It is understandable to think studying abroad as an engineering student is not realistic. We take an extra class worth of credits every semester compared to other majors, our classes are rigorous as is and what’s the point of going to another country if we have no time or money to explore it? The idea can seem foreign and frankly overwhelming. Well, let’s take a second to close our eyes… take a deep breath… and dismiss those bad vibes because studying abroad is possible as an engineering student.
I am a mechanical engineering student who decided to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia during the spring semester of my sophomore year. I chose Australia because their primary language is English (some programs require you to take a language efficiency exam) and I figured when would I have the chance to be on the other side of the world again mate? To make the most of my experience, I chose to live off campus to immerse myself in the culture and took courses in fluid mechanics, microeconomics and music psychology.
The key for a successful study abroad experience is starting early. Engineering students should try to go abroad during their sophomore year before classes become too major specific. While Rutgers offers over 150+ different study abroad programs on every continent, it is harder to find a specific class like Multiphysics Simulation, for instance. Students should also try to save their non-major classes, such as their electives, for when they go abroad since these classes generally do not require prerequisites. For this reason, I HIGHLY recommend students find their major’s handbook and place it in an excel sheet. This will allow you to see all the classes you need to complete and change around a few to accommodate going abroad (This can also be useful for incorporating a co-op, research, or other experience into your schedule as well).
Some important things to remember: if you do choose to change around some classes, make sure to see if they are a prerequisite for future classes or else this could put you a semester behind. More of a reason to save your electives for studying abroad!
Some students get worried that the classes they take abroad won’t transfer back to Rutgers, however, do not stress. Before going abroad, you will pick classes from your study abroad university’s course catalog that are similar to ones at Rutgers. Once you find these classes, you will meet with a Dean who will approve (or not) these classes. With a written signature, you are guaranteed they will transfer over.
So, is studying abroad more expensive than a semester at Rutgers? Yes, but it really is in your control. Each program varies in cost so choose one within your budget! Also, make sure you differentiate fixed costs (tuition, visa) from variable costs (housing, flights, books) because if you are like me, you can always find a good deal on flights and food. The School of Engineering is great as it provides all study abroad students with a $1,000 scholarship that can be used towards any expenses. Also all scholarship and financial aid you normally receive from Rutgers will carry over to your time abroad.
As always, there are additional scholarships you can apply for through the Rutgers study abroad department, however another option is potentially working while abroad. Some countries allow students to work part-time on their student visa, which is what I did. I worked twice a week in the hospitality industry, and it was enough to cover my traveling expenses. I also met some incredible locals who I stay in touch with to this day.
Now for my favorite section. Courage. Courage to meet new people. Courage to explore new places. Courage to step out of your comfort zone. Whatever it is, you need courage to go after it. While academics are important, your time abroad is about becoming independent, finding out who you are, what you are comfortable with and seeing a world beyond New Jersey. For me, I was lucky enough to explore the mountains of New Zealand, the shores of Thailand, the jungles of Bali and the incredible cities of Australia’s east coast. Trust me when I say I didn’t have a lot of money, I’m a college student too, but there are so many skills and hacks you learn from traveling. You learn how to time flights properly, how to barter with locals, how to pack a bag so it doesn’t exceed the weight limit (I’ve literally gone to the airport wearing 3 pairs of sweatshirts and sweatpants with all my electronics in my pockets). You will also make many mistakes, but don’t let them deter you, learn from them. Sometimes the outcome is even better than expected. There is so much adventure waiting for you and I’m so excited for you to take the next step.
-Dylan MAE ‘20