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Peer Adviser Post: A Short Guide to Studying Abroad

To Journey Beyond the Gates of Columbia – A Short Guide to Studying Abroad
By Benjamin Frieling SEAS ‘14




Why ? A semester of research for your thesis, specialized academic opportunities in a world-class institution, a summer internship in an exotic locale, exploring a place you’ve always been curious about, delving into a region’s local culture and history via the local university, returning to your home country, or even testing a potential location to move to after graduation. Any and all of these reasons are valid ones, but what’s most important is that you want to be abroad and that you’re committed to researching, filling out, and submitting the necessary paperwork by the deadlines.

When ? CC – The popular time is either the entire junior year or the spring of junior year.

This is because you will be fulfilling your initial Core requirements through the end of sophomore year (UW, Fro Sci, Lit Hum, CC, language). These CANNOT be taken abroad, so they must be either fulfilled before or after the study abroad. Additionally, there is a requirement of a “regional course” that is about the area you will be going to study in. (NOTE – There is a possibility of fulfilling your Global Core requirement abroad).

In the words of OGP: “In order to study abroad, both semesters of Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, as well as University Writing and Frontiers of Science must be completed. Students must also complete the language requirement before studying abroad (even if you plan to study in an English-language setting). Beyond these courses, it is highly recommended that you complete at least one Global Core course and one additional science course. You are reminded that you should complete Art Humanities and Music Humanities by the end of the junior year. Ideally, only one or two Core courses should remain for the senior year. ”

SEAS – The recommended time is in the spring of sophomore year, since you will have (hopefully) finished most of your Core + you haven’t gotten too deep into your major yet. While there is no language requirement, you must show language proficiency. Many students take a semester of liberal arts courses in a topic of interest.

NOTE – It is certainly possible to study in your junior year & to take a course (or five) for your engineering technical electives or even for your major. However, be prepared to prove the credentials of the desired institution’s courses & expect an uphill battle to convince your major advisor, department dean, and the professor of each class you hope to substitute/fulfill abroad to sign off. But, it has been done before, so go for it!

Lastly, keep in mind that the summer semester is a shorter time abroad that doesn’t interrupt with the regular academic and social flow of Columbia life. So it’s a very viable option, especially for engineers who want to take courses offered in English in a non-English country (like I did two summers ago). Also, beyond study – a summer internship is another way to experience a different locale and often allows for more exploring (while the internship program is not in session) than an academic semester would. Furthermore, volunteering abroad is yet another option to delve into the culture of a different place while working for the public good.

How ? Set up an appointment with the Office of Global Programs (OGP) right away!

The deadline of the fall semester & year-long study abroad is March 15th, while the deadline for the summer semester is May 1st, but DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE  because the program you choose could have an internal deadline that is several weeks or even months earlier.

Where ? See above – it’s wherever you feel inspired to explore. Oh, one more thing – I’m not sure if this is currently allowed, but let’s remember that exploring ANYWHERE outside of the Columbia bubble is truly “abroad” for us – so let’s explore the USA as well for study abroad ! Ask OGP if you can study “abroad” in exotic locales like Delaware, Michigan, Texas, Idaho, etc. (I mean NO offense to anyone from any of the listed states – I’ve just never been there myself).

If you have questions or comments please email your Peer Advisers at:

Stressed about classes? Confused about internship-hunting? Just need someone to talk to?

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