STEM fields are fast-growing, yet only 6% of Chapman students who study abroad are STEM majors. Get inspired to go abroad from James’ and Josh’s experiences abroad fulfilling their Data Analytics major requirements while taking cultural courses, discovering new strengths, and staying on track with their graduation plans.
James Kistner ’21, Data Analytics major, studied abroad at the University of Otago, New Zealand in spring 2020
I’ve always had an urge to explore the world, and study abroad provided an opportunity to pursue this urge while continuing my studies. The course I took abroad for my major was AI (Artificial Intelligence). This course involved creating a robot to complete various tasks and learning about different search algorithms. This course was very hands-on and I learn well by getting my hands dirty. My other recommendation for students deciding which classes to take abroad is to take as many courses adapted to the culture as possible. GEs are some of the best classes to get to learn about the country you are visiting. I took two Māori courses, which were about the indigenous people of New Zealand. I learned about their language, culture, and history. It enhanced my experience by understanding the culture I was in and where the roots derived from. The academics in New Zealand were more independent than at Chapman. None of my courses had any homework, but the tests/projects made up the whole grade. Be prepared to have to go out of your way to learn subjects in the class. The professors expect students to go above and beyond what they assign.
It can be helpful to see the problems people in other countries are facing and how the STEM disciplines help to solve some of these problems. Also, it is refreshing to meet new faces in your field. If Chapman is feeling too comfortable or you are looking for an awesome, challenging, and rewarding experience study abroad might be the best route. Lastly, don’t worry about going to a place where you don’t know anyone. People around the world are more similar than dissimilar in my experience. I would even urge you to go somewhere your friends aren’t going. Being independent encourages personal growth. I also felt that my program provider, ISA, did a great job creating relationships with other students studying abroad.
Everyone goes through doubts and fear of leaving somewhere familiar. I wanted to face this fear because I’ve found that the best experiences I’ve had in life are on the other side of overcoming fear. Every experience that involves overcoming fear of something/somewhere new helps to build character. I had a stronger self-identity and self-confidence from studying abroad. The only thing that surprised me is how well I can manage on my own. It is a challenge to be halfway across the world where you couldn’t just go home if something went wrong. I learned to trust that people, wherever I was, would take care of me if something went wrong.
After returning to the US, I was able to juxtapose both countries and found good and bad aspects of both. New Zealand is a tight-knit country, which is evident in the way they handled COVID. The only bad thing I can say about New Zealand is the cost of living there; It doesn’t bother me because the standard of living is fantastic, but the cost should be noted. I waited to purchase any memorabilia or souvenirs until the last week before I left. Like any budget, I made sure I had enough money for necessities like food and transportation. I used any remaining money on experiences, not material things.
My experience is atypical of how much it benefited my professional career. One of the main reasons I went to New Zealand was to get better at rugby. I ended up returning from New Zealand and am now playing for a professional rugby team. Studying abroad sweetened my experience because I was able to further two professional paths!
Josh Taylor ’22, Data Analytics major, studied abroad at City, University of London, United Kingdom in spring 2020
I took a variety of classes when I was abroad in London. I took two that counted towards my major (Data Visualization and Computer Networks), one that counted for my minor (Sound, Music, and the Moving Image), and one just for fun (Performing Arts in London)! I didn’t initially intend on taking the last class, but an unforeseen scheduling conflict forced me to pick a new class, and I ended up loving it! Taking courses that offered a diversity of content allowed me to discover which areas I preferred and resonated with the most.
I have a chronic illness that requires me to have my medication refrigerated, so I was concerned about traveling overseas with that on me. Thankfully, representatives from the Center for Global Education put me in contact with someone who went through the same process, and I was able to get the information I needed to effectively prepare for my travel. Specifically, I carried paperwork with me to get me through security, and I was able to get additional ice packs from the flight attendants. My family members were incredibly supportive of me traveling abroad. They encouraged me to explore new places on my own, and I always knew I had someone to call if I got in a jiffy or just felt lonely.
During the summer before my program, I worked and saved up money to spend while I was abroad. Because I was in London for 3 months, I just divided my savings into thirds and tried my best to stay within my allotted budget for the month. If saving/having money is a concern for you, I recommend applying for scholarships.
My international experience gave me a huge boost in personal confidence. Having the opportunity to travel and get lost in a new place all on my own was a rewarding process. I learned how to seamlessly navigate big cities (which was surprisingly easy with a smartphone and an internet connection), and I became comfortable with my own company. Surviving on my lonesome required adequate organizational skills and doing so gave me more confidence to succeed as a professional in the workplace. And don’t wait until the last few days to try and visit all the places you wanted to see. I got sent home a month early due to COVID, and as depressing as that was, I was fulfilled with the time I was given to spend there. Seize and appreciate every moment you get to spend internationally! It truly was a rewarding experience, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.
I think a good portion of STEM majors are on the more introverted and studious side (at least in my experience), so going away to a new country is a great way to step out of your comfort zone and try new things! It might be scary or tough at times, but challenges and hardships make you a better person in the long-run. And while I was scared initially to be so far from home, I’ve become a braver, stronger, and more adventurous individual. It’s 1000% worth it if you get the chance to go!
Semester abroad applications are due two semesters in advance. There are many options for Data Analytics/Data Science and all majors to study abroad for a semester. To get started, attend a Global First Steps session offered weekly throughout each semester.