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Choosing a program

In choosing a study abroad program, students should look through the list of programs and narrow down program choices according to a few criteria and your own goals for your time abroad. Students may choose from a wide variety of Columbia programs and approved programs run by outside universities and providers. 

How do I choose a study abroad program?

A few things to consider about a potential program choice:

  • What is the program’s overall educational philosophy?

  • Are you eligible to go on the program with their language requirements?

  • What types of courses can you take on the program?

  • Do you want to take courses toward your major while abroad? If so, does the program offer courses in your area of study?

  • What type of immersion does the program provide with the local community?

  • What type of housing does the program offer?

  • What are the dates for the program and do they fit into other plans?

Good research resources include general travel resources, study abroad program websites, working with OGPF advisors and faculty, as well as other students' evaluations and opinions of their study abroad experiences.  The first step is reviewing eligibility and study abroad credit restrictions, to ensure that you are choosing a program that you are permitted to attend.

What semester should I go abroad?

Going abroad during the summer versus the fall, spring or academic year is a significantly different experience.

Studying abroad during the fall or spring semester (or both!) often offers you the opportunity to take courses with local students, to live with local students, and to generally experience the academic environment of another country and culture. The programs are longer, giving you a chance to take your time to not just adjust and adapt, but create a life in a foreign city.  Students are permitted to take a wider variety of courses while abroad during the academic year, than during the summer session.
Summer programs generally only include international students, rather than classes with local students. If you are a CC or GS student, you can only take courses that are either language immersion courses or courses specifically related to your major/concentration that have an in-situ component. Summer abroad generally has less Columbia financial aid (unless you are a GS student), but more fellowships and external scholarships may be available for the summer. Some of the benefits of going abroad during the summer include not missing a semester here (including various student groups, athletic team events, and internship opportunities that you may be pursuing), as well as the opportunity to focus on one skill, such as language, in a really intensive fashion.

In either case, students should consider their overall goals for their four years at Columbia to determine the best time to spend a semester away.

What kind of program should I choose?

There are a wide variety of study abroad programs. The following definitions should help you navigate the kinds of programs available to you.

  • Direct enrollment program: Students take all courses at a local university with local students.  The Oxbridge program or attending Bocconi University in Milan, are examples of this kind of program.

  • Supported direct enrollment program: Students immerse themselves in the local university system while still having a support staff to help them navigate the local academic and administrative landscape.  These programs generally also run one or two courses of their own for students to take which focus on the local language and/or culture.  Most Columbia students opt for this option. Examples include Columbia in Paris at Reid Hall, CASC, and CIEE or IFSA run programs.

  • Field studies programs: Students generally take courses that incorporate the expertise of visiting lecturers with the opportunity to do group and/or independent research projects.  SIT, SEE-U and Columbia Tropical Biology and Sustainability Program in Kenya follow this model of program.

  • Intensive language program: Generally a summer program, intensive language programs allow students to study a language for 4-10 weeks with other non-native speakers.  Columbia Summer in Rio and Amman follow this program model.

Who should I talk to?

  • OGP Advisors: Regional OGP advisors are available year round to discuss your plans and the options available to you.  The advisors will work with you to find programs that fit your academic, personal and long-term professional goals.

  • School Advisors: General Studies and SEAS have designated study abroad advisors. Your CSA or GS Advisor is also a valuable resource.

  • Department and Faculty: Consult with your professors and Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for their suggestions. Your department will be able to help you determine which courses you take abroad may be used for credit in your major. It is important to start a discussion about your plans to study abroad with your major advisor as early as possible.

  • Peer Advisors: Each semesters the OGPF hires several students who have recently returned from a semester or a year abroad to speak with students about the study abroad experience. The Peer Advisors are a valuable resource to understanding the contemporary Columbia experience abroad.

  • Other students:  Ask your study abroad program or OGPF advisor to help you find the contact information for students who have attended programs you are interested in.

What other resources are there?

  • Student Evaluations: All students are required to fill out an evaluation form upon return from study abroad. Use this resource to both read the evaluations and find contact information for other Columbia students who have participated on your program(s) of interest.

  • Travel Guidebooks:  General travel guidebooks can be helpful in learning about various cities and countries, to help you choose the location most compelling to you.  Good guidebooks for students include Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.

What if I want to attend a program not on the approved list?

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

  • In cases where a student studies abroad through a supported direct enrollment program during the fall or spring (e.g. CIEE in Argentina), the student is expected to take at least 2 courses at the local university. The remaining courses can be taken either at the local university or at the program center in the local language.

  • If the country in which a student wishes to study abroad is on the approved list, but their particular program of interest is not, the program will probably not be approved by Columbia. However, if students have compelling academic reasons for preferring the particular program over one of the approved programs or if it is located in a country that is not on the list, they may petition. There are separate petition processes for the fall/spring versus summer programs.

  • If the U.S. State Department has issued a Travel Advisory Warning for a particular country, Columbia may restrict their approval for programs in that country while the Advisory is in effect.