Study abroad

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Study abroad is the term for spending a semester or even a full academic year at a university in another country. Study abroad is typically associated with romantic notions of Europe.

If you're not on a Columbia program, you get Columbia registration credit but the grades don't count as long as you get a C- or better. The workload and difficulty tends to be a lot less arduous than Columbia, with the exception of Oxford/Cambridge and American programs in other countries (e.g. the NYU program in Florence). So it's basically one giant holiday.

Most CC students who opt for study abroad go for one semester of their junior year. SEAS students go their sophomore spring.

Formally, the Office of Global Programs exists to coordinate these. On SEAS side, there is an office with a really long name (Office of the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs and Global Programs) who is actually basically just Dean Leora Brovman.



There are a set of criteria you need to satisfy in order to study abroad. The full list can be found here. The majority of students have satisfied these requirements by Junior year or second semester Sophomore year. The main ones for CC students are:

  • Have a GPA >= 3.0
  • Have proficiency in the country's language
  • Have finished your core language requirement
  • Have finished 2 of your science requirements

SEAS students are exempt from any language requirements (unless their specific program requires it) and basically have to be on track to graduating to be allowed to go.

Picking a Country

When deciding to study abroad, the first question, of course, is where to go. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Language - Columbia requires you to take at least one semester in the language spoken in the country you choose (except if you're SEAS).
  • Culture - You have to take a course on contemporary issues on the country in which you'll study. If no course is available, you can instead write a a 5-8 page "regional research paper" (read: joke paper whose content is irrelevant). Again, you're exempt from this if you're SEAS (but it is "highly" recommended of course)
  • Term dates - Most countries in Europe have term dates that are somewhat consistent with Columbia's, but countries like Japan and Australia have term dates that are offset from Columbia's by as much as 2 months (i.e. Spring term starts in March and ends in July).
  • Graduation requirements - if you're a SEAS students who has to take actual classes to graduate, make sure you choose a country with universities that are likely to offer them.

Picking a Program

See also: Study abroad programs

There are two main types of study abroad programs: those administered by Columbia for which you get real grades on your transcript, and external approved programs through other universities or study abroad programs.

List of Approved Programs

Look through the Office of Global Program's pre-approved programs.

Other Programs

You're not restricted to the programs Columbia's approved, since they'll review other schools and approve basically anywhere that's a legitimate school. You just have to do a little more work in getting the information to them.

Student Evaluations

The evaluations are a great way to pick a program. You'll find a lot of student perspectives on each program, including a great deal of information specific to each program. Before you go any further in the application process, you should absolutely read the student evaluations for the country/program.

Contacting previous students

The vast majority of students who have studied abroad are extremely nostalgic about it and dying to talk about it (since their non study abroad friends have long since grown tired of hearing about it). Read through the student evaluations and look for students who recently studied abroad at your desired school or program and included their e-mail addresses and answered "Yes" to "Are you willing to talk to students planning to go abroad?" You'd be shocked at just how much people want to answer questions about study abroad and how thorough answers will be. It's a great way to get direct, firsthand answers.

Also make sure to get in touch with the Office of Global Program's Peer Advisors.

Gathering Information

One of the most tedious parts of the study abroad process is getting information from the programs you're interested. You'll want to find the following:

  • Study abroad application - so that you can apply...
  • Application deadline - best to be early. Columbia students have a good chance of getting accepted just by virtue of being Columbia students, but many schools accept study abroad students on a rolling basis and the spots in the department you want might be filled up
  • Term dates - for the term you'll be there
  • Course information - You want to have something to show your department that they'll agree to credit you for, so find courses you plan to take and as much information as you can find about the content of the course
    • SEAS students must get professor approval that the classes they want to take abroad are equivalent to the one taught at Columbia, so this is especially important!

Application Process

The Columbia End

Seeing your department

First you'll want to see your department advisor and have them fill out the preliminary study abroad credit approval form. Course credit approval doesn't happen until after you get back, but you need to get this form signed so you can prove that you discussed your courses with your department beforehand. You'll want to bring along a list of the courses you plan in your major while abroad and the course syllabi.


You then have to fill out the study abroad clearance form and get it signed by:

Program Application

Once you jump through all of Columbia's hoops, prepare your application and mail it out. Keep in contact with the program's admissions office to stay abreast of the status of your application. The application will generally consist of:

  • Program specific admissions application form
  • Short essay on why you want to study abroad - an exercise in the number of synonyms you can find for "global perspective"
  • 1-2 written academic recommendations
  • Columbia transcript (ordered through SSOL)

Leaving Columbia

Congratulations, you were accepted to a study abroad program! Now it's time to settle all of your affairs at Columbia.

Study Abroad Registration Form

You'll need to fill out the Study Abroad registration form and return it to the Office of Global Programs. Due dates are:

Other offices to contact

Pre-departure meeting

You're required to attend a pre-departure meeting with the Office of Global Programs where they tell you not to be a stupid American when you're abroad. It is generally agreed to be fairly useless unless you're going to a more obscure country that isn't frequently visited by Americans.

External links