"International learning abroad exposes students to new ideas and cultures, helps diversify their education, and can help open a wide variety of career options. Being able to work and communicate across cultures and international boundaries has become an essential career skill." — Dr. Joseph Reinhardt, Professor and Departmental Executive Officer, Biomedical Engineering
Many of the top employers for the University of Iowa’s biomedical engineers have already or are currently expanding into the global market: Accenture is a multinational company with headquarters in Ireland, Cerner Corporation is a global supplier, and even local companies—like Kalona’s Civco Medical Solutions—work with international partners. Because it is likely that your future career will require you to communicate and problem solve within various cultural contexts, it’s important that you develop an appreciation for cultural difference.
While many biomedical engineering majors pursue industrial careers, others aspire to careers in medicine. Study abroad is also a valuable experience for future physicians, who must not only possess vast knowledge of the human body, but also knowledge of how to communicate with peoples in an increasingly multicultural nation.
To aid you in coordinating study abroad with your major requirements, this page offers advice about when to study abroad (Timing), how to fulfill your academic requirements abroad (Academics), and how to choose a study abroad program best suited to your needs (Programs).
As a biomedical 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, the College of Engineering, and the Whitaker International Program (a funding opportunity for biomedical engineering students) 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, non pre-med biomedical engineering students interested in participating in semester-long or year-long study abroad programs are encouraged to study abroad during their sophomore and junior years. Students who don’t have time to study abroad during the academic year are encouraged to participate in programs offered during winter, spring, and/or summer breaks. (Typically, pre-med students are encouraged to participate in these shorter, off-semester programs.) For students participating in the BSE/MS Fast Track Program, the first semester of your 5th year is also a good time to study abroad.
As you plan your study abroad experience, keep in mind that all biomedical engineering students are required to complete their senior design projects at the University of Iowa. Since the senior design project is a year-long course, your senior year is not an ideal time to study abroad.
Pre-med students need to coordinate study abroad around taking the MCATs and applying for medical school. Most biomedical engineering pre-med students take the MCATs during the spring of their junior year and apply for med school the following fall. As you plan for study abroad, keep in mind that you’ll need to complete five pre-med courses before you can take the MCAT. Also keep in mind that you’ll likely need time to prepare your med school applications during the summer before your senior year.
All biomedical 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 biomedical 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 from the Graduate School.)
BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING MAJOR REQUIREMENTS
While the Biomedical Engineering (BME) curriculum is fairly flexible in terms of incorporating study abroad, some courses will be easier to find overseas equivalents for than others. For instance, it will be easier to find overseas equivalents for your General Education Components and Engineering Fundamentals courses (ENGR:2110 Statics, 2120 Electrical Circuits, and 2130 Thermodynamics) than for your BME Focus Area course and Senior Design courses (BME:4910 and 4920)—which you’ll likely need to complete at the University of Iowa. Keep in mind that it can also be difficult (but not impossible) to find overseas equivalents for your lab courses (CHEM:1110 and 1120, PHYS:1611 and 1612, BME:2200, 2210, 2500, and 2110).
Many courses in the BME curriculum are offered every semester (e.g. your lab courses), so again there is some flexibility in terms incorporating study abroad into a 4-year graduation plan. However, keep in mind that many of these courses also require prerequisites. As you’re planning your study abroad experience, be sure your trip won’t prevent you from completing prerequisites in time to fulfill course requirements in future semesters.
Because of the timing of the MCAT exam, the BME curriculum for premed students is less flexible than for non-premed students. While pre-med students are typically unable to fulfill their engineering requirements abroad during the school year, engineering courses completed during a short-term or summer program can also be approved to substitute for BME requirements. Pre-med students interested in meeting pre-med requirements abroad should consult with their pre-med advisor.
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. 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 BME Focus Area is a set of courses in a chosen interest area required for your degree. The Biomedical Engineering Department offers several pre-approved Focus Area plans (with a list of courses that would fulfill the Focus Area) and students have flexibility in the courses they can choose for their Focus Area electives. Focus Area courses are typically advanced level courses, and some of the course requirements for the recommended Focus Areas can be quite specialized (i.e. difficult to find equivalents overseas). Still, it may be possible for you to complete some of your Focus Area courses abroad with the approval of your faculty advisor and the Biomedical Engineering Department. You can design your Plan of Study with your study abroad experience in mind. If you want ideas for courses to take abroad, research some of the other major advising pages on this site to see if they recommend any programs relevant to your interest area. (For instance, if you are completing the pre-med requirements, check out the advising page for Nursing Majors and/or the Global Health advising page.)"
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 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 scholarships offered through the College of Engineering. BME students are also encouraged to apply for funding through the Whitaker International Program.
COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING STUDY ABROAD SCHOLARSHIPS
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 with energy and/or water in developing countries. 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.
THE WHITAKER INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM
The Whitaker International Program funds a variety of international experiences for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate BME students:
Fellows and Scholars Program and Summer Grants Program
These programs fund post-graduate and master’s BME students to conduct research, pursue coursework, and/or intern abroad. The Fellows and Scholars Program offers funding for an academic year (9-12 months), and the Summer Grants fund an 8-week summer experience.
In addition to fulfilling academic requirements abroad, biomedical 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's MAP. You can also search our programs database (using the language filter) for information about language programs.
The University of New South Wales is a top ranked engineering program. It offers several courses relevant to chemical engineering majors. For information about individual course offerings, browse the University’s course handbook. This program is offered in both the spring and fall semesters. (UNSW has a UI-friendly calendar.)
Swansea University offers courses in Medical 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—biomedical engineering courses are offered—as well as a Spanish language course and a Spanish culture course. Most courses can be taken in English or Spanish. (The biomedical engineering courses are only taught in English.) 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 email@example.com.) Faculty and students are drawn from American universities, and instruction is in English.
General advice about interning abroad is available on our Internships Abroad page. The following internship opportunities are specifically relevant to engineering and/or biomedical engineering students.
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 made 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.