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Getting Started

The Planning Process: It is never too early

Start planning right away—the earlier, the better! Although some students do wait longer than others to explore the idea of studying abroad, it’s true that students who begin planning during their first semester at Cornell benefit considerably. While most CALS students study abroad during their junior year, it’s not uncommon for first-year students to attend a variety of information sessions offered by Cornell Abroad, CALS, and even departments, so they gain exposure to the variety of opportunities out there.

1. Plot your academic course of action.

You will need to meet with your faculty advisor to discuss your plans to study abroad. It’s good practice—not just for abroad-bound students—to maintain some type of worksheet that plots out your four year academic plan on a semester-by-semester basis. Depending on major requirements and course sequencing, some semesters will offer more flexibility than others. For example, if a class you really want to take at Cornell is only offered every other year, and only during the fall of your junior year, you might want to plan to go abroad during the spring.

You and your academic advisor will work together to determine how you can study abroad and still graduate on time. While it can be possible to take major credit abroad, students often find that taking elective courses or classes toward CALS distribution credit are the easiest to fulfill abroad.

Hot tip: Set aside one or two Humanities and Social Science CALS Distribution Requirements so that you can take a culture and/or language class abroad. What a great way to learn more about the country you’re living in and make progress toward your degree! (Please note that the Human Diversity requirement has a special approval process.)

2. Attend a CALS Study Abroad 101 Session. It’s required!

These meetings cover factors to consider when selecting a program, the study abroad application and approval process, and other important information. All students are required to attend one of these information sessions before applying for a program or meeting with the study abroad and exchange advisor to discuss personal study abroad opportunities. No appointment is necessary for the 101 session. Attend only once to get all of the information needed to get started in finding the right program for you.

3. Consider your situation, interests, and goals.

Academics: What are your academic goals while abroad? Do you have to take classes to fulfill your major, or can you take general electives? Are there classes or subjects taught abroad that you cannot take at Cornell?

Program Model: Do you want to take classes alongside local students? Do you want to study in the local language? Would you like to experience another education system, or take classes designed specifically for U.S. study abroad students? Are you interested in an internship, service-learning, or research while abroad?

Location: Where do you want to study? Have you always had your heart set on a specific country or continent? Would you prefer to live in a large city or small town, or something in between?

Timing: When are you able to study abroad? Is your four-year plan relatively flexible, or does one specific semester appear to be the opening of opportunity?

Accommodations: Who do you want to live with? Local students? Other U.S. students? A family or homestay?

Cultural Experience: Do you want to learn more about a specific country and its culture? Would you like a program that offers in-depth cultural immersion?

Finance and Cost: Do you have financial limitations? Are you looking for a program that will cost the same or less than what you’re currently paying at Cornell? How will your Financial Aid factor into your costs? What’s the exchange rate for the local currency? Is the U.S. Dollar strong or weak against the local currency?

Eligibility: Do you meet the minimum eligibility requirements for the College and the study abroad program you’ve selected? Be sure to review GPA, language, and pre-requisite requirements.

4. Explore program options and models.

There are a variety of semester-long study abroad program models. The type of program you attend can be just as relevant as the location you choose! What model of program interests you? Programs generally fit within one of five main categories:

1. Direct Enrollment (Enroll at a Foreign University)

Direct enrollment is for students who want to truly immerse themselves in another culture by enrolling directly into classes in a university abroad. Students take classes and live alongside degree-seeking students from the host university. Host universities usually identify students as “study abroad,” “visiting,” “exchange,” or “non-degree” students and they’re given access to the virtually all the same services as local degree seeking students.

Although classes are often taught in the local language, increasingly a number of universities in non-English speaking countries offer classes in English (this is especially true for CALS Exchange Partners).

