The first question to ask yourself is what do I want to study abroad, not where
Choosing a Study Abroad Program
WU offers over 100 programs in over 50 different countries. Only some of these programs will be pre-approved for your major. When you first begin to think about study abroad, there are several questions you should ask yourself:
What do I hope to achieve?
What do I want to study?
Coursework towards major(s) or minor(s)
What type of program am I looking for?
When do I want to go?
Fall, Spring, Academic Year or Summer
Once you have given these questions some thought, you should start researching program options and meet with an advisor in Overseas Programs.
Study Abroad Timeline
- Schedule an appointment with an advisor in Overseas Programs to discuss programs, the application process and any questions you have.
- Talk to your Four Year Advisor about including study abroad in your academic planning.
- Consider which academic subject(s) you might want to study while abroad.
- Research what programs are approved for your major by going to the Overseas Programs website at www.artsci.wustl.edu/~overseas/programs.html and clicking on the “Choose by Interest” drop-down menu.
- Plan to take preparatory courses (in your major, area and content, language, etc.).
- Continue to take preparatory courses
- Schedule an appointment with an advisor in Overseas Programs to discuss programs, the application process and any questions you have
- Get to know faculty
- Choose a study abroad program
- Approach faculty for references
- Apply to study abroad
When to Study Abroad
There is no single "right" time for a WU College of Arts and Sciences student to study abroad. Each student's decision must be based on his or her own unique constellation of circumstances that may include the following: academic pacing and requirements, extracurricular obligations, family circumstances, and post-graduation plans. What follows is a discussion of different options (listed in order of duration). Students who study abroad during the academic year typically study abroad during junior year though it may be possible to spend a semester abroad during senior year. Students may participate in summer programs after their freshman, sophomore, or junior year.
Summer offers the greatest flexibility for study abroad since it is open to students at any time during the undergraduate career and summer programs often have fewer prerequisites than semester programs. These programs can be a student's only study abroad experience or one of several and can focus on foreign language, culture, or a very specific topic. We offer something for everyone in the summer, either via WU programs or an alternative program approved by petition.
The choice of summer program and when to go depends on a student's personal goals, needs, and circumstances. A younger student may use a summer program to "test drive" study abroad and determine whether a more extended study abroad experience is desirable. A summer program can offer language preparation for a later study abroad experience or can be an end unto itself. More advanced students may find summer programs with a topic that is very appropriate for their research interests or may choose a program that introduces them to a topic they haven't been able to study on campus.
One potential hurdle to summer study abroad is the availability of financial aid to assist in paying for the experience. Normal academic-year funding does not apply to summer study under most circumstances. Additional loans may be available if you are eligible, and some programs offer limited scholarship assistance, but the out of pocket costs can be significant. You must also consider that the time abroad in the summer will limit your opportunity to work and earn money for the coming year.
Many WU students choose to study abroad for a semester. These programs can vary in duration from 4 to 6 months and offer more sustained exposure to the host culture and a deeper academic experience than a summer program. Because the study abroad program is relevant to a student's major, minor, or other sustained interest (such as foreign language), the work done abroad on a WU program or alternative program approved by petition is an integral part of the WU degree and complements the student's overall curriculum in very important ways. Reasons to consider fall study abroad (link to handout)
An academic year abroad is a tremendous opportunity to gain full immersion into a foreign academic system, a new culture, and often a new language. Students who participate in these programs are abroad between 8 and 13 months, depending on the program, and can either spend the full year in one location or do back-to-back semester programs in order to address different facets of their academic program. For those students committed to mastering a foreign language, a year-long program in one location is optimal. Because the study abroad program is relevant to a student's major, minor, or other sustained interest (such as foreign language), the work done abroad on a WU program or alternative program approved by petition is an integral part of the WU degree and complements the student's overall curriculum.
For advice about study abroad, please see the Getting Advice page