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Earth Education

Study Abroad For Computer Science Majors? 386

Posted by timothy
from the meet-interesting-people-but-don't-kill-them dept.
sbilstein writes "I'm currently a sophomore studying computer science with a penchant for international travel. While I do realize that the internet precludes the need for us geeks to travel farther than our desks, I'd still like to take a few courses taught in English or Spanish (the two languages I'm fluent in) somewhere outside of the country. The trouble is I can't go to just any school, because like any other engineering degree, I have to take technical courses every semester. So I need a school with a something at least similar to a computer science program in the states. Has anybody here from the US studied abroad while doing computer science? Was it worthwhile? Or anyone from outside the United States recommend a university program?"
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Study Abroad For Computer Science Majors?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:09PM (#26245325)

    Note that if you are looking to earn a degree, the courses that you take must be accredited by the institution that you want a degree from. Your major counselor should be able to tell you if there are foreign universities that they will accept CS credits from, and if so those are the only choices you really have. Otherwise be aware that simply going abroad to study does not mean that it will count towards your graduation at home.

  • Ask your school... (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:11PM (#26245335)

    Have you asked your school? Most schools have a study abroad office dedicated directly to this []. Some schools even have a program setup specifically for certain majors [] paired up with other universities.

    You could also look at a Maymester or Summer program. It would let you travel while not having to take a semester off from school.

    because like any other engineering degree, I have to take technical courses every semester

    I was unaware of this 'requirement' at my school. As long as I got X classes done by graduation they didn't care when I took it.

    I don't ever remember this in my

  • Re:Abroad? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:14PM (#26245349)

    Where, exactly? If you expect classes in English, then you betta' stay/study in the USA.

    Or, you know, someplace like England where English originated. Unless y'all totally insist on learning in American, like you know?

  • Yeah, England. (Score:2, Informative)

    by dave_d (22165) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:15PM (#26245359)

    Uhh, it's been 12 years or so, but I studied abroad in Lancaster University in England. They had computer science courses - they're taught in English, and were interesting and had a bit of variety from what I had in the states. I'm sure there's lots of colleges/universities abroad that have c.s courses, but Lancaster had a study abroad relationship with my college so, heh, it was good. Was it worthwhile? Well, yeah, the experience was invaluable, but not so much for the c.s courses, though they were good, but for the experience living abroad in a different culture.

  • Re:Abroad? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:17PM (#26245367)

    Not quite. In my university (Uppsala, Sweden) for example, most higher level courses are taught in English, the teachers and students are fluent in English, and there is a vibrant international community. The computer science program here is not bad, but I'd say it really doesn't matter... going abroad for a term or two will give you friends and contacts for life, invaluable experience and a much, much more attractive CV. So, just go for it!

    (Shameless plug: studying at swedish universities is totally free, except for a nominal 40$ students union fee =)

  • Spain (Score:2, Informative)

    by togashi06 (1013825) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:19PM (#26245383)
    If you speak Spanish, why not Spain? Our "Ingenieria Informatica" is pretty much the same as your CS, I think. And we have lots of pretty girls ;)
  • by salimma (115327) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:27PM (#26245437) Homepage Journal

    ... Edinburgh, Imperial College, or perhaps Manchester (they have one of the earliest electronic computer, still in working order). There's also Canada -- Waterloo has a renowned engineering program.

    Not sure if Cambridge does exchange programs, but if you're abroad for a year instead of a semester, their Part II CS tripos is quite gruelling; it's basically a complete undergrad education done in one year, usually taken by people who already have a degree in related fields (e.g. math or physics).

    In the UK, my rule of thumb is: if they teach a functional language then they are decent. Edinburgh is where Standard ML was written (and Phil Wadler is in the faculty) -- oh, and is really good for Artificial Intelligence research too, so naturally, they're quite heavily into Prolog too. Cambridge also uses ML; York uses Scheme and Haskell. Warwick -- ML, I guess.

