For engineers, it can be difficult to study abroad. Many schools only want you to take engineering courses with their professors. Many courses have laboratory components that make it difficult to take equivalent courses elsewhere. However, I, as an engineering student at Cornell, was able to study abroad in Ireland during the spring semester of my junior year. Now I want to share some tips that I used to make it happen:
1. Plan early
My abroad experience added an international perspective to my engineering studies that I wouldn’t have exchanged for anything else.
As an engineer, the set schedule given to you by the administration likely isn’t geared toward going abroad during junior year. So start thinking about it early! If you can, meet with your study abroad office during your freshman or sophomore year to see if there is a way to make it happen for your major. But if you are already a junior and are worried that you didn’t start early enough, do not worry! There is still plenty of time at the beginning of your junior year to make sure you can get it all done.
2. Be flexible
Some classes are easier to take while abroad, but they might not be normally scheduled during the semester you want to go. So be flexible with how you plan your schedule! Fundamental math courses, which are typically taken freshman or sophomore year, might be easier to take abroad than the engineering specific classes that are taken during junior year. So mix it up! Think of which required courses can be more easily taken elsewhere. Then try to group them all in one semester and take them at an international university.
3. Look at programs in non-English speaking countries as well
It’s easy to limit yourself to English speaking countries when beginning the study abroad search, because you probably want to take engineering courses in English. While this might be the easiest option for some engineers (it’s what I did), you don’t have to be limited to English-speaking countries. There are many programs in non-English speaking countries that offer courses in English. There are also several American universities that have satellite branches in non-English speaking countries. These universities often offer courses taught by American professors. So explore all your options!
If you can, meet with your study abroad office during your freshman or sophomore year to see if there is a way to make it happen for your major.
4. Be willing to make up the work in another semester
It’s common for engineers to only take liberal studies during their semester abroad, and this usually works out well. However, it does mean that your technical courses might get pushed into another semester, making that semester harder than usual. This seems daunting, but it’s definitely doable! I took only one engineering course while in Ireland, so I had to take an extra one the fall of my senior year to make up for my semester abroad. It was a tough semester, but completely worth it. The extra course did keep me busier than normal, but I would’ve taken an extra two or three if I’d had to in order to go abroad. My abroad experience added an international perspective to my engineering studies that I wouldn’t have exchanged for anything else.
Studying abroad is a wonderful experience for engineers! It helps to broaden your studies beyond those tough math and engineering courses, and allows you to stretch your mind in other directions. There is so much to learn from the cultural experience of living abroad and the academic experience of taking courses at a new institution. So use these tips and make it work!
Elissa Welle is a Biological Engineering student at Cornell University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland in 2015.