Study Abroad

Are study abroad options worth it? Are they college/major specific?- if so for CS majors?
From anecdotal reports, students who study abroad barely learn.

Seek out programs that are rigorous. They exist. My DD did 4 study abroad programs and all were rigorous. They were work hard play hard. For CS you might need to plan to take gen eds or electives abroad, however.

Study abroad isn’t just about the academics, but the cultural experience as well. Your school should have information on which programs would work best for your CS major and I’d recommend speaking with someone in the study abroad office. If you’re planning only a single semester abroad you could focus mainly on general Ed/graduation requirements (for example in the UK students take 3 courses a semester and the semesters are shorter than in the US).

Also make sure you’ll receive full credit for the courses you choose. For example when my D studied abroad, the semester only students took a 4 week seminar taught by a professor from her college before the UK university term began because that semester was only 10 weeks and the US students needed 14 weeks to receive credit for a full semester of 4 classes.

My D studied abroad for a year and took a mix of gen Ed and classes for her major (chemistry)…the trick was to make sure she received credit towards her major for those courses. Scheduling a mix of subjects can also be a challenge because the same class isn’t offered at a variety of times (because UK students only study one subject) so conflicts can occur quite easily.

Lastly, some schools will give credit for the classes but the grades aren’t calculated into your GPA…can be good or bad depending on how well you do. Grading overseas is often more harsh than US schools.


Here’s some example info from Harvey Mudd, which is a top-notch CS school (about 45% of Mudd students major in either CS or Math/CS) and encourages study abroad. They steer students toward programs that have appropriate course offerings, but the semester abroad also tends to have more humanities and/or social science classes than a typical semester: HMC CS: Study Abroad

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I’m usually in agreement with the posters on this thread. Howeer, I have a different perspective on this issue.

I agree that study abroad can enhance a student’s experience in another culture and/or language, but at a cost. The cost is much more significant for a student in a non-liberal arts major (including CS and engineering). Few study abroad programs mesh perfectly and completely with what an ambitious student in those majors wants to pursue. At the minimum, s/he would have to give up some of the desirable electives in order to study abroad.

My S is a CS major and he had no intention to study abroad even before the pandemic. He made the decision that I wholly agree with. Why would he give up a significant portion of his four years at one of the best colleges in order to study abroad (even at one of the most prestigious colleges abroad - think Oxbridge-level schools)? The cultural aspect can be made up in other ways. He was going to spend the summer last year in Australia until the pandemic intervened.

My engineering major would not have been able to do a full semester abroad with her co-op. Instead she did a “Maymester” after her freshman year, and spent a month in Italy taking two honors courses. It was a great experience.

Most colleges offer a range of abroad options so students can travel and experience classes overseas without losing a full semester.


This also raises the point that it may matter which American college you’re attending. The vast majority of unis abroad are publics (even the top ones), but if you’re attending an American public, going abroad may make a lot of sense (at some study-abroad programs at some publics, it may even be cheaper than studying at your home uni).

Why would you give it up? Because life is short. When will a person ever have a significant amount of time to spend in another country again? Most won’t have the time again until retirement. Really depends on what each person values. Some top privates encourage study abroad for that reason so I don’t think the prestige of the school should make a difference in the decision.


I think that this will depend a great deal on the details. This will depend upon your major, what courses you take abroad, where you go abroad to, and where you are in your studies.

One daughter took approximately a semester abroad in high school. We also hosted two students from abroad in high school. This was a very positive experience for all three students. However, it was probably more about the cultural experience rather than the academics. The exception was language, where all three students improved in their knowledge of a second language (Spanish for our daughter, American English for the two students that we hosted).

One daughter went “slightly abroad” (to Canada) for the full four years for her bachelor’s degree. It was academically very rigorous. She probably has learned more in her major than she would have in the US. A larger percentage of her courses were in her major or closely related fields than would have been true at a university in the US. Her bachelor’s thesis looked to me to be equivalent to a master’s thesis at a US university. However, this is very specific to what she was studying and where she was studying.

There are also summer options for study abroad. If you take a summer class outside of the US (or outside of your home country) this might not replace the classes that you take in university, but might be an additional class.

If you arrange the study abroad through your university, then they are likely to know how the academics fit with the required courses for your major. Some universities do indeed have study abroad options that are specific to your major.

You’re absolutely right that prestige has nothing to do with it (I only mentioned it to highlight an alternative that may seem to be attractive to some). However, the area of one’s study does have something to do with it. Why would he give it up the opportunity? Because he can’t accommodate all of his planned course of study (not just his college’s and his major’s general curricula). If he went aboard to study for any period of time, he wouldn’t be able to make up that time at his college in his lifetime. On the other hand, he would likely have the opportunity to live abroad if he so chooses later in his life.

To recap, Study Abroad options are just options and should be considered at the very end of college selection/application.

If I am interested in studying abroad, I should really only look into it after college acceptance.

We told our kids 8 semesters, then parents out. So nothing was off the table- but none of my kids ended up doing a semester or year abroad. For one, it would have added a semester to fit in the required courses (too hard to get the sequencing right in the sciences at an overseas program). For another, it would have delayed thesis research, professor going on sabbatical, that sort of stuff.

But one got a fellowship for a summer research job overseas which was fantastic (and didn’t cost us anything). And there could have been more of that if the kids had been interested.

So check on the sequencing in addition to the credits. Some courses are a “fall semester 1, spring semester 2” sort of deal, so if you miss one of the semesters, you are waiting an entire year to get it on your schedule.

Anecdotally, not studying abroad is one of my two potential regrets from my college days.


Two nights ago, our D asked to sit down with us to discuss something about this coming school year. I have already an idea because she mentioned it to me a few months back. I also clued in my husband of her possible interest in doing a semester abroad for spring 2021. She sat down and said she wants to do a spring semester in South Korea. She is a CS major.She then explained in details why she wanted to do it, pulled out her laptop and did a power point presentation on our appleTV. From the information from Colgate’s study abroad, vetted programs, contact information, how the school will need to approve the chosen courses prior to the start of the semester, how the financial aid transfers, costs of housing, meal, how to acquire medical insurance for International coverage, down to personal expenses. Every thing was broken down to $$$ and how she would contribute by saving her TA money from school this fall semester.

She also researched the school, how housing is for International students, to how accommodations are provided for people with food allergies to accessibility of groceries, shops etc. She has been in communication with people who did the same or similar program in SK.

Honestly, we have mixed feelings more on my husband’s side than me. The distance, safety and the pandemic make me worry but I feel the benefit to her as a student and as a young person with a bright future out weighs my worries. Our D did her homework and presented her case. It was impressive. Now I am doing my due diligence as a parent. Barring a drastic change to the worst about the worldwide pandemic, I am supporting her plans to spend 5 months abroad.

Now your question if this option is worth it, I think it is up to the person how and why you feel to do a semester abroad. Everyone is different. I for one if ever presented an opportunity to study abroad, I would have gone and do it myself. There is just so much out there outside our bubble to learn, explore and discover whether academically or personally for own growth.

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There are a variety of study abroad options including a month in late spring, several weeks during winter break, etc. For those shorter ones you might just get credit for one class. Certainly worth it in my opinion if you can afford it.

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