Many of the top employers for the University of Iowa’s mechanical engineers are expanding in the global market. Both John Deere and Caterpillar are global suppliers with affiliates in several countries. Cedar Rapids-based Collins Aerospace is an international company, and the Eaton Corporation is an international supplier with headquarters in Ireland. 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.

To aid you in coordinating study abroad with your major requirements, this page offers advice about when to study abroad as a mechanical engineering major (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 a mechanical 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.

Since 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.

In general, the best time for mechanical engineering students to study abroad is during their 3rd and/or 4th semesters in the program (typically your sophomore year). With proper planning, study abroad during your junior year is also possible. Students unable to study abroad during the academic year are encouraged to participate in off-semester programs (programs offered during winter, spring, and/or summer break). If you are pursuing a Combined BS/MS Degree, the first semester of your 5th year is also a good time to study abroad.

Though not impossible, it is not recommended that you study abroad during your senior year. If you do plan to study abroad as a senior, keep in mind that the courses you take during your senior year are typically offered fall-only or spring-only. Also keep in mind that all mechanical engineering students are required to complete a senior design project. See "Academics" for information about coordinating your senior project with study abroad.

All engineering students are strongly encouraged to plan their study abroad experience well in advance of their departure date. Be in touch with your advisors (both in Study Abroad and in the College of Engineering) early on in the planning process.

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 mechanical 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. (Note that students in the Bachelor’s to Master’s program will need to get approval from both the College of Engineering and the Graduate School.)

Mechanical Engineering Majors

Some courses in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Curriculum will be easier to find overseas equivalents for than others. For instance, it’s 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. (If you plan in advance with a College of Engineering academic advisor, you may be able to complete your entire EFA requirement abroad.) In the past, students have also been able to find substitutions for ENGR:2710 Dynamics, 2720 Materials Science, and 2750 Mechanics of Deformable Bodies, STAT:2020 Probability and Statistics, and ME:3040 Thermodynamics II. You’ll likely need to complete your senior design courses (ME:4048 Energy System Design, 4055 Mechanical Systems Design, and 4086 Mechanical Engineering Design Project) at the University of Iowa.

Keep in mind that some courses in the ME curriculum (especially those offered during your junior and senior year) 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.

Senior Design Projects

Talk to your College of Engineering faculty advisor if you have an international design project in mind. The Virtual International Project Team (VIPT), a collaboration between the UI College of Engineering and the University of Provence in Marseille, France, is one opportunity for engineering students to complete an international project. See the "Programs" tab for more information about VIPT. Information about a few research opportunities that could potentially inform your design project is also provided under "Programs."

General Education Components

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.

Elective Focus Area Courses

Your Elective Focus Area (EFA) is a set of 7 courses (21 semester hours) required for your degree. The Mechanical 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 Mechanical Engineering 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 an Energy and Environment EFA, check out the advising page for Environmental Science majors.)

General Electives

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’s possible to receive credit toward graduation. Talk to an advisor in Study Abroad 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, mechanical engineering students are encouraged to intern, conduct research, take language courses, and 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.

Students interested in taking non-engineering courses while abroad are encouraged to browse the programs database (using the discipline filter) and consult our Steps to Studying Abroad advising page.

Semester and Year-long

Iowa Regents Semester in Wales: Swansea University

Swansea University offers engineering courses in several subjects—including Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Product Design, and Aerospace Engineering, among others. 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.


CIMBA Italy Program

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 Faculty and students are drawn from American universities, and the instruction is in English.

Collaborative International Projects

Virtual International Project Team (VIPT)

The Virtual International Project Team course is an opportunity to complete your senior design course as part of a collaboration with the University of Provence (UP) in Marseille, France. The course involves substantial interaction between students from the two universities on a collaborative project that lasts for two semesters, typically during your senior year. The admission process for VIPT takes place during the spring semester. For more information about the course and how to apply, click on the above link.

Research Opportunities

The Stanley Awards for International Research

The Stanley Undergraduate and Graduate 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.