Many people focus so much on staying in the country during the college application process that once they start college, they don’t think much about studying abroad. I have especially heard many STEM majors say that they don’t have time to study abroad – but this isn’t always true.
As I write this, I am sitting in a local cafe in Seoul, South Korea. I am participating in the Hanyang International Summer School, a summer program for college students who want to learn while also gaining a study abroad experience. Summer programs are a great way for students to study abroad if they do not wish to disrupt their semester program: they still get an experience abroad while learning.
Summer study abroad programs can expose a student to so much around them – in my time here, I have met many people from all over the world and seen what other cultures and countries are like when it comes to education. For example, in Singapore, men are required to serve in the military. As a result, the Singaporean men in my program are around 22-25 years of age which generally past the age at which people graduate with an undergraduate degree in the States. On the other hand, one of my friends has been trying to avoid the Taiwanese military draft by studying pharmacy in Ohio.
Some classes that summer study abroad programs offer are quite unique, and can be used to fulfill general education requirements. For example, I am taking Korean Traditional Fan Dance to fulfill one of my general education requirements. It is not only a great break from my STEM classes here, but it’s rather exciting to learn about a traditional art form from the place it originated.
With the world being so global nowadays, it is important that college students get an experience that not only puts us out of our comfort zone, but exposes us to parts of the world we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I am extremely thankful for all the people I have met and the new cultures I have experienced, because the lessons I’ve learned are definitely things that I will tie into my learning at my home university. As a STEM major, I was scared that there wouldn’t be enough classes for me to take abroad, or that there wouldn’t be any classes that would transfer into my degree. However, taking computer science/math classes in an Asian country has been quite the experience.
It is hard to believe that I’ve only been in South Korea for two weeks – it definitely feels more like two months, or even longer. Many people who have participated in a study abroad program also feel the same way. STEM majors have so many opportunities to grow with research opportunities and mentoring on campus, but those aren’t the only ways we can learn more about the world and gain opportunities.