Studying abroad as a STEM major

December 26, 2018
Alyssa Cangemi studies STEM in Rome

Today’s post comes to us from API Global Leader and Umass Amherst student Alyssa Cangemi! She’s sharing her experience studying abroad as a STEM major, and how she made it happen despite tough pushback in unexpected places!

Alyssa Cangemi studies STEM in Rome

“You’ll never be able to study abroad and go to medical school. Your academic record is going to become a mess. You should cancel it now.” These were the exact words my advisor said to me, as I excitedly told him my plans to study abroad for the following semester.

I specifically picked a program (API Rome: LDM STEM) that offered classes that would fill my major requirements. I spent hours arranging the perfect schedule to ensure that I would not fall behind. He wanted to tear that all down. And he wasn’t even nice about it.

Instead of letting this discourage me from pursuing my dreams to study abroad, I let it serve as my motivation.

I met with another advisor on campus, and explained my plan. I showed her the courses I wanted to take, and shared the not-so-friendly comments made by the last advisor. She gave me the go ahead, knowing it would be difficult but still absolutely possible to go abroad, graduate on time and one day attend medical school.

Fast forward a few months, and I eagerly boarded my plane to Rome. I had my precisely planned schedule of courses in hand, ready to hit the ground running (quite literally, I was very excited!).

Once there, I studied hands-on in a laboratory and held an internship at a local hospital.

I conducted my own experiments and saw medical procedures first hand. I wouldn’t have been able to have either of these experiences if I remained within the states for that semester. All of my courses went better than expected. Even better, each course transferred over as  major requirements. This meant that I would be ahead in credit when I returned home to the states!

I’m sharing my story because I want STEM majors to see that it is possible to study abroad. I often hear that students “can’t” go abroad because they’re STEM majors and they want to graduate on time. This is a misconception that may have been true at one time, but no longer holds any relevance today. The availability of STEM specific programs makes this possible! Nearly every course offered in the US is available abroad. Going abroad as a STEM major can broaden cultural horizons, and provide students with new perspectives to approach solving problems.

“Virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude.” – Lou Holtz


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