Study Abroad

We encourage all students to experience study abroad learning opportunities, however, the study of mathematics abroad takes careful planning. Duke students make arrangements for studying abroad through the Global Education Office. To make the most out of a semester abroad the particular attributes of foreign programs must be understood and weighed in light of each individual's intellectual and career goals.

Taking Math While Studying Abroad

Generally the focus of doing coursework abroad is to enroll in particular courses for which the foreign environment is much more conducive to learning than the Duke environment. Coursework of this type may involve immersion in the local language, culture, literature, history, ecology, and such, but in most cases it will not involve basic undergraduate math courses. The best course of action for the math student who wants to study abroad may be to formulate a plan to take math courses before and after the semester abroad. In this way, they are able to concentrate on the non-math elements of their foreign coursework while away from Duke.

There are issues with casually picking up a math course or two during a semester abroad because learning in mathematics is cumulative and the study of mathematics is frequently organized quite differently in other countries. Many courses offered at foreign universities do not correspond well to courses at Duke. For example, material that would be covered in one Duke course might be split between two courses or be treated in greater depth in a two-semester sequence at a foreign university. A foreign university may offer fewer electives than Duke. What this means is that it may be difficult to find courses for which transfer credit can be given.

Planning Ahead

MATH 401 Introduction to Abstract Algebra and MATH 431 Advanced Calculus I must be taken at Duke except in special circumstances with prior approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Since a first rigorous course in analysis, MATH 431 or MATH 531 Basic Analysis, is an important prerequisite for many other courses, it is advisable to have taken this course before studying abroad.

Math majors planning a visit which will include taking one or more math courses should begin serious review of the course offerings at foreign universities TWO semesters prior to the planned semester abroad. Advanced students should consult with their professors regarding the strengths of some foreign programs in particular subfields. It is recommended to make a short list of courses you would like to take and then gather data which provides a clear and detailed picture of the courses.

Transfer Credit

The following list covers the information the Duke Math Department generally needs to judge if a course at a foreign university is suitable for transfer credit:

  1. The name of the university offering the course, the course name and number, the course start date, the course end date, and information about the total number of course meetings. Indicate the Duke course you wish to obtain transfer credit for.  
  2. A course syllabus including topics covered, text used, and which text sections are covered. If the syllabus is on the web, providing the web address would be acceptable.
  3. A list of course prerequisites and information about what is covered in the prerequisite courses. Providing a syllabus for each prerequisite course is recommended.
  4. Sample problem sets and exams for the course, if/when available, is beneficial.
  5. A complete list of the math courses which you have taken at Duke, together with a list of any AP and/or transfer credits.
  6. A brief explanation as to how the proposed course fits in with your educational and career goals. Be sure to include whether you are in Trinity or Pratt, what your major is, and how the proposed course relates to your future course-work at Duke.

Once you have compiled the information for the six items listed above, you need to e-mail in the information above to the Director of Undergraduate Studies at and ask about the possibility of transfer credit. Alternatively, you can contact the Global Education Office, give them the information from the checklist and they will then contact the Math Department.

Courses taken abroad must be approved through the Global Education Office before you go. In case a course is canceled or does not fit the original course description, the student is responsible for contacting the Global Education Office or the Director of Undergraduate Studies for advice and approval of alternate courses.

NOTE: Don't overlook the fact that at least half of the major/minor courses must be taken at Duke.

Questions about taking math courses while studying abroad should be directed to the Director of Undergraduate Studies: