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Study Abroad Programs for Chemistry Major


Replies to: Study Abroad Programs for Chemistry Major

  • LemonleeLemonlee Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
    Yes, the issue is not so much with the school but with the courses she needs to take and the sequencing. Her school is pretty rigorous so she does not think she can load up on extra classes during the semesters at home and also feels she needs to balance out her schedule each semester with some electives to balance the workload. She is planning to talk to her advisor and the study abroad department, but it may very well be that it is not doable for her if she wants to continue with a Chemistry major. I guess I will just have to accept that. I know this is not important in the grand scheme of things, but we are full-pay and I hate that she is not able to take advantage of so many of the benefits that the school offers. I also feel that it would be a life-changing experience for her but there is no way we can cover or justify an extra semester of tuition for that to happen. Thanks so much to all for your input!
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 13,373 Senior Member
    edited December 4
    There is no way to take advantage of all of the possibilities in college. In fact, it is a sign of a good school that there are too many good opportunities to exhaust them all. I agree it is not wise to "load up" on the chemistry courses. There is nothing wrong with not doing a semester broad and her chances to enjoy experiences abroad are not limited to college.

    It is better that she found her passion and is able to do the chemistry major at her school than to major in another field just to do semester abroad.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,992 Senior Member
    Is it an issue with the way Chemistry Departments design their curricula that they can't accommodate a legitimate, quite common educational goal in college, or is it simply impossible to design a chemistry curriculum that would leave an opportunity for overseas study (possibly including chemistry or other laboratory science)?

    I can't imagine an argument that it isn't valuable for students aspiring to STEM careers to experience living in and working with people from cultures other than that of Anglophone North America. Why do we almost take for granted that it's possible only outside of a standard four-year curriculum?
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,963 Senior Member
    edited December 5
    She is planning to talk to her advisor and the study abroad department

    She should do that ASAP. Like before holiday break if she can, at least start the process with an email to both. Sometimes the department web site has info on SA options as well, my D's did, even with a "here's how you might schedule courses over 4 years so you can study abroad" type section.

    My D had 2 very tough courses to take abroad - which were for her major - and she balanced them with 2 relatively easy elective courses, one having to do with the culture of the country she was studying in. It can be done at many schools, especially if the school places great value on students studying abroad.

    If that turns out to be truly impossible, she might investigate funding for out-of-semester study abroad or research. D's done that sort of thing as well.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,246 Senior Member
    JHS wrote:
    Is it an issue with the way Chemistry Departments design their curricula that they can't accommodate a legitimate, quite common educational goal in college, or is it simply impossible to design a chemistry curriculum that would leave an opportunity for overseas study (possibly including chemistry or other laboratory science)?

    It is not impossible in a theoretical sense, but a small chemistry department may offer some courses only once every two years may make it difficult to arrange courses so that required courses can all be taken in the non-study-abroad semesters.

    Without knowing the college the OP's student is enrolled in, it is difficult for anyone else to determine whether the major requirements can be scheduled around a study-abroad semester. Note that doing so may require starting in first or second year taking a non-usual course sequence in some cases.
  • Waiting2exhaleWaiting2exhale Registered User Posts: 2,657 Senior Member
    @ChangeTheGame: "My daughter is taking Physical Chemistry as a Senior and taking her Analytical Chem and Instrumentation class out of a normal sequence (both by 1st semester junior) but before her pre-reqs for each to overcome her sequencing issue and go abroad 2nd semester junior year."

    How is she doing this? Was there consideration of AP work and/or other exposure to the material covered in the pre-req courses in which she did well enough to work in her favor (even if they did not afford her a waiver from college classwork) as far as assessing her ability/capacity to successfully do the upper-level work?
  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal Registered User Posts: 2,937 Senior Member
    Most US chem programs do some form of:

    Year 1- General Chem 1/2
    Year 2- O Chem 1/2
    Year 3- P Chem 1/2
    Year 4- selected advanced classes/electives

    Other required classes usually include Inorganic/Analytical/BioChem, taken in any order, generally in years 3 and 4.

    I just want to put in one tiny more plug for UK schools. My daughter is a chem major at St. Andrews and I was a chem major at a small LAC in the US and I think you could make it work.

