Need to Know: Study Abroad (Part 1)

From Celine Chen


As a high schooler, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in college. Both of my siblings studied abroad and could not stop raving about how much fun they had and how it broadened their view of the world. I also figured that study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when you can be a young, carefree college student exploring a new country and city bonding with others going through the exact same stage in their life.  Although my program was based in Stockholm, Sweden, I had the chance to travel to Paris and meet-up with my aunt while she was on vacation, vacation to London with my sister, and hop on a last minute trip to Copenhagen with some friends!

So what should you know before studying abroad?

Questions to ask your prospective college:

If you’re like me and study abroad programs really factored into the decision of what college to chose, here are some questions that are important to ask your prospective college:

How is study abroad funded? At Bryn Mawr, you pay the price of tuition (not room and board since you aren’t living here) to Bryn Mawr and they are responsible for paying your study abroad program or university.

How many and what kinds of programs do they offer? There are different types of study abroad programs (3rd party programs, American universities abroad, or directly through a university). Each type of program offers a different experience so it’s important to understand your options. Get a gauge of the different programs and what works best for you.

  • 3rd party programs do the most “hand-holding.” They usually help you find (or provide) housing, help with obtaining a visa, have support networks like homestays, or affiliations with local clubs you can join. (Ex: DIS, IES, IFSA, etc.).
  • American Universities abroad are typically “sister” schools that have locations abroad. That have some “hand-holding” since there is a lot of support at the American university and the institution follows the American college credit system. Ex: (Lewis and Clark College in Strasbourg, Temple University Rome, etc.).
  • Direct study at an international university requires the most independence, especially during the application process. Sometimes international universities will help with your visa, but you are usually responsible for finding housing, etc. (Ex: University of Melbourne, London School of Economics, Oxford).

Studying abroad as a STEM major:

“There’s a stereotype that STEM majors can’t study abroad, but that’s not the case here.” That’s a common phrase you hear when you ask different colleges about study abroad, but it’s important to hear the details of what they have to say.

At Bryn Mawr, it depends on which field in STEM you decide to major in, how far in advance you know you want to study abroad, and how many course requirements you have for your major.  When looking at colleges, it’s a good idea to ask about popular study abroad programs for your major of interest (since it’s likely that students are getting credit towards their major for courses they took through this program).

Otherwise, plan your courses so you complete all of the major and general education requirements while you are at Bryn Mawr so you can complete general course credits while you are abroad.

You also have to consider that you might study abroad at an “unconventional” time. Bryn Mawr is pretty strict about only allowing juniors to study abroad because they want Most students go abroad for the fall semester of their junior year. For certain majors at Bryn Mawr, such as math, it is common to go abroad in the spring because of the way classes are offered. Some courses that are required for the major are only offered in the fall, so unless you take upper level classes your sophomore year you may end up going abroad in the spring. This didn’t end up being a problem for me because there are still plenty of people who are abroad in the spring, so you’ll make lots of new friends and you are not alone in missing your spring semester at Bryn Mawr.

For any and all questions regarding meeting requirements before, after, or while you’re abroad you can ask your major advisor, dean, the office of study abroad, or the registrar! Also, past study abroad students are a great resource – that’s what really solidified my choice to study abroad with the program that I did!

Choosing a Study Abroad Program:

This is an article I wrote for Her Campus talking about different ways to narrow down what study abroad program to choose (within the context of being a student at Bryn Mawr).

Hope this helped! For more information on study abroad check out the Bryn Mawr study abroad website and here for specific information regarding financial aid.


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