Scholar Ship has unofficial

Many students set aside a semester for studying abroad at the destination of their dreams, but at the University of Miami, there are a limited number of approved venues. As a result, many turn to private study abroad programs such as the Scholar Ship.

The Scholar Ship, which embarks on its inaugural voyage Jan. 10, 2007, is a consortium of global cultures that unites students and faculty from all over the world. Admission to the program will be open to students from all countries. It is also the one of few alternatives to semester at sea.

The study-abroad option is backed by Royal Caribbean and supported by six pre-eminent international universities, including Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University, the Beijing Foreign Studies University and Australia’s Macquarie University.

Royal Caribbean’s Richard Fain, who is involved with the development of the study abroad program, is a member of the UM Board of Trustees.

“The Scholar Ship has been designed as a distinctive transnational learning community that develops intercultural leadership by shaping beliefs, attitudes and values through high-quality university-level education programs,” Joseph D. Olander, Scholar Ship president, said.

With seven ports of call in five different continents, the ship will depart and ultimately dock May 1 in Piraeus (Athens) with an estimated 600 to 700 students aboard. The ports of call will include Casablanca, Morocco; Buenos Aires, Argentina (where Montevideo, Uruguay, can also be visited); Cape Town, South Africa; Fremantle (Perth), Australia; Singapore; Cochin, India, and Larnaca, Cyprus.

“The seriousness of the academic program will be complemented by the visits in the ports,” Janet McNeill, director of communications of the Scholar Ship, said. “That is the key difference of our program. Students can follow their academic interests on shore, and ultimately personalize their whole experience.”

Students will spend about a week in each port, except for Larnaca. They will be organized into “learning circles,” with five learning circles for undergraduates and three for graduates. The undergraduate learning circle themes are International Business and Communication, Sustainable Development, Conflict Studies, Global Cultures and Social Change and Worlds of Art and Culture. The graduate themes are International Relations, Business and Communications.

The academic experience, however, doesn’t end with the courses on board. Students will visit sites related to their learning circles in the different sites through field programs structured by the staff. Students must undertake a field program in three of the seven ports, one in Casablanca, and two in sites of the students’ choosing. In the rest of the ports, students can either go on excursions or travel independently.

The boat itself also has a number of facilities for students’ convenience. They include a convenience store, bookstore, fitness center, 24-hour medical clinic, swimming pool, internet connectivity site, religious observance spaces and a theater. Expenses will total $19,950, with tuition fees amounting to $9,950 and living costs to $10,000.

Before boarding, students will have to complete an online orientation to familiarize themselves with the program and the roommate they will be living with.

Olander expressed his enthusiasm and noted that this program isn’t only about academic education, but also about getting prepared for tomorrow’s workforce.

“As the nature of work and study rapidly takes on a global dimension, employers are increasingly seeking people who have demonstrated the ability to operate successfully across cultural, political and linguistic boundaries,” he said. “We are preparing students for successful lives and careers on the world stage and welcome them to play a role in this life-changing experience.”

Currently, the university has not included the Scholar Ship as part of its study abroad program.

According to the Department of International Education and Exchange Programs, the program must have a bilateral exchange with the university to become part of the study abroad program. This means that part of the fees charged to study abroad via the Scholar Ship would have to pay the UM tuition.

Students interested in this option would have to take a leave of absence from the university and set up the approval for transfer credits in order to meet graduation requirements. As long as the Scholar Ship is not part of the formal study abroad program, students cannot apply UM financial aid to the cost of the voyage.

Students have already started to express interest.

“If UM decides to join this program, I’m definitely doing it,” Mike Laporte, junior, said. “I’ve always wanted to go abroad, and this seems to be a lot of fun.”

Ricardo Herrera can be contacted at