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Study Abroad for Physics Major

  1. Sep 5, 2015 #1
    I've seen some discussions about studying abroad, but I wanted to post my own to get more recent comments. I'm an undergrad in a US college and looking into studying abroad for a semester. However, I've noticed that it's not as common for STEM majors to study abroad as it is for humanities majors. Has anyone here studied abroad? If so, where did you go and how was your experience? Do you know of any particular study abroad programs for physics majors?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2015 #2
    I also wanted to study abroad - in fact, an international component was required for a university scholarship I got. However, there were a few reasons why, as a STEM major, I decided to stay back:
    1. Research. My professors were just starting a big project, and had I left for a semester, I wouldn't have been a co-author. It's always possible to find a research opportunity abroad, but your usefulness there will be limited, especially if there's a language barrier.
    2. For some reason, a lot of STEM courses didn't transfer. At that time, I would've been a second-semester sophomore. I could've taken E&M and quantum abroad, but they wouldn't have transferred back. Only the humanities, and calculus (which I had already taken) would've counted at my home university, so it was a no-go for me.
    I'll be perfectly honest though, you need to find an excuse to get out and see the world. It may not be the most practical of options, but even if you just go to Europe for a summer, it's an opportunity you need to take.
  4. Sep 7, 2015 #3


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    Many universities in Canada and the US have specific agreements with universities outside of North America to allow their students to pursue study abroad, some specifically for STEM programs (one example is the International Studies in Engineering program at the University of Waterloo).

    To the OP: I would suggest you either ask your physics department or the faculty registrar to find out what options are available.

    [Unrelated aside: Why is it that so many American students, when it comes to "exploring the world", seem to restrict themselves to travelling or seeking further study in European countries? Why not see countries in, say, in Asia (like Japan, for example -- I'm half-Japanese so perhaps I'm biased about this)? Or perhaps seek volunteering opportunities in Africa or South America?]
  5. Sep 7, 2015 #4
    European countries typically have similar education systems so that credits (in theory) will transfer. Also, there is usually less of a language barrier (more people speak English in France than in, say, Paraguay).
  6. Sep 7, 2015 #5


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    Yes, I do understand language barriers could be an issue. But then again, perhaps my thought is that part of the reason to pursue an international study program is to learn the local language and culture. Let's take France as an example -- before pursuing a student exchange, I presume you would be required to study French and gain at least a minimal level of fluency, since classes would likely be conducted in French.
  7. Sep 7, 2015 #6
    I've never met anyone who has studied abroad in a non-English speaking country who didn't study at an "international university", with the exception of a couple of American-born Chinese who studied in China. I agree that learning the local language and culture is a key part of any international experience, though.
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