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Oui Oui Baguette: Bwog Answers Your Study Abroad Questions

Sick of the NYC mega-rats but too lazy to figure out how to study abroad? Bwog breaks it down with a Q&A.

1. Is it too late for me to study abroad?

Probably not! Deadlines for most Columbia-led and Columbia approved spring semester programs are usually in October or November. If you want to study abroad next fall, it’s DEFINITELY not too late. (But renew your passport ASAP. It takes forever).

2. How much work is this going to take?

Less than you might expect! General eligibility requires that CC and SEAS students have at least a 3.0 GPA; be in good academic + disciplinary standing; you have to have made some progress in the Core and your major; and you must have, oh yeah, declared a major. At Barnard, it’s basically the same: good academic and disciplinary standing, declare a major, and you can’t have an incomplete or delayed exam on your transcript the semester before you go abroad. Barnard also wants you to have completed two years in the language of the host country – but according to their website, you can wriggle your way out of this by “pursuing other academic opportunities abroad, for instance in STEM fields.”

If you meet those requirements, the application is fairly straightforward. Most programs require you to fill out an application questionnaire, a brief personal statement about why you want to study abroad, and an application fee. Some programs – especially language-intensive programs –  require recommendations; if they do make sure to kindly ask in advance. You’re also required to have home school approval, AKA you have to fulfill the eligibility requirements and meet with a study abroad adviser to make sure everything’s gucci. Most program are not particularly selective, but your mileage may vary. Make sure you scope out your specific dream program’s requirements so you don’t miss any parts of your application. Also, if you’re doing a Columbia-approved program, you will most likely have to fill out an external application as well as a Columbia-specific application.

3. Ok so what do I do first?

Meet with a study abroad adviser!!!! In the words of our Managing Editor, “make a meeting with ogp, even if you’re super unsure. they’re very clarifying and nice in my experience.” If you’re CC, SEAS, or GS you can sign up here; Barnard babes, sign up here.

Also, peruse the programs available to you here or here. It’s never too late to start thinking about where you’d wanna go.

4. Where can I go?

Basically anywhere! Between the Columbia-led and Columbia-approved program (more on that later), you can study abroad on every continent except Antartica. And if you want to study abroad in a country you don’t see on the website, you can do that too – you just have to petition (more on that later too!)

5. What if I want a program with no language requirement?

That’s cool! As mentioned above, at Barnard you have to express some specific academic goal abroad if you’re not going to be studying a language – it’s unclear what this means so reach out to a study abroad adviser for clarification. At CC, SEAS, and GS, no language = no problem. Columbia has approved programs with English language instruction in Japan, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Prague, Israel, South Africa, Indonesia, and more. In some of these programs language is mandatory while you’re there but no prior experience is required. You can filter for language of instruction here.

6. Can you study abroad senior year?

Short answer: yes! Longer answer: yes, but it might take some doing. If you’re in CC or SEAS, you need to petition the Committee on Academic Standing to study abroad during your last academic year. If you’re in Barnard, you can study abroad whenever, provided you meet the eligibility requirements.

7. Can you study abroad in SEAS?

Yes! Read some narratives from SEAS students who have studied abroad here and here. Most SEAS students who do study abroad choose their sophomore spring (CC students cannot study abroad before junior year). There are some programs specifically designed for STEM students, like the Aquincum Institute of Technology in Hungary, the Columbia Summer Undergraduate Math Research Program in Paris, or the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. More info from Columbia here.

8. What if I’m a transfer? 

Because of the massive massive Core Curriculum, studying abroad as a transfer is a little tricky. But it’s possible, especially for sophomore transfers! Meet with a study abroad adviser ASAP.

9. What if I’m pre-med?

Studying abroad as a pre-med student is hard, but not impossible. According to the Center for Student Advising, “Unfortunately, many medical schools will not accept coursework taken outside of the United States in fulfillment of requirements and therefore we do not recommend taking these required courses while abroad.” So basically, if you want to go to medical school in the United States, you have to take your required courses in the United States. This means that studying abroad during the summer – or taking one of your required courses over the summer – may be a good option. Meet with a study abroad adviser AND a pre-med adviser to feel out your options. And read about a pre-med student studying abroad here.

