BCA Student Blog

How to Study Abroad as a Bio-Chemistry Major

study abroad new zealandMy name is Katie Byers and I am a senior, biology-chemistry major and business minor from Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana. I studied abroad in Dunedin, New Zealand in spring of 2017 and it was the most life shaping, eye-opening, self-growing experience of my life! Many people speculate at the ability to be a bio-chemistry major and study abroad, but I am here to tell you it is more than possible, and it is so worth it.

I will not lie to you. Trying to fulfill core classes, major classes, a business minor, prerequisites for graduate school, all while fitting in studying abroad, is not a walk in the park. It will take some extra work and a lot of planning, but it is manageable and the reward is so much greater than the sacrifices. The sacrifices being: taking a few summer courses, overloading a semester, and occasionally missing hanging out with friends to stay in and study. The reward: the experiences that I gained while abroad are invaluable and I would not trade them for the world.

bio-chemistry major otagoI planned ahead and found courses abroad that fulfilled core requirements that I still  needed at my home school or classes that counted as elective credit and helped me to prepare for graduate school.  I took a few different classes abroad at my host institution, University of Otago, that counted toward my degree at home. For example, Hinduism and Buddhism was a religion class that fulfilled my religion core at Manchester. Improvisation was by far my favorite class at Otago; it pulled me completely out of my comfort zone. I formed such a tight-knit relationship with the kiwis in this class, that I now have lifelong friends in New Zealand. Improv also counted toward my Manchester degree.

Another cultural class that I was able to take was Māori Society, which was a class dedicated to teaching us about New Zealand’s native people. At Manchester we have a requirement to attend 40 VIA (50 minute sessions about various world topics) before we graduate. By taking Māori Society, I was able to complete that requirement. The last class I took at Otago was Human Body Systems. While the class did not count as a major requirement, I was able to get elective credit and fulfill a graduate school prerequisite.

In addition to my overseas credits, I was able to participate in activities that helped round out my graduate school applications AND shape me into a better person. Some of these week-day extracurricular activities included:

  • Sinclair Wetland Conservation: I have gone to a few different places around Dunedin to help remove foreign weeds and replace the ground with native plants.
  • Koputai Kids After School Programme: Every other week I take a bus to a town nearby called Port Chalmers and help out at an after school program. I have taught them about basketball and in return they have taught me about rugby!
  • Relay for Life: I took part in The University of Otago’s Relay for Life. It was a blast! Lots of walking, friends, good conversation, and raising money for such a great cause.
  • Lawn Bowl: I joined a “social sport” lawn bowl team (equivalent to our intramural teams). The best way to describe this game is that it is like a mixture of golf, curling, and bowling. One ball “the jack,” is rolled to the end of the green and then teams of 4 take turns rolling a ball to the jack with the goal of being closest to it. There are up to 25 rounds, but most times we only played around 8.
  • bio-chemistry major new zealandOtago Polytech Cooking Class: In this class we learned a few different recipes to cook on our own. We made things like Bliss Balls, beef salad, and sushi salad! It was delicious!
  • Tramping Club: Tramping is the Kiwi word for hiking. New Zealand landscapes are ridiculously beautiful. This club takes various trips around the South Island as well as provides training for surviving in the wilderness.

As you can see, if you plan right, coordinate credits with your home institution, and get involved in your new community, you can use studying abroad to complete your busy, 4-year degree. The classes I chose to take fit my interests and requirements, but there were many other opportunities and classes to choose from. When not at school, I spent the weekends in New Zealand travelling the beautiful countryside. There is no better feeling in the world than to be completely removed from the “real world” while hiking to the top of a mountain or sitting in natural hot springs with new friends. The relationships I made and experiences I gained abroad are irreplaceable and unforgettable. I highly recommend stepping outside of your comfort zone, diving into new opportunities with an open mind and finding a zeal to try new things as you get your degree.

About the Author – Catherine Byers, Spring 2017 BCA Dunedin, New Zealand student

Hi! I am a biology-chemistry major and business minor from Manchester University in Indiana. I hope one day to go to graduate school to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant. I play basketball and love to cook and bake in my free time. I chose New Zealand because of all the opportunities to go tramping and see so many beautiful landscapes. I love how friendly Kiwis are and how willing everyone is to stop and chat to get to know me!

Bio-Chemistry Major


Congratulations, Katie, on making the most of your educational semester abroad, and thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for planning well and for learning new things.

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The views and opinions expressed in these blog entries are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of BCA Study Abroad, the organization's staff, and/or other contributors to this website.