    There's also the location to consider. Imperial is in London -- good place to be, but accomodation might be tough. Edinburgh is in, well, Edinburgh -- lovely place, a bit cold in winter, but not as bad as the northern parts of the US. York is on the east coast line, so it's less than three hours from either London or Edinburgh by fast train. Warwick, despite the name, is not in the quaint mediaeval town of Warwick, but in nearby Coventry (they obviously thought naming it the University of Coventry would not be good for business). Not far from London and Birmingham, though.

  • Re:Abroad? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Krilomir (29904) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:29PM (#26245451)

    Where, exactly? If you expect classes in English, then you betta' stay/study in the USA.

    I'm from Denmark, and I graduated in computer science a few months ago from the University of Aarhus. All courses after the first year are required to be thought in English. Heck, we use American textbooks in most of our second and third year courses. But hey, if you ever come to Denmark, then don't spend all your time studying. That's not what going abroad for 6-12 months is all about. Make some new friends, go drinking and partying, pass your courses of courses, and come home with something cool to put on your CV :)

  • by qw0ntum (831414) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:32PM (#26245461) Journal

    I'm in a similar position to you, actually. For me, I realized that by working hard I could pretty much finish my degree requirements by the end of my third year of school (which I will do). So, that left me with two "open" semesters in my Senior year that I'm going to use to finish up general college requirements, take more advanced CS classes. While it seems like it's impossible to finish all of those requirements, it's actually not that difficult I think. The reason that this is important is that you probably shouldn't expect to get credit to transfer back for technical courses you do abroad and instead use it as an opportunity to fulfill those liberal arts requirements if you have any.

    The next bit of advice I have is to talk with your professors in your department and ask for their recommendations. At my school, the director of undergraduate curricula is the one that was most helpful to me, so maybe you could try to talk to an equivalent at your school. He or she will not only be familiar with the undergraduate requirements for CS, they'll probably also be the one who will be able to approve or reject credit you receive abroad as it applies to filling your major requirements. Additionally, they will probably know about other students from your school who have studied abroad before.

    Ok, to answer your question about actual programs abroad, here are some places. To be fair, in the end I decided (for the time being anyway) not to study abroad for personal reasons. Anyway, my school (UNC-Chapel Hill) has a study abroad program particularly for CS majors between us and UCL (University College of London). Oftentimes even if a study abroad program is not offered at your university, you can arrange to do a program through another university, so if you're interested in this particular one let me know and I can get you more information. Additionally, I was considering and know friends who have gone to National University of Singapore, which also has a strong CS college.

    My bigger point is this: don't expect too much out of study abroad from an academic point of view. There's just so much complication between different teaching systems, credit transfers, and potentially different languages that you're better off approaching it as an opportunity to learn things completely different than your normal semester's fare in the CS dept. Good luck!

  • by olafva (188481) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:33PM (#26245467) Homepage

    My nephew studied at a top notch "foreign" University, McGill [] in Momtreal. McGill ranks right up there with Harvard & MIT according to the The Gourman Report []. You may find the Gourman Report useful in selecting a university with rated computer science curricula.

    However, in the long, run two things you may consider:
    1. CS alone may be "not enough" for good jobs now or in the future. Consider a strong related minor or additional major (say science, business, etc. ) to boost you marketable skills. CS, like Math is a required skill for the vast majority of the best future jobs, Don't think what's past is prologue for the future.
    2. The best philosophy is probably to study hard now (get 2 majors in the U.S,) and leave travel to later or summers. When you look for a job, I doubt that studying in a foreign country is likely to add much, if any. It may even raise questions as to your diligence and motivation toward your career rather than fun.

  • Re:Abroad? (Score:3, Informative)

    by sydneyfong (410107) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:34PM (#26245473) Homepage Journal

    You really can't learn Chinese (written) in just a year or two.

    Unless you're really a genius.

    It's my first language, and I remember vividly the horrors of spending primary school cramping the characters into my memory. Worse, there are still plenty of characters that I can't reliably recall how to write (reading is much easier).

    I've heard that spoken Chinese is much easier to learn for foreigners since there's few grammatical constructs.

