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Off-Campus Study

Academic Departments and Advising

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Your chosen program should have a close connection with your studies at Bowdoin. It is sensible, though not essential, for it to be allied to your intended major; in any case you should discuss its impact on your work in any major or minor with a faculty member in each academic department or program. (If you are planning to study in a country closely connected with another department, you may also find that a faculty member in that department can offer useful advice.) You will probably be reaching a decision on off-campus study and declaration of the major at roughly the same time, if you are a sophomore, and for this reason it is particularly important to make clear to the department your intentions in both areas early on in that year. You will be able to submit a major declaration card to the Office of the Registrar at the beginning of February in your sophomore year.

Departments vary in the nature of the advice that they can give. Many, especially the language departments, have extensive experience with a number of programs and will be able to suggest the most suitable ones on Bowdoin's options list; those that their majors regularly attend appear on that list. Many departments now include a section on study abroad on their webpage. Several departments also hold meetings for prospective majors at which off-campus study is discussed. But in some cases it will be up to you to supply detailed information on a program and its courses before your department decides whether the proposed off-campus study will benefit your work at Bowdoin.

In general, you can consult any advisor in your future major with whom you have already worked, or who teaches in your area of concentration in the department. But some departments assign responsibility for off-campus study issues to a particular professor, and may expect that that professor sign all OCS applications. Find out from the notes below, the department coordinator, and the department website what your department's rules are.

Most off-campus study students earn credit toward a major or minor as well as the normal total of 4 credits per semester toward graduation. Whether or not you hope to earn major credit, it is vital for your advisor(s) in your major department(s) to be informed of and endorse your plans. Their signatures on your Bowdoin application indicate their approval of your general plan; they will also sign provisional approval of courses that they accept for credit in the major.

Departmental guidelines for off-campus study

The general rules are the same for majors in all academic departments and programs.

  • Read the requirements for your intended major, as set out in the Bowdoin catalogue, and determine when core and required courses will be offered over the next two years.
  • Consult the appropriate advisor in the department on your plans.
  • If you will be asking for credit in your major for any of the proposed off-campus study courses, demonstrate with course descriptions and other materials that the work will be at a level and in an area that is appropriate to the overall plan of study in the major.
  • Even if a department preapproves a course for credit, bring back syllabi and written work so that the department can evaluate them before final approval.

You will find below brief notes on specific departmental requirements for off-campus study (also a section on the health professions). Make sure that the requirements for your major have not changed since the compilation of these guidelines; many departments produce a detailed summary on their website or elsewhere in print.

Africana Studies. Africana Studies welcomes off-campus study as a potentially vital part of its major, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean and in some circumstances Latin America, and in the U.S. at urban, larger, and historically black institutions. Students may substitute up to two courses at other institutions to satisfy core major requirements, and a maximum of two more as part of the four-course concentration. Up to two courses toward the minor may be taken at other institutions. All courses must be preapproved by the director of Africana Studies, to be confirmed promptly upon return by presentation of the syllabus and any written work.

Art History. Of the ten courses required of the Art History major, at least seven must be taken at Bowdoin; of the five courses required for a minor, at least three must be taken at Bowdoin. With rare exceptions, Art 101 should be taken at Bowdoin, before off-campus study. Upper-level seminar requirements must be met at Bowdoin.

Asian Studies. Foreign study for students interested in Asian Studies is highly recommended. Students interested in China are particularly encouraged to attend the ACC, CET, and IUP programs. The AKP and JCMU programs are recommended for students interested in Japan, and the ISLE and SITA programs for students interested in South Asia. Up to three credits from off-campus study (excluding beginning and intermediate first and second year language courses) may count toward the major. Up to two credits from off-campus study (excluding language courses) may count for the minor.

Biochemistry. Biochemistry majors planning to study off campus must discuss their program with the chair of the Biochemistry Committee to ensure that course requirements for graduation will be met. They are advised to complete the core Biochemistry courses (I and II) before the senior year.

Biology. None of the specific courses required for a major in Biology have to be taken at Bowdoin, but the requirements of the major must be satisfied by courses listed in the Bowdoin catalogue or by equivalent courses at other institutions. Students studying off campus should note the need to complete prerequisites before taking upper-level courses, and that some courses in the department are offered only in alternate years. Courses that are too narrow in focus or take place strictly in the lab or field are unlikely to be acceptable substitutes for Bowdoin's core courses, although they may earn credit to satisfy the requirement for additional courses at the 100 or 250 level. A Biology study-away provisional approval form should be submitted to Pamela Bryer, Director of Laboratories, to be kept on file in the department.

