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 student, you can study abroad during almost any term in your college career, including winter or summer. If you begin your planning early and intentionally, it is possible to study abroad, even for a full semester or year, and graduate in four years with the 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 Guide page for L&S or CALS. To connect with an advisor, visit the Biochemistry / Microbiology Undergraduate Advising Hub website. Even if you’re not ready to declare the Biochemistry major yet, you can and should 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, and/or meet with Study Abroad Advisors.
Biochemistry Course Considerations Abroad
L&S students need to keep in mind that at least 15 credits of work in the major/major department must be completed on the UW-Madison campus. CALS students need to keep in mind that they may be required to graduate when their requirements are complete. If you are a CALS student studying abroad in your final semester then it is critical to save a degree requirement 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 on a UW-Madison-administered study abroad program, and it’s certainly possible to study abroad for your final semester at UW Madison.
It can be challenging to fulfill core science requirements abroad for the Biochemistry major, as these courses may not have direct equivalents or be taught in the same sequence as courses at UW-Madison. The most likely courses you could take abroad to fulfill requirements are:
- breadth courses (social sciences, humanities, language)
- upper-level biology courses for the Biochemistry major (for those not pursuing Biocore). Study abroad courses that directly equate to a course on the upper-level biology for the Biochemistry major list will automatically count for that requirement. If a course does not directly equate to a course on the upper-level biology list, but is a bioscience course intended for juniors and seniors in a bioscience major, then it may still be a good option to take while studying abroad to fulfill the upper-level biology requirement for the Biochemistry major. Talk with your Biochemistry advisor about the likelihood that such a course could count based on the title and description, and/or send a syllabus for the course abroad to the advisor for review.
- some biochemistry courses may be available through some programs (i.e. BIOCHEM 501 or advanced biochemistry courses). If a course does not match one of the biochemistry courses offered at UW-Madison, the department may still be able to grant biochemistry study abroad course credit, which could be used to fulfill major requirements at the discretion of the major department.
If you decide to participate in summer, winter, or spring break programs, including field, global health, or research-based experiences, there is less need to be concerned with fulfilling particular requirements or course equivalencies. CALS students may be able to fulfill the CALS International Studies Requirement by participating in summer, winter, or spring break programs.
Mapping Your Study Abroad Experience as a Biochemistry Student
If graduating in four years is a high priority, then creating a Degree Plan (aka four-year plan) as soon as possible is a good idea. Because of the considerations outlined above, many Biochemistry students plan to take their major coursework on campus and take elective courses or non-science breadth requirements abroad. Schedule an appointment with your Biochemistry advisor as soon as you become interested in studying abroad to make making a Degree Plan easy.
Freshman year is a good time to focus on your core foundation courses – namely math 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 CHEM 109 and started CHEM 343 freshman year, or if you have AP credit for BIOLOGY 151 and only need to take BIOLOGY 152 here. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options.
Junior year is a popular time for UW-Madison students to study abroad and also works well for the Biochemistry major. BIOCHEM 507 and 508 (the recommended General Biochemistry courses for Biochemistry students) are both offered in the Fall and Spring semester. Therefore, you can study abroad either semester of junior year and still complete the recommended Biochemistry coursework. If taking BIOCHEM 507 and 508 does not work for you, then you may be able to take BIOCHEM 501 the semester you are on campus during junior year and then an advanced biochemistry course your senior year. Depending on the study abroad program, you may be able to take BIOCHEM 501 or an advanced biochemistry course while abroad, and/or one or two upper-level biology courses for the Biochemistry major. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options that usually do not affect course sequencing.
It is common for Biochemistry students to study abroad fall or spring of senior year. 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 matriculation after graduation. Studying abroad senior year allows you to take BIOCHEM 507 and 508 as a junior, and then take the core senior year courses (physical chemistry and the Biochemistry major capstone course) together at UW Madison in the remaining semester of senior year.
