as a result of SEA Semester The Woods Hole Community, a village in the Town of Falmouth on the southwestern corner of Cape Cod, is a world center for marine, biomedical, and environmental science. SEA is located in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a globally recognized center for ocean and scientific exploration. Students have access to collaborations with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Marine Biological Lab (MBL), United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Woods Hole Research Center. Our students visit the facilities of our well-renowned neighbors, and attend presentations by local and visiting researchers. All students have full access to the MBL/WHOI library, the finest oceanographic research library in the world.

Life on Shore Ariel of Woods Hole

Under supervision from an on-site Head Resident, students live in one of our fully furnished coed cottages in either a double or triple single-sex room. With their classmates, they share the responsibilities of communal living including food shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Each week, all houses receive a prepaid grocery card (included in the program cost). Students are responsible for budgeting appropriately, satisfying everyone’s dietary needs and requirements, and preparing all meals. We consider the shore component to be a sort of extended pre-departure orientation. Coursework in Woods Hole prepares students academically to go to sea as mariners, scientists, and global citizens; campus life prepares students for the demands of living and working together on the ship.

Life at Sea  SEA on deck

Boarding one of SEA’s ships is like visiting a foreign country. At sea, students will join a culture steeped with strong customs, speak a traditional maritime language, and encounter a part of the world few people have the opportunity to experience. Life is busy as students process oceanographic samples, participate in classes, stand watch in shifts during the around-the-clock schedule, and delve into navigation, science, engineering, cooking, and cleaning. Teamwork takes precedence as they share responsibility for the ship and the well-being of their shipmates. Relying on each other is essential for the creation of a tight-knit community, where privacy is limited. Learning to balance their time on watch with sleeping, eating, and relaxing is part of adapting to shipboard life.

Learn more about the ships or take a virtual tour.

To apply, please email Professor Christie Pondell at for an appointment.

Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean  
January 2 – March 23, 2018   (Jan 2 – Feb 9: On shore at Woods Hole, Feb 13 – Mar 23: At sea)               Open to all majors.               17 credit hours
This program will introduce students to the Caribbean region through first-hand accounts of island life followed by their own field-based observations at sea. Students will examine the legacies of colonization alongside ongoing modern issues of environmental change and sustainability while visiting multiple ports of call.  This change and adaptation-focused semester is appropriate for students in any major who wish to understand the legacies of colonization alongside the modern issues of climate change and sustainability in small nations and territories.


Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring 2018 11/01/2017
01/02/2018 01/02/2018 03/23/2018
NOTE: Rolling admission. Students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible after meeting with Professor Christie Pondell. She can be reached at

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This program is currently not accepting applications.