Years ago, most English majors tended to study abroad in England, with a few choosing Ireland or Scotland instead. Today English majors still study in cities such as London or Leeds, England, but some also study in Capetown, South Africa, or Rome, Italy. Some of our double majors in languages study in Madrid, Spain or Lima, Peru, and some of our science double majors study in Scandinavian countries. With timely research and planning, English majors can experience the richness and growth that comes with a semester or even a year abroad.
Declaring your English major
If you think you want to study abroad but have not declared your English major, talk with the Academic Advisor sooner rather than later. There are three options in the English major: literature, creative writing, and language and linguistics. There is some flexibility with courses in all three areas, but the literature option contains the most electives: three. Electives are intermediate or advanced courses in English that may be in literature, creative writing, or language and linguistics. Creative writing has one elective and language and linguistics has none. If you are studying in Australia, you may want to take a course in contemporary Aboriginal literature written in English. Although our department does not offer exactly this course, we do offer courses that deal with Indigenous and post-colonial literature. Therefore, this course could count as one of your electives. The creative writing option does allow you to take one intermediate creative writing workshop abroad, even if it is not taught in English. All other courses for the major must be taught in English and focus on writers who write in English.
Planning your courses
Meeting with your advisor a semester or two before you study abroad is very practical. Together you can discuss which courses you are likely to find in a foreign university and which you are not. The seminar class, English 245, for example, is most often not a class you may take abroad.
The IAP program pages have an “Academics” tab that will lead you to the courses that have already been evaluated. Established programs usually have a list of courses that are guaranteed to transfer as specific English major requirements. Knowing which program or programs to which you are applying will help your advisor navigate those course lists.
Courses in newer study abroad partnerships or new courses within established programs may need to be evaluated by the English Academic Advisor. The student asks for a UW-Madison course number, say a course in London that he or she feels is equivalent to a course in Victorian literature at UW-Madison. The advisor then assesses the syllabus and makes a decision. The advisor might suggest a different course number, if there is a clear reason for doing so. It is rare that the advisor will not accept a study abroad course for the English major, but it strongly recommended that you meet with the advisor before you enroll in courses.
Timeline to graduation
It is best to declare your English major before you plan your study abroad courses. If you are considering study abroad, discuss this with the English advisor at your first meeting.
Because a great deal of reading, analysis, and writing are at the heart of an English major, we don’t recommend that you take more than three English courses per semester, either at UW-Madison or abroad.
Although junior year is the most popular time to study abroad, students also go during their sophomore or senior years, or during summer or winter break. If you decide to go during your senior year, make sure that your program will fulfill all of your academic requirements. Remember: studying abroad in your final senior semester may cause you to miss your UW-Madison graduation ceremony because semester end dates vary from country to country.
Creative Writing and Honors considerations
The Creative Writing program faculty ask that you only take one creative writing workshop per semester. Leaving a workshop and your directed study, English 695, until your last semester at UW-Madison may not be an option. Similarly, expecting that you can do your directed study while abroad may be misguided. Talk with both your Academic Advisor and the Creative Writing coordinator Ron Kuka about these issues as soon as you can.
Completing either an Honors or a non-Honors thesis while abroad will most likely not be an option either. You may contact potential thesis advisor while you are abroad and, perhaps, even start some research on your topic, however. The Honors option in literature now includes both a one-and a two-semester thesis. Talk with your Academic Advisor about these possibilities.
Modes of instruction
Some universities still prefer a lecture format, sometimes with a small group discussion section called a tutorial group. If possible, talk with other students who have come back from your chosen university to learn more about academic expectations.
Identifying Programs That are Right for You
Studying abroad, regardless of the program, offers numerous benefits. When considering programs, strive to identify those that will expose you to subjects, places, cultures, and languages that you find appealing, while also helping you complete your degree. You will likely find that many programs all over the world fit your goals and interests. Here are some possibilities:
Australia, Sydney: Macquarie University Exchange
South Africa, Cape Town: University of Cape Town Exchange
England, London: UW in London
England, London: University of Westminster
England, Leeds: University of Leeds Exchange
Ireland, Dublin: Trinity College Dublin
Ireland, Galway: IFSA National University Ireland
New Zealand: Massey University Exchange
Wales, Cardiff: Cardiff University