Comments about Studying Away

The Mathematics Department has solicited and posted some comments below from mathematics majors about their Study Away experiences. There are comments from students who focused on math away, who took one or two math courses while away, and students who did not take any math while away. 

Simon Townsend attended the Budapest program. Simon writes: "I took four electives while studying away in Budapest. The classes were well taught (a slightly different style, perhaps), and it allowed me to get some variety without having to worry about fitting all of the Amherst math classes into my schedule. It was also fun to work exclusively on math, and to "hang-out" with other students working exclusively on math (many of whom continued on to math grad school). A small draw-back is a lack of diversity in the social life if one, as is likely, does not speak Hungarian."

Yusuf Saban took a few math courses while away, and writes: "I have done a full-year study abroad program in London School of Economics (LSE) during 2010-2011. During my studies at LSE, I have taken two math courses: Real Analysis (one semester), and Statistics (full-year). I have communicated my intention to take these courses with the Mathematics Department prior to course selection to make sure that I will be fulfilling the major requirements. The department was very supportive of my decision, which gave me comfort in taking especially a core course (real analysis) outside of Amherst. Most of the topics covered overlapped and hence I did not face and difficulties in the comprehensive exams or felt like I knew more/less than my peers at Amherst."

Sam Huneke was a German/Math double major who studied away in Germany. Sam writes: "During my junior year, I opted to study at the University of Heidelberg in Germany through the UMass Baden-Württemberg program. As a German major, this made good sense academically, and it was not until the summer after my sophomore year that I decided to pursue a mathematics major. I had already completed several math courses, but still required six more, including Linear Algebra, Analysis, and Abstract Algebra. I was fortunate in that I was enrolled at a university in a country with rigorous academic standards, meaning that the Amherst Math Department had little trouble accepting credits from Heidelberg towards the major. By staying in touch with the Department during my time abroad, I was able to receive advanced approval for the three courses I took in Germany. Those course were Linear Algebra, a seminar on Finite Fields, and an economics course on Game Theory. One downside to this arrangement was that it forced me to take both Analysis and Abstract Algebra my senior year; because at the time the Department only offered these courses in the Spring, and one is required for the Comprehensive Exam in the Winter, I took Abstract Algebra at Mount Holyoke that Fall. Outside of the procedural hurdles, I found that, despite my fluency in German, it was harder to learn math in a foreign language. The courses I pursued in Heidelberg, particularly Linear Algebra, were among the more difficult of my undergraduate career. That being said, learning in a foreign setting widened my perspectives in the subject and ultimately made me a better student of math."

Rafayal Ahmed also studied away at LSE, and writes: "I studied abroad in the London School of Economics, which, in my experience, is among the more popular study-abroad destinations for Amherst students. Unlike most study-abroad programs, the LSE program is for a full year only. I think this would pose no difficulty for any math major who has completed either one of Math 350 or Math 355 by the sophomore year. I was among the ones who hadn't, and I took the Real Analysis course while at LSE. Amherst generally accepts the LSE Real Analysis course for the major requirement, and the course also prepared me well for the comprehensive exam. However, I couldn't say if they have a good substitute for the Abstract Algebra course. I also would not recommend more than a semester abroad for anyone interested in pursuing the math honors program, unless perhaps it is a specialized mathematics program. The LSE program is very good to learn applying math in other disciplines like Economics or Finance, however for people only interested in mathematics, Amherst is much stronger in my view."

Ivane Gamkrelidze studied in Germany for a semester without taking math there, and writes: "I studied abroad at the University of Göttingen in Germany in Spring 2012 (the second semester of my junior year). I chose to study at Göttingen mainly because I wanted to improve my German and immerse myself in the culture. The University offered a variety of math courses on both bachelor's and master's levels (Amherst students are allowed to take master level courses), both in English and in German. Taking math in German was out of question, since I was still working on my language. The selection of English-language math courses was interesting, but in the end I decided not to take math: some courses conflicted with my current schedule, which consisted mostly of German classes, and some were too technical for my liking. However, this did not interfere with my Amherst math major: since taking my first math class (Intro to the Calculus) at Amherst as a freshman, I was certain I wanted to be a math major, so I took as many math courses as I liked, and by sophomore year I was done with the major. Therefore, I did not really have to worry about math major requirements while abroad. The shortcuts I took in the course of my math major included placing out of Intermediate Calculus and Multivariable Calculus: I self-studied for these courses and I loved them both (in fact, I later wished I actually took them as classes at Amherst). As a sophomore, first I took five courses, then doubled up on Intro to Analysis and Groups, Rings and Fields. Early as a junior, I passed the Comprehensive Exam (this is not a traditional time for comps, so I had to make early arrangements with the Chair of the department), which was a good idea for two reasons: first, the knowledge was still fresh in my memory; second, it just felt good to go abroad without needing to worry about the big exam. This is probably not a usual way to complete a math major, but my advisor was very supportive and it worked out smoothly. I absolutely loved my math major at Amherst, which I packed tightly into two years, but I just had different priorities during my semester abroad, and no need to fulfill any major requirements. However, if I could study abroad again, I would probably take math classes simply because of the number and the variety of the courses that the University of Göttingen had to offer. As a college student, you don't always get an opportunity to take a master level math class with the freedom of dropping it if it's too difficult."