  • Study in Ireland (Score:2, Informative)

    by pmagrath (980461) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:39PM (#26245511) Homepage
    One option is to study in Ireland. Trinity College Dublin ( is one of the top 50 universities in the world (see,_Dublin []) and has a Computer Science ( faculty which is recognised by Microsoft, Google and Intel as the best on the island as well as one of the foremost in English speaking Europe. I'm in my final year of the Computer Science course and can testify that the course is very good. Also, the large number of foreign students, both American and European, who visit for semesters all seem to leave happy.
  • by imac75 (161912) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:43PM (#26245543)

    Edinburgh University has a very strong Computer Science Course, plus it is in a great city, I know a lot of US people how have studied at edinburgh for a year so it shouldn't be a problem.
    If you have never visited Scotland then you are missing out. Lets start with the important things. The drinking age is 18 :)

  • Re:Spain (Score:4, Informative)

    by hibiki_r (649814) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:43PM (#26245545)

    And yet, he'd have a million problems getting the Spanish credits accepted back in the US. Not to mention all the fun of big classes, teachers that don't care, tests designed to make people fail, and an outdated curriculum.

    I actually moved to the US after seeing the awful world of Spanish state universities. Some foreigners enjoy themselves in classes designed mostly for them, but for core courses? It always ends up being a mistake.

    He could try SLU's Madrid Campus, an American university in Spain, but I don't think they offer enough CS classes to make it worthwhile, unless he's already expecting to 'waste' a semester.

  • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:51PM (#26245607)

    Come on? Isn't is obvious? Go for a semester anywhere.

    Fixed it for you. Communication is important, and being able to speak to others without a translator in their language will probably give you major brownie points if you ever have to work with someone from another country. Even if you never have to do international work, it's still cool to know. Every language has something worth reading or watching or listening to or even posting on (don't forget that English is not the only language on the net).

  • Re:India (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @07:57PM (#26245649)

    Pragmatically, India might not be the best place to study because of how many people there already speak English. That's not to say learning one of India's languages won't be useful, or that the cultural aspects aren't worth learning (personally, when I get up to the main campus of my university, I have every intention of taking the Hindi course), but if you're doing it for your career, unless you're really into India (or you're just a language freak like me), you'd probably be better off learning something else.

  • by zuzulo (136299) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:01PM (#26245671) Homepage

    I must admit, some of the best international academic research side computer scientists I have found to be European. Especially Italy, Spain, and France if i had to pick three off the top of my head. They also tend to have lots of summer exchange programs if you are into research. That, and somehow the environment is actually better at stimulating real innovation than it is here in the states. At least in the past 8-10 years or so in North America most of the serious cutting edge stuff is done in the corporate world, whereas in Europe the academic guys are doing cutting edge stuff.

    Strange how these things change. As always, this is just my own personal opinion ...

  • Re:India (Score:4, Informative)

    by rite_m (787216) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:08PM (#26245721)
    Just to add, the famed IITs (Indian Institute of Technologies) do have exchange programs. But the living conditions in most IITs will not suit (you might call them appalling by US college standards) most americans. So choose the institute properly (IIT delhi, e.g., might be a better choice than IIT Kharagpur). But, yes, India will be a good economical choice. And almost all institutes in India have english as their medium of teaching, so language won't be a problem at all.

    PS: I am from IIT Kharagpur.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:10PM (#26245733)

    University of Hertfordshire CS department is one of the largest and oldest in the UK and does LISP, Schema and Haskell and is very close to, but outside of London (20 mins on train to get to central London, but a lot, lot cheaper)

  • by kramerd (1227006) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:21PM (#26245785)

    I have to agree.

    At Georgia Tech I completed a study abroad in Barcelona (combination CS and architecture). Of my courses, only 1 was entirely in spanish (which happened to be spanish, which was very helpful in the immersion process).

    The thing to remember is that a study abroad isnt about the classes you take, but rather about learning the culture and getting a new perspective on how the world works.

    Not to mention that if you manage to learn something tangible from the experience, its a great conversation starter in your interviews later. Suddenly, you are the guy who went to Spain, not the guy who spent the summer playing WOW.