Chemistry. There is no limit to the number of courses that can be taken off campus for the major in Chemistry, but students must discuss their plans with their major advisor, and provide sufficient documentation to allow courses to be preapproved prior to off-campus study. Students who do not continue with the core curriculum while away may have difficulties completing the major upon return.

Classics, Classical Archaeology, and Classical Studies. There is no limit to the number of courses in the major that can be taken on an approved program, but it is expected that six courses leading to the major will be taken at Bowdoin. Normally, Classics and Classics/Archaeology majors have at least four courses in Greek or Latin before they study off campus; and Classical Studies majors have at least two courses in Greek or Latin before they study off campus. Students are encouraged to take classics or archaeology courses that are not offered in the Bowdoin curriculum, or complementary courses in ancient civilization, history, philosophy, religion, and political theory. Upper-level courses in Greek, Latin, classical archaeology, or classical studies taken off campus may be included in the ten required for the majors in Classics, Classics/Archaeology, and Classical Studies, but at least one upper-level course in Greek, Latin, or classical archaeology must be taken at the College. The department handles the granting of major credit case by case.

Computer Science. A computer science course taken at another institution may count toward major requirements if its content and level are consistent with the computer science courses offered at Bowdoin. To obtain credit for such a course, students must consult with the chair of the department in advance, providing a current course description, syllabus, and other information that can be used as a basis for approval.

Earth & Oceanographic Science. Earth & Oceanographic Science majors considering study away should consult the faculty to help determine suitable programs and courses of study. Students should consider as options both geology courses equivalent to those at Bowdoin and those not typically offered by the College. They are reminded that the department usually offers its advanced courses only every other year, and that no more than two courses from off-campus study will count toward the total of nine required for the major.

Economics. Many programs offer courses that will count toward the Economics major. Students who desire credit for an economics course taken away should obtain written approval from the chair or their Economics advisor prior to leaving Bowdoin. Generally we encourage students to take 200-level electives abroad. The normal expectation is that students will take the three intermediate core courses (255, 256, 257) and the two required advanced-topics courses (300-level) at Bowdoin. Students are urged to have completed Economics 255, 256, and 257 before their senior year. Most students who plan to study away try to take the intermediate micro (255) and macro (256) courses before they leave. One or two credits are granted for elective courses taken in European programs; no more than one intermediate core course and no more than two courses at U.S. institutions will normally be considered for credit toward the Economics major. One intermediate core course can be taken at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and exceptions are made to grant 300-level credit for one 300-level course at LSE. Accounting, business management, marketing, and other business-related courses are not accepted for credit.

Education. Students seeking certification in secondary education must take Education 301, 302, 303, 304, and 305 at Bowdoin in their senior year. Credit for student teaching at another institution is not transferable. Education courses taken at other institutions will not count toward certification.

English. Students are encouraged to take advantage of courses dealing with writers or topics not covered at Bowdoin, provided, of course, that the writers or topics involve a significant and substantial body of literature. Ideally, majors should have at least four courses in the department, at least two of which are required courses, before they study off campus. All but one of the three required courses in English literature before 1800 must be taken at Bowdoin. One course in creative writing and one upper-level course in film studies may count toward the major. Courses in expository writing, communication, journalism, etc. are not eligible for major credit. No more than two courses outside the department (including off-campus study courses, courses in film, and literature courses in a foreign language) will count toward the total of ten courses required for the major. Students may not apply off-campus study or transfer credits to the minor. OCS application forms should be signed by the chair of the department. The chair's signature indicates provisional approval of the student's plan -- it does not confer final approval of the credits. On returning to Bowdoin, and after the Registrar's Office has received the off-campus study transcript, students must obtain a Study Away Approval Form from the department. The Department Chair's signature on that departmental form makes the application of study away credit to the major official. Please Note: All prior approval is provisional; final approval will be determined by the outcome of the course and the submission of all relevant materials (i.e., syllabi, papers, etc.) to the chair of the department.

Environmental Studies. Environmental Studies coordinate majors are encouraged to take advantage of off-campus study in order to gain a broader perspective on environmental issues through scientific field research or international environmental programs. The core Environmental Studies courses must be taken at Bowdoin (ES101, ES201, ES202, ES203, senior seminar). Of the remaining four required courses, one can be taken at other institutions. Students should consult with Eileen Sylvan Johnson, ES Program Manager, about their plans. Provisional approval in writing should be sought from the department in advance; a syllabus, reading list, and assignments should be submitted for final approval by the ES program director upon return.

Film Studies. Students interested in film studies are encouraged to study away during the junior year or the spring of the sophomore year. Students are encouraged to identify a program that would offer courses not available at Bowdoin including film production and a wider range of cinema studies. Students can fulfill up to two of their course requirements for their minor while off campus.

