Environmental studies focuses on the interaction between humans and their environment, and the search for solutions to the problems that may arise from it. This means that the term covers everything from conservation to urban planning, ecology, and social justice. For this reason, an environmental studies course is a great start or complement to a wide variety of careers.
Even better, environmental studies courses are by their very nature strongly linked to their location. By studying this subject overseas, you can widen your perspective and develop a deep understanding of a new country, city, or region. You can connect with this place's history, people, and environment, and learn about the ways you can help make it better.
Whether you intend to go on to work in a specific part of the world or whether you use your course as a springboard for other projects, your experience is likely to be fulfilling and fascinating.
Many environmental studies courses are primarily class-based. Your classes will be a combination of lectures and smaller discussion groups, and will usually cover a range of topics before allowing you to choose an area to focus on. The format and content of this kind of program will vary greatly depending on the country’s academic structure as well as its main environmental and social concerns.
While undergraduate degrees will tend to be class-based, graduate and postgraduate courses are usually focused around a piece of individual research. Sometimes, the research is specifically commissioned by a university, but often it’s up to you to prepare and submit a proposal for an area you believe could use further study. Doing academic research overseas allows you to conduct firsthand, unique research in the part of the world most pertinent to your topic of interest!
Environmental studies aim to solve real-world problems, and in order to do that, you will have to observe and understand these issues first-hand. This is why several areas of environmental studies will involve some level of frontline experience and fieldwork, ranging from conservation work in natural habitats to social work in urban communities. Field work can be placement with a local organization, and doing this overseas gives you a truly global perspective on your topic of interest.
While fieldwork involves the collection of data and information for academic purposes, immersion programs are simply aimed at integrating you within a certain community or area. This helps you achieve a deeper, more significant insight into the issues faced and prepares you to solve them from an informed perspective. They also often voluntary and social work in order to embed you within a community, creating an immersive experience in your field of study and an exciting foreign culture.
Where to Go
Environmental studies programs exist throughout the world in universities, colleges, and specialized research institutions. If you are unsure of which specific field of study you want to get into, you can simply start with a generic course at a university in a country you've always wanted to visit. If you already have a specialty in mind, you can want to look for specific organizations or communities that focus on your area of interest in the area of the world most relevant to your specialization.
Germany has multiple world-class universities as well as several institutes focusing on environmental research. It is also a world leader in science and technology, making it a particularly appealing option if you want to study hands-on approaches to environmental issues through subjects like chemistry and engineering. The standard of education in Germany is exceptionally high, and what’s more, all public universities throughout the country are free for both domestic and international students.
South Africa is home to several of Africa’s best universities, with both Cape Town and Johannesburg boasting excellent institutions. This makes it a great place for studying abroad in general, but South Africa’s combination of astounding natural resources and difficult social challenges make it a perfect place to explore the environmental and social issues facing the country, continent, and world at large.
South America has a wonderful diversity of landscapes and cultures, but Ecuador has some specific advantages when it comes to environmental studies. For one, it is the most biodiverse country in the world relative to its size. It is also home to the Galapagos Islands, famed for their wealth of endemic species and an absolutely unique place to study conservation and the environmental impact of human activity.
Planning Your Trip
Your trip planning will depend greatly on where you go and for how long. Your institution of choice should be able to offer you some guidance on things like accommodation, language learning, and general integration.
How to Choose an Environmental Studies Study Abroad Program
You can take one of two approaches when selecting an environmental studies course: you can focus on choosing your preferred country or city, or you can look for a specific course of study regardless of where it happens to be. This will essentially depend on what you aim to get from your studies, whether it’s cultural immersion in a specific country or specialized knowledge in a certain field.
Your other main choice will be between a general course covering the broader concepts of environmental studies or a program specific to a certain area, such as conservation, social work, or environmental law. This decision is linked to your level of experience and can heavily influence where you go.
For instance, undergraduate courses tend to be more generic, with many universities throughout the world offering similar curriculums. Postgraduate degrees and research theses tend to be more specific to a country or institution, giving you a narrower range of choice.
Health & Safety
Many environmental studies programs include hands-on field work. This can involve anything from working with community groups in a deprived area to spending weeks in the jungle collecting data. Whatever type of field work your course involves, you should make sure to take all necessary precautions for your destination.
Your institution should provide you with some guidance regarding things like vaccines, nearby hospitals, and what to pack, but it will usually be up to you to arrange proper insurance for your placement. Make sure you are aware of any activities involved in your course and that you inform your insurer of any that are potentially dangerous, such as contact with exotic animals or travel to areas with a high risk of violence.
Other Need To Know
Environmental studies programs vary greatly in cost. While many are expensive, others are free, have scholarships, or even include a salary or stipend in the case of research programs. Make sure you pay close attention to costs and funding options when searching and applying for courses in order to take full advantage of these kinds of opportunities.
You should also keep in mind that many courses include fieldwork, which may or may not be funded by the course itself. This is a good question to ask at the start, so you don’t get caught off-guard by unexpected costs later on.