Many of the top employers for the University of Iowa’s electrical engineers are expanding in the global market: Cerner Corporation is a global supplier, Accenture is a multinational company with headquarters in Ireland, Intermec was recently acquired by the multinational conglomerate Honeywell International, and many European companies have started offering ESCO services. Even Cedar Rapids-based Rockwell Collins is an international company. Since it’s likely that your future career will require you to communicate and work within various cultural contexts, it’s important to develop an appreciation for cultural diversity.
The College of Engineering Advisory Board suggests that having global perspective is the second most desirable attribute in engineering employees (after communication skills). Having a global perspective is also a valuable distinction when applying for graduate programs (which about a quarter of electrical engineering majors do).
To aid you in coordinating study abroad with your major requirements, this page offers advice about when to study abroad (see the "Timing" tab), how to fulfill your academic requirements abroad (see "Academics"), and how to choose a study abroad program best suited to your needs (see "Programs").
As an electrical engineering major, there are many study abroad options available to you. From short-term, faculty-led programs to full-year direct enrollment in an international university, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pursue both your academic and extracurricular interests abroad.
Because international experience is so important for engineering students, a fair amount of funding is available to engineering majors interested in study abroad. Information about scholarships offered through International Programs and through the College of Engineering is provided under the “Considerations” tab. Additionally, the “Programs” tab—which includes information about study abroad, internship, and research programs geared toward engineering majors—lists a few opportunities that come with funding.
The best time for electrical engineering majors to study abroad is determined on a case-by-case basis. Advisors in the College of Engineering and in Study Abroad will help you time your trip. Just be sure to consult with them early on in the planning process—at the latest, by the beginning of the semester preceding your departure.
In general, your sophomore and junior years are good times to study abroad while your freshman and senior years are less ideal. Typically, it will be easiest to fulfill major requirements abroad during the first semester of your sophomore year. For students on the computer track, it’s also fairly easy to fulfill requirements abroad during the second half of sophomore year. By junior year, it will be harder to find overseas courses to substitute for your major requirements, but not impossible. If you are pursuing a Joint BS/MS Degree, the first semester of your fifth year is also a good time to study abroad.
Because your senior design courses must be completed at the University of Iowa, it is not recommended that you study abroad during your senior year. That said, some students are willing to add an extra semester to their graduation date and complete their senior design projects between the spring of their fourth year and the fall of their fifth. In this case, the first semester of your senior year is a good time to study abroad.
Students on the computer track should keep in mind that the courses ECE:3350 Computer Architecture and Organization and ECE:3360 Embedded Systems and System Software are offered during spring semesters only—plan accordingly.
If you find you have little time for study abroad during the academic year, participating in off-semester programs (during summer, winter, and spring breaks) is another option. Off-semester programs are also ideal for students interested in completing research, internships, or courses in other disciplines while abroad. For students electing the off-semester option, the summers after your sophomore and junior years are the best times to study abroad.
If you would like to study abroad during the academic year but can’t seem to find the time, it may be possible to complete some of your course requirements during a summer at the UI, thereby freeing up a semester to study abroad. If you are interested in completing some of your course requirements during the summer, consult with a faculty advisor in your major department about which courses are typically offered during summer sessions. They will be able to help you decide if you can take enough summer coursework to manage studying abroad during the academic year.
There are many opportunities for electrical engineering students to fulfill academic requirements abroad. In general, courses taken abroad can be substituted for UI courses with approval from the appropriate UI department. Consult with a study abroad advisor about getting overseas courses approved for UI requirements. Once you select a program of interest, your study abroad advisor will give you a Credit Approval Form to complete with a College of Engineering academic advisor. Students on the computer track will need to get approval from the Department of Computer Science for all computer science course substitutions. Students in the Bachelor’s to Master’s program will need to get overseas course approvals from both the College of Engineering and from the Graduate School.
Some courses in the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Curriculum will be easier to find overseas equivalents for than others. For instance, it will be relatively easy to find overseas equivalents for your General Education Components, Engineering Fundamentals Courses (ENGR:2110 Statics, 2120 Electrical Circuits, and 2130 Thermodynamics), and Elective Focus Area (EFA) courses. Students on the computer track might also be able to find overseas equivalents for ECE:3320 Introduction to Digital Design, 3330 Introduction to Software Design, and 3350 Computer Architecture and Organization.
It can be difficult to find overseas equivalents for ECE:2400 Linear Systems I and 3360 Embedded Systems and Systems Software. All senior design courses (ECE:4880 and 4890) must be completed at the University of Iowa.
Keep in mind that some courses in the ECE curriculum are offered once per academic year, and that many are prerequisites for courses you’ll need to take in future semesters. As you plan your study abroad experience, be sure your trip won’t prevent you from completing these prerequisites in time.
Because your General Education Component courses (GECs) are typically lower level, non-specialized courses, it may be easier to find overseas equivalents for your GECs than for some of your upper-level engineering courses.
