The Semester at Sea course, run by the Society for Human Resource Management, is gearing up for its annual competition, which will take place during the Society’s annual conference. This year, more than 80 Semester at Sea students are taking part, but there are many more — teachers, grandparents, couples — who take part, at nearly every single Semester at Sea program. “We have the most profound, breathtaking, ‘Wow, I made it’ moments,” Ms. Miller said. “How do you not get that feeling? That is what the transformative experience is.”

Though sometimes times the experience does not end well. In 1997, a group of students — 23 of them from a class in Maine — heard rumors from alumni that the top three contestants would get a spot on TV. They had high hopes that one of them would actually win the competition. Instead, a group of people with racial bias and hatred was allowed to speak at a forum. “We had been made to feel that we did not belong and that we could not have anything,” said Sahil Ranadive, who was 16 at the time and took part in the historic mock competition. “All of a sudden, this token African-American was talking. It was this sense of betrayal and an infringement on the rights that we had spent hundreds of hours and hours thinking about.” A CBS news crew captured the encounter.

The First Semester at Sea

The Semester at Sea began more than 100 years ago, but a recent conference will gather a number of people with personal ties to the program who will share their experiences of experiencing culture at sea.