Benefits:

  • Authentic academic experience with locals
  • Lots of classes to choose from
  • Students make their own schedules
  • Live with locals and other international students; meet students from all over the world
  • Independent
  • Likely to be less expensive than other options

Challenges:

  • Foreign universities do not operate the same way as U.S. universities. This can mean coping with different teaching styles, support services, bureaucracy, student expectations, etc.
  • Requires independence because less support might be readily available

2. Exchange Program

Exchange Programs are very similar to Direct Enrollment with the following exceptions:

  • In exchange for a CALS student attending a partner university, an international student from the partner institution attends Cornell for a semester or a year
  • CALS has several special partnerships where research, internships and other hands-on experiences are combined with class work
  • CALS has regular contact with host institution as an added layer of support
  • Students are billed their regular CALS tuition, with no added administrative fees

Benefits:

  • Authentic academic experience with locals
  • Ability to take classes in English, even when native language in host country is not
  • Lots of classes to choose from
  • Students make their own schedules
  • Live with locals and other international students; meet students from all over the world
  • Independent
  • Likely to be less expensive than other options, especially for in-state students
  • CALS has a dedicated coordinator to help navigate the entire process

Challenges:

  • Foreign universities do not operate the same way as U.S. universities. This can mean coping with different teaching styles, support services, bureaucracy, student expectations, etc.
  • Requires independence because less support might be readily available

3. Study Center

Study Center Programs are offered by U.S.-based third-party organizations or other U.S. universities. Classes are usually based in traditional classroom settings, but taught only to visiting U.S. students. Classes are taught in either the host country language, in English, or a combination of both. Study centers often have their own facilities, accommodation and staff. Programs tend to be very structured.

Benefits:

  • Support services are established for the needs of U.S. students
  • Education model is based on US education system, including grading
  • Most costs are usually bundled (e.g., housing, tuition, and other costs are included in one fee)
  • For countries where navigating the local culture, language or educational system is daunting, study centers can offer an extra layer of support

Challenges:

  • Sometimes isolated from host country people and culture. Some study centers are referred to as “island programs” because they cater solely to U.S. students and don’t offer much opportunity for cultural immersion. (CALS prefers students to choose programs that emphasize immersion.)
  • Class selection not nearly as vast as with direct enrollment (depends greatly on size of study center)
  • Study center may require specific scheduling (e.g., classes Monday – Friday)
  • Generally cost more than direct enrollment or the CALS Exchange Program (for in-state students)

4. Hybrid Program

Hybrid programs can vary greatly, but as a general rule they combine two or more types of programs to offer students more choice. For example, students might be affiliated with a third-party study center and take a couple classes on site, but also have access to local foreign universities where they can also take classes. Another hybrid model would include study centers that coordinate academic for-credit internships, service-learning or volunteer opportunities along with classes taught on site.

Benefits:

  • Support services are established for the needs of U.S. students
  • Most costs are usually bundled (e.g., housing, tuition, and other costs are included in one fee)
  • Opportunities to intern or volunteer in local community

Challenges:

  • Study center may require specific scheduling (e.g., classes Monday – Friday)
  • Generally cost more than direct enrollment or the CALS Exchange Program (for in-state students)

5. Field Study Program

Field study programs emphasize the experiential side of learning by providing students an opportunity to participate in field biology programs and field research programs. Very little traditional classroom time is incorporated into programming. They are catered to US students, and can range in size, but average around 24 students.

Benefits:

  • Opportunity to get hands-on experience
  • Learn field research methods
  • Complete directed or independent research, with possibility of integrating it into Honors Research project upon return to campus

Challenges:

  • Can be less flexible/independent that other program models
  • Set curriculum that all students follow
  • With same students for duration of program

Program choices are explained in depth on this page.

5. Make sure you have a valid passport.

6. Meet with a CALS Exchange or Cornell Abroad advisor.

7. Learn about others’ past experiences.

In addition to speaking to friends who have studied abroad, there are lots of resources to find out what it’s like to study abroad. Cornell Abroad and the CALS Exchange Program both maintain program-specific lists of students who have returned from abroad and are willing to talk about their experience. Most information sessions feature returned students as well. Many students now blog from abroad. In fact, the CALS Exchange Program and Cornell Abroad feature bloggers on their websites.

8. Once you have identified a program, you can begin the application process!