Science is a universal field, with many options to study internationally. Whether doing fieldwork in a rain forest in Ecuador, taking health-related courses in Denmark, or participating in molecular biology research in Germany, there are many ways to incorporate your interest in biochemistry into an international experience. Your study abroad experience could be a “typical” classroom experience, or it could be based around an internship, field work, or research experience. Beyond your science-related experience, studying or researching abroad can help you build cultural competence, problem-solving abilities, and world language skills.
Prospective Biochemistry Students
As a biochemistry major, you can study abroad during almost any term in your college career, including winter or summer, but there are some important factors to consider. If you begin your planning early and intentionally, it is possible to study abroad, even for a full semester, and graduate in four years with a biochemistry major. The information below will help in your planning and conversations with your biochemistry advisor. For more information on the biochemistry major, visit the Department of Biochemistry website. To connect with an advisor, visit the Department of Biochemistry’s Advising Information page. Even if you’re not ready to declare the biochemistry major yet, you are encouraged to meet with the academic advisor to discuss and plan for possible study abroad opportunities in the future.
To gain background information about study abroad and the various programs available, attend the Study Abroad Fair on campus, visit the Program Search database on the International Academic Programs (IAP) website, and/or meet with advisors at IAP.
Biochemistry Course Considerations Abroad
Letters & Science students need to keep in mind that at least 15 credits of work in the major/department must be completed on campus. CALS students need to keep in mind that they may be required to graduate when their requirements are complete -if you’re studying abroad in your final semester and will have more than 120 credits before then, it’s critical to save a CALS or major requirement, such as humanities, social science, or an advanced biology course, for your final semester. Beyond that, there are no requirements for taking certain numbers of courses or credits here on campus versus while studying abroad, and it’s certainly possible to graduate while abroad.
It can be challenging to fulfill core science requirements abroad for the biochemistry major, as core courses such as calculus, general chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, physics, introductory biology, and the capstone requirement may not have direct equivalents or be taught in the same sequence as courses at UW-Madison. The most likely courses biochemistry students could take abroad to fulfill requirements are:
- breadth courses (social sciences, humanities, CALS International Studies requirement)
- upper-level biology courses (for those not pursuing Biocore). Study abroad courses that directly equate to a course on the upper-level biology list will automatically count for that requirement. Topics courses (Zoology 400, Forest & Wildlife Ecology 400, etc.) in bioscience areas could also potentially count for upper-level biology. To see if a topics course could count for this requirement, you can talk with the Biochemistry advisor about the likelihood that such a course could count based on the title and description, or send a syllabus for the course abroad to the advisor for review if you have access to it.
- some Biochemistry courses (501; other 500-600 level electives). If a course does not match one of the Biochemistry courses offered at UW-Madison, the department may still be able to grant general Biochemistry study abroad credit, which could be used to fulfill major requirements based on the discretion of your academic advisor.
Students participating in summer, winter, or spring break programs, including field, global health, or research-based experiences, often do not need to be as concerned with fulfilling particular requirements or course equivalencies.
If graduating in four years is very important, creating a four-year plan where your study abroad semester consists of electives or non-science breadth requirements can help, so that if necessary you have leeway to complete all your major coursework on campus. Taking core science courses in summer (such as organic chemistry or analytical chemistry, which are regularly offered) can help you fit in a semester abroad without having semesters of major-heavy coursework before or after going abroad.
Mapping Your Study Abroad Experience as a Biochemistry Major
Freshman year is a good time to focus on your core foundation courses – namely calculus and chemistry. Some students study abroad during winter or spring break, especially if they are part of a FIG (First Year Interest Group) that has a study abroad component.
Sophomore year can be a good time to study abroad, especially if your foundational coursework is completed early – for example, if you took Chemistry 109 and started Chem 343 freshman year, or if you have AP credit for Bio 151 and only need to take 152 here. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options.
Junior year is a popular time for many students to study abroad. However, biochemistry majors will often take Biochemistry 507 and 508 their junior year if they are here on campus. 507 is a fall-only course and 508 is a spring-only course, so it can be difficult to do this sequence if you are off-campus for a semester. Many students who study abroad will choose to take Biochemistry 501 one of their semesters junior year and then a 500/600-level biochemistry elective their senior year, instead of taking Biochemistry 507/508. Depending on the study abroad program, you may be able to take Biochemistry 501 or a 500/600 level elective while abroad, and/or one or two advanced biology courses. Alternatively, students could take Biochemistry 507 fall of junior year, study abroad in spring, and then take Biochemistry 508 spring of senior year. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options and will not affect course sequencing.
Fall of senior year can be an ideal time to study abroad, if you are not in the midst of applying to medical school or graduate school for immediate acceptance after graduation. Studying abroad fall of senior year allows you to take Biochemistry 507/508 as a junior, and then take the core senior year courses (physical chemistry and the capstone) together in spring of senior year. Studying abroad spring of senior year can be difficult for CALS students if you do not have any requirements remaining, as CALS policy is that students can be graduated if all requirements are met. Sometimes students save a requirement they are very sure to find abroad (such as humanities, social science, or even an advanced bio course if they identify a program that will definitely have such a course) for spring of senior year if they’d like to study abroad then.
