Two-Six-HEAVE! I knew the fall semester would be the sailor’s life for me. After seeing a poster advertising the program, and talking with Professor Bechtel from the Geology department, I knew that I would be spending my fall the best way possible, ABROAD. I was looking for a program that was unlike many others. I would be sailing across the South Pacific for six weeks after spending time in Woods Hole, Massachusetts—a wonderful place in its own right.
I showed up at SEA’s campus in Woods Hole for the six week “shore component” and I knew I was in for a rewarding semester. Along with 25 other students from all over the world, I studied the relationships between people and their islands, how climate change will affect those people and islands, as well as oceanography and my personal favorite, nautical science. All of this was in preparation for our time on the Robert C. Seamans, the 137 ft. brigantine vessel that would soon become our home, and the numerous port stops we would make. Once it was all said and done, I was part of the crew on a tallship for the first time in my life. Our crew had formed its own unique culture, sustainability practices, and successfully sailed over 2,800 nautical miles. What a trip!
The greatest lesson from my semester abroad was the value of taking great pride in my work. Clean the ship daily because it will keep you healthy. Plot your position carefully and precisely on the chart so that you do not hit a reef. Keep the ship on the correct course so that the ship does not roll too drastically—steering was especially important so that you do not upset the cook. Never upset the cook!
The first day underway I could not steer the ship to save my life. Our course was varying by about 30 degrees on each side (essentially going all over the place) and I could hear my seasick shipmates moaning in agony even more than they were before I took over the helm. However, I worked hard and got plenty of time on the helm throughout the trip, and eventually became the go-to guy for steering in my watch group. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and pride that overcame me on our last week sailing the ship. There was a huge storm coming from the northeast that was chasing us as we made way toward the North Island of New Zealand, and we were on our 0300 to 0700 watch. The swells were 25 ft. and the rain was relentless. In these conditions the captain put me on the helm, and I stayed there for over two hours. I was the only one on deck, as the hatches to below were shut, and I worked with absolute clarity. Needless to say I was proud when chatting with other sailors once we docked in New Zealand. “You guys sailed through THAT storm?!” There is no way I could have gotten that experience without SEA Semester!
In essence, study abroad can give you perspective outside of the classroom that you may not get otherwise. At sea, it was all about doing the job the best you can in order to make things better. There were real world consequences for failing a task, not just a letter grade! So although sailing the Robert C. Seamans felt like a dream, it brought me a little closer to real life, where our work had more direct, tangible consequences.
Regardless of where you go, go with every fiber of your being. Make those friends, don’t be too scared, and craft the experience you want. It will all work out with effort and enthusiasm!
Coleman Kline '17
Sailing the South Pacific: Woods Hole, MA; Pago Pago, American Samoa; Apia, Samoa; Mata-Utu, Wallis and Futuna; Suva, Fiji; Opua, New Zealand; Leigh, New Zealand
Term Abroad: Fall 2015
Brooks College House
Major: Environmental Studies
- 2016-2017 Off-Campus Study Ambassador
- Phi Kappa Psi
- Men's Rugby