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Summer Public Office Hours: May 20 – August 9

During the summer months, the Office of International Affairs will observe revised hours during with the office will be open to the public:

Monday – Thursday: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM & 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

These hours do not reflect any changes in availability for drop-ins, appointments, or other business. If you have specific needs, you may reach out or utilize the Connect page. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.

Suite Life on Deck Style

Brandon Sequeira
Major: 
Public Health
Program: 
Semester at Sea
Term Abroad: 
Spring 2023

Q: Initially, what made you decide to study abroad? Why did you choose your program?

A: I have had the privilege of studying abroad three semesters in a row. The reason I choose to study abroad each and every time has been to immerse myself into an experience that not too many people get the privilege to do. Studying abroad is all about obtaining the knowledge you need to continue your studies in whatever major you may be on track for, while obtaining personal and professional growth. Getting the opportunity to travel the world and obtain world views on the subjects you're studying and even views on things like culture, religion, politics, daily life, etc. is a remarkable opportunity. Studying abroad builds independence and growth in a way that shapes your view on the world that not many can really understand unless they study abroad and see the world through this unique lens, and that is why I have continued to study abroad and why I choose to study abroad again with semester at sea. Looking at the reason why I chose to do the semester at sea program was because it is unlike any other study abroad program. The opportunities with semester at sea are endless from a wide range of courses to a wide range of immersive experiences to a wide range of counties and in-country experiences. Semester at sea was anything but ordinary because it's extraordinary and that's why I chose to do the program and why I loved every second of it.

Q: What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

A: My study abroad experience with semester at sea had millions of highlights as every moment was unlike the last. If I had to break it down to an overall highlight of the best moments on this study abroad experience it was being on the ship. It was the time at sea floating in the middle of nowhere with just endless water surrounding you. It was seeing nothing but blue water and a dark sky full of stars and planets. It was being with your friends, professors, lifelong learners, and staff that you just met at the start of the voyage but built this tight bond that by the end of the voyage (four months later) you have such a tight bond you don't want to say goodbye. It was staying up endless nights hanging out and talking because you know the nights are limited and you don't want them to end. It was playing board games in the lido deck to swimming on the pool deck with these friends that quickly became lifelong friends. Finally it was the planning of our next adventures all while living the best adventure of it all floating in the middle of the sea.

Q: What was your greatest challenge abroad and how did you overcome it?

A: The greatest challenge for me while being abroad was staying in contact with friends and family back home. It becomes difficult to talk to family and friends everyday while you are trying to get familiar with this new space, new friends, new way of taking courses, new workspace, and time differences. Also when you're abroad you are having all these atypical experiences and are trying to embrace the experiences and calling back home everyday can take away from the experiences. While this can be challenging to overcome there are definitely ways you can go about it, like making sure you have a conversation with your friends and family about when you can call back home like once a week or every other week so that it doesn't feel pressured and doesn't take from the experiences.

Q: How did your coursework abroad compare to your courses at UC Merced?

A: The courses I took abroad were completely different then the courses I took at UC Merced in so many ways. The courses I took on the ship were what we called immersive courses and were a lot more hands on. All courses with semester at sea have what we call a field class where your professor and the class have a day in one of the 11 countries where you get to take the knowledge you learned in the class into action. The field class is where we imbed the knowledge we learned into the real world. When taking 4 courses you will have a total of 4 field classes where you get to go with your class in country in a field trip style. One will learn all sorts of relevant info on the subjects they're learning in a more worldview lens. Also you are in a living learning community on semester at sea which is very different then UC Merced. You will be having regular life and travels with your professors you are taking courses with which creates a unique relationship that during your classes you have more confidence in having conversations and discussions in class. There is more one on one contact with your professors as well.

Q: What did you gain from your study abroad experience?

A: I have gained so much from studying abroad and would highly suggest studying abroad to anyone who asks me. Studying abroad has widened my world lens and ideas about the world and has made me entirely grateful for the privileges and opportunities I have had in my life so far. I have also gained independence from studying abroad at a level that allows me to feel comfortable being able to do things alone in life and travel the world independently and feel confident in everything I do. Studying abroad brings studying to a whole other level where you don't only get to understand the things you're studying from a US lens but also an international lens. You truly understand diversity and the real meaning of diversity after studying abroad and traveling the world. I have gained and learned so much from studying abroad but the most important thing I gained is the kind of person studying abroad has shaped me to be from all of the amazing experiences that studying abroad comes with.

Q: What advice do you have for students considering study abroad?

A: My advice for students considering studying abroad would first be to take that leap. I would let them know that yes studying abroad can seem scary, overwhelming, and come with a lot of unknowns but that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will change your life in so many ways both during the semester abroad and after. This life altering experience is something you get to take with you and cherish all the many little moments with the people you meet along the way for years to come. The experience you gain is something you can put into both your professional and personal life. My advice would be that you put yourself out there and open that door for opportunity because your gain is way more greater than any kind of fear or loss there is from putting yourself out there for an experience of a lifetime.

Q: Describe a typical day abroad.

A: A typical day with semester at sea is very different then a typical day with any other study abroad program because there isn't really a typical day, because with semester at sea you are constantly moving from country to country having a very different experience than the day before. However I am going to tell you what for the most part how a typical day is like while at sea. With semester at sea you take all your courses while at sea, so classes are during the time you're going from country to country. While in country for the most part you don't have any classes. When you're in country it's for experiences, adventures, traveling, and if you have a field class then and only then will you have class in the form of a field trip. With semester at sea we didn't really keep track of time in the traditional sense you kind of loose track of the traditional calendar and live a new life where time is kind of irrelevant and you just embrace every moment. Time at sea went a little differently, so when we were at sea we went by A days or B days and so A days had its own schedule with classes and how the layout of your day went and then you had B days and you have your other classes you didn’t have on your A days. While there were A days and B days at sea when in the country we went by day 1 through day 5 or 6 depending on how many days we were in the country. So while at sea a typical day for me in general consisted of getting up at 7 in the morning to get breakfast, then going to the 8am morning lecture that everyone on the ship had rather A day or B day or rather a student or lifelong learner, we all had to take this course where we learned about the countries we were going to on the voyage and we learned about the world itself. After class I would walk to the pool deck where I would typically find my friends at the snack bar. I would sometimes get a snack and then lay out on the pool deck chairs and tan with my friend and swim for a bit depending on the whether at sea. I would then go to class and then meet with friends again for lunch where we would plan what we were going to do for the evening. Our evening plans were rather board games, star gazing, night swimming, gambling (poker), karaoke, movie night, dance party, or even all nighters to see the sun rise in the morning. After lunch I would typically study for a while and then go to my last class and then it was normally dinner time following my last class. And that was kind of how a day to day life at sea was for me. Although a typical day with semester at sea doesn't necessarily exist this was how life with semester at sea kind of was like.

Q: If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go and why?

A: If I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow I would go to Jordan. Jordan was one of the 11 countries we went to on the voyage with semester at sea. Jordan was a magical country with so many memories that most people on semester at sea would say was their favorite. From stargazing in Wadi Rum (feeling like you're in the galaxy) to riding camels up and down Petra. Jordan was full of experiences that I would have never imagined, from seeing Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, and Golan heights from the top of UM Qais hill viewpoint to going to the desert and sand boarding. Jordan was just remarkable and getting to share it with these friends I have quickly become close to while on this ship was one of the best parts.