  • by evilbessie (873633) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:38PM (#26245861)
    There is no comma in "Imperial College London", yes it is silly but then so was Sykes (rector when the college was rebranded).
  • Re:Abroad? (Score:3, Informative)

    by evilbessie (873633) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:47PM (#26245931)
    Because we speak English, those colonials speak American English, we have the superset of the language (we also get lots of film/television from the states) so understand it all, whereas the yankies don't have a clue. Oh and much like stamps (the UK does not have to put a country on because we invented them) there is no British English, it's damn English everyone else speaks some other form like American English or Australian English etc.
  • by ailnlv (1291644) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @08:48PM (#26245937)
    South America is cheaper, and at least my university (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile) is ABET-certified. I've only seen an international student in a CS course once, since most exchange students who come to south america take mostly history or language courses, so more exchange students are appreciated. A word of warning though, I studied for a semester in Finland and I've got a couple of friends who've studied in several US universities (including CMU), and we all believe that they make us work A LOT more in our university. The only ones I've heard complaining about how hard they had to work abroad were the ones who went to école polytechnique du paris (or other french technical universities).
  • by chrb (1083577) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @09:18PM (#26246121)

    Unfortunately, English universities now charge tuition fees for overseas students, around £7,000 - £10,000 per year for non-EU undergraduates. If you're lucky you might be eligible for some form of studentship.

    In Scotland there is no tuition fee for E.U. students (apart from the English and Welsh!), but there are fees for non-EU students. As a visiting student for only one or two terms, the fee regime may also be different; typically visiting EU students in Scotland will be liable to pay around 20% of the usual fees, and quite often this heavily discounted rate will be paid by the visiting student's government anyway.

    The good news for visiting students is that the British Pound is falling fast - now almost at the point of parity with the Euro.

  • by xs650 (741277) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @09:24PM (#26246155)
    von Neumann became a US citizen so the US gets to claim him. Our thanks to Hungary for their contribution to US science.
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @09:44PM (#26246247) Homepage
    Check with your school's international ed office to see what schools they have relationships with. Many years ago, as part of my college's study-abroad program, I spent a term at the University of Aberdeen, where I took classes in "Computing Science" that counted for my CS degree stateside. One of those classes was my first major exposure to C and Unix (I said this was a long time ago), and to this day I still pronounce "Kernighan" with a Scots accent, because that's how my prof said it. I shared a flat with a Glaswegian, a Highlander, a Londoner, a Mancunian, and an Aussie, and living as an expat was an invaluable experience for a shy Yankee computer geek.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @03:36AM (#26247741)

    Here in Adelaide, Australia we've had the American university Carnegie Mellon open up a local branch offering a Master of Science in Information Technology, []

    No idea if they're any good or not though.

  • Re:India (Score:4, Informative)

    by sketerpot (454020) <> on Sunday December 28, 2008 @04:09PM (#26251945)

    What thermonuclear war would that be? If you're talking about the potential of nuclear war between India and Pakistan, then bear in mind some important facts:

    1. India and Pakistan have fission bombs, not fusion bombs. "Thermonuclear" means fusion (set off by fission.)

    2. The nuclear arsenals of both countries are relatively small -- about enough to completely destroy the city of Bangalore, on each side. Assuming that all the bombs work and can be efficiently delivered to their targets.

    Research, man!

  • Re:India (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2008 @04:27PM (#26252075)

    I would not go for India.

    If you read recent study like [1], it will be quite hard to find good universities there.

    I would recommend Scandinavian, Netherlands or German universities in Europe, if you want some quality CS - on the top of that they are often free to attend. The Scandinavian universities are open easy to switch the class into English language in the case of foreign students. The German are a bit harder on that, and you want to find a university that explicitly offers English courses. (Netherlands I don't have experience with on that matter)

    But, consider what your goal is. Study CS, or party? We have quite a number of US students at my university (Denmark), and the experience is, that most fall into the party category, are quite immature to the "free" research-based study-form, and, hence almost all fail the exams.

    Anyway, it's a great experience, just go for it :-)


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