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Studying abroad is the act of a student pursuing educational opportunities in another country.

Typically, classes taken while studying abroad award credits transferable to higher education institutions in the home country. Length of study can range from one week, usually during a domestic break, to an academic year, encompassing a couple academic terms.

Some students choose to study abroad in order to learn a language from native speakers. Others may take classes in their academic major in a place that allows them to expand their hands-on experience (e.g. someone who’s studying marine biology studying abroad in Jamaicamarker or a student of sustainable development living and studying in a remote village in Senegalmarker). Still other students may study abroad in order to explore topics within the framework of a different educational system (e.g. a student of English who goes to the United Statesmarker to study American literature).


In the USAmarker, the act of studying abroad originated at the University of Delawaremarker. In 1923, Professor Raymond W. Kirkbride sent a group of eight students to Paris, Francemarker. At the time, the concept of students studying in a different country was incredibly unconventional. Kirkbride's program was originally named the "Foreign Study Plan". For a period of time, study abroad was seen as an option primarily for foreign language students. Recently this has changed, and the scope of study abroad programs has increased greatly.

In the 2003/2004 academic year, the four countries US students chose to study abroad in most were the United Kingdommarker, Italymarker, Spainmarker and Francemarker. 46% of US students studying abroad went to one of these four countries, and 61% of US students studying abroad went to Europe. In that same academic year, the number of students that chose to study abroad in China increased by 90%. The total number of US students studying abroad during that academic year was 191,321.

Types of programs

U.S. students can choose from a wide range of study abroad programs differentiated by mission, provider type, and degree of integration.


While study abroad programs started out with the mission of educating foreign language majors, today there are study abroad programs with many different missions. In addition to language-focused programs, there are programs geared to specific academic areas (art, architecture, business, comparative religion, engineering, environmental studies, international politics, sciences, etc.).

Provider type

Providers are the organizations that run study abroad programs. There are four basic types.
  1. U.S. college or university - Probably the largest group of providers
  2. U.S. non-degree-granting university - Also called third-party providers
  3. Consortium - Group of colleges and universities that work together
  4. Overseas university - Some programs are designed for Americans, others have a division for foreign students.

Another aspect of providers is the resident director, the primary responsible party providing support to students. Characteristics are full-time or part-time, faculty or study abroad professional, and American or host country national.

Degree of integration

Study abroad programs have a spectrum of integration, from those that offer the greatest integration into host institutions to those offering the most assistance to students.
  1. Integrated - Complete (or nearly complete) integration into the host academic programming; the director is often a citizen of the host country; students take regular university courses with locals.
  2. Peninsula - Mix of selected local resources and provider-managed resources. Some courses may only be available to program participants, others may be taught by local university faculty.
  3. Island - Strong support services enhance the local experience and give it context. This allows an overseas experience without diverging from the home school's degree program.

Study abroad resources

There are a number of print editions compiling study abroad programs. These are trade and special interest publications listing programs, and frequently available at college study abroad offices. Individual students can also check for the existence of a study abroad office at their own college or university.

In some countries, students wishing to study abroad seek help with study abroad consultants. Study Abroad consultants have contracts with different universities and colleges in different countries, so these consultants act as representatives of these institutions. The role of these consultants is to give details about course, fee structures, fee payments procedures, scholarships options of intended institution, help students with application procedures. They also guide about visa process of the intended country.

Financial aid

Financial aid for U.S. students may include a combination of scholarships, government student loans, and private student loans.


Scholarships are offered by a number of organizations and foundations. Scholarships can be highly competitive, because students are not required to repay the money awarded. Research into available scholarships and private grants should be initiated well in advance of a student's planned travel date. In addition, government or private aid may need to be sought.

Government student loans

Amendments made in 1992 to the Higher Education Act of 1965, TITLE VI, SEC. 601-604 in the U.S. ruled that students can receive financial aid for study abroad if they are enrolled in a program that is approved by their home institution and would be eligible to receive government funding without regard to whether the study abroad program is required as a part of the student's degree.

Financial aid can cover all "reasonable" costs for a study abroad program, including:
  • Health insurance
  • Living costs incurred during the program
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Round-trip transportation for the approved program
  • Tuition and fees for the program

To get government financial aid, students must complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Funds are awarded by the United States Department of Education. As long as the issuing institution pre-approves the credit to be earned abroad, federal aid can be used toward study abroad programs. Forms of government aid include the PLUS Loan, Perkins Loan, Pell Grant, and Stafford Loan programs.

Private student loans

Private student loans are not guaranteed by a government agency, but generally offer higher loan limits, grace period with no payments due until after graduation, and base availability on credit history vs. financial need.

Private loans are a good option:
  • If a student is not currently enrolled in a U.S. college or university
  • If a student is not eligible for federal financial aid
  • If federal financial aid doesn't cover all study abroad tuition, living arrangements, and/or transportation costs

See also


  1. Study abroad celebrates 75th anniversary
  2. "IIE | U.S. Study Abroad Increases By 9.6%, Continues Record Growth"
  3. Cressey, William (2004). Guide to Studying Abroad, pp 16-20. Princeton Review, New York. ISBN 0375763716.
  4. Section 601 - 1998 Amendments to Higher Education Act of 1965

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