SEA Semester Offers Chance for Trinity Student to Embrace New Interest

Jessica Duong ’19 Researches Human Impact on the Environment Aboard Ship off New Zealand’s Coast

​Hartford, Connecticut, April 16, 2018—During a memorable study away experience, Trinity College student Jessica Duong ’19 spent much of her spring semester sailing the waters of New Zealand’s North and South Islands while completing oceanographic research. Throughout the three-month program, Duong analyzed water samples and ocean life in order to understand the influence humans have on the environment. Duong—from Lake Bluff, Illinois—was one of only 23 undergraduate students from across the country to participate in this semester’s Sea Education Association (SEA) program called “The Global Ocean.”


​Jessica Duong ’19 spent six weeks aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans sailing the waters around New Zealand and conducting research.

In order to prepare for her voyage, Duong was stationed for six weeks at SEA’s headquarters in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where she took classes and learned to conduct research while at sea. Duong and the other members of the group then flew to New Zealand, where they spent the next month and half sailing aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, SEA’s state-of-the-art 134-foot brigantine. While on the voyage, Duong was not only doing oceanographic research, but was also a crewmate on the ship, working alongside undergraduates from other institutions. “I had to do a lot of chores while I was on the ship. I learned a lot about the theory behind sailing. We followed a rotating schedule every day where we would either be on the deck or in the lab,” she said.

It was during Duong’s first year at Trinity that her interest in environmental research was piqued. “I took ‘Planet Earth’ [taught by Associate Professor of History Sean Cocco] the first semester of my freshman year and it was my first experience with marine studies. I really loved the class and got the urge to study at sea,” Duong said. “The next semester I went to the Study Away Fair and learned about SEA.” Though she saw the program as a departure from the focus of her studies as a history and chemistry double major, Duong followed her newly discovered passion and applied to the program. “I wanted to challenge myself and learn something new. I love going on adventures, and I had never done anything at sea before, so I thought this would be a great opportunity,” she said.

While at Trinity, students may choose to participate in any of nine Trinity-administered study away programs and more than 90 approved external study away programs around the world. Jennifer Summerhays, the director of Trinity’s Office of Study Away, said that these experiences offer chances for students to stretch culturally and explore academically. “A semester away in new geography is an intense experiment in living and learning. Students come back changed, often with more insight into who they are and where they are going,” Summerhays said. “Trinity’s study away program portfolio reflects the varied needs and interests of its student body. Diverse locations, challenging academics, and distinctive co-curricular opportunities all have a role to play in the way Trinity helps its students encounter and experience the world.”

Duong found that the SEA program enhanced her studies at Trinity. “I’ve made so many connections to my fields of study, just in a different environment. It’s interesting to do environmental research and realize that I can apply it to classes I’ve taken at Trinity, too. Trinity gave me the foundation to make those connections between these different areas of work,” Duong said. “After doing this program, I have gotten enough credits to minor in marine studies at Trinity, too.”

After completing the SEA program in March, Duong remained in New Zealand to pursue research related to her history major. “I proposed an independent project analyzing the production of wine in New Zealand. I’ve been interviewing different winemakers and visiting archives,” she said. After concluding her research, which was overseen by her faculty adviser, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, Duong planned to return to the United States in April. 

As students consider the many study away programs that Trinity offers, Duong encourages them to follow what they’re passionate about. “Think about the kinds of stories that you will be able to tell after going abroad. I had an incredible adventure and now I have such an interesting story to tell for the rest of my life,” she said.

To learn more about study away opportunities at Trinity, click here.

Written by Lexie Axon ’19