Students majoring in Conservation Biology are highly encouraged to complement their coursework with out-of-classroom experiences such as study abroad. Studying abroad exposes the student to a wide array of opportunities that will strengthen their understanding of conservation issues throughout the world. In addition, the international experience gained from studying abroad is highly attractive to potential graduate programs and employers.
Fortunately, the flexibility of the Conservation Biology major makes study abroad a feasible and appealing option for students. Conservation Biology students can take advantage of this opportunity during nearly any semester if they plan well and early. The information included below is intended to help students make study abroad a reality as they meet with advisors and plan their experience.
Prospective Conservation Biology Students
Current and potential Conservation Biology students should be aware of course requirements and expectations when planning for study abroad. In particular, students are strongly encouraged to complete foundational coursework in math and chemistry, and the intro biology sequence during their first and second years.
You can study abroad at any point during your time at UW-Madison, but most students choose to study abroad during their junior or senior year. 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 schedule a meeting with an advisor at IAP. Once you have identified some potential programs, meet with the Conservation Biology advisor for consultation and planning. The earlier students begin this process and start planning in earnest, the better, as this will open up more possibilities.
Conservation Biology Course Considerations Abroad
As part of the Conservation Biology degree requirements, majors must complete two courses in Ecology & Evolution, 12 credits in Species and Field, and a social science course in the major. Typically, Conservation Biology students need 3-9 elective credits in the major to complete Conservation Biology’s 50-credit requirement. There are study abroad programs that offer courses that equate to requirements in these areas. Conservation Biology and IAP advisors can help identify programs that offer the equivalent courses requirements, as well as address questions about course equivalencies.
Some programs have classes already equated to UW-Madison courses that fulfill requirements. These equivalencies can be found on each program’s academic page. Programs may not have all courses pre-equated simply because no student has taken them in the past. How do you know if a course will likely count as a course for the major? Once you have identified possible programs and then courses of interest, work with your Study Abroad Advisor to gather syllabi if possible. Then, meet with your Conservation Biology advisor to determine if and how the course will count towards your major or degree requirements. You will work with IAP to complete the approval process.
Mapping Your Study Abroad Experience as a Conservation Biology Major
There really isn’t a universally perfect time to study abroad, though students tend to go during junior year. This decision ultimately hinges upon your unique preferences and circumstances. You should meet with your academic advisor for help determining the ideal time to go.
During freshman year, many Conservation Biology students take general education requirements including intro math and chemistry courses. Some students may study abroad during winter or spring break, especially if they are a part of a First Year Interest Group (FIG) that has a study abroad component.
Most Conservation Biology students take the introductory biology sequence during sophomore year. If you have completed your foundational coursework early, you might consider studying abroad during the spring, summer or during one of the breaks. Sophomore year is a good time to research programs and discuss options with your advisor.
Junior year is typically when Conservation Biology students go abroad, as they have likely completed foundational coursework in biology, chemistry, and math, as well as many L&S general education and breadth requirements. Students often look at options to fulfill major requirements at this point.
Senior year is also an option for Conservation Biology students to study abroad. However, if you are considering applying to veterinarian school, law school, or graduate school for immediate acceptance after graduation, you should take that into consideration when planning a possible study abroad.
Questions to Ask
- Why do I want to study abroad?
- How will studying abroad enhance my academic and global perspectives?
- What are my academic and personal goals?
- How long or when do I want to study abroad?
- How much can I afford to spend?
- Do I intend to pursue any post-undergraduate education right away or take time off?
Your Academic Advisor
- What classes must I complete for my degree (breadth/depth, major requirements, etc.)?
- Do I need to be on UW-Madison’s campus for any courses in my major?
- How many electives do I have outside of my major?
- When would be the best time to go abroad given my goals and remaining course requirements?
Your Study Abroad Advisor
- Which programs fit my personal interests and academic requirements?
- How and when do I select courses for my program?
- When will I know course equivalents for my program?
- What is the class structure for field-based programs like abroad?
- What is the application and notification timeline for programs and scholarships?
- Can you give me a sense of who my fellow program participants will be?
Identifying Programs That are Right for You
When considering programs, strive to identify those that will expose you to subjects, ecosystems, cultures, and languages that you find appealing, while also helping you match your cost and degree requirement needs. It is important to consider your goals and priorities in selecting a program. The list below is not exhaustive but is a list of programs of interest to previous Conservation Biology students. Courses offered as part of these programs may not be guaranteed to be the best fit for you depending on where you are in the major, so be sure to talk with your academic advisor during the program selection process.
South Africa, Cape Town / University of Cape Town Exchange
Tanzania, Karatu / SFS Wildlife Management & Wildlife Research
Bhutan, Bumthang / SFS Himalayan Studies
Denmark, Copenhagen / DIS – Study Abroad in Scandinavia
Latin America and Caribbean
Belize, Southwater Caye / Ceiba Marine Biology of Coral Reefs
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, Cairns and Townsville / James Cook University
Australia, Sydney / Macquarie University Exchange
Australia, Yungaburra / SFS Rainforest Studies
New Zealand, Multiple / Massey University Exchange
Search all IAP programs
Research all programs using the IAP Program Search page. The above is not an exhaustive list of all programs that offer course requirements for the Conservation Biology major. There may be other programs that are a better fit for your individual needs or interests.