Studying Abroad in a Technical Field

By Sarada Symonds

Visiting Student Blogger, Northeastern University

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The Campanile of Trinity College is one of the most iconic landmarks on campus.

As a freshmen engineering student, I was told that it would be very difficult for me to spend a semester abroad, especially after I decided to pursue a double major in computer engineering and computer science. I’ll admit, after I saw all the courses I would be required to take to graduate, I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to go abroad and still graduate on time. Luckily, during the fall of my sophomore year, I had an amazing professor who told me all about his time doing internships and getting his degrees in Paris and Beijing, and it gave me the jolt I needed to start planning a semester abroad for myself. Here’s what I learned while I was preparing for my semester at Trinity:

  1. Start Early

If you’re in a STEM field, you probably know the course requirements are strict if you want to graduate on time. When starting to plan, try to arrange your schedule so you can take your electives and core requirements while abroad. It’s usually easier to find equivalent course credit that fulfil elective or core requirements than to try to find a study abroad program that fulfils credit for a class that is unique to your university. It’s a good habit in general to map out when you’re going to take courses after each semester, so you can see what requirements you still must fulfill. It’s also a good time to take note if any of your courses have pre-requisites you must complete first. The earlier you start, the easier it is to find courses you can take when studying abroad.

 

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Weather might be something to consider when choosing a study abroad program.

 

  1. Plan Ahead

I decided to study abroad the fall of my sophomore year, and by spring, I was already looking at the different study abroad programs offered by my school. When looking at programs, there are several things you should take under consideration, such as whether you speak the language, whether the university offers courses in your program, and whether you can afford to go abroad. A good place to start would be talking to your academic advisor, and they’ll probably be able to point you towards other resources you can use to plan your visit. Different school will have different requirements for study abroad students, such as how many credits students need to take and what kinds of classes they can take abroad. You’re also going to want to start saving, since going abroad can get expensive.

 

  1. Get Organized

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to study, you’ll want to start figuring out the logistics of going abroad. Make sure you’re aware of the application deadlines for your program, and whether they admit students on a rolling basis.  This is also a good time to start looking for scholarships. Some schools offer scholarships for students who are going abroad, and you can find other study abroad scholarships online.* You should also talk with your advisor about the specific courses you plan to take as a part of your study abroad program. After you get admitted, you’ll have to find out whether you need to apply for a student visa. You should also start looking for plane tickets and student accommodations.

 

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Some technical modules offer labs so students can apply what they learn in class.

Source Credit: https://www.tcd.ie/Biology_Teaching_Centre/about/.

 

 

  1. Be Adaptable

Once you arrive on campus, you might find things work a little differently than your own school. All schools have their own jargon and traditions, so it’s good to be adaptable and open to new experiences. Trinity University refers to courses as modules, and your first week on campus will be spent at orientation and completing module enrollment. This means filling out a module enrollment form, getting signatures from professors or department coordinators approving your module selections, and submitting your form to the Academic Registry. While it can be stressful getting all this done in a couple weeks, just know that you can get advice from your department’s coordinator or people from the global office. You also might have to deal with different teaching styles and grading standards. The important thing is to be flexible and treat it as a learning experience. You’ll end up gaining greater self-awareness and will create some great study habits that you can take back to your own university.

 

Almost two months into my semester abroad, I can say that the biggest difference for me was the lack of quizzes and homework assignments! At first, this just meant that I had more time to explore Dublin and the rest of Ireland, but I soon realized that the assignments and quizzes had helped me stay focused and really understand the concepts being taught. Whatever classes you end up taking, make sure you’re still keeping up with your studies. While you should take the opportunity to explore your new city, you also need to remember that you’re here to learn. Balancing your schedule so you can do both is an important part of studying abroad.

 

*Editor’s Note: Check out Trinity’s Study Abroad Scholarships here: https://www.tcd.ie/study/non-eu/study-abroad/to-trinity/IIE-Scholarship/.

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