First Steps on the Path to Study Abroad

Keep In Mind:


Back to Getting Started 


Information For Science Majors And Pre-Med Students

There are numerous opportunities for science students to study abroad. Students in disciplines such as Biology and Mathematics, which do not have a great degree of vertical structuring in their curricula, have the most opportunities for study abroad. However, even in the more sequentially organized disciplines, such as Chemistry, Geology, Psychology and Physics, foreign study is possible with advanced planning and consultation with advisors within the department. Regardless of your discipline, a valuable program of foreign study requires careful planning and discussion with your advisor well before you participate in the program.  

Pre-medical and pre-dental students can also consider international study.  While it is generally advisable not to take required pre-medical or pre-dental courses at a foreign university, it may be possible to do so after a thorough examination of the course in question, and a careful comparison of its content with that at a US university. There are many health related study abroad programs which offer an excellent opportunity to explore the health field and gain some valuable hands-on experience (review the Opportunities list by searching on “health” in the programs filter).  

In some cases it may be possible for a science major to study abroad for a semester without studying science. This requires careful planning in consultation with your major advisor so that you do not have an unusually heavy course load upon your return.

With good planning, many pre-med and natural science majors find a way to study abroad for at least a semester or more. It requires some carefully planning, consulting with the pre-health advisor in the Career center and it depends on your timeframe for pursuing your medical degree.

Consult with Cate Talbot Ashton the Pre-Health Advisor in the Colby Career Center.

Planning For Senior Year

You should think about your plans for senior year as you begin planning when and for how long to go and where to study. Before leaving campus, you should also think about ways in which study abroad may enhance and/or interfere with some of your senior year or post-graduate plans. In fact, being able to integrate what you learned abroad into what you are doing on campus upon return can help mitigate the difficulties of reentry.

  • Independent study or honors project: While studying away, many students discover or start new avenues of research that lead to an independent study or honors project in the senior year; or they can simply apply their new skills and share their experience in regular Colby coursework. Speak with your advisor about this possibility before you leave or contact them from abroad.
  • Graduate school applications: Off-campus study experience may also strengthen applications for graduate schools and scholarships. You are strongly recommended to investigate all these possibilities, but as with independent studies, you should discuss them with your advisors and Career Center contacts before departure; without previous planning you will find it very hard to make all the necessary plans and meet deadlines at the beginning of your senior year. Students interested in the health professions should consult Cate Ashton in the Career Center.
  • Internships: It is not unusual for students who study abroad to use contacts and resources in their host country to obtain internships for the following summer (or JanPlan), or to search from abroad for an internship in the U.S.  Or you may consider doing an internship program as part of your study abroad program during the semester.


Career Development While Studying Off-Campus

While study abroad may seem like a break from your “real” life, it can be a valuable part of your career exploration and development. Whether or not you hope to work abroad in the future, being able to articulate your international competencies can be extremely valuable to a potential employer. We encourage you to work with your Career Center advisor to prepare for making the most of your upcoming experience.

Below are some things you can do to maximize or enhance your career development before you go, while you are studying off-campus, and when you get back.

Before you leave Colby:

  • Have a meeting with Career Center staff to identify and clarify your career goals.
  • Consider doing an Alumni search for individuals living and working where you will be studying
  • Talk with students who are back from your study site. Did they do an internship while there? Was it during the semester or after? How did they arrange it?
  • Develop a resume to bring with you and learn about effective cover letters.
  • Consider exploring opportunities for interning, working, or volunteering in the country where you will be studying during your term abroad or for the summer or JanPlan before or after. Some students have done internships before the start of their term abroad or during JanPlan or the summer after.

While you are abroad:

  • Make career awareness part of your experience.
  • If you are going abroad: talk to alumni living and working in this part of the world. What do you observe about the cultural aspects of work habits, business attire and supervisor-employee relationships?  What appears to be most “valued” in the business community?  What can you observe about gender-based aspects of the working environment, job assignments and corporate culture?
  • If you are studying in another U.S. location: talk to alumni living and working in this community. Explore the local economy. Which businesses/industries are dominant in the area? What are some local concerns of employees? What are the cost of living and the average salary? If this is an area you would consider relocating to, what are the resources available and the lifestyle issues you want to consider?
  • Consider conducting informational interviews or exploring other career resources. Talk with local faculty members and get suggestions for other potential contacts in the community
  • If you are living in a homestay or with local students, talk with them about the local economy.
  • Contact any alumni that are living or working where you are
  • Practice the local language
  • Maintain a “contacts” notebook of every interesting professional you meet. Don’t forget to get an email address. Possible references could be a professor from the country you studied in, a host family member, or a supervisor where you volunteered, worked or interned.
  • Pay attention to the cost of living. Figure out how much money you would need to live there.
  • Explore opportunities for post study experiences
  • Stay connected to Colby Career resources such as alumni networks

When you return to Colby:

  • Attend the “Marketing your Study Abroad Experiences” workshop offered by OCS and Career Center in September and February.
  • Make plans for an internship or independent study off-campus in the summer or JanPlan
  • If you did an internship off-campus or met interesting contacts keep in touch with them on a regular basis
  • Update your resume summarizing your experience abroad
  • Consider your senior year and post graduation plans