Is there room for studying abroad in a busy engineering degree schedule? With calculus, computer science and differential equations to master, can engineering students afford to spend a semester studying art history in Greece or the Spanish language in Barcelona? The exact answer depends on which field of engineering the student is studying. Civil engineers will find more opportunities overseas than computer engineers. In general, engineering students can find a way to study abroad — with the proper planning and flexibility.
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Short Study Abroad Programs
One of the easiest ways to study abroad while earning a B.S. in engineering is to look for short programs. Many universities offer 3- or 4-week study abroad trips in May, June or July. A month-long experience can let students sample the joys of foreign travel without the financial and schedule commitment of an entire semester abroad. These short programs rarely cover engineering-specific topics, so students should meet with an adviser to fit any desired programs into the degree schedule. A class in Italian architecture or Chinese history can easily fill general education requirements, but not if the student has already taken the required gen ed courses.
Engineers Without Borders USA
Super-short engineering study abroad programs exist. Students can spend Fall or Spring Break overseas working alongside professional engineers win challenging international conditions. Engineers Without Borders packs powerful learning opportunities into short trips. Most students return from their work with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of working as an engineer overseas. Because these trips only last one week, they're an affordable study abroad option for engineering students. Students rarely receive academic credit for working with Engineers Without Borders, but joining a school-based chapter can provide networking and internship opportunities.
Foreign Language and Engineering Study Abroad Programs
Some universities offer combined degree programs for engineering students who wish to learn a second language during school. These programs produce bilingual graduates with in-demand job skills, but they come at a cost. Spanish/Engineering or German/Engineering degrees offer very little room for elective classes. Students must also enter the degree track early in their studies, and some programs take 4.5 or even 5 years to complete. However, most combined foreign language and engineering programs culminate in a semester-long study abroad experience.
The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad) is an independent non-profit that works with universities across the country to help students head overseas. IES Abroad offers engineering-specific study abroad programs in Nice, Madrid and Shanghai. These programs draw engineering students from diverse schools to study engineering for a semester abroad. Although IES Abroad programs aren't the cheapest option, they're perfect for students attending universities without strong programs. Students appreciate the chance to meet engineers from different regions and to complete major-specific coursework while overseas.
Engineering students don't enjoy the same course flexibility as history or English majors. That doesn't mean they're chained to desks in the engineering lab. With the help of a good student adviser, studying abroad can be part of a plan to complete an engineering degree.