STEM Students

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics pave the way forward. STEM students often feel like the demanding nature of their major restricts or limits their access to study abroad or away. However, you have many global learning options available to you as a STEM student. To learn more about why more STEM majors should study abroad/away, read this Forbes article about Why We Need More STEM Students to Study Abroad.

Academic Planning

Making a plan early is important. Most students have an academic plan that outlines what classes they should take across their 4 years at UCSC. Here is what a blank academic plan can look like. When considering participating in a global learning program, your academic plan should incorporate when to fit a program into your time at UCSC. Meeting with your academic advisor is the first step you can take on your journey to study abroad or away. Your advisor can tell you what quarter(s) would be best for you to study abroad/away and help you modify your academic plan to meet your needs. You can learn more about academic planning on our website here.

Studying Your Major Abroad/Away

A common misconception that students have about studying abroad or away is that it is an add-on to the normal college experience, instead of an integral educational component of the college degree. Studying abroad does not have to be something that pauses your academic progress. Universities across the world offer courses that may satisfy requirements for your majors so you can continue to make degree progress while away. There is a pre-approval process where the classes offered in potential host universities are reviewed by your major advisors to see if they may qualify for credit toward your major. You can learn more about how to get major or minor credit from a global learning program here

In order to start reviewing what programs may be of interest to you, you can review our Recommended STEM programs document to review what kinds of programs offer STEM coursework. You can also view this STEM Majors Abroad video produced by UC Irvine about studying abroad as a STEM major. UCEAP has also compiled a list of summer study abroad programs for engineers that you can view here.

Expanding Outside Your Majors

Many STEM majors often get cold feet when it comes to traveling abroad because they might feel as if it was “not designed for them.” For example, some students might feel as if they don’t have room to fit a global learning program into their degree plan. Or that there is a lack of culturally relevant classes in STEM. However, these misconceptions also come from misunderstandings as to how studying abroad/away works. Many programs offer STEM coursework that you can use to fulfill major requirements. If you are interested in studying coursework outside your major, there are a variety of programs that offer language and culture courses. You can see UCEAP’s language course offerings on their website here.

As for language requirements, there are many programs that offer classes primarily taught in English even in locations where English is not the official language. Lack of fluency in another language does not have to impede your ability to study abroad or away. You can even use study abroad as an opportunity to learn a whole new language!

GE’s Abroad and Away

Similar to how you can complete classes that satisfy your major requirements abroad, there may be classes that can satisfy GE requirements too. In fact, some STEM majors go abroad for a quarter to specifically fulfill some of their General Education requirements. To request a course from abroad to satisfy a GE, you need to submit a proposed program evaluation (PPE) through the Office of Admissions. You can learn more about the process here.

Summer Opportunities

If you are interested in studying abroad or away, but it is too difficult to participate during the regular school year, Global Learning offers many summer opportunities.

UCSC Global Internships

Explore your career goals, expand your professional network and skills, and gain real work experience by participating in an internship for an international organization. Internships are customized according to your career interests and skills and are available in a wide variety of fields and disciplines.

Global Seminars

UCSC Global Seminars are faculty-led summer programs that offer students global experiences with UC Santa Cruz faculty. These programs encompass UC Santa Cruz courses taught abroad, with excursions and cultural activities enhanced by the location. Many provide opportunities for students to visit non-English speaking countries while doing their coursework in English. Class sizes are small, about 12-25 students, and programs are usually four to five weeks.

UCEAP Summer Programs

The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) also offers a variety of summer programs in many different locations around the world. 

Other UC Summer Abroad

As a UC student, you can enroll in summer programs at other UC campuses. If you are interested in any of the study abroad programs offered by other UCs, you can learn more about the process to apply here

The Benefits of Studying Abroad as a STEM Major

As a STEM major you might ask yourself, why study abroad or away? How will it benefit me? Many benefits can be gained from studying abroad as a STEM Major.

Gain a Global Perspective

There is a global dimension to the STEM field that is often overlooked. In fact, STEM fields are some of the most internationally-minded, and yet have some of the lowest numbers of employees who have participated in a global learning experience. Studying abroad provides STEM students the opportunity to gain global competencies needed to be successful in a future career. These include how to work in and with diverse groups, collaborate across cultures, and problem-solve across disciplines. In order to prepare yourself for the global job market, studying abroad provides you with an opportunity to increase your cultural literacy and competency skills. In a world that is becoming more globally interdependent and interconnected, going abroad as a STEM major allows you to gain multicultural competencies, make yourself more marketable, have enriching social experiences, and explore other interests.

Personal Growth

Studying abroad/away is an experience that offers more than just taking classes. It can be a way for you to expand your own horizons of what the world is and allow you to look inward into who you are as a person. For a brief moment in time, you will be a stranger to the world again. Experiencing new tastes, new sensations, new sights, new sounds, and new lessons will build a better you. Oftentimes, students return from abroad/away more independent, confident, and eager to take on new challenges, whether academic, professional, or personal. 

Seeing a Different Corner of the World

Studying abroad provides you with the opportunity to learn about the human experience. During your study abroad experience you will meet new people, see new places, and hear new things that will all contribute to a deeper cultural understanding of the world around you. Earth is a very diverse place and by staying on campus, it can be difficult to sample the full breadth of it, but with a global learning program, you can.

Affording Global Learning

The biggest fear and hurdle most students face regardless of their background is their ability to pay for a global learning program. There are many things you can do to help ease the burden of cost.

Financial Aid

When applying to global learning programs that are affiliated with the UC system, financial aid will apply and should match the percentage of aid you normally receive for most programs. For example, if financial aid covers about 80% of your costs at UCSC they should cover about 80% of your costs for your global learning program. Learn more about applying financial aid to global learning by visiting our website here.


There are many scholarships available for students participating in global learning. In fact, since STEM students are often underrepresented in study abroad, you may even be given special consideration. Visit our Scholarships webpage to review the different scholarship opportunities available to you.

Working while Abroad/Away

You may be able to work while studying abroad/away. UCEAP has compiled a list of countries that allow students studying abroad to work. Please note that every country has different requirements for working within its borders. However, don’t rely on getting a job abroad as a source of income. It is not a guarantee. 

Other Ways to Afford Global Learning

To review other ways in which our students help to cover the costs of their global learning programs, visit our Tools to Afford Global Learning webpage. It includes a variety of additional ways to pay for your global learning costs, including crowdfunding. Websites like Gofundme and Kickstarter have been used by students looking for another way to finance their study abroad journey. Gofundme even has a special section for studying abroad.

Student Perspectives

Additional Resources 

Last modified: May 13, 2024