Studying abroad can be one of the most enriching experiences of your college career. But what if your major has really strict curriculum sequencing? You have to take this class this semester, it’s only offered once every other year, and you can’t take any other courses yet because that's a prerequisite - for all of your major courses? Well, guess what? Study abroad can still be one of the most enriching experiences of your undergraduate career – regardless of that tricky major you have. From architecture to zoological sciences, here are some tips to make study abroad work for you.
Get in good with your advisors (academic and study abroad)
No, we don’t mean butter them up and bring them candy (though chocolate is always a good idea). But get to know your academic advisors and begin to meet with them early on. As early as freshman year, let your academic advisor know that you’re interested in studying abroad. Your advisor may know things about your major and course offerings that can help you move things around without delaying graduation. Since they meet with others in your major, they may know of someone else who was able to study abroad and can recommend a program that works well with your major.
Hold those electives!
If you’re in a specialized major, it may be a challenge to find course equivalents abroad. However, saving a few of your electives to take while abroad can provide more options when it comes to study abroad programs. General education requirements may be easier to fulfill abroad than your major requirements. It may seem attractive to get electives or “easy” classes out of the way early on, but wouldn’t it be better to take your 3 credits of required Spanish in Argentina?
Study Abroad early
Studying abroad as a freshman or sophomore gives your more course offerings to choose from and also allows you to study abroad before you’ve gotten into your specialized courses that may only be offered at your campus. Some universities have restrictions on how soon you can study abroad so make sure you check with your academic advisor before starting any applications.
Winter, summer, spring break, oh my!
Think about studying abroad during these alternative terms. Most 4-year plans don’t include winter, or spring break into the curriculum requirements so it means that they are free for you to do whatever you choose! You can either stay home and roast chestnuts on an open fire this Christmas or spend a few weeks learning about your major in Austalia (where it will be summer by the way). Be sure that you understand how your financial aid will apply to these nontraditional terms before finalizing your participation.
Exchanges or programs sponsored by your academic department
Many academic departments have exchanges set up with partner departments in other countries. You should ask your favorite professor or visit your academic dean to inquire. The great thing about exchanges is that the faculty members have already worked out which classes are equivalents and you’ll be able to take major requirements to stay on track for graduation! Study abroad programs that are sponsored by your department usually fulfill graduation requirements and are taught by faculty in your department. Studying abroad with faculty members is a great way to build long-lasting relationships with your professors. Whether you need extra insight on your homework or a letter of recommendation, having a closer relationship with faculty can certainly pay off.