Duncan Rocha is a STEM major who studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina for six months. He put a pause on his physics classes for a semester and focused on studying spanish at local universities.
“I have a slightly harder load now for two semesters, but I like physics, so it’s not bad. And the experience was definitely worth it,” said Rocha.
STEM students are in the lowest percent of college students to study abroad. In 2018, the Institute of International Education released a study that showed only 2 percent of students study abroad. Of that 2 percent, only 5.3 percent were engineering majors and 2.8 percent were math and computer science majors.
The low number of STEM major students that study abroad could be closely linked to the rigour of these majors. However, an article written in Forbes talks about the importance of people going into STEM-based careers having outside life experience.
People who work in STEM jobs help drive the technological advancements that impact not only their country but the entire world.
Although studying abroad may create a more difficult semester once they return, such as in Duncan Rocha’s story, it is well worth the experience. It allows the student to see a world outside of their own and experience things that they would not if they stayed at their university all four years.
Harvey Mudd College recognized these low numbers and the importance of study abroad for their math and science students. Since then, they have increased their study abroad numbers from 5 percent to 15-18 percent.
Study abroad advocacy groups and programs are now extending their reach to STEM majors more than ever. In order for technology and innovation to continue to progress across the globe, future STEM employee’s need the multi-cultural experience that study abroad can provide them.