Learning Abroad for Biological Science Majors

"The opportunity to study abroad for a semester or a year nicely complements a major in biology, giving students the chance to explore new ecosystems, contexts, and cultures." — Sarah Bacon

The Department of Biological Sciences supports majors who seek out opportunities that will expand ways of thinking, and provide new experiences in research, the classroom, and the wider world. Some students have sought ways to combine scientific study and study of language, culture, or social issues, and there are excellent programs that combine two or more of these elements. Other students have sought to study environments that provide a profoundly different perspective on the array of systems that are available on this campus. There are also excellent programs that teach aspects of biology that are not offered at Mount Holyoke.

The department will provide advice on programs and courses that fit with the student's interests and goals, whether for a summer, a semester, or a full year. These experiences may provide unique study and/or research opportunities that will greatly expand a student’s understanding of, and engagement with, the life sciences. 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. Some biology majors have focused on their minor while away from Mount Holyoke.

Study Abroad

Where to Study
Almost all students who have studied biology have done so in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or Denmark (DIS, Copenhagen), or in field studies programs taught in English in other countries. We encourage students to explore options in non-English speaking countries.

For a list of where past and present 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 schedules carefully. Required biology courses (Genetics and Molecular Biology, Ecology, Evolution, and Cell Biology) are offered once a year. Quite often, a student may find an equivalent course abroad, in which case it is important that she get that substitution approved before departure. A number of students have found courses abroad that meet the requirement for Cell Biology, Ecology, and Evolution.

Credit Transfer
As a general rule, nearly all advanced elective offerings at foreign institutions for which students meet the prerequisites will be accepted for 300-level credit toward the major. Note that majors are required to take a minimum of three courses at the 300 level in biology; at least two of these must be taken at Mount Holyoke, and at least two must have a significant lab or field component.

Summer Internships and Research Abroad

An international summer internship or research project is a good way for biology majors to apply and develop their skills and explore possible careers paths while engaging with cultures and perspectives outside the United States. Further, those biology 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 number of faculty members also have collaborations with colleagues abroad. 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.

Many funded summer research opportunities are available to biology majors. The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, offers programs for undergraduate research both abroad and in the U.S. The DAAD RISE program also offers funded summer research opportunities in Germany for students in the sciences.

Students have the option of developing their own summer internship or research project.

  • Funding is available through the Lynk Universal Application Form (UAF). For more details about internship opportunities and funding, please contact Kirk Lange, Director of International Experiential learning at the McCulloch Center.  

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.