Study Abroad for the Average STEM Student

Ariella Poon is a student at the Nova Southeastern University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ask any student this: “Have you ever dreamt of studying abroad?” Most, if not all, would say yes. However, only a small percentage of students actually fulfill this dream. Many assume that studying abroad is intended mostly for language and international relations majors. Truthfully, most programs that appear in a search are related to the arts, language, politics, and society. But in recent years, more and more STEM-related courses appear in study abroad programs. So, for every would-be doctor, engineer, chemist, mathematician, and so on, that seemingly crazy dream of studying abroad is much easier to fulfill than you think.

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean during my flight to Glasgow, Scotland.

What to consider in a study abroad program:

  1. Look at that academic plan. Are there any classes you’d consider to take over the summer? Why not find that class abroad instead? Make a list of classes you would want to pursue. If not a class, what about research or internship for credit?
  2. Instead of focusing on a destination, focus on which study abroad program has the class you need! Being flexible with the destination makes the entire process easier!
    • The Office of International Student Affairs or your study abroad office can assist in the search and the entire process.
  3. Check the syllabus, if it is provided, and compare it with your university’s class requirements. Your academic advisor can help confirm if the credits will transfer.
  4. If you are in any special academic/scholarship programs at your home university, check with those in charge. See if they have any special requirements or process so that you can take them into account when choosing a program.
    • For example, at Nova Southeastern University, Dual Admission students that consider taking a STEM class abroad must gain permission from the director. If the class at NSU is part of a sequence (e.g. Physics I and Physics II), they must take the entire sequence at the study abroad institution.
  5. After finding a program (it’s best to have at least three choices!), consider the finances. Is it cheaper and more worthwhile than spending a summer at your home university? How will you fund it? Talking to the financial aid office will help you figure out your options.
    • There are many scholarships for studying abroad. Quite a few are aimed towards STEM students, encouraging research in places like Germany and London.
    • For Pell Grant recipients, an excellent scholarship to consider is the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship. Not only did it fund my program, it has also allowed me to immerse myself in a culture I would never have had access to without it!

Though the list above cannot fully encompass the complex process to study abroad, hopefully it gives you an idea on where to start. These factors led me to study at the International Physics Summer School in the University of Glasgow, fulfilling my academic plan as a Biology major, allowing me to enjoy my summer as a student, and letting me immerse myself in a whole new culture.

‘Glasgow University’ Spending my summer studying at the magical University of Glasgow, earning the credits, and enjoying life!



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