Southwestern believes that cross-cultural awareness is an integral part of a liberal arts education. Study abroad is a life-changing opportunity which can bring a fresh perspective to international political and economic issues, interpersonal relationships, and career choices. A summer, semester or year spent overseas opens a window to a world of new experiences, and sheds light on past experiences and preconceptions.
Students are encouraged to plan early, in order to allow ample time for academic and cultural preparation. In order to finish the degree in a timely fashion, it is important to consider what courses and pre-requisites must be completed before departure. International Studies majors should especially be aware that study abroad is a requirement for completion of the degree.
Office of Intercultural Learning
The first stop for information is the Office of Intercultural Learning. Check-in and reception at the Prothro Center, room 231. Stop by to browse and gather information on study, work and travel opportunities in the resource room (Prothro, 233) during regular office hours. Or schedule an appointment with Sue Mennicke, director of intercultural learning and international students services, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial Aid and Costs
Students should become familiar with the types of financial aid they receive before they begin researching study abroad programs. There are some basic, but important rules regarding the use of financial aid for study abroad. They are as follows:
- All financial aid (except for a work/study award) is applicable to the following programs: The London Semester, ISEP,and the Kansai Gaidai Exchange. Costs for these programs are based on Southwestern costs. In the case of the London Semester and ISEP, students pay tuition, room and board costs to Southwestern in order to participate on the program abroad. Students on the Kansai Gaidai exchange pay tuition costs to Southwestern, and pay housing at the host institution. The cost for these programs thus remains largely the same as studying at Southwestern, except for airfare and other expenses associated with living abroad.
- Stafford Loans and Pell Grants only apply to all other programs, commonly referred to as “outside” programs. These programs vary widely in cost, so students should have a clear idea of available personal resources before choosing a program which is simply out of financial reach. Since Southwestern aid is not available for use with outside programs, the level of loan eligibility may be increased, depending on the individual’s financial situation.
- Summer Program Financial Aid includes loans and Pell Grants only. Southwestern does not offer financial aid for domestic or foreign study during the summer sessions.
The Office of Intercultural Learning prepares a budget worksheet based on actual program costs for each study abroad participant. Students follow the same financial aid application procedures as those studying on campus. The budget worksheet allows the Financial Aid Office to package an award which is based on the actual costs of the study abroad program.
Scholarships Available for Study Abroad
Click here for information on scholarship opportunities to help fund your study abroad experience.
Find out how international study will affect your degree plan and graduation requirements before making a final program decision. Southwestern-sponsored programs (the London Semester, and Southwestern summer study abroad programs) include regular Southwestern credit which will apply directly to your degree plan.
All other programs involve a process of transferring credit from another institution to Southwestern. Transferring credit requires that you secure the signature of the appropriate department chair for each course you plan to take abroad. Permission to count specific courses from abroad toward a major or minor must also be secured from the department chair. The Office of Intercultural Learning supplies the credit transfer form. Before the student’s departure, the completed form is approved by the Office of Intercultural Learning and the Registrar.
Choosing a Study Abroad Location
Most U.S. students abroad are in Western European nations. There are many quality study abroad options in Europe, and these programs run the gamut in terms of curriculum, cost and program structure. Study in Europe can be very useful for the student who wishes to learn more about the languages and civilizations that are the origin of much of our own culture.
Increasingly, however, students are looking to Africa, Asia and Latin America to provide them with an intellectually challenging and meaningful experience. A growing number of programs are being developed in these areas of the world, and quite often these programs focus intensely on the study of the social and cultural structures of the host country. Since cultures in these areas can contrast sharply with the dominant culture of the United States, program participants are challenged to question their basic beliefs and values. These experiences can be profoundly rewarding and life-changing, and students are encouraged to explore options outside of Europe if the degree plan requirements allow.
Language Ability and Study Abroad
It is important to consider your foreign language ability when choosing a study abroad program. The amount of ability required varies greatly from program to program, and obviously study in an English-speaking country requires no foreign language. Some programs in non-English speaking countries are conducted entirely in English, and may require that participants take beginning language along with the regular course of study.
The student interested in improving his or her foreign language ability should choose a program in which some or all of the courses are taught in the target language. Generally, students at the intermediate level (completion of two years of college study) will be best served by a program which offers courses taught in the target language, but geared specifically for non-native speakers. These programs are quite common, and offer special courses for participants which focus on the language and culture of the country.
More advanced language students may choose a program which offers the opportunity to enroll directly at a foreign university and take classes alongside native speakers. The ISEP program is probably the most common example of this type of program. This option provides an extremely challenging, but very rewarding opportunity. This full immersion program is widely regarded as the best way to achieve real language fluency.
In general, if you are wishing to improve your foreign language skills while abroad, you should push yourself to do as much as possible in the target language. Your language professors can help you judge which type of option is most appropriate for you.