French. Normally at least two courses of the nine required for the major should be taken before going abroad. A maximum of three of the nine required courses may be taken off campus in a semester-long program; four of the nine may be taken in a year-long program. Students are encouraged to take courses that are not offered by the department. In general, humanities courses taught in French or focusing on Francophone culture can be counted toward the major. The senior seminar must be taken in the department in the senior year.

Gay and Lesbian Studies. Students interested in gay and lesbian studies are encouraged to study away during the junior year or the spring of the sophomore year. Students are encouraged to identify a program that would offer courses that would supplement the curriculum here at Bowdoin. Students can fulfill up to one of their course requirements for their minor while off campus.

Gender and Women's Studies. Students are expected to take WS 101 and 201 before studying off campus. Ordinarily, students will not be able to take the core courses off campus. For a one-semester program, two courses may be counted toward a major or one course toward a minor. For a two-semester program, four courses may be counted toward a major or two courses toward a minor.

German. The German Department generally expects those with a major in German to spend a year or semester with a program at a German or Austrian university. Study abroad may also be combined with a Goethe Institut course. The German webpage has links to approved programs and information about students studying in Germany in the current year.

Government. Credit will be granted for up to two B-level credits toward a major if the work is determined to have been adequate and suitable; one of those credits can be applied to the Government major B-level concentration requirement. Of the nine courses needed for a major, at least seven must be taken at Bowdoin. There is no credit transfer towards a minor. Students who successfully complete American University's Washington Semester Program will receive two B-level credits. Interested students should consult with the department chair. Application to the Washington Semester should be made through Professor Martin, the Washington Semester institutional representative at Bowdoin; all Bowdoin participants in the Washington Semester must, regardless of program requirements, undertake a research paper and submit it to Professor Martin upon return.

Health Professions. Check with Sue Livesay, Director of Health Professions Advising, if you are considering applying to medical, dental, veterinary or other health professions or allied health programs. In selecting courses, keep in mind that the prerequisites for any of the health professions programs should be fulfilled in the U.S. The allopathic medical schools (M.D. programs) will not accept transcripts issued by foreign universities, so that the courses taken will not be officially recognized to meet specific requirements, nor will the grades earned in these institutions be factored into your GPA on your application. If your transcript is issued through a U.S. degree-granting institution (e.g., Arcadia or Butler University), it will be an official part of your application, and your courses and grades will be included as a formal part of your record. Even in this instance, however, completing the prerequisites in a foreign institution is discouraged.

History. Students participating in off-campus study may count no more than one history course per semester toward the history major. In exceptional cases, students may petition to receive credit for more than one course per semester toward the history major. In all cases, a maximum of three history courses taken away from Bowdoin can count toward the history major, but no more than two can count toward the field of concentration.

Italian. Students minoring in Italian will normally have at least two years of Italian (or the equivalent) before they go abroad. They may count two content courses (literature, philosophy, history, etc.), approved by an Italian professor at Bowdoin, toward the minor. A 300-level course must be taken when back at Bowdoin.

Latin American Studies. Students considering a major in the program are encouraged to study in Latin America. A maximum of three courses from Bowdoin-approved programs may count toward the major.

Mathematics. In general, a mathematics course taken at another institution may count toward major requirements if it is sufficiently advanced. Students are reminded that at foreign institutions it is common to find only year-long courses offered. Students who wish to study off campus may find it most practical to take most of their mathematics courses at Bowdoin. All courses taken off campus must be verified in advance with the designated department representative, to ensure that the proposed courses are at the appropriate level.  Math courses taken without advance verification might not count toward the math major or minor, and the designated department representative should be contacted as soon as possible by a student whose plans change to include such a course.   Students should discuss their plans for the major or minor and for off-campus study with an advisor in the department.

Neuroscience. Neuroscience majors wishing to study off-campus should plan their courses carefully, starting in the first or second year, so that the prerequisites for required courses are met. Although some of the core courses required for the major can be taken off campus, students are encouraged to take most of these at Bowdoin; it is often difficult to find equivalent courses at other institutions. Students who wish to study off campus should look instead for courses in the neurosciences that are unavailable at Bowdoin. Such courses will enrich and broaden their grounding in neuroscience, particularly when the basic neuroscience courses have already been completed. These courses should be chosen in consultation with members of the Neuroscience Program and will generally count as the optional courses required by the major.

Philosophy. Of the eight courses required of the Philosophy major, at least five must be taken at Bowdoin; of the four required for a minor, at least three must be taken at Bowdoin. Students who wish to complete the major or minor are strongly advised to take Philosophy 111 and 112 at Bowdoin; majors should also take Philosophy 223 at Bowdoin. In some circumstances, an appropriate non-Bowdoin course may meet one of these requirements; this will be determined by the department after review of the syllabus. Credit for neither 111 nor 112 will be given for a single-semester course that covers both ancient and modern philosophy; credit for 223 will typically not be given for a course on "Critical Thinking" or "Informal Logic."

