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Helen Walters has long been drawn to multifaceted opportunities. Evidence of this can be seen with her choice of studies, the BioResource Research major, which is designed to lead to a career in management, research or outreach. Study abroad, another inherently multifaceted opportunity had been one of her ambitions since high school. Helen also saw study abroad as great preparation for graduate school, especially if related to the ocean, Helen’s primary area of interest.
At the beginning of spring term 2012, Helen discovered the Semester at Sea program, a program available through OSU in which participants board a ship for 8-12 weeks with 500 other students, faculty and support staff, then explore 10 or more countries, through course work on board and 2-5 day layovers on land. In Helen’s instance, she visited ten countries connected to three continents, all surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Most study abroad programs require a great deal of advance planning and preparation, and arranging of the necessary funds.
This is where Helen's story is both exhilarating and unique. With only two week's notice, Helen applied for the Semester at Sea program, and a SAS scholarship. Relatively soon thereafter, she learned that she had been awarded a generous scholarship that would defray her costs by 50%. While this was fabulous news, Helen, nevertheless, decided that it was best to decline as she felt the cost was still beyond her means. Within days of declining, the Semester at Sea head office, along with the College of Agricultural Sciences and her academic advisor encouraged her to reconsider and gradually made available additional small scholarships which made the cost more manageable. “I was impressed that so many people reached out and went to bat for me.”
By accepting the SAS scholarship, Helen was required her to participate in pre-departure activities, blog during her time at sea, and lead several promotional events following the experience. Of all the countries visited, Helen would especially like to go back to Turkey. “Everyone there is so happy and nice. The Semester at Sea program is also an incredible way to learn about coastal studies. I didn’t realize that there is so much out there to learn about and know. I also didn’t realize that the focuses of everyday life can be so different in different parts of the world.”
Thanks to Semester at Sea, Helen has also gained a greater appreciation for home too. Helen will be sharing this appreciation for Oregon by having three friends from her Semester at Sea experience join her over spring break for a week of hiking and camping in the Cascade mountain range.
Helen Walters is a senior majoring in bioresource research and is currently working with Dr. Spitz in the College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science on a climate modeling project in Newport related to hypoxia. Helen is from Eugene, OR.