Learning Abroad for Astronomy Majors

I encourage my students to study abroad, to immerse themselves in other cultures, see things from different perspectives, and question their own assumptions in the process. In other words, I want my students to become well-rounded astronomy majors and global citizens. —M. Darby Dyar

In an age where telescopes are built via international collaborations, countries work together to send missions to the planets or the International Space Station, and scientists collaborate across time zones and cultural boundaries via the internet, astronomy is truly a global enterprise. The Astronomy Department encourages its majors to seek out learning opportunities abroad and will strive to provide support to accommodate a summer, semester, or academic year, abroad.

Learning abroad may provide unique study and/or research opportunities that will greatly expand a student’s understanding of, and engagement with, astronomy. Learning abroad can be especially fruitful for astronomy majors if they choose an institution with courses that enrich our Five College curriculum—particularly institutions with their own telescopes and related research programs. Alternatively, a period abroad may also be used as a hiatus from the major, providing time to explore other elements of a student’s liberal arts education before returning to the major. In either case, by immersing themselves in another culture and engaging with unfamiliar perspectives students will develop skills and competencies for careers and citizenship in a global world.

Study Abroad

Where to Study:
The Astronomy Department encourages students to think broadly about their goals for study abroad in choosing a host destination. For example: do you wish to study in a language other than English? In recent years, Astronomy majors have studied in France and Shanghai. Perhaps you are interested in non-traditional, English-speaking locations such as South Africa or Hong Kong, or you would prefer to target an institution in Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact Professor M. Darby Dyar, Chair and Associate Professor of Astronomy.

We recommend programs at the following institutions for astronomy and astrophysics students:

For a list of where past and present Astronomy majors have studied and a summary of the courses that they took abroad, check this searchable database. Note that this is not a definitive list of what is possible and should serve only as a useful guide and planning resource.

When to Study:
It is of vital importance that students plan their schedule according to whether they intend to take any Astronomy courses while they are studying abroad. Almost no planning hurdle is insurmountable, as long as a student consults with her advisor and, where necessary the department chair, to address these issues ahead of time.

Credit Transfer:
As a general rule, nearly all elective offerings at foreign institutions for which students meet the prerequisites will be accepted for 200 or 300-level credit toward the majors. We especially encourage students to take courses not offered within the Five Colleges so as to enrich their program of study.

Summer Internships and Research Abroad

An international summer internship or research project is a good way for Astronomy majors to apply and develop their skills and explore possible careers paths while engaging with cultures and perspectives outside the United States. Astronomy majors involved in significant research collaborations with faculty may find a summer internship to be the best fit with their plans for their time at the college. A summer spent with a collaborator may therefore achieve the twin goals of providing a valuable experience abroad, as well as allowing a student to move her research efforts forward in a new and interesting manner. We encourage students to consult the Department Chair for suggestions.


Many funded summer research opportunities are available to astronomy majors wanting to pursue domestic U.S. Internships as well as international ones. The DAAD RISE program offers funded summer research opportunities in Germany for students in the sciences. Other opportunities may be made available through MHC faculty with foreign collaborators; please consult with faculty members to learn more.

Students have the option of developing their own summer internship or research project. Support for unpaid opportunities is available through the Lynk Universal Application Form (UAF), which offers students access to funding from a variety of College fellowship sources to cover travel and living expenses for the duration of the project. Students with a family contribution of less than $5000 may also receive a $500 grant to apply towards their summer earnings contribution. Both the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives and the Career Development Center have student evaluations of past international internships on file.