Museums, Programs, Historic Sites

Sea Education Association / SEA

Sea Semester - Sea Education Association

171 Woods Hole Rd
Falmouth, MA 02540


SSV ROBERT C. SEAMANS, Courtesy of Sea Education Association.

Sea Education Association (SEA) is an internationally recognized leader in undergraduate ocean education. For 45 years, and with more than one million nautical miles sailed, SEA has educated students about the world’s oceans through its Boston University accredited study abroad program, SEA Semester. SEA/SEA Semester is based on Cape Cod in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts and has two research vessels: the SSV Corwith Cramer, operating in the Atlantic Ocean, and the SSV Robert C. Seamans, operating in the Pacific. In 2016, SEA was honored with the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for its role in promoting the public understanding of science and engineering.

Program Description:

SEA Semester is the sailing adventure of a lifetime, grounded in academic coursework. SEA Semester programs welcome students of all majors to combine classroom learning on shore in Woods Hole with a transformative hands-on experience at sea.

At the beginning of every program, up to 25 undergraduates from all over the US come together on SEA’s residential campus on scenic Cape Cod. Students begin their academic studies in Woods Hole, a small seaside village that has become a world-renowned hub of oceanographic research and discovery. The coursework and time on shore vary by program, but the ultimate goal remains the same: to prepare students personally and intellectually for the second half of their experience at sea.

After building their living and learning community in Woods Hole, students join one of two tall ship oceanographic research vessels to put their classroom theory into real-world practice. Embarking on an academic research expedition in the Atlantic, Caribbean, or Pacific, some students sail thousands of miles across the open ocean for a truly blue-water experience. Others investigate a smaller area of the marine environment more closely, engaging with coastal communities through a variety of port stops. Regardless of the program, all students become integral members of the ship’s company at sea, fully participating in the scientific mission and sailing operations of the vessel.

No previous sailing experience is required. Guided by SEA faculty and professional crew, students are exposed to every aspect of shipboard life: from employing celestial navigation, to collecting and processing oceanographic samples, to helping prepare meals in the galley. During their time at sea, a phased leadership approach allows students to assume the majority of shipboard responsibilities under the watchful eye of the crew. Program topics include anthropology, biodiversity, climate change, environmental policy, marine science, maritime history, leadership, and humanities.

Sea Education Association also offers SEAScape, a summer camp program in Woods Hole for high school students.