A common myth: students can’t study abroad with a STEM major. Let’s dispel that now! In fact, about half of the Pharmacology and Toxicology (PharmTox) graduating class of 2020 has studied abroad at some point during their undergraduate college career. Whether you are interested in a career in health care, public health, research, law, or environmental issues, studying abroad can help you develop a number of competencies and skills that are necessary in today’s global workforce. For example, developing cross-cultural communication skills will be helpful as a future healthcare professional, whereas gaining fluency in multiple languages may help you work in a pharmaceutical company with global offices.
As a PharmTox student, you may be interested in achieving a variety of goals during your undergraduate career, including graduating in four years, taking standardized tests like the MCAT or GRE, applying to professional or graduate school, and studying abroad. Your academic and study abroad advisors can help you prioritize your goals and make study abroad work for you, and we have many options (like shorter-term summer, winter, and spring break programs) to help you achieve that!
Prospective PharmTox Students
The PharmTox major is a limited enrollment, competitive admission program. Students typically spend their first two undergraduate years completing prerequisite courses (outlined in “How to Get In“ on the PharmTox Guide page), apply to the major during their sophomore year, and then are admitted to begin the major for fall of their junior year. They would then spend two years (junior and senior year) officially declared in the PharmTox major. The major has no preference as to whether students study abroad before or after being admitted to the major. Since course sequences are more flexible before being admitted, it can be more feasible to study abroad for a semester and graduate in four years if studying abroad prior to admission.
Prerequisite courses can be taken abroad if available. Direct equivalencies for core math and science courses (Math 221, Chemistry 343, Zoology 151, etc.) are limited abroad, so it can help to plan to take those courses at UW-Madison or another accredited institution where the course equivalents can be confirmed. The prerequisite of three credits of social science, however, could be complete on a variety of study abroad programs. Students do not need to be on campus or be interviewed in order to apply, so you can be abroad during your application year!
Due to the sequential nature of the PharmTox major and need to apply for admission, we encourage you to connect with the PharmTox advisor early and often to discuss future study abroad opportunities, even if you are not yet ready to apply to the major. To connect with the advisor, visit the “Advising and Careers” section of the PharmTox Guide page.
PharmTox Course Considerations Abroad
The PharmTox major has no restrictions on the amount of credit students can take abroad to fulfill degree requirements. At least 30 credits be taken in residence at UW-Madison to graduate, but all UW Study Abroad programs are considered in residence.
As the major requires very specific courses, it may be difficult to find equivalents for major requirements abroad. The following requirements are the most likely requirements students could fulfill while abroad:
- Breadth requirements (social sciences/humanities)
- Introductory statistics
- Physics I or II
- Genetics 466
- Courses that fulfill the five credit “electives in the major” requirement (see “Programs Relevant to Pharmacology, Toxicology, Drug Development, and/or Human Health” below for a specific list)
- 699/independent research requirement (with prior approval from the PharmTox advisor)
Courses that meet the spirit of these or other PharmTox requirements can be reviewed to potentially fulfill requirements even if they do not transfer as direct course equivalencies to what is listed in DARS or the Guide. Students who have courses they believe could fulfill requirements should consult with the PharmTox advisor for possible exceptions.
It is also completely fine to take electives or courses of interest that are not specifically PharmTox requirements – students need 120 credits to earn a degree, and PharmTox requirements will not take up all 120 credits!
Mapping Your Study Abroad Experience as a PharmTox Major
Students typically focus on their foundational prerequisite courses and exploring any other areas of interest during freshman year – math, chemistry, Communication A, and so on. 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.
Students that would like to study abroad for a full semester and still graduate in four years will likely need to study abroad sophomore year. You will want to plan to work prerequisite courses around your study abroad semester in case those specific courses are not offered abroad. This may require some summer coursework to finish prerequisites, but might not if some coursework has been completed early or through AP credit – for example, if you took Chemistry 109 and started Chem 343 freshman year, or if you have AP credit for Bio 151. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options.
Example Plan – PharmTox Prerequisites in Two Years with a Semester Abroad
Social Science (3 cr.)?
*Apply to PharmTox by Feb. 1*
=60 total college credits
Once students are accepted to and formally begin the PharmTox major in their junior year, coursework is very sequential and cohort-based, with many courses offered fall-only or spring-only and taken in specific orders in order to graduate in four years. As most of these classes do not have study abroad equivalents, studying abroad for a semester during junior year would usually result in extending your time to graduate by a year. However, if there is a particular opportunity or program you would like to take advantage of, that may make sense for you! For example, a previous PharmTox student spent a semester interning abroad in South America for fall of her junior year, completed electives and other non-sequential courses in spring, started the “junior” year curriculum her fourth year, and then stayed for a fifth year to finish the “senior” year curriculum. Summer, winter, or spring break programs are also great options and will not affect course sequencing.
