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Middle East Conflict impacts study abroad program including nonprofit Semester at Sea

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.-The conflict in the Middle East is impacting student travel programs.

The nonprofit Semester at Sea is just one example.

The most recent voyage changed its course to avoid the Suez Canal.

The Institute of Shipboard Education pivoted away from ports in the Middle East and went around Africa.

The World Odyssey went to South Africa and several other diversion or backup ports.

Semester at Sea’s President and CEO visited alumni and parents at the Santa Barbara Public Market and in Atascadero on Saturday before heading to Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.

“We have a great network of professionals around the world, that we source information on, and we make the decision, but in this case obviously with the terrible conflict in the Middle East region and Gaza in particular, the decision in some ways was made for us that we knew we could not transit through the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea because safety is always the top priority for our voyagers,” said Dr. Scott Marshall, “And it was clear that this was not something we could take our voyagers on.”

Students also cancelled a visit to Morocco after a deadly magnitude 6.8 earthquake happened near Marrakesh in September.

“The biggest lesson any Semester at Sea voyager ever learns is that the world is something you can’t control. What you can control is how you show up when the world changes and Semester at Sea, just like life, presents a lot of unexpected changes. This last voyage presented a lot of those unexpected changes and the voyagers showed up accordingly,” said Marshall.

The Spring voyage has also been updated due to the conflict.

Students were not charged extra for the fuel needed to change course, but the program did have refuel more often in new ports and pay more.

(In full disclosure, I am an alumni and my own daughter just returned from the Fall 2023 voyage.)

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