Study Abroad

Harvard College’s renewed commitment to liberal education through internationalization has led to increased University-wide support for students interested in studying overseas. The English Department, in concert with the Office of International Education (OIE), works closely with interested students to supplement their Harvard education with an international experience.

Megan McDonnell Pingyao, China

By Megan McDonnell ’14, abroad in Pingyao, China

There are a number of options to consider when deciding if, when, and where to study abroad. The OIE is the best place to start. There, you can find resources and advising to help you investigate the opportunities for international study. In addition to helping you research options, the OIE helps to navigate the application and approval process, which includes conversations with the English Department on concentration credit and final approval by the College’s Committee on Study Out of Residence.


By Lindsey Waters ’14, abroad in Nairobi, Kenya

Please note that the OIE has two deadlines for submitting applications: mid-October for spring study and mid-March for summer, fall, or academic year study. Contact the OIE for specific deadlines, and please plan accordingly.

For information on concentration credit and how to incorporate study abroad with your studies as an English concentrator, contact the Undergraduate Program Administrator, or one of the members of the faculty advising team.

Please note that credit from courses taken abroad may count toward concentration requirements but do not figure into the concentration GPA.

Concentrator Study Abroad Testimonials

Sophia Ohler ’15 | Seville

sevilleFive years ago, I remember anxiously waiting for my brother to get off the plane after his semester abroad in Spain. What had been a quiet and serious boy going into the semester emerged out from the plane a rambunctious, confident and suspiciously well-dressed adult. My parents ogled over his new self-assuredness, I ogled over his shoes, and immediately decided that I needed to study abroad too. If not solely because I was highly unfashionable at the time, then because I looked at how much my brother changed in such a short time and realized how important it would be for me to undergo the same.

Now, four months after I stepped off the plane myself wearing euro-trashy sneaker-heels and throwing around Spanish affectations like it was my job, I finally understand my brother’s transformation. The time that I spent in Seville was invaluable, not only for the classes I took and the language I learned, but for the people I met and the culture I immersed myself in. I’ll be the first to admit that the language and culture barriers were initially intimidating and slightly overwhelming. Taking classes at the University of Seville entirely in Spanish, thrown in with students who had known the language and each other since birth, was a challenge. But, every day brought more friends to help with my Spanish and my studies, until soon I was less of an adrift foreigner and more like the chic European I had always dreamed of being (although whether or not I was actually “chic” is definitely debatable). The six months were a whirlwind of running to class, grabbing a cerveza with my host parents, attempting to dance in my flamenco lessons and laughing by the river with my Spanish classmates.

sevilleI was able to take two courses in Spain that fit perfectly with my concentration, and allow me to get a few requirements out of the way with no repercussions. Plus, I was able to drop the E&M Gen-Ed, which is a miracle in and of itself! My program with CIEE and the English Department made it easy for me to study abroad without skipping an academic beat, and I really appreciate it. My semester abroad will always be one of the best things in my undergraduate career, and I deeply encourage everyone to take advantage of the wonderful programs and opportunities that Harvard gives us.

Isabel Evans ’14 | Buenos Aires

Studying abroad in Buenos Aires and taking classes entirely in Spanish may not seem to directly relate to an English concentration. I decided to study abroad because I wanted to become immersed into a different culture and to become fluent in Spanish. My program did not specialize especially in literature but instead on economic development in Latin America. And yet, even though this experience seemed very far from the English department world of Shakespeare and Barker Center discussions, I left Buenos Aires with many important take-aways for my concentration. Perhaps one of the main-take aways (and it may seem a bit abstract but it is true) is that I gained a greater appreciation for language and the importance of word choice in writing. By struggling every day to write in Spanish and speak with fluency in a different language, I learned to cherish my own language even more and to think carefully about choosing words. Spanish reminded me of all the subtleties that exist in words. Another way that my abroad experienced enhance my concentration is the confidence it gave me to write a thesis for my senior year (I have not written it of course so maybe I will find this confidence was misdirected!). For my program, I was required to write a forty page independent study project paper in Spanish. I found it taxing and difficult but after writing forty pages in a different language, I know it is possible for me to write a thesis in English.

Studying abroad fit well with my concentration for this reason but also for logistical reasons. I completed the English department’s foreign literature requirement and also was able to waive a general education requirement which in my case, felt like a matter of life or death. I encourage others to study abroad and not be afraid that their concentration will suffer because of it.