    In the spring as a second year she will be taking P Chem 2 and Organic Chem 2. So a US based sophomore or junior, could easily do just those courses as it aligns with the above schedule for spring of a typical US curriculum. Then add in an elective or 2 to fill out the schedule.
  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame Registered User Posts: 420 Member
    @Waiting2exhale She is lucky... I wasn't clear when I wrote the statement above, but the prerequisite for Analytical Chemistry is actually just General Chem 2, and the prerequisite for Instrumentation class is the Analytical Chemistry class. Most students take those classes Senior year at her university but she is going to move them up and take them earlier (2nd semester year 2 and 1st semester year 3). Her schedule will not be for the faint of heart some of those semesters. She talked to her adviser and mapped out the plan, but she has done well in her 1st semester in college (4.0 if finals don't drop grades ) so they will let her go for it.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 13,373 Senior Member
    Not all majors lend themselves to study abroad. Top ten (or 20 or...) schools may offer many sections every semester but taking a chemistry course at a different institution may mean not getting the material needed for a subsequent course or as much as the home institution. Exploring a different culture is admirable but not always the best for gaining knowledge in one's major.

    It is NOT a common goal for most college students to do a semester abroad. btw- the world came to me because I was at a world class university, and in a university with many top ten grad programs. For chemistry the experiences can be had later in one's education.

    Different people look at a situation from different backgrounds/perspectives. Those who choose to major in chemistry get to explore so much about matter that most do not even contemplate- I am so glad I delved so deeply into chemistry as an undergrad even though my path diverged post bachelor's. Unlike many nonSTEM fields, math and sciences typically build on previous knowledge. Knowledge obtained with a school's prerequisites is assumed in further work. Time spent in labs can make it difficult to schedule many classes- think 2 credit classes with an entire morning or afternoon in the lab- 4 or 5 continuous hours twice per week. It takes time for reactions to occur, equipment to be set up... But fun. As is exposure to grad labs (Honors program).

    People talk about the cultural exposure with living abroad but the chemistry major could be giving up so much of the at home exposure to nonacademic things if trying to squeeze in requirements into one less semester. One can not do everything.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,963 Senior Member
    if trying to squeeze in requirements into one less semester.

    But sometimes it is possible to fulfill reqs abroad. So not squeeze. Of course, sometimes it isn't. It will be harder for a Chem major than for a French major, for sure.
    Knowledge obtained with a school's prerequisites is assumed in further work.

    This is why departments can approve certain study abroad programs, or not. They are familiar with the equivalent courses the student will take abroad and know if the student will be ready for the next at-home courses in the sequence. And sometimes if the student might need to do some independent work on the side.

    In one STEM area, math, I think of the Budapest program - if you can get in, most would say it's absolutely worth it. Being in Budapest is a learning experience in itself, sure, but learning mathematical concepts as they are taught in a country that is a leader of the world in that discipline is the main value for most who go to that program. They may come back more prepared for the next steps than those who didn't go.

    I would expect a LAC that OP describes as being very supportive of study abroad to have approved and equivalent programs in place for all majors.
  • jmnva06jmnva06 Registered User Posts: 642 Member
    It isn't just STEM majors that have issues. My D is an education major and because of the sequence of classes she couldn't do a full semester abroad. She opted to do a 3 week program in the summer.
  • threebeansthreebeans Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    This is the case for my son also - BioChemistry/math double major. Also even though he entered college with a lot of credits he can't graduate in less than 4 year because the Chemistry is a sequence of 8 consecutive semesters.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 585 Member
    I'm certainly in the minority. I think study abroad is overrated and a college marketing gimmick. I don't deny it'd be wonderful cultural experience for some (perhaps many) students, but my observation has been that it's mostly a boondoggle for most kids. Especially for STEM majors, taking a semester (or a quarter) to study abroad is not the best use of time for their education. Programs abroad are generally not designed or matched to a US college curriculum. I only see value if the foreign university offers some class/program the US college doesn't. There may be some value also if a student's major involves knowing some other culture, but even in that case, an internship abroad would be much more valuable.
  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame Registered User Posts: 420 Member
    @1NJParent I won't disagree with that assessment. For my daughter, her main purpose of going abroad is to get an immersion experience that helps her get the rest of the way to fluency in another language. I would not have had any use for a study abroad experience personally, but I can go along with it for my STEM kid because she will finish in 8 semesters. She is planning to use that semester to really prep for the MCAT and GRE along with getting rid of some non-stem electives that she has remaining.
  • rosered55rosered55 Registered User Posts: 3,958 Senior Member
    YMMV. Both my daughters did study-abroad programs. My younger daughter fit it in with a double major, interviewed and received offers for several post-junior-year summer jobs, graduated at the top of her class, worked for two years in a highly regarded position for people in her field, and now is in a top-ranked Ph.D. program. I realize, though, that fitting in all the classes might have been more difficult with a major such as chemistry.
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