Learning Abroad for Physics Majors

Learning abroad may provide unique study and/or research opportunities that will greatly expand a student's understanding of, and engagement with, the physical 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.  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 Physics 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 physics majors have studied in France and Costa Rica, and have conducted summer research in Germany and Japan.  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 Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom.

For a list of where past and present physics 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 physics courses while they are studying abroad.  Students must consult with their advisor and, where necessary, the department chair, to address these issues ahead of time.

A physics major interested in study abroad for a single semester will generally find the spring of her junior year to be the best option.  While the sequencing of the required physics major courses is critical in the first two years of study, by the third or fourth year, physics majors have a great deal of flexibility in the timing of their coursework.  Physics majors are strongly encouraged to participate in independent research, and many of our majors do senior honors theses in their senior year, in which case study abroad fits better during the junior year.

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 at Mount Holyoke.  A student wishing to take a physics course abroad should consult beforehand with her faculty advisor; the department is often willing to accept courses taken abroad in lieu of one or more of the major requirements, but this must be arranged ahead of time

Summer Internships and Research Abroad

International summer research opportunities offer another popular option for study abroad for physics majors. Many funded international summer research programs exist through the National Science Foundation, the German government, etc.; please see our internships page for ideas.

  • 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.  

 In recent years, physics majors have done nanoscience research in Japan and nuclear physics in Germany.

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.