S.O.S.: Save our SAS
Last week Robert Pastor wrote, "We don't believe that traveling around the world on a boat and stopping at every port is the best way to give students the opportunity to know a different country."
Being an alumna of both a Semester at Sea program and a more traditionally sedentary one of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, I find the administration's consolation prize of less paperwork, enhanced reputation for the University, and double the AU options to be an inadequate one, especially when relative to the international experiences that AU students will be missing out on.
Educational institutions should be run like democratic ones, in that they should be run with the betterment of the people they are serving in mind. The idea that SAS does not give students the same type of experience as a more immobile, conventional study abroad program is very true, which is one of the program's most valuable aspects. Its exceptional nature, however, need not banish it to the rank of inferior programs and does not make it a necessarily substandard one, and for any member of AU's staff to make such an inference would be to act as if the benefits of one program versus the other could be calculated as a sort of zero-sum arrangement, which is absurd. In trying to institute a new program our International Affairs Office is attempting to slash interest in another equally deserving experience-sacrificing some students' interest in a particular mode of international education (SAS) on the altar of the new and improved AU variety. I find this type of recruitment unacceptable and disturbing and hope that in the future our Office of International Affairs can find a less coercive way to market its programs. We can plainly understand that the experiences of one study abroad program versus another is not a zero-sum game.
In defense for a program that obviously has no voice within the study abroad office at AU, I would like to assure all who are interested that the program is indeed a worthy one. In fact, I was overwhelmed with just how fantastic the program ended up being. Participating in the Summer 2002 voyage, I spent 65 days aboard a ship manned by a fully Eastern European crew [most of whom were Greek, as the ship herself was a Greek vessel], forging friendships with fellow students from all over the country, and studying under professors who built their academic careers around understanding each specific nation we were to visit. During this time our shipboard community also played host to not only native lecturers but also students from each of the countries on the itinerary. All of this occurred, of course, while exploring nine different nation-states and discovering an almost religious awe that only living on the world's oceans can engender.
The professors and professionals at the Institute for Shipboard Education who make this program possible are the most interesting, dynamic group of people you'll ever have the privilege to come across, and if anyone on campus is interested in applying to study in this way and needs any more general information, contact lists, and/or scholarship help, etc., I would be more than happy to lend my name to such a worthy program as SAS. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kellie M. Eastin is a junior in the School of Public Affairs.