Study abroad can be difficult to pair with majors that do not have obvious international components, however there are number of ways to incorporate study abroad into even the most challenging major.
Planning ahead is a great tool to help students capitalize on study abroad opportunities. By speaking with your home institution's study abroad office to discuss your options, you will have a better idea of what programs will and won't work for you. Speaking with an academic counselor can help you chart the courses you need to take, and find which semesters or classes it is possible to complete at a foreign institution. It is a good idea to remember that different programs offer different coursework and topics. If one program does not have the courses you need to complete your major, another might. Study abroad can be done through your university, but it can also be done through an external organization, or independently.
If your major is coursework heavy, like pre-med fields such as Biology for example, you may want to consider doing study abroad during summer, winter, or spring break. Study abroad programs offer a variety of program lengths in order to suit the needs of a diverse student population. If your semester leaves you with little room to add study abroad because your major requires you to take specific classes in the Fall and Spring, try participating in a program during breaks! Summer programs are a great option for students who can not afford to take time off, and for students with major-specific classes, uncommon in foreign institutions. If you are taking summer classes at home, but still wish to study abroad during the summer, you can do a summer program ranging from one week to several weeks long.
For high school seniors, taking a gap year before starting a challenging major can give you time, flexibility, and additional experience. For college students, taking time off during your college career can offer similar advantages. Time spent studying abroad offers benefits and life experience that can not be gained in a classroom setting. If you are worried that time spent abroad will veer you off of your educational course, you should know some of the benefits!
More and more, colleges, jobs, and professional employers are looking for the type of life experience and skills provided by study abroad. Many study abroad alumni who have taken gap years or time off to study abroad, say that their experience abroad is the first thing interviewers ask them about. Traditional educational paths work well for some, but don't be afraid to take a risk and be different! What sets you apart from the crowd may be what benefits you the most.
International research is another great way to add study abroad to unconventional or challenging majors. Students can conduct specific research abroad that aligns with their field of study, and write grants to fund their research. Conducting research on a specific topic that aligns with your major can make study abroad a highly relevant, unique experience.
Another option is taking a specific class with a professor abroad. While this option may not be through a direct program, it is a great choice that offers more flexibility if you are limited in the type of classes you can take.
Topic specific programs can be found for just about any type of major. STEM majors often worry that they will not be able to pursue study in their major abroad, but this is false! Study abroad programs offer diversity not only in their length of duration, but in the projects and focuses of the program. For example, engineering majors can participate in constructive community projects and study regional hazards, while medical students can volunteer on medical missions and study healthcare systems around the world.
Language programs are also a great way to engage in international education. Most colleges require two years of language study, no matter the major. Capitalize on this! If you have a challenging major, use study abroad as a way to fulfill your language requirements in an immersive environment. Language skills are helpful in every major and can boost your resume!
Study abroad is an educational, fun, and skill developing experience that can be incorporated into even the most challenging major. If you were unsure if you could study abroad with your major, I hope these comprehensive tips help you begin planning an adventure of a lifetime!