*For students participating in Biocore*
Biocore is an honors level biology sequence spanning four semesters – typically all of sophomore and junior year. Studying abroad during fall of senior year is a great option for Biochemistry students pursuing Biocore, as well as during any winter, spring, or summer break. It is also possible to study abroad during fall or spring semester of sophomore or junior year as a Biocore student, but you will need to complete the remaining semesters of Biocore when you return. For example, you 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, and will mean you finish Biocore in a different cohort of classmates than you started. Talking with your Biocore and Biochemistry advisors will be essential to studying abroad as a sophomore or junior while participating in Biocore.
Example Degree Plan for Biochemistry Major Coursework with Study Abroad Junior Year
*Note – does not account for breadth, general education, or pre-professional school requirements. Please make an appointment with your academic advisor for help with deciding on a Degree Plan including study abroad.
Upper-level Biology (or senior year)
Upper-level Biology (or senior year)
Upper-level Biology (or junior year)
Questions to Ask
- Why do I want to study abroad?
- What are my academic and personal goals?
- How long do I want to study abroad?
- How much can I afford to spend?
- What are my post-graduation plans (work, graduate school, medical or professional school, 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 studying abroad for a semester, completing multiple majors/certificates, being able to attend medical school right away, graduating in four years, etc.? Which of these are most important if it becomes difficult to fit everything in?
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?
Your Academic Advisor
- Can we make a Degree Plan that includes study abroad together?
- Which types of courses are likely to be found abroad for my major/degree? Which will I likely need to take here at UW-Madison?
- How do my other goals (summer research experiences, preparing for medical, professional, or graduate school, taking a gap year vs. applying right away) fit in with my coursework and timeline for studying abroad?
- When are some good time(s) to go abroad?
Identifying Programs That are Right for You
There are many different program options available to you, depending on the experience you’d like to have:
Type: Do you want to participate in classroom-based coursework? Do a global health field experience? Participate in research? Some combination of those activities?
Duration: Do you want to go during 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 Biochemistry major requirements
The programs listed below have various durations and have offered courses that may count for Biochemistry major requirements. If you do not have specific major requirements that you need to fulfill while studying abroad, then you will have much more flexibility as to program type and location.
Tanzania, Karatu / SFS Wildlife Management & Wildlife Research
South Africa, Cape Town / University of Cape Town Exchange
China, Hong Kong / Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Exchange
– Academic Year students can take BIOCHEM 507 and 508
Singapore / National University of Singapore Exchange
South Korea, Seoul / Korea University Exchange
South Korea, Seoul / Yonsei University Exchange
Thailand, Bangkok / Thammasat University Exchange
Turkey, Istanbul / Bogazici University Exchange
Denmark, Copenhagen / DIS- Study Abroad in Scandinavia
Denmark, Copenhagen / University of Copenhagen Exchange
England, Bristol / University of Bristol Exchange
– Academic Year students can take BIOCHEM 507 and 508
– Academic Year students can take CHEM 561 and 562 (fulfills the physical chemistry requirement)
England, Leeds / University of Leeds Exchange
Netherlands, Wageningen: Wageningen University Exchange
Sweden, Multiple / Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Exchange
Wales, Cardiff / Cardiff University
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
Trinidad & Tobago, St. Augustine: University of the West Indies Exchange
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, connecting with members and groups in the community, and research. 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 students in the Biochemistry major:
England, Cambridge / UW SCORE Cambridge International Research
England, Oxford / UW SCORE Oxford International Research
Germany, Heidelberg / UW SUPER-G International Research
Uganda, Mukono / UW Mobile Clinics & Health Care in Uganda
Uganda, Multiple / UW Agriculture, Health, & Nutrition in Uganda
–Lab-based internships in university or private settings (check out the International Internship Program)
–Studying something outside of biochemistry or health and focusing on your Biochemistry 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 directly related to biochemistry or health care, but may complement your studies by doing research, practicing a language, learning about another culture or region, or earning credit towards an additional major or certificate.