Are you an engineering major with dreams of studying abroad? Does everyone tell you that participating in study abroad as an engineering major is impossible? Then you’re in the same shoes I was in three years ago.
I started college absolutely determined to go abroad. It was an incredibly important part of my college search process, and as soon as I entered freshman year I was looking into study abroad options. However, the more I looked into it, the more roadblocks I hit. I even had a few people tell me that trying to study abroad as an engineering major is a waste of time!
Well, spoiler alert: I made it abroad. Despite all the naysayers, I spent last Spring taking engineering classes in Sheffield, England. AND, it was amazing. It for sure was not the easiest process in the world, but if it was possible for me, you can too. To help you out, here are five things I think you should def consider if you want to study abroad as an engineering major:
1. Start ASAP!
This isn’t a tip just for engineering majors, but I will argue that it is especially important in our case. A lot of engineering programs have strict rules for transferring credits, as well as what classes must be taken at home. This makes it a lot more difficult to squeeze in those classes you want to take abroad!
However, if you start putting aside what classes you can take abroad early in advance, you put yourself in a much better position when you’re looking at study abroad programs! Personally, I saved most of my engineering electives to take abroad. This was a great option for me because I knew for certain that it wouldn’t prevent me from getting into a class I needed later down the line. Plus, I was able to take a class in England that isn’t offered to undergraduates at my home university. It ended up being super beneficial to my summer internship!
2. Take your pre-requisites as early as possible
This tip kind of goes hand-in-hand with the last one. If you start planning early, you can get a good perspective on your pre-requisites. I suggest taking whatever you can, as soon as you can. This can potentially lead to heavier semesters before you go abroad, but I think it’s well worth it. I made sure to take all of my core math classes before I went, and it made my return that much easier.
Imagine how terrible it could feel to come home and find out you need to extend your graduation date because you missed a pre-req! Tragic.
3. Consider programs outside of what your school offers
Once you’re done with your planning with respect to your home school, it’s time to look for programs! I personally go to a tech-focused school, which thankfully provided me the opportunity to go through an engineering-specific exchange. However, enrolling in the program definitely did not go as smoothly as I hoped. Because of the issues I encountered during the application process, I turned to other options as a backup. During this period of time, I realized that the programs offered to study abroad as an engineering major are limited at best.
Providers like AIFS offer one or two, but a majority are focused towards business or liberal arts majors. This forced me to think outside of the box, and I actually found that a lot of schools allow you to apply to study abroad without affiliation to a program! Of course, this option limits your financial aid opportunities, but it also gives you a wider range of class choices. If you are at your wits end and don’t have any luck finding study abroad opportunities through your school, definitely consider applying on your own!
4. Think about completing research abroad!
Speaking of “outside the box” opportunities, I know a few friends who got to have the study abroad experience without taking classes at all! If you are passionate about research, or are looking to gain experience, look to research opportunities in other countries.
There are tons of fellowships and scholarships out there for students looking to complete research abroad, especially for engineers/STEM majors. Your school or your professors might even be able to point you to some! This is another great option because you can potentially have more flexibility in your schedule than if you were taking classes. Goodbye exams, hello weekend trips!
5. DON’T GIVE UP!
I cannot tell you how many of my freshman-year engineering friends that wanted to study abroad. Everybody aspired to travel to another country and study, and I felt so justified in my desire to go. Now, however, I can literally count on one hand the number of friends that went abroad. Why is that?
I’m not gonna sugar coat it. Studying abroad as an engineering major is hard. It requires a lot of planning, patience, and faith. I was told “no” more times than I can count. This might be me being dramatic, but I almost didn’t go abroad because the process was too stressful! After all, while all of my application drama was going on, I was working a full-time internship and preparing for a 19-credit semester. Did I really have the time to put into study abroad?
Real talk: I think a lot of the stigma around study abroad as an engineering major comes from getting to this very point. I had a decision to make – either give up on my hard work, or push through. In the end, after some supportive talks with my family and boyfriend, I knew I had to follow through, and I am so happy I did. I traveled, met amazing people, and grew so much. I love that I took engineering classes while I was abroad, and I love that I got to learn about biomedical engineering in a completely different context. Even though I’m not a fan of the whole ~study abroad changed me~ cliche, it really truly had an impact on my life. And to think I almost didn’t go!
If you got anything from this post, I hope it was that study abroad as an engineering major IS possible, and there are tons of ways for you to accomplish your dream. Don’t let the naysayers get you down!