Language courses are especially good GECs to complete abroad. Of your required 15 GEC semester hours, you can take up to 12 semester hours of select language courses, as long as they are intermediate level or higher. For a list of approved languages, see the College of Engineering’s GEC webpage—linked to above. If you’re interested in taking language courses abroad, information about language-intensive study abroad programs is provided under the “Programs” tab.
Other GECs you might consider finding overseas equivalents for are those that include a cultural component. For instance, courses in approved GEC disciplines like Art History, Communication, Women’s Studies, and Economics are likely taught from varying cultural perspectives around the globe.
Your Elective Focus Area (EFA) is a set of 7 courses (21 semester hours) required for your degree. The Electrical & Computer Engineering Department offers several pre-approved EFA plans with a list of courses that would fulfill the EFA, or students can propose their own custom EFA. All EFA courses must be advanced level courses, and some of the course requirements for the recommended EFAs can be quite specialized (i.e. difficult to find equivalents for overseas). Still, it may be possible for you to complete some of your EFAs abroad with the approval of your faculty advisor and the ECE Department. If you are completing a custom EFA, you may be able to design it with your study abroad experience in mind. If you are completing one of the pre-approved EFAs, research some of the other major advising pages on this site to see if they offer any programs relevant to your focus area. (For instance, if you are completing a Business EFA, check out the advising page for Business majors.)
Study abroad can be a great opportunity to explore new disciplines. While you will not receive credit toward your major for general electives taken abroad, it is possible to receive credit toward graduation. Talk to an advisor in the Study Abroad office for information about earning credit for general electives completed overseas.
Study abroad can be expensive. Luckily, various scholarships and grants are available for engineering students interested in gaining international experience. In addition to the various study abroad scholarships offered to UI students through International Programs, eligible students are encouraged to apply for the following scholarships offered through the College of Engineering. Questions about these scholarships should be directed to the Director of Finance in the College of Engineering.
Robert E. Moulds Global Engineering Scholarship
This scholarship is available to students in a declared College of Engineering major that are interested in the international environment and study abroad. Recipients must demonstrate financial need. Preference for these awards will go to undergraduate students interested in a VIPT program or a CoE-sponsored Study Abroad Program. Awards will range in amount from $1,000-$2,500 depending on the number of applicants and the funds available.
Oskvig Global Engineering Scholarship
This scholarship is available to Iowa residents in a declared Engineering major. Recipients must demonstrate interest in working in developing countries and working with energy and/or water. Awards will range in amount from $1,000-$2,500 depending on the number of applicants and the funds available.
JW Deegan Fund
Any College of Engineering undergraduate who has committed to an international experience and who demonstrates financial need (as determined by the FAFSA) is eligible for this award. It can be used to assist with airfare expenses. Award amounts will vary based on the number of applicants, the amount available, and the student's estimated cost of airfare.
In addition to fulfilling academic requirements abroad, electrical engineering students can intern, conduct research, take language courses, and/or explore new academic disciplines. The long-term and short-term study abroad programs listed below offer engineering courses that could likely be substituted for some of your major requirements. (See the "Academics" tab for information about overseas course approvals.) Also listed are a few funded internship and research opportunities for engineering students.
If you would like to take language courses while abroad, information about language-intensive study abroad programs is available on the General Education Program MAP. You can also search our programs database (using the language filter) for information about language programs.
Swansea University offers courses in Electronic and Electrical Engineering and in Computational Engineering. Participants in this program take a British Culture & Politics course—which incorporates various local field trips—then enroll in regular courses at the university. You can attend for a semester or for the academic year.
This program is hosted by the Universidad Carlos III, one of Spain’s top-ranking engineering schools. Participants take a series of elective courses—communication, computer, electrical, electronic, telecommunication, and telematics engineering courses are offered—as well as a Spanish language course and a Spanish culture course. Courses can be taken in English or Spanish. You can also complete a for-credit, Engineering-related internship via this program. Semester or academic year.
Participants in this 4-week program take two courses from the following disciplines: engineering, business, economics, journalism, communication studies, and beginning Italian. Individual course descriptions are available on the CIMBA website. Typically, the engineering course offered is Statics. (For information about engineering courses that will be offered in the future, contact the CIMBA office, located in the Pappajohn Business Building Suite W230, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.) Faculty and students are drawn from American universities, and the instruction is in English.
General advice about interning abroad is available on the Internships Abroad page.
The Stanley Awards for International Research
The Stanley Awards are given annually to outstanding UI students for the pursuit of learning activities in international studies that are not available on the UI campus. Awards are given to undergraduates who have developed small-scale independent research or fieldwork projects on international topics that require travel abroad, and to graduate students who are in the early stages (pre-proposal stage only) of conducting research abroad for a master’s thesis. Award stipends vary depending on merit and the travel and living costs associated with the research project, but generally, they reimburse expenses between $1,000 and $3,000. Awards recipients are typically announced in April. Once the award is offered, recipients must complete their travel within the calendar year.