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Off-Campus Study in Physics and Astronomy

The flexibility of the upper-level courses in the physics major makes study off campus or abroad a popular option. Get information about available opportunities at the off-campus study office.

Studying Abroad in the Junior Year

If you’re a physics major studying abroad in your junior year, many Colgate study groups and Colgate-approved off-campus study programs will allow you to complete courses for physics concentration credit, with approval from the department chair. However, some programs, particularly language programs, do not allow you to choose courses. In this case, students can adjust the basic schedule by taking a second physics elective in another semester.

If you wish to study astronomy-physics, it is best to choose a spring study group. This is because the two required astronomy courses (210 and 312) are offered in alternate fall semesters, so you won’t have a chance to take the one that’s offered during your study-abroad semester.  In exceptional circumstances, one of these courses can be replaced with an additional upper-level course.

Studying Abroad in the Sophomore Year

This is a difficult choice because the courses in the fall of sophomore year are pre-requisites for courses in the spring of sophomore year, and the courses in the spring of the sophomore year are pre-requisites for most upper-level courses. The end result is that it will probably be necessary to complete the sophomore courses in your junior year and then double-up on courses in the senior year to complete the major. (See the option for students who don’t start the major until the sophomore year to see your schedule for junior & senior year.)

Extended Study

If one of Colgate's semester study groups doesn't seem to be a good fit for you or your schedule, there are other options for studying off campus.

Across disciplines, several courses each year include a 3-4 week off-campus study component with the class and faculty member following the conclusion of the semester. Learn more about these extended study options.

Return to the physics and astronomy academic program page.

Combining Study Abroad with Preparation for Graduate Study

During your study abroad semester, you’ll miss one of the courses in the sequence 431-432-433-434 that are standard preparation for graduate school. Most graduate schools will allow you to enroll in an undergraduate course during your graduate study to make up for this deficiency. But, all things being equal, it would be better not to create the deficiency in the first place. Here are a few options that will allow you to take equivalents to these courses:
  • If you go to Wales in an even-numbered spring, you can take an equivalent to Electricity & Magnetism.
  • If you go to Manchester in an odd-numbered fall, you might enroll in Lagrangian Dynamics as an equivalent to Physics 431: Classical Mechanics.
  • If you go to Manchester in an even-numbered fall, there is not a perfect equivalent to Physics 433, but if you are able to learn introductory statistical mechanics on your own over the summer, you can enroll in Thermal Physics of Bose and Fermi Gases, which is equivalent to the second half of Physics 433.
  • If you go to Wollongong in an even-numbered spring, you can take an equivalent to Electricity & Magnetism.
  • If you go to Wollongong in an odd-numbered spring, it may be possible to take an equivalent to Quantum Mechanics, but you will need to discuss this with the department chair.