*For students participating in Biocore*
Biocore is an honors level introductory biology sequencing spanning four semesters – typically all of sophomore and junior year. It is possible to study abroad during one of those semesters, but students will need to pick up the remaining semesters/years of Biocore when they return. For example, a student may study abroad during junior year, and then take the junior year Biocore courses as a senior. This can cause course conflicts with some of the required biochemistry courses in senior year, however. Studying abroad during winter, spring, or summer break can be a great alternative for Biocore students, or during fall of senior year. Talking with your advisor will be essential to studying abroad as a sophomore or junior while participating in Biocore.
Example Four Year Plan for Biochemistry Major Coursework with Study Abroad Spring Junior Year
*Note – does not account for breadth, gen ed, or pre-professional school requirements
Chem 344 (or summer)
Upper-level Bio (3 cr.)
Upper-level Bio (3 cr.)?
Questions to Ask
Your Academic Advisor
- What classes must I complete for my degree (breadth/depth, major requirements, etc.)?
- Which courses are likely to be found abroad for my major/degree? Which will I likely have to take here at UW-Madison?
- How do my other goals (summer research experiences, attending medical or professional school, taking a gap year vs. applying right away) fit in with my coursework and timeline for studying abroad? When would be the best time(s) to go abroad?
Your Study Abroad Advisor
- What classes can I take abroad?
- How and when do I select courses for my program?
- When will I know course equivalents for my program?
- What is the class structure like abroad?
- What are my post-graduation plans (medical school, graduate school, work, etc.?)
- Do I intend to pursue any post-undergraduate education right away or take time off? This may influence when you take certain standardized tests, when you need to take certain prerequisite courses, and when study abroad is most feasible.
- What are my priorities for my undergraduate education – is it graduating in 4 years, studying abroad for a semester, completing multiple majors/certificates, being able to attend medical school right away? Which of these are most important if it becomes difficult to fit everything in?
Identifying Programs That are Right for You
There are many different program options available to you depending on the type of experience you’d like to have:
Type: Will you participate in classroom-based coursework? Do a global health field experience? Participate in research? Some combination of those activities?
Duration: Summer? A semester? Spring break? Winter break?
Once you’ve considered program type and duration, take a look at the program options below:
Programs that may fulfill Major Requirements
The programs listed below have various durations and have offered courses that may count for the advanced biology or biochemistry requirements for this major. If you do not have specific requirements you need to fulfill, you will have much more flexibility as to program type and location.
South Africa, Cape Town / University of Cape Town Exchange
Tanzania, Karatu / SFS Wildlife Management & Wildlife Research
China, Hong Kong / Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Exchange
Academic Year students can take Biochem 507-508
South Korea, Seoul / Korea University Exchange
South Korea, Seoul / Yonsei University Exchange
Thailand, Chiang Rai / UW Microbiology and Public Health in Northern Thailand
Turkey, Istanbul / Bogazici University Exchange
Singapore / National University of Singapore Exchange
England, Bristol / University of Bristol Exchange
Academic Year students can take Biochem 507-508
Academic Year students can take Chem 561-562 (fulfills the physical chemistry requirement; talk to your academic advisor about a DARS exception)
England, Leeds / University of Leeds Exchange
Denmark, Copenhagen / University of Copenhagen Exchange
Denmark, Copenhagen / Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS)
Wales, Cardiff / Cardiff University
Sweden, Multiple / Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Exchange
Latin America and Caribbean
Costa Rica, Atenas / SFS Sustainable Development Studies
Costa Rica, Monteverde / CIEE Tropical Ecology and Conservation in Costa Rica
Ecuador, Quito / Ceiba Tropical Conservation Semester: Galapagos, Andes and Amazon
Panama, Bocas del Toro / SFS Tropical Island Biodiversity & Conservation Studies
Turks & Caicos, South Caicos Island / SFS Marine Resource Studies
Australia, Brisbane / University of Queensland Exchange
Australia, Cairns & Townsville / James Cook University
Australia, Yungaburra / SFS Rainforest Studies
New Zealand, Multiple / Massey University Exchange
Programs with Public/Global Health-Related Experiences
These opportunities may not necessarily fulfill major or degree requirements, but they may be of interest to those interested in public health, medicine, or other health fields, and often occur during summer, winter, or spring breaks. These programs often involve out-of-classroom experiences such as service learning, site visits, and connecting with members and groups in the community. To find public/global health-related programs, select Academic Credit: “Certificate in Global Health” on the Program Search.
Other Program Options
Many other study abroad programs may be related to your interests and could be beneficial, including:
Research and global health programs offered by Department of Biochemistry faculty, many of which offer scholarships specifically for biochemistry majors:
England, Cambridge / UW SCORE Cambridge International Research Program
England, Oxford / UW SCORE Oxford International Research Program
Germany, Heidelberg / UW SUPER-G International Research Program
Uganda, Multiple / UW Agriculture, Health, & Nutrition in Uganda
Uganda, Mukono / UW Mobile Clinics & Health Care in Uganda
Lab-based internships in university or private settings (check out the International Internship Program)
Studying something completely different from the biosciences and focusing on your science coursework while at UW-Madison (use the Program Search to identify programs by region, country, language of instruction, duration, or subjects taught) – there are many programs that may not be science or health care-related but may complement your studies by practicing a language, learning about another culture or region, or earning credit towards an additional major or certificate.
Search all IAP programs
Research all programs using the IAP Program Search page. The above is not an exhaustive list of all programs that might be appropriate. There may be other programs that are a better fit for your individual needs or interests.