Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Rebecca Hovey


The research question this capstone attempts to address is how Semester at Sea (SAS) students reflected on the significance of the Middle Passage crossing, and what reflections these students had about their race and ethnicity as a result of the Middle Passage and other experiences throughout the voyage. The Middle Passage, embedded with multiple layers of meaning, represented the types of experiences students frequently encounter while studying abroad. Founded within the methodological approach of a case study, information was gathered using an online survey, in-depth individual interviews, and firsthand observation during a SAS voyage. The theoretical frameworks of critical race theory and racial identity development theory facilitated the interpretation of the data. The findings of the research indicate that how students reflected on the Middle Passage often revealed a specific stage of racial identity development as well as different understandings about personal, institutional, and cultural racism. The findings also suggest that for many of the students, their sense of racial identity acquired a new significance within their overall worldview as a result of the SAS voyage. Students attributed this change to the Middle Passage, observations of widespread poverty, specific courses on race and history, and interactions with peers and host nationals during the voyage. The implications of this research emphasize that the personal and collective dialogue about race and racism is usually uncomfortable, but always present. Exploring these areas of discomfort reveal areas of oppression, discrimination, and privilege within individuals and within international education. The translation and expression of experiences like the Middle Passage, within the context of a study abroad program, yield significant implications about how the dialogue about race and identity can continue beyond traditional boundaries and into a truly global context. Ultimately, these types of experiences can affect positive change within individuals that they carry home and incorporate into their lives in meaningful ways.


International and Comparative Education | Race and Ethnicity