Microbiology is a global field, with many options to study internationally. Whether doing microbiology research in Thailand, taking biotechnology courses in the Netherlands, or doing health-related field work in Ecuador’s rain forests, there are many ways to incorporate your interest in microbiology 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 Microbiology Students
As a Microbiology 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 a Microbiology major. The information below will help in your planning and conversations with your Microbiology advisor. For more information on the Microbiology major, visit the Guide page for CALS or L&S. To connect with an advisor, visit the Biochemistry / Microbiology Undergraduate Advising Hub website. Even if you’re not ready to declare the Microbiology major yet, you can and should meet with an 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.
Microbiology 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 Microbiology 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)
- STAT 301 and STAT 371 might be available through some programs
- BIOCHEM 501 may be available through some programs
- microbiology electives for the Microbiology major. Study abroad courses that directly equate to a course on the microbiology electives list will automatically count for that requirement. If a course does not directly equate to a course on the microbiology elective list, but is a microbiology course intended for juniors and seniors in a bioscience major (i.e. the course has prerequisites of college biology and general chemistry), then it may still be a good option to take while studying abroad to fulfill the microbiology elective requirement for the Microbiology major (set B). Talk with your Microbiology 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.
Please note that taking MICROBIO 303 and 304 abroad is not recommended for Microbiology students, as these are foundational to the Microbiology major.
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 Microbiology Major
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 Microbiology students plan to take their major coursework on campus and take elective courses or non-science breadth requirements abroad. Schedule an appointment with your Microbiology 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 can also be a good time to study abroad, especially if you finished the Biology Foundational courses and the Organic Chemistry sequence. Studying abroad in junior year allows you to take MICROBIO 527 and 551 in senior year. Many students who study abroad in junior year will choose to take BIOCHEM 501 instead of the BIOCHEM 507 and 508 sequence. Depending on the study abroad program, you may be able to take BIOCHEM 501 or a microbiology elective while abroad. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options and will not affect course sequencing.
Senior year is a popular time for UW-Madison students to study abroad. However, Microbiology students often take MICROBIO 527 and 551 their senior year here on campus. MICROBIO 527 is a fall-only course and MICROBIO 551 is a spring-only course, so it can be difficult to do this sequence if you are off-campus for a semester. If it is a high priority for you to study abroad during senior year, rather than junior year, then you may be able to take MICROBIO 527 or 551 in junior year. Taking MICROBIO 527 in fall of junior year is possible if you took MICROBIO 303 & 304 as a sophomore (MICROBIO 303 & 304 are generally offered fall, spring and summer). Taking MICROBIO 551 in spring of junior year is possible if you already completed MICROBIO 527, or if you conduct independent research in a PI’s laboratory. Students participating in the latter option have typically been in their research lab for at least one semester prior to taking MICROBIO 551. Talk to your advisor about the requirements of such a faculty-mentored research project.
*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 often 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 Microbiology courses in senior year, and will mean you finish Biocore in a different cohort of classmates than you started. Studying abroad during winter, spring, or summer break can be a great alternative for Biocore students. Talking with your advisor will be essential to studying abroad as a sophomore or junior while participating in Biocore.
*Note: The Microbiology major does not require the fourth Biocore lecture (BIOCORE 587). However, BIOCORE 587 remains required for the Biocore certificate and Microbiology students are encouraged to complete BIOCORE 587 when possible.
Example Four Year Plan for Microbiology 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.
Microbiology electives (or senior year)
Microbiology electives (or junior year)
Microbiology electives (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?
- What is my budget?
- 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?
- What funding is available?
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 type of 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 Offered by Department of Bacteriology Faculty
Thailand, Bangkok: UW Biological Sciences Research Internships in Thailand
Thailand, Chiang Mai / UW Microbiology and Public Health in Northern Thailand
Programs that may Fulfill Microbiology Major Requirements
The programs listed below have various durations and have offered courses that may count for Microbiology 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.
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
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
England, Leeds / University of Leeds Exchange
England, London / University of Westminster
Ireland, Dublin / University College Dublin – Agricultural and Life Sciences
Netherlands, Wageningen: Wageningen University Exchange
Sweden, Multiple / Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Exchange
Wales, Cardiff / Cardiff University
Latin America and Caribbean
Trinidad & Tobago, St. Augustine: University of the West Indies Exchange
Australia, Brisbane / University of Queensland Exchange
Australia, Cairns & Townsville / James Cook University
Australia, Sydney / IES Direct Enrollment – University of New South Wales
New Zealand, Multiple / Massey University Exchange
Programs that may be of Interest to Microbiology Students
These opportunities may not necessarily fulfill major or degree requirements, but they may be relevant for your interests or career plans.
Programs with Public/Global Health-Related Experiences
These programs 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.
Programs that offer Research Experience in the Biosciences
England, Cambridge / UW SCORE Cambridge International Research
England, Oxford / UW SCORE Oxford International Research
Germany, Heidelberg / UW SUPER-G International Research
UW International Internship Program (Lab-based internships in university or private settings)
Programs on Food Science
These programs may be interesting if you are interested in food safety, production, and/or quality control. These programs often involve site visits and learning about food in different cultures. To find food science related programs, select Course/Subject Search: “Food Science” on the Program Search, or explore the Food Science MAP.
Programs on Environmental Science
These programs may be interesting if you have career goals relating to environmental science or climate change. Many of these programs include field work. To find environmental science related programs, explore the Environmental Sciences MAP.
Other programs may complement your studies by practicing a language, learning about another culture or region, or earning credit towards an additional major or certificate. Use the Program Search to identify programs by region, country, language of instruction, duration, or subjects taught.