Like junior year, the PharmTox senior year has very specific courses required that are fall-only or spring-only and do not have study abroad equivalents; studying abroad for a semester during this time will add on an additional year to your undergraduate studies. As the School of Pharmacy does not have a requirement that you graduate when requirements are complete, one option would be to plan to study abroad the fall after your senior year and graduate in December (4.5 years). And, much like other years, summer, winter, or spring break programs can also allow you to study abroad and graduate in four years.
Questions to Ask
Your Academic Advisor
- What classes must I complete for my degree (breadth/depth, major requirements, etc.)?
- What classes or requirements are likely to be found abroad for my major/degree? Which will I likely have to take here at UW-Madison?
- How would studying abroad affect completing prerequisites, when to apply to PharmTox, and my time-to-degree?
- How do my other goals (summer research experiences, attending medical or professional school, taking a gap year vs. applying right away) fit in with my coursework and timelines for studying abroad?
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 are my priorities for my undergraduate education – is it graduating in 4 years, studying abroad for a semester, completing multiple majors/certificates, being able to attend medical school right away? Which of these are most important if it becomes difficult to fit everything in?
- What are my post-graduation plans (medical school, graduate school, work, 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.
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:
Content: Will you participate in classroom-based coursework? Do a global health field experience? Participate in research? Some combination of those activities?
Duration: Summer? A semester? Spring break? Winter break?
Once you’ve considered program type and duration, take a look at the program options below:
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 healthcare fields, and often occur during summer, winter, or spring breaks. These programs often involve out-of-classroom experiences such as service learning, site visits, and connecting with members and groups in the community. To find public/global health-related programs, select Academic Credit: “Certificate in Global Health” on the Program Search.
These opportunities allow you to work in a research lab in a different country. Lab settings may be in universities, government, non-profit, or private sector labs, depending on the specifics of that program:
UW SCORE Cambridge International Research Program (England)
UW SUPER-G International Research Program (Germany)
UW Microbiology International Internships (Thailand)
Browse the International Internship Program (IIP) database for more options – try selecting “Agricultural/Life Sciences,” “Healthcare,” or “Other” under “Field” for science-focused options
Programs Relevant to Pharmacology, Toxicology, Drug Development, and/or Human Health
These opportunities offer coursework that may be of interest to PharmTox students, including some that may fulfill requirements. If you’re interested in fulfilling PharmTox requirements abroad, it’s important to work closely with the PharmTox advisor and faculty director to ensure courses count as you’re hoping they will. Your Study Abroad Advisor can help you learn more about possible course equivalents as well.
University of Bristol Exchange (England) Students studying abroad for a full year can complete organic chemistry (Chem 343 and 345) or biochemistry (Biochem 507 and 508). The School of Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience has a number of courses that may be interesting and/or could count towards electives in the major upon review.
“Pathological Responses of Cells” equates to MM&I 528, which counts towards electives in the major.
University of Manchester Exchange (England) The Faculty of Biology, Medicine, and Health has a wide range of bioscience, biochemistry, and pharmacology-related courses.
“Clinical Drug Development” (BIOL21302) is approved to count towards the electives in the major.
James Cook University (Australia) is an especially good fit for students interested in biosciences and environmental sciences. Examples of subject areas (abbreviated to two letters, which are the first two letters in a course title/code) of interest include: Chemistry (CH), Botany/Zoology (BZ), Anatomy and Histology (AT), Biochemistry (BC), Genetics and Genomics (GG), and Physiology and Pharmacology (PP).
Monash University Exchange (Australia) has faculties (schools) in Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences, as well as Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, with a wide variety of relevant courses from which to choose. Courses can be reviewed to potentially fulfill requirements.
University of Leeds Exchange (England) offers a variety of biological science courses. “Drugs, Hormones, and Behavior”, “Introduction to Drug Design”, and “Medicinal Chemistry of Drug Development” have all been pre-approved to count towards electives in the major.
DIS – Study Abroad in Scandinavia (Denmark) At DIS, the following semester programs may be of interest: Biomedicine; Medical Practice and Policy; Neuroscience. Semester program participants select a Core Course that matches their program topic and then choose from a full slate of exciting electives. Summer program participants take one course per summer session.
- ”Neuroplasticity: From Neurons to Behavior” equates to Psych 454, which counts towards electives in the major.
- ”Complexity of Cancer” equates to Oncology 401, which counts towards electives in the major.
- ”Medical Biotechnology and Drug Development”, “Psychopharmacology – Substances and the Brain”, “Epigenetics and the Environment”, “Neurological Disorders and Diseases” have been pre-approved to count towards electives in the major despite not transferring in as specific courses from the requirement list.
- ”Research Assistant” courses could be used to fulfill the 699/independent study requirement, with prior approval from the PharmTox advisor
Search all IAP programs
Research all programs using the IAP Program Search page. The above is not an exhaustive list of all programs of interest to PharmTox students. There may be other programs that are a better fit for your individual needs or interests!