Cornell Makes Studying Abroad Easy

A sign for the International Opportunities Fair

By: Amanda Madenberg, HE ’20

Studying abroad is a tremendous experience, and it’s an experience that is open to all Cornell students, regardless of major or home college/school. While some majors have more flexible elective curricula than others, with proper planning at the beginning of your college career, it is absolutely possible to study abroad for one semester and still graduate on time.

When you decide to study abroad as a Cornell student, there are several resources you can utilize. Your first decision must be whether you’re attempting to get credit for your major or if you’d prefer to get credits in other disciplines as part of your elective options. While any advising office is a good place to start—as any advisor can point you in the right direction—your home college/school will have its own specific abroad advising program if you want to get academic credit for your major. If not, you can receive advising from the general Cornell Abroad office.

Cornell has its own affiliated study abroad programs in 40 different countries. And, in addition to these countries, there are various exchange programs you can do in separate cities and countries. Essentially, as long as there is no worldwide travel restriction on a country, you can probably work it out with your advisor to study there. Though there are a few exceptions for particular majors and areas of study, there are two primary types of studying abroad: abroad programs, which are companies that provide well-run programs in other countries for students coming from various American universities, as well as exchange programs, where you literally swap places with a student studying in another country. That student studies at Cornell, and you study at his/her home college.

Each semester, Cornell hosts an abroad fair, which is an opportunity for hundreds of representatives from various programs and universities to set up a table and hand out information about their specific programs. When I first visited this fair as a sophomore, I was very overwhelmed. My Human Ecology abroad advisor was a fundamental part of my decision-making process. He asked me specific questions about what I wanted to gain from studying abroad and how I thought the experience could contribute to my studies and lifestyle at Cornell. I determined that I wanted to get Human Development credit abroad, as that’s my major. But I did that with a little twist: my abroad advisor showed me a few “core courses,” as programs called them, that would fulfill this credit in a different way than the Human Development courses I was already accustomed to taking.

I chose to study at an abroad program called DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad), and I selected the program in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Denmark is a small country located just north of Germany. My core course there was Positive Psychology—an especially neat program of focus since Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world. There, I took five classes: two counted for my Human Development major and three counted for general elective credit. I absolutely loved what I studied in Denmark and wouldn’t change one thing about my experience. It was a perfect city for me.

One of Cornell’s general abroad requirements for all undergraduate students is that you must take the native language of wherever you study. This is a unique chance to dive deeper into the country you choose to study, and I think it’s an incredible experience to have. So, I took one semester of Danish—which was quite difficult!

If you don’t want to study abroad, but you still want a semester off campus, Cornell has options for you. In addition to specific major programs such as studying marine biology on the coast of Maine, there are programs such as Cornell in Washington, where you may get an internship in D.C. and experience that lifestyle. Many students in ILR or government-related majors are interested in this program, but it’s an option for anyone.

Similar to Cornell’s theme of “any person…any study,” studying abroad can be just one chapter in the journey you take while in college. There is so much you can learn from just one semester of embedding yourself in an unfamiliar culture.