Students majoring in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) often have especially fixed, full academic plans in order to complete their degree requirements.
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This can make spending a semester or year abroad seem difficult, if not impossible. However, a number of STEM students do find ways to incorporate an experience abroad into their undergraduate career. It takes careful planning, upfront conversations with your academic advisor, and some flexibility with regard to the timing and location of your study abroad program, but it is possible to study abroad as a STEM major!
Things to Consider Before Going Abroad
- When mapping out your academic plan:
- Talk early and often with your academic advisor about your desire to go abroad in order to structure your academic plan to accommodate that goal. Students on a pre-med or pre-health track may also wish to speak with a career counselor when creating their plans.
- Save your electives! It can be difficult to receive transfer credit for core courses. Electives, whether for your major or for general credit, tend to be more flexible than core requirements and are therefore more conducive to transfer credit.
- U.S. pre-med requirements cannot be completed abroad.
- Do you need to take courses for major/minor credit while abroad? If so, what programs are going to offer the types of courses that will be most compatible with your academic plan?
- Are there certain courses for your major that require you to be on campus to complete? How does this affect the timing of your study abroad plans?
- Are you planning to take the MCAT or another graduate entrance exam? How will your timeline for studying and taking the exam affect the timing of your study abroad plans?
- If you do plan to take STEM courses while abroad, how does the curriculum at your host program/university differ from your home institution? Are there certain prerequisites you haven’t yet fulfilled? Is the focus of the curriculum different in your host university/program and therefore requires a brush-up on foundational knowledge before beginning your courses? Is tutoring available through your study abroad program in case you want help brushing up?
- If you are considering a lab course: How does your host university/program structure lab courses? Do labs and lectures occur during the same semester, or are they divided between two semesters?
Things to Consider While Abroad
- Are there internships or volunteer opportunities that allow you to gain practical experience in your field, even if you are not taking academic courses?
- Are there STEM or field-specific groups or clubs that you can join at your host university/program?
- If you were planning to take courses for major/minor credit, were you able to register successfully for those courses? If not, were you able to find alternatives? Have you communicated with your academic advisor at your home institution before the add/drop deadline to make sure you are still on track?
- Middlebury’s Health and Premed Programs webpage offers information on study abroad programs designed for students focusing in these fields.
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