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Step 2: Research Preparation: Planning for Study Abroad

One of the goals of the IRN is to help you use your time abroad productively for research on an international topic. Too often, students miss the opportunity to use their abroad time for research, so they spend countless hours trying to get back abroad. Why go through that frustration?

Study abroad doesn't have to, and shouldn't, interrupt your academic experience. International experience, specifically study abroad, exposes you to diverse cultures and perspectives, enabling you to learn different ways of thinking. By using your abroad time for research, you can return poised to apply your abroad experience and research in a capstone project that challenges you to integrate what you have learned at home and abroad.

When planning your study abroad experience, consider the following questions and seek out resources and people who can help you answer them:

a. What resources exist abroad?

By the time you're ready to go abroad, hopefully you will have some sense of your research interests. Perhaps you have already developed a potential research question. Wouldn't it be helpful to know if there are people or resources in your abroad location that you could contact while you are there?

Do some research on your abroad location before you go:

  • Find out what centers or institutes exist that relate to your research interests and read up on who has expertise in your area.

  • Talk to your advisor, mentor, or professors you know on campus to help you figure out whether key scholars live in your abroad location.

  • Visit Tisch to find out what international libraries and archives are available to you. Find out the procedures for gaining access to these libraries. For a list of international archives and libraries around the world, visit the Tisch Library tutorial on the IRN.

  • Sometimes walking into an organization and asking to speak to people does not get you very far. Customs and protocols may vary depending on the country and culture. Find out what the appropriate procedures are for your host country. Talk to faculty who do research in that country or region. Have a faculty member or the IR Program write a letter that demonstrates who you are and your credentials.

b. What are you looking for in a study abroad program?

The Tufts Programs Abroad office is the best resource to help you answer this question. Understanding your own motivations for studying abroad will help determine the type of program that will best serve your needs. Are you looking for total immersion in another culture? Do you want to improve your language skills? Do you want to do an internship? Do you want to complete IR major requirements? Do you want to do research? If you're thinking about doing a capstone research project, you might want to investigate whether study abroad programs exist that incorporate a research component.

c. What coursework can you take abroad?

The courses you take abroad can serve you in a number of ways. In addition to helping you fulfill your major requirements, they expose you intellectually to the society in which you are living. They can also help you develop a greater depth in your understanding of your research interests. For example, a course on Immigration Policy in the European Union can help you with your research topic on French Immigration.

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