Being able to study abroad and still graduate in four years is a big concern for most students. Those concerns become even more daunting when you dive into majors that require a very specific course sequence, like STEM. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to study abroad as a STEM major and still graduate in four years.
Most students just need to start planning early. But for students at the University of Maine, the Department of Mechanical Engineering is making it part of their curriculum to spend a semester taking STEM courses in Valencia, Spain through USAC. Valencia is one of USAC’s top destinations for STEM courses.
When the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UMaine realized that the STEM courses offered in Valencia coincide perfectly with the list of courses the mechanical engineering students at UMaine are required to complete, they made a semester abroad an easy option for all students.
“It is vitally important for our students to develop a more informed view of the world we live in, and a study abroad such as the one offered by USAC will provide them such an opportunity,” Dr. Masoud Rais-Rohani Professor & Chair for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“Study abroad is a highly valuable experience for any college student. Living abroad and being exposed to a different culture greatly benefits a student’s personal development,” said Dr. Olivier Putzeys, Lecturer, University of Maine Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Through this partnership, students spend their first year in the U.S. and then the Fall semester of their second year in Valencia, Spain with USAC taking classes like General Chemistry, Calculus, Thermodynamics, and Dynamics. Students also have the opportunity to take an elective which can range from Spanish language, literature, history or culture, to Sailing the Mediterranean Sea or Dances of Spain. After their semester abroad, students return to UMaine to complete their courses and graduate in four years.
“Study abroad provides students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and understanding of different cultures and societies. It also helps students gain a better appreciation for our world as a global village,” said Dr. Rais-Rohani.
The university currently has several Mechanical Engineering students taking advantage of this opportunity. We reached out to ask them about their experience taking their STEM classes abroad.
“Through taking classes at a different university with different students I’ve had a chance to learn about people with different nationalities but similar goals as me. I’ve gotten to know a group of Spanish Computer Engineering majors that are really similar to me,” said Will Salisbury.
“Before I traveled abroad, I had always thought of my STEM career being contained to the United States. In other words, I had never considered the option of interning or working as an engineer outside of America. However, once I got to Spain and got to meet some of the Spanish students who had STEM careers over here, I quickly realized that it was a possibility to establish a career overseas,” said Cameron Oxley.
Of course, these classes are not only available to University of Maine students. For students attending other universities, taking STEM classes abroad and graduating in four years is still very possible.
“I have been able to take classes with students who aren’t all from the University of Maine, and I have seen how working with a more diverse student body can lead to better insights and ideas,” said Cameron.
Our recommendation is to plan early. The sooner in your college career you know you want to study abroad, the easier it is to make it happen.
There are a variety of locations where USAC offers STEM classes.
Australia – Gold Coast & Melbourne
Costa Rica – Heredia, Puntarenas, & San Ramon
England – Brighton, Bristol, London, Reading
Ireland – Cork
Israel – Haifa
Japan – Hiroshima
Korea – Gwangju, Seoul (Kookmin), Seoul (Yonsei)
New Zealand – Auckland
Scotland – St. Andrews & Stirling
South Africa – Stellenbosch
Spain – Valencia
Sweden – Växjö/Kalmar
Thailand – Khon Kaen
The Netherlands – Maastricht
For universities who are looking to make it easier for their STEM students to study abroad, Dr. Rais-Rohani says it’s all about breaking perceptions.
“It is important to reduce the perceived penalty of extending the undergraduate program as a result of pursuing a study abroad program. By closely matching the courses offered by USAC to the required set of courses, students would be more inclined to pursue such opportunities.”
If you’re a STEM student who is hoping to study abroad and graduate in four years, know that it’s possible and you have a variety of options with USAC. Feel free to reach out to a USAC Program Advisor to learn more about the opportunities abroad.