International Studies in Engineering (ISE) Option

A Designated Option in the Faculty of Engineering

In order to receive the International Studies in Engineering (ISE) Option, you must:

  • complete at least 8 months of study and/or work outside of Canada
  • enroll in and obtain credit for GENE 303
  • pass 6 additional courses (see course list)

Once completed, the option will be noted on your degree.

ISE Option Co-ordinator:  Prof. Zhonchao (Chao) Tan

You will register for GENE 303 in your first academic term after returning from overseas. Since this is not a lecture subject, or scheduled course, it does not count in your course-term load.  Contact the Faculty Exchange Office for enrolment approval.


The choice of the six additional courses is flexible in content and scheduling, and, generally, are in two categories:  languages and general subjects.  Some of the courses may also count as complementary studies electives (CSEs). 

While there is no minimum grade requirement (other than to pass, of course), you should have a good academic standing, normally maintaining the 70% average required for participation in overseas exchange programs.

It is important to plan early to avoid taking CSEs that don't qualify for this option.  To officially declare the option, you must complete a Plan Modification Form (PDF) and submit it to your engineering undergraduate office for processing.

In particular, the "Impact of Technology" requirement (one course from List "A") does NOT require an STV course; SOC 232 and ANTH 102 are on List "A", and either counts for the Impact requirement, as well as towards this option.

In concept, three courses would be taken before going overseas (perhaps from the regional and language lists).  Upon return, the remainder of the courses would be taken from the general list, which is intended to put the experience into an international perspective in economics and politics. 

In practice, neither the content nor the timing can be rigidly adhered to, and considerable flexibility is accepted.

When you enrol in GENE 303, your program to date and your plans for the future will be reviewed.  In 4B, confirmation of completion will be sent to the Registrar's Office and your home department by the option coordinator.  But be sure to file the revised plan modification form with your home department (see instructions above).  Otherwise, the option will not be listed on your degree.

A maximum of three language courses can be counted towards this option.  However, your home department is unlikely to count more than one as a CSE.  On the other hand, there is an opportunity to take a non-technical course while abroad that may be credited towards this option or as a CSE, or both, and this has the additional advantage of not having to match specific Waterloo course content.

Finally, courses taken at other universities or institutions, during a work term, for example, may be counted towards this option but not counted by your home department as a CSE. 

This is particularly true of language courses, where this option may allow equivalent credit for study done at the Goethe Institute (located in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa), or the Japanese Cultural Centre, but again, your home department will not.

GENE 303 report

Your written report (soft and hard copy) must be submitted to the option coordinator (with a soft copy to Cindy Howe).  Once the report is approved, you will receive credit (CR), rather than a numerical grade, in GENE 303. 

The report may include discussion about any or all of the following:

  • technical, non-technical, and professional aspects of the foreign residence experience
  • socio-economic aspects of life in the foreign country
  • compare and contrast conditions in the country
  • countries involved in your international experiences
  • trace the social or political histories of those countries

In addition, the report must include information addressed to the needs of future students considering a similar experience.

Your finished report must be of similar length to that of a co-op work report.

Copies of GENE 303 reports are available for browsing in the faculty exchange office, with selected reports posted on this website.

Examples of GENE 303 reports

Matthew Chan Civil Engineering (2014)

James Rossy, Software Engineering (2014)

Aldo Ruiz, Mechatronics Engineering (2013)

Michael Smart, Systems Design Engineering (2011)

Katie Chakhova, Environmental Engineering (2008)