Frequently Asked Questions


Why Study Abroad?

Students who study abroad, on average, have higher GPAs, go on to graduate, and graduate within 4 years at higher rates than students who do not study abroad. In addition, you will gain a new perspective of the world and yourself by studying abroad. Many employers value the skills you will develop while abroad, which include problem solving, cross-cultural communication, and independence.

How safe is studying abroad?

Safety of participants is the highest priority of the Study Abroad Center. Safety is covered thoroughly during both general pre-departure orientation and each program’s in-person site-specific orientation. General tips include securing your valuables and travel documents at all times, avoiding being alone late at night, moderating alcohol usage, being aware of your surroundings in a new environment, and using caution when traveling within countries on buses, trains, or taxis. The Study Abroad Center generally avoids sending students to countries on the U.S. State Department Travel Warning list and recommends each student become familiar with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate while abroad.

The Study Abroad Center enrolls every student in Chubb International during their time abroad. In addition to covering 100% of approved expenses without requiring a deductible, Chubb will cover medical evacuation and repatriation as well as security evacuations should they become necessary due to natural disasters or political unrest. Chubb can provide help for prescription drug replacement or shipping, access to emergency cash, and legal assistance. The summary of benefits for Chubb can be found here. In case students plan to extend their travels, they can take advantage of the 14-day grace period which covers students both prior to and following the dates of their program.

How much does studying abroad really cost?

The Study Abroad Center offers two different program types for a semester or academic year: Direct Exchange or “Semester in.” Exchange programs cost the equivalent of the tuition and fees you normally pay at Iowa State, based on your residency. All students who do a “Semester in” program are charged a flat fee, regardless of residency. Both program types are charged to your U-Bill, and any scholarships or financial aid you currently have are applied as normal. Budget sheets can be found on every program page on ISUAbroad.

Here is an example of an Exchange program budget sheet for University of Exeter in England
Here is an example of a "Semester in" program budget sheet for Lorenzo de'Medici in Italy

Budget sheets list a billable subtotal (that gets charged directly to your U-Bill) and non-billable subtotal (what you would pay out of pocket). Living expenses are estimated on each program page’s budget under the non-billable subtotal section. Expenses can vary based on the program, your lifestyle, additional traveling you may do while abroad, and the currency exchange rate of the country you are going to.

How does financial aid work? Can I use my current Iowa State scholarships toward studying abroad?

Any existing Iowa State scholarships can be applied to study abroad programs since they are automatically applied to your U-Bill each semester. Federal Pell Grants can also be applied to semester and year-long programs but cannot be used for Summer, Spring Break, Thanksgiving Break, or Winter Break programs. For students on loans, the ISU Office of Student Financial Aid can potentially increase your loan capacity for programs during the academic year to help cover costs. To request an increase to your normal financial aid award, email

For non-credit programs including international internships, the Financial Aid office can award loans, provided the programs meet Federal requirements

The Study Abroad Center and each ISU College also offer scholarships to students on study abroad programs. Students are encouraged to apply for these scholarships to help fund their experience.

How do I find a program and classes that work well for me academically?

There is a wide range of programs for nearly every major at Iowa State. Many students choose to take courses toward their minor, general education requirements, international perspectives, or electives while abroad. If you want to take courses in your major, you may choose to go on any Study Abroad Center program or one operated by your college:

Agriculture and Life Sciences
Human Sciences
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Veterinary Medicine

You should work with your academic adviser as well as the Study Abroad Center (or with the college office that oversees the program you have chosen) to find classes available at an institution. Your academic adviser can then pre-approve classes so you get a better sense of which degree requirements you may be able to complete while abroad. To view a school’s course list, follow the link on the program’s brochure page on ISUAbroad

Here is a course list from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology for example.

If your degree program prevents you from going abroad for an entire semester, you should look into summer programs or one of your college’s short-term faculty-led programs over the summer, spring break, or winter break.

How do study abroad credits transfer back?

If you go on a faculty-led program through an ISU college, your classes already count as ISU credit and toward your ISU GPA.

For Study Abroad Center summer or semester-long programs, the courses you take abroad will be processed initially as general transfer credit through the Iowa State Office of Admissions. Evaluation of transfer credit is a two-step process: The Office of Admissions reviews your coursework taken at another institution to determine whether the courses are acceptable for transfer. A Transfer Credit Evaluation form will then be completed. You should follow up with your academic adviser after receiving the transfer credit evaluation to discuss how the credits accepted for transfer apply to your degree program. Be aware that each of Iowa State's colleges determines which transfer credits meet requirements for its degrees.