Physics. It is possible for physics majors to study off-campus, especially those who have a strong interest in an area of physics not well represented at Bowdoin. Proposals are considered case by case.

Psychology. Students should be particularly careful to take courses at the appropriate level, in consultation with the Department of Psychology; note, too, that at some other institutions popular courses in applied areas of psychology focus so much on practical issues that they fail to develop fundamental skills and knowledge about general principles of behavior. Students are generally advised to attend approved universities in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand. Unless Psychology 101 has been taken at Bowdoin in the first year, and Psychology 251 and 252 in the sophomore year, a full year of off-campus study is inadvisable for majors. Majors should plan to fulfill laboratory and advanced 300-level course requirements at Bowdoin; it is usually difficult to find courses overseas that will fulfill these requirements for the major.

Religion. Off-campus study is seen as an opportunity to take courses in religion or related disciplines that are not usually available at Bowdoin. Students are encouraged to look for solid courses, especially in Islam, African religions, American religious history, or ethics. Distribution requirements for the major should normally be satisfied with courses taken at Bowdoin; it is expected that before studying off-campus majors will have passed Religion 101 and at least two other courses toward the distribution requirements. No more than three courses in religion from other institutions may be included in those counted toward the major.

Russian. Students majoring in Russian are encouraged to spend at least one semester in Russia. Normally no more than two courses a semester will be counted toward the major. Students are expected to take two courses in the department upon return.

Sociology & Anthropology. Off-campus study in a demanding academic program can contribute substantially to a major in Sociology or Anthropology and to a student's overall education. Programs with a well-supervised fieldwork component may be especially valuable. Ordinarily, we advise students to plan study away for the junior year.

The quality of an off-campus study experience depends in large measure on preparation for it before departure and on integration of it into course work upon return. When applicable, courses  should be planned before departure that provide instruction about the culture, history, or language of the area in which one will study. In addition, a student should, if at all possible, complete either the Sociology or Anthropology research methods course before off-campus study. Upon return from off-campus study students should consider designing academic programs that build on that experience. The Department expects students to take advantage of sociology and anthropology courses offered elsewhere that are not available at Bowdoin. Ordinarily, no more than one of the core courses (i.e., those specifically required) in the Sociology major may be taken away from Bowdoin, and in these cases the student should be careful to have the equivalency course approved in advance by the Department. Ordinarily, Anthropology majors may not take any of the required core courses while studying off campus.

All students who wish to substitute courses taken at other colleges and universities for courses offered in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology must receive approval from the Department. This requirement applies to domestic study, foreign study, and summer school. All students should be prepared to meet the following criteria:

  1. Receive instruction by a sociologist to receive credit in Sociology and by an anthropologist to receive credit in Anthropology.

  2. Obtain provisional approval in writing by one of the members of the department before studying away. To obtain provisional approval, the student should provide, if possible, a description of the course, a reading list, and information about the organization of the course. 

  3. Request final approval upon return from off-campus study. Students should submit a syllabus and reading list (or list of texts) and completed assignments (e.g., papers, exams, field notebooks, etc.) to the department chair at the time that final approval is requested.

Final approval will be given by the department chair upon completion of the course or courses and will not be given if the course content, assignments, or instructor do not meet Department standards. Students should discuss their off-campus study plans in detail with Department members ahead of time.

Spanish. Normally at least two courses of the nine required for the major should be taken before going abroad. A maximum of three of the nine required courses may be taken off campus in a semester-long program; four of the nine may be taken in a year-long program. In general, humanities courses taught in Spanish or focusing on Hispanic culture can be counted toward the major. The senior seminar must be taken in the department in the senior year. For full details of the rules and recommendations regarding credit in Spanish for study abroad, see the department's handout.

Theater. Students interested in theater are encouraged to study away during the junior year or the spring of the sophomore year. Students in the interdisciplinary major in English & Theater can fulfill up to two of their course requirements off campus.

Visual Arts. Majors and minors should complete Art 101, 150, and 160 before off-campus study. Of the eight studio courses required of the major, at least five must be completed at Bowdoin; of the five studio courses required of the minor, at least three must be completed at Bowdoin. In order to receive credit for studio art courses, a student must present a portfolio (actual work if possible; slides if necessary) and discuss class procedures and content with the appropriate faculty member. In general, a course that met at least five hours per week, with additional independent studio time, would receive credit equivalent to a single Bowdoin course.