Study abroad offers students countless opportunities, ranging from intimately experiencing a new place and culture to learning a foreign language. In a globalized world, international experience gained from studying abroad is highly attractive to potential graduate programs and employers. Fortunately, the global outlook of Geography, as well as the flexibility of the Geography major, make study abroad a natural and feasible option for Geography students. The information included below is intended to help Geography students make study abroad a reality as they meet with advisors and plan their experience.
Prospective Geography Students
To gain background information about study abroad and the various programs available, attend the Study Abroad Fair on campus, visit the Program Search on the International Academic Programs (IAP) website to have an idea of what programs are available to you. Schedule a meeting with advisors at IAP to learn more about your study abroad program options.
Mapping Your Study Abroad Experience as a Geography Major
When should I go? There really isn’t a universally perfect time to study abroad, though students tend to go during junior year. This decision ultimately hinges upon each student’s unique preferences and circumstances. You should meet with both your academic and faculty advisors for help determining the ideal time to go.
Which kinds of courses should I take? When selecting courses, aim for those you find appealing, of course, but that also meet Letters and Science (L&S) and/or Geography requirements. When you go abroad will likely affect which kinds of courses you will take. Students who go abroad freshmen or sophomore year, for instance, will probably be taking courses that fulfill L&S general education and breadth requirements, as well as introductory Geography classes, especially those that meet the Geography breadth requirements (one course in each subarea: human, people-environment, and physical geography). And those who study abroad junior or senior year will likely be taking upper-level Geography courses as well as perhaps upper-level electives in other disciplines to meet the L&S requirement of 60 intermediate- and advanced-level credits. Please see the bottom of this page to learn about which courses are offered through specific study abroad programs and how they transfer. Geography and IAP advisors can also help identify programs that offer the equivalent of Geography and L&S general education and breadth courses, as well as address questions about course equivalencies.
Are there courses that cannot be taken abroad? There is essentially one course that Geography majors must take on campus: Geography 565, the department’s senior capstone. (Honors-in-the-major students do not have to take 565, though.) The course is only offered in the fall semester, so students typically take it fall of senior year. If going abroad during this time makes the most sense, though, arrangements should be made to take 565 prior to senior year, if possible.
Are there courses that should ideally be taken on campus? Geography at UW-Madison is a global leader in cartography and GIS – we offer a major dedicated to these technologies, which is unique, and we feel the level of depth and overall quality of the cartography/GIS courses are unparalleled. As a result, receiving equivalent credit for intermediate- and advanced-level cartography/GIS courses is unlikely, and so it is strongly advised to take most, if not all, cartography/GIS courses on campus.
Can I do research abroad? The department encourages research while abroad, as conducting research in foreign places is a hallmark of geographic inquiry. Research credit can be earned under Geography 399. The department does not, however, offer Geography 699 credit for research done abroad.
Can honors work be done abroad? Students doing honors in the major must write a thesis, which is typically done during the fall and spring semesters of senior year. Honors students who plan to study abroad part or all of senior year should consult with their thesis advisor about the feasibility of doing thesis work while abroad. Study abroad experiences could potentially offer students fruitful research opportunities that might serve as the basis of an honors project. See here for more on the department’s honors requirements.
Questions to Ask
Your Academic and Faculty Advisors
- Which courses must I take to complete both the L&S and Geography requirements? Which of these courses can be taken abroad?
- Which courses should be taken at UW-Madison?
- Do I need to physically be on UW-Madison’s campus for any courses or credits?
- When would be the best time(s) 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?
- How can I find out how courses taken abroad transfer?
- How and when will I know course equivalents for my program?
- What will the classroom experience be like abroad?
- Can financial aid be applied to study abroad programs?
- Where can I find information about scholarships for study abroad?
Identifying Programs That are Right for You
Studying abroad, regardless of the program, offers myriad benefits. When considering programs, strive to identify those that will expose you to subjects, places, cultures, and languages you find appealing, but will also help you complete your degree. You will likely find that many programs all over the world fit your goals and interests. Below is a non-exhaustive list of programs that have strong offerings in Geography.
Australia, Canberra: Australian National University Exchange
Australia, Brisbane: University of Queensland Exchange
Australia, Melbourne: Monash University Exchange
Australia, Sydney: Macquarie University Exchange
Australia, Sydney: University of Sydney Exchange
Chile, Santiago: CIEE Liberal Arts in Santiago
China, Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Exchange
England, Bristol: University of Bristol Exchange
England, Lancaster: Lancaster University Exchange
England, London: London School of Economics
England, London: King’s College London Exchange
England, Leeds: University of Leeds Exchange
Ghana, Legon: CIEE in Ghana
Iceland, Reykjavik: University of Iceland Exchange
Ireland, Galway: IFSA National University Ireland
Laos, Vientiane: SAIL Summer Study Abroad in Laos
Netherlands, Utrecht: Utrecht University Exchange
Scotland, Glasgow: University of Glasgow Exchange
Singapore: National University of Singapore Exchange
South Africa, Cape Town: University of Cape Town Exchange
Thailand, Chiang Mai: UW Hmong Studies in Thailand
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 Geography courses. There may be other programs that are a better fit for your individual needs or interests.