Studying Abroad As A STEM Major
I knew pretty early on that studying abroad was something I wanted to do while in college. As a STEM major, I thought it would be interesting to gain a new perspective on my field and see how people from around the world approach scientific problems and develop applicable solutions. I also wanted to take the opportunity to travel before feeling tied down to a job after graduating.
Being a biomedical engineering student, I thought my options would be limited in terms of where I could go to take the classes necessary for my degree. I had my heart set on going to New Zealand, and to my surprise, I was able to find multiple universities in the country that would fulfil my academic requirements. I did have to shuffle some things around in my course trajectory over the next couple years, but it was totally worth it to make this experience come to life! I took one course for my major, one for my minor, and a New Zealand culture course just for fun!
In New Zealand, classes are structured quite differently compared to classes at RIT. Rather than weekly homework assignments and numerous quizzes and tests throughout the semester, the classes tended to have a few large, heavily weighted assignments/projects and one or two exams. This was definitely an adjustment, as I was used to having continuous feedback throughout the semester on how I was doing so far in the course. Additionally, I really needed to improve my time management and self-discipline skills to tackle these extensive projects. By the end of the semester, I felt like I had a completely new mindset surrounding courses and how to conduct independent work, and was able to transfer these abilities when coming back to RIT.
I would advise any STEM major interested in studying abroad that it is definitely possible to fit it into your busy schedule! Some things that helped me during this process were:
- Start planning as soon as possible, beginning with talking to your academic advisor. This will allow you to select the ideal semester to study abroad.
- Planning your schedule so that you are taking minor and/or immersion classes abroad opens up more opportunities of where you can go!
- If you do need to take core courses abroad, this will require a bit of background research. When looking at courses offered at various universities, don’t limit yourself to just looking at your specific major. For example, I was able to find a course in a different engineering discipline that matched the exact course I was looking for.
Studying abroad as a STEM major was a lot of work, but it definitely paid off in the end and I am forever grateful for the experiences I had!
Diana Kulawiec is a Biomedical Engineering major in the College of Engineering and studied at University of Canterbury in New Zealand in spring 2018 and did a co-op abroad in New Zealand in fall 2018 and spring/summer 2020.