REU, Internships, Shadowing, and Studying Abroad: What is the difference?

By Emma Giarracco with Antonio Brathwaite (REUs) and Michael McCormick (Study Abroad)

Learn about summer options Emory students pursue before graduating! You may have heard about some or all of these experiences but not be certain what the differences are between these options. This article gives a quick overview.

REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates):

REUs are federally funded research experiences lead by the NSF (National Science Foundation). They usually provide a small stipend and housing funds. International students are not traditionally eligible for REUs because of federal funding citizenship requirements, although some schools have funding specifically for international students. REUs are both competitive and prestigious and are often used as recruiting opportunities for graduate programs.

Most REUs are targeted to rising juniors and seniors though there are a few opportunities for rising sophomores. REU applications require two to three letters of recommendation as well as a statement of interest. Other application questions include relevant experiences, future career plans, or any attributes that may distinguish you from other applicants. A resume and transcript upload are also required. Applications open as early as December 1 and most deadlines will be in February or early March. A competitive applicant will begin preparation no later than the fall for the following summer. .


An internship is a professional learning experience that offers meaningful, practical work as a learning experience. Internships can be paid or unpaid (the U.S. Department of Labor has strict standards that unpaid internships must meet for the benefit of the trainee.) Many chemistry internships are available in research and development in industry. These opportunities are best found by going to the careers section of a specific company and applying online. Handshake and LinkedIn are also useful for connecting with alumni to better understand an industry or discovering more internship opportunities.


Shadowing is the opportunity to observe a professional in their work environment. At Emory, it is most commonly used to refer to learning about pre-health careers by observing practitioners like doctors of dentists. The Emory Career Center offers career discovery days that are advertised via an email blast at the beginning of each semester. Career discovery days offer the opportunity to shadow a professional in a wide variety of fields. The pre-health advising office also offers the opportunity to connect with healthcare professionals in the Atlanta area for shadowing opportunities. Many health shadowing opportunities require participants to be a student, so it can be important to explore while you are enrolled at Emory.

Studying Abroad:

Study abroad is a formal educational experience that takes place primarily in a different country than a scholar’s home institution. Participants benefit from specific coursework and from exposure to a new or less familiar cultural context and, often, language. There are many study abroad opportunities at Emory. The Emory Department of Chemistry offers a unique summer study abroad experience for 6 weeks in Siena, Italy (pictured in this post’s cover photo.) The program focuses on the application of chemistry to art, the food and wine industry, and architecture — both in and out of the laboratory and classroom. The program also offers the opportunity to travel around Tuscany, seeing historic cities such as San Gimignano and Florence while also studying at the historic University of Siena (one of the oldest universities in Italy, founded in 1240). From visiting art museums to learning about the chemistry of paints in the process of art restoration, the program offers an immersive cultural experience and a new perspective on chemistry. Program participants take 3 Chemistry courses for a total of 8 credit hours.