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Frequently Asked Questions

When should I go abroad?

Most students go abroad during their junior year. Columbia SEAS students go abroad more frequently during sophomore spring than during their junior year.  Students can go abroad during ANY summer session they are enrolled at Columbia.

What academic requirements must I fulfill while abroad?

During a fall or spring abroad, you must take the equivalent of a full load in the host country – this translates into 15 or 16 Columbia points per semester.To register for more or fewer points, you must receive permission from the OGP. For the summer session, you can take as little as 3 credits while abroad.

Can I take classes in English if I study in country where the local language is not English?

If you are studying in a country where you have at least an Intermediate language level, you are generally expected to take all coursework in the local language. Exceptions will be reviewed on a case by case basis.  For Columbia College and General Studies students, during the summer session, only courses that have an "in situ" component and are related to your major or concentration can be taken in English.

Can I take fewer than 15 points during a fall or spring abroad?

You must take a full-course load while you are abroad according to both Columbia and your host institution.

Can I take 'professional' classes while I am abroad? For example, law, business, or social work classes?

No. You may only take liberal arts or engineering courses for credit.  At times, courses that are in the law or business departments abroad can be translated as economics or history courses. Discuss your course selection with your study abroad advisor and major/concentration advisor to ensure you are choosing courses that can be transferred back to Columbia.

Can I arrange for alternate end-of-term assessments/exams if I want to leave early?

You need to complete the academic program of your host institution and may not arrange alternate exams or papers to replace the scheduled exams.

Can I take classes Pass/Fail while I am abroad?

If you are attending a Columbia program, you can take one course pass/fail that can be uncovered at the end of the semester, if you wish. 

If you are attending a non-Columbia program, you need to take all classes for a grade while abroad. Transfer credit will be awarded only for classes in which you receive a C- or higher (CC) or C or higher (GS and SEAS). Many departments require a higher grade for major credit.

I'm pre-med. Can I study abroad?

Yes. But you do need to plan in advance.  You should work with the pre-professional advisors as well as your study abroad advisor to ensure that you can complete all pre-med requirements in a timely fashion. 

Are there any scholarships to help pay for study abroad?

Yes, and you should consider applying for scholarships given by your particular program as well as for the available national scholarships. Please consult with a fellowships advisor for more information or the specific program you plan to attend.

What happens to my Columbia housing?

If you are guaranteed housing before you go abroad, you will be guaranteed housing when you return. You will be able to register for housing while you are abroad or have a friend act as a proxy for you. All further questions should be directed to Columbia Housing.

What kind of health insurance do I need?

Students are required to have health insurance while abroad. You may use Columbia's health plan or your family's provided that you will be sufficiently covered while abroad.

Do I need a visa?

Increasingly, countries are requiring visas for students studying abroad. Your program will inform you about the country's visa requirements.You MUST have a valid passport that will not expire while you are abroad, and in many cases up to six months after your scheduled period abroad.  International students should contact ISSO to make sure that they have the appropriate documents to return to the United States.

What happens if there is a travel advisory issued for the country where I want to study?

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