Frequently Asked Questions
- What is study abroad?Study Abroad means taking some of your classes which will count towards your degree here at Columbia in another country. The main ways to study abroad at Columbia are through an Exchange, a Partnered Provider, or on a Faculty Led Program. Set up an appointment with us to find out about all the options and which one will work best for you.
- What is an Exchange?Columbia has direct relationships with many schools around the world. You can apply to study at them for a semester or a year. When you go you will pay Columbia tuition, which means that you will pay the same tuition that you do for a semester here and you can use all your same financial aid (including Columbia Scholarships). When you are studying you will take a full course load, which means the equivalent of 12-16 Columbia credits worth of classes. Your credits will then transfer back here.
- What are Partnered Provider Programs?If you are looking to study in a part of the world which is not covered by our Exchange Programs or looking to study a subject which they also do not cover then take a look at the options from one of Columbia’s 4 partnered providers. Each provider is a private company which manages its own host of study abroad programs. Collectively these providers have 100s of programs covering 6 continents. You will find programs that run from a few weeks long during the summer or J-Term to semester programs and ones covering a whole academic year. Through Columbia’s application process we will ensure that any classes you take will smoothly transfer back here and count the way that you are expecting them to. The major difference between provider programs and exchanges is that you will pay all tuition and fees directly to a provider and not to Columbia. You may use some financial aid still to pay for these programs (Columbia scholarships are not able to go to provider programs) but a separate meeting with SFS is required as part of the application process. It is a good idea to come to the study abroad fair if you want more information on partner programs as representatives from each provider will be there.
- How can I study abroad at Columbia?The best place to start is to set up a meeting with our office and learn about your options. Also it is recommended that you visit the biannual Study Abroad Fair. At the fair you will be able to talk with students who’ve been on exchange in previous years, meet with faculty and find out about their programs, and visit with representatives of our four partnered providers. It is a great time to explore what is on offer and to get excited.
- Why should I study abroad?Expand your horizons, see the world! Gain new perspectives on your field of study and on life.
- Where should I go if I’m concerned about costs?There are a few ways to approach this if you are looking at costs. If you are relying on Columbia Scholarships then going on an Exchange is best as you will still be able to use that money towards the costs of your program. If you are a Pell Grant recipient then you will be able to apply for the Gilman Scholarship (one of a very few scholarships specifically for study abroad). Another thing to take into account is the cost of living in the country will be studying in. The UK and Australia can be pretty pricy, especially when it comes to housing (still generally nowhere will have housing cost as much as it does living in Chicago’s South Loop). Shanghai and Singapore however are downright bargains; dorms in Singapore cost around a ⅓ as much as you would pay in London, and housing in the very new dorms in Shanghai cost around $7 per day.
- Can I study abroad and graduate on-time?Yes you can. It is a priority of the office that we do all that we can to help you achieve these two goals. Two ways to help ensure that you can both study abroad and graduate on-time are to start planning early and also to be flexible in the kind of program and experience you are seeking.
- I’m an international student, can I study abroad?Yes you can, and many do!
- I’m a graduate student, can I study abroad?This will depend a lot on your department and the kind of program that you have in mind. Currently there are no set Grad level semester programs that allow you to study abroad. If you are interested in exploring please contact our office.
- I'm on medication, how can I access my medicine while abroad?
Depending on your specific details, you may be able to take your medication with you, fill a prescription while overseas, or find some other solution. However, depending on what medications you use and what country you are going to, this can sometimes be tricky.
A good resource for related questions is Mobility International USA.
- Do I need special health insurance while overseas?
Yes! If you go on our partner provider programs, they’ll take care of enrolling you in the necessary insurance. If you go on an exchange or faculty led program, we’ll enroll you in insurance and bill your OASIS account.
- I’m new to Columbia, when should I start thinking about study abroad?Right away! Though the application process is not too rigorous, the earlier you start to plan the more choices you will have and it will give you more time to apply for scholarships and to start saving.
- Will I get credit for classes I take on study abroad?Yes you can! A major part of the study abroad application is the section where you seek pre-authorization for how the classes you are planning to take abroad will come back here.
- Will study abroad classes count towards my GPA?No. All classes you take on study abroad will be added to your academic record through Columbia’s transfer process, which means that so long as you receive the equivalent of a C or better you will receive the credits for that class. However, the grades will not show up on your academic record at Columbia. The GPA you have before you go abroad will be the same as the GPA you have when you return.
- What happens if I fail a class while on study abroad?You should of course strive to do well in all your classes when abroad. But if you do fail any of your classes (or get the equivalent of a C- or lower) then that class will just not show up in your academic record.
