On April 5th this semester, The Global Engagement Fellowship held our 2nd annual Global Engagement Day. The purpose of this event was to allow fellows that had already had experience abroad to share their insight and advice to those who hadn’t had that opportunity yet, to share stories about our experiences and talk about how we will use them in the future. There was even a panel of past and new Fulbright recipients for those interested in the applying in the upcoming cycles. Other panels included Studying Abroad as a STEM student, Preparing for Your Adventure, Non-traditional Study Abroad, Study Abroad Storytime, and Digital Stories from Abroad.
I had the opportunity to serve on the STEM panel and Preparing for Your Adventure. The following post will be a summary of my advice for studying abroad as a STEM student. Look for a subsequent post on more general advice on getting off the ground relating to the Adventure panel!
In recent years, we have seen a push for undergraduates to choose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors to meet the growing demands of the job market in these areas. Developing the the technology, fuels, building plans, and medical breakthroughs of the future takes a substantial amount of preparation, and often our students find that the rigorous course load is precisely scheduled with little wiggle room for other types of classes. Unfortunately, many take this to mean that studying abroad is then out of the question for their situation (if they want to graduate on time).
This. Is. Not. The. Case.
Yes, it will take careful planning and willingness to coordinate with advisors (sometimes in different departments), but it’s not impossible. The key is to decide you want to go and stick with that commitment. The earlier you can begin that process, the better.
Start with getting a list of the courses you’ll need to take and planning a rough outline of when each one will need to happen, taking into consideration prerequisites and corequisite courses.
Then you decide if you want to undertake a shorter summer/spring break/ intersession study abroad or if you want to endeavor on a semester program. If you’re at OU, take heart that most, if not every, college here has study abroad opportunities that can help fufill your curriculum requirements in addition to the plethera of opportunities that the College of International Studies offers to students of any major.
If you don’t find an opportunity that interests you to fulfill your major coursework, consider knocking out some of your gen eds while abroad. Lower level humanities coursework, foreign language requirements and upper division electives are often easy to check off this way.
If that doesn’t interest you, consider finding what you like outside of your requirements and choose a program that happens during one of the shorter terms. You won’t get behind in your plan to graduate, but you’ll have picked up invaluable skills, lessons and stories that are applicable to every aspect of your life and career. From cultural awareness to adapting to unfamiliar situations, you’ll have made yourself a more rounded student and had incredible fun while doing it.
This might seem like simple advice, but it all boils down to being committed to what you want and being willing to talk to others to make it happen. There are so many advisors and offices here at OU ready to help and other students here that would be more than happy to share their experiences abroad with you. Don’t be afraid to reach out!