10. What’s the deal with study abroad during the summer?

So Columbia runs and also approves a number of study abroad options during the summer. The advantage of these is that they don’t interfere with your yearly academic courseload, making them a good option for SEAS students, pre-med students, transfers, or anyone else with a lot of requirements to complete. The downside: financial aid for CC, SEAS, and Barnard students doesn’t apply to the summer like it does to the academic year. For GS students, it’s different – you can often remain on financial aid while attending a Columbia-led program.

11. What’s the difference between Columbia-led and Columbia-approved programs?

Pretty self-explanatory: Columbia-led programs are led and taught by Columbia faculty. The nice thing about these is that your courses and grades will generally show up right on SSOL or eBear. like other Columbia classes. You also may be able to take Core classes abroad, like in Paris or Berlin. With Columbia-approved programs, which are run by third parties but pre-approved by Columbia, you’ll have to apply to transfer the credit from the study abroad program to Columbia.

12. What if I don’t want to do any of the programs listed on the website?

No worries! If you want to participate in an outside program not currently approved by Columbia, you can petition here to do so. The main catch: the program has to fulfill some niche that Columbia’s offerings don’t. So if Columbia already has a program for art history in Venice, they probably won’t approve another one.

13. How do I get my classes abroad to count toward my major / Core / other requirements?

If you’re flying out on a Columbia-led program, you don’t have to do anything. If you’re going on a Columbia-approved program, you will get transfer credit, not that Good Good Columbia Credit – i.e. the grades won’t be incorporated into your Columbia GPA. You have to petition for courses taken abroad in Columbia-approved programs to count for the Global Core requirement. You also need to get at least a C- in CC or a C in SEAS and GS for your abroad credits to transfer over. Finally, check with your major adviser to see if courses you take abroad can count towards your major. Every department deals with courses taken abroad differently. More guidelines here.

At Barnard, you have to submit every course you take abroad for approval. They can count for major or minor requirements, elective credit, or General Education Requirement credits – so long a they get approved. More on that here.

14. Do you still have guaranteed housing after getting back from studying abroad?
Yes!

15. Can you have an internship/job while studying abroad? Does that require a special visa?

Excellent question, you little worker bee you! Basically, re: paid internships and jobs, it depends completely on the country – different countries have different visa requirements. Make sure to reach out to the coordinator for your specific program. Unpaid internships (#laborexploitation) should be fine and are often arranged by program coordinators. Talk to the Center for Career Education for more info.

16. How does financial aid work abroad?

The gist of it is that if you’re studying during the academic year through a process approved by Columbia, your financial aid for tuition should carry over. You pay tuition directly to Columbia, who then pays the program on your behalf. Housing and travel expenses abroad, however, are not usually covered. There also may be additional application fees and deposits. More on financial considerations here.

At Barnard, while your financial aid should similarly carry over, you are responsible for a “a study abroad assistance fee of $110 and an off-campus comprehensive fee of $50.” On the plus side, according to a Barnard Bwogger, “if you have work study in your financial aid package at barnard, they turn it into a stipend for you to use while abroad! More Barnard money business here.

If you’re still concerned about paying for study abroad, check out some scholarships here and here. Do this sooner rather than later – a lot of these scholarships have deadlines earlier than those of the program themselves.

Cool but competitive: the Presidential Global Fellowship offers full funding for a Columbia-led summer program the summer after freshman year.

17. Will my friends forget about me?

Hopefully not!

Picture of your cultured self via Pixabay.

Atlas via Bwog Archive

Gulliver’s Travels via Bwog Archive

Leave a Reply to Jenna Freedman, Zine Librarian Cancel reply

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3 Comments

  • Jenna Freedman, Zine Librarian says:

    @Jenna Freedman, Zine Librarian Pro-tip: Check out Klea Kalia’s zine Studying Abroad as a Low-Income Student. https://clio.columbia.edu/catalog/13888921

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Do they still have the popular year at Oxford and Cambridge?

    1. Justin says:

      @Justin Yes. Details here: https://global.undergrad.columbia.edu/program/columbia-college-oxbridge-scholars-program

      Applications are due in early December (of sophomore year) for those who wish to spend junior year at Oxford or Cambridge.

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