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, 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 Darby Dyar, Chair and 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 they have taken 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. The McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives Study Abroad website is also an excellent resource for programs, application procedures, deadlines, financial aid, and more. Laurel Fellowships (need-based financial aid) are readily available to qualified students.

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 or Research Abroad

Next Steps

Students interested in exploring possibilities for learning abroad are encouraged to contact the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives. April Stroud is the primary advisor for study abroad, and Kirk Lange can offer guidance on internships or research abroad. Students should also consult with their advisor about how they can best connect and integrate learning abroad with their work in the major.