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. Biology majors who meet requirements for study in a Francophone country should consider the MHC Year in Montpellier, France. Majors with some background in Spanish are encouraged to consider the MHC/Goucher program in Costa Rica.

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. 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.