- I don’t see my study abroad credits in my Columbia Academic Record, what do I do?
First thing to know, your study abroad credits will appear at the top of your academic record in the “Transfer Credit” section. They will not appear in the section corresponding to the term that you studied abroad.
The process for getting your grades from study abroad works like this. Once you have completed your assignments and your work has been evaluated at the partner institution they will issue you a transcript. Once we receive it we will make sure that it is evaluated by the records office and the classes entered into your advising guide. Some schools will instead send you the transcript yourself, if you receive a copy and do not see any grades yet, please pass along a copy of it to the International Office.Some of our partner schools do take longer to evaluate grades and generate a transcript, so there is also a chance that we will all be waiting on the partner school. However, you do not need to wait until you have your grades in to start signing up for classes for the next semester.
- I failed a class on study abroad and I still want to try and get that credit, what do I do?Since you are taking this class at another institution you will need to comply with their own rules for how to go about this. If it is possible, you will have to initiate a lot of the communicating yourself. However our office will certainly be there to guide you. If this is something you are looking into, your first steps should be to contact our office and also contact your professor at the host school as well as the international office there. Be aware though that there is often a time limit as to how long after you are able to seek credit after the fact.
- How do I get my transcript?On all exchanges and partnered provider programs your transcript will be issued by the school or program that you are attending oversees. Your main contact at the other school should be able to inform you as to when exactly and in what form you will receive your transcript
- How can I be sure that the classes I want to take will be available abroad?Ultimately there are no complete guarantees. Just like at Columbia, there’s always a chance that a class will not be offered, will be canceled, or will be unavailable for other reasons. Once you find out what classes are available, the process for submitting a course to determine how it will transfer back to Columbia is an easy one (and one that you can even do from overseas).
- What do I do if I want to drop or add a class while I am on study abroad?This is a two step process. Since you will be studying and registered at another school you will first need to abide by their rules and suggestions for changing your schedule. The second step is to ensure that any new classes you are adding to your schedule will still be preauthorized and count back here the way you are expecting. The authorization on the Columbia end can be done yourself through the Credit Equivalency Request form in the online application. But if you have any questions or need help in contacting faculty for departmental approval please contact the International Programs Office and we can help you with this.
- What can I expect studying abroad to cost?The cost of the whole time abroad will vary a lot depending on the kind of program that you are selecting. Cost will also vary depending on how your spend your time and resources while your abroad. Are you living like a tourist eating out at restaurants all the time, or are you shopping for groceries and cooking in your dorm? Are you planning to fly around visiting other countries every weekend or are you planning to immerse yourself in your new community and spend time getting to know it.
- I have a housing contact here in the Columbia dorms, but I want to go abroad for one of the semesters of the contract, what do I do?If you are living on campus here and need to get out of your year-long housing contract you will need to connect with Liz Velez email@example.com in residence life and let her know.
- Are housing costs while I’m abroad included in the tuition?No. Tuition means the cost you are paying for your classes and your Columbia credits. On an exchange program, you will pay your tuition to Columbia but you will have to pay for housing and other expenses yourself at the other school.
- Can I expect the living situation at the partner school to be just like it is here at Columbia?
Not necessarily. Each school we partner with has a different approach to housing their own students and this different approach also applies to Columbia students studying there. Some of the partners own dorms just like Columbia does and so you will apply through their housing office in a similar manner as you might when seeking housing at Columbia. Others do not own any dorm buildings and so will direct you to a private dorm company. These often have a loose (if any) official connection to the school (this is a similar situation to say the Buckingham Student apartments here in Chicago). Some of our partners may also point you to 3rd parties, suggest that you set up a house swap with one of their students, or suggest that you take over someone’s lease. In short, each partner does things very differently and checking in with the International Program’s office here about the specifics at your program is strongly advised.
- I have my passport, can I just go to any country I want?Having your passport is a good start, but each country has its own requirements on who can enter it and what documents are needed. In some cases your passport will be enough, but in other cases you’ll need to go to that country’s consulate to apply for a visa months in advance. Ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure that you meet the entry requirements for any country you are traveling to or studying in.
- Where can I learn more about my destination?A good place to start is the US State Department website: travel.state.gov. It’s recommended that you review your country’s overview before you leave the US. Also talk to our office and we can give you more specific recommendations for where to find specific info.
- What if I'm a faculty member and I want to propose a new Columbia study abroad program?Work through your school’s curriculum committee process. Additional documentation can be found on the Curriculum Guide site in IRIS.