In general, college-level courses in which passing grades have been earned are acceptable for transfer to the University; some departments may require at least a "C" grade for a specific course to be applied to the degree program. It is important to note that grades from other institutions will not factor into your GPA at Iowa State; however, accepted credits will be added to your overall totals. Only the class title and credits earned will appear on the official Iowa State transcript. Upon returning, you will be able to pick up your original transcript from your host institution to retain for your records. If you plan to apply for a graduate program, you will likely be asked to submit a copy of your courses and grades from abroad. Many schools send the original and do not keep copies so it is recommended that you keep your transcript from abroad in a safe place.

Will studying abroad delay my graduation?

If you work closely with your academic adviser, studying abroad will not lead to delayed graduation. Many students who plan ahead are able to incorporate a semester or full academic year abroad and still graduate on time. Research consistently demonstrates that students who study abroad graduate at higher rates than other students. According to this article on Inside Higher Ed, at the University of Minnesota, 64.5% of students who study abroad graduate in four years, compared to 41% of students who don’t; at the five-year mark the numbers increase to 90% for participants, and 58.6% for non-participants.

Are classes taught in English?

Yes, the majority of the universities Iowa State partners with offer content courses taught in English within business, design, engineering, liberal arts and sciences, human sciences, and agriculture and life sciences, even in non-English-speaking countries.

If you study a foreign language, most schools offer a wide range of classes from beginner to advanced in many languages taught at ISU including Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic as well as Korean, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and many others! If you want to take content courses taught in a foreign language, you may be able to as a native speaker or by passing a placement test.

What if I don't have a passport?

We’re here to help! We can print an application form and guide you through the process. This page can also help you figure out how to apply for a U.S. passport locally in Ames.

What is a visa and how do I get it?

A visa is a document that allows you to enter a country to work or study for an extended period of time. U.S. citizens need a visa to remain in most countries for longer than 90 days. Program Coordinators will work with students throughout the visa application process as each country has its own visa requirements and fees. Visa requirements for non-U.S. citizens vary widely based on which country’s passport you hold and which country or countries you plan to travel to. Non-U.S. citizens are, of course, still able to study abroad, but it is recommended that you work closely with a Program Coordinator early on as the processing time for student visa can be much longer.

When is the deadline?

The deadline for most Study Abroad Center Spring semester programs is October 1 while the deadline for most Summer and Fall programs is March 1. It is recommended that you start the process well in advance, especially if you do not already have a passport or have not determined which program you would like to do. Direct exchange programs have a limited number of spots so the earlier you complete your application, the better chance you have of securing a spot. A good rule of thumb is to start the application process at the beginning of the semester before you want to go. Applications for Study Abroad Center programs open a year in advance. Programs operated by each ISU college typically have earlier deadlines. Check each brochure page for deadlines as well as starting and ending dates for each program.

How are travel arrangements made?

Students are responsible for making their own travel arrangements for Study Abroad Center programs. We do estimate the cost of airfare within the overall budget for each program. If you need help or recommendations booking your flight, our Peer Advisors and Program Coordinators are here to help you. Some students are able to use points/miles for plane tickets. If you plan to travel ahead of or past your program’s start or end date, it is recommended that you inform your Program Coordinator and you may need to extend your insurance coverage.

What is housing like when studying abroad?

Housing arrangements and costs vary by program. Options include residence halls (both single and double rooms), apartments, home stays, and hotels for short-term faculty-led programs. Many universities have residence halls exclusively for international students while others integrate international students with local students. Home stays are recommended for students who are hoping to improve their language skills and become more immersed in local culture. Housing costs and payment methods can also be different. Some schools charge students weekly or monthly for residence halls/apartments, and some charge the full semester cost up front. Most program brochures have links to housing accommodation information at our partner universities.

Here is the housing accommodation website for Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, for example.

What resources are available at the Study Abroad Center?

We encourage all students interested in doing any study abroad program to come in to our office for more information. Hear first-hand experiences from one of our Peer Advisors, find available classes at each institution, get help applying for a passport or visa, meet one-on-one with a Program Coordinator to go through program specifics, submit documents, and become familiar with our office before your site-specific pre-departure orientation. We are located in room 3226 on the third floor of the Memorial Union.