Frequently Asked Questions


Why Study Abroad?

First of all, it is fun! You will get to see places you have dreamed about your whole life, and meet people from different cultures. Secondly, it's good for you! 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. Study abroad gives you a new perspective of the world and yourself. Many employers value the skills you will develop while abroad, which include problem solving, cross-cultural communication, and adaptability.

How safe is studying abroad?

Safety of participants is the highest priority. Safety is covered thoroughly during both general pre-departure orientation and each program’s 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. 

All study abroad students are enrolled in travel insurance through On Call International during their time abroad, unless their program includes comparable insurance through another provider. 

How much does studying abroad really cost?

The Study Abroad Center offers three different program types for a semester or academic year: Exchange, Direct Partner, and Affiliate Provider. Exchange programs cost the same as the tuition and fees you normally pay at Iowa State, based on your residency. All students who do a Direct Partner or Affiliate Provider program are charged a flat fee, regardless of residency. All three 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.

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). Expenses can vary based on the program, your lifestyle, additional traveling you may do while abroad, and the currency exchange rate.

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 summer, semester, and year-long programs but cannot be used for spring break, Thanksgiving break, or winter break programs. For students receiving loans, the ISU Office of Student Financial Aid can potentially increase your loan capacity for programs during the academic year to help cover costs.

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

Students are encouraged to apply for these scholarships to help fund their experience.

Send questions related to study abroad financial aid to:

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. In addition, many students choose to take courses toward a minor, international perspectives, or electives while abroad. If you want to take courses in your major, you may choose to go on a 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 the coordinator of your program and academic adviser to find classes available at an institution. Your academic adviser can help you find courses which may satisfy degree requirements you could complete while abroad. To view a school’s course list, follow the link on the program’s brochure page on ISUAbroad.

Another option is to take Iowa State courses offered through short-term faculty-led programs during a 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 likely will count as ISU credit and toward your ISU GPA. You can confirm with your program director or coordinator. 

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 advisor 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?

No. If they plan ahead, students in most majors can study abroad for a whole semester and not delay graduation. Due to licensure requirements, education majors who study abroad for a semester may delay graduation; these students could consider International Student Teaching programs.  Research consistently demonstrates that students who study abroad graduate at higher rates than other students. 

Are classes taught in English?

Yes, the majority of Iowa State study abroad programs offer courses taught in English, even in non-English-speaking countries.

However, if you are interested in studying a foreign language, several programs offer classes from beginner to advanced in languages taught at ISU including Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic, as well as, Italian, Japanese, Korean, 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 demonstrating advanced language proficiency. 

What if I don't have a passport?

It is recommended one of the first things you do when considering study abroad is apply for or check the expiration of your passport. This page can help you figure out how to apply for a U.S. passport locally in Ames. If you have any questions, feel free to ask any study abroad staff for assistance. 

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 longer.

When is the deadline?

Each study abroad office on campus may have different deadlines. The application deadline is typically listed on the program page in ISUAbroad, so check there if you are unsure. 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. Exchange programs may 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 no later than the beginning of the semester before you want to go. Applications for Study Abroad Center programs open a year in advance. 

What about flights?

Students are responsible for making their own travel arrangements for most semester programs. We do estimate the cost of airfare within the overall budget for each program. Our Peer Advisors and Program Coordinators can assist with questions. Some students are able to use points/miles for plane tickets. 

What about housing?

Housing arrangements and costs vary by program. Options may 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. Some housing is billed on your U-Bill, while others are paid directly to your program/landlord. The program budget sheet will indicate how housing is billed for each program. Most program brochures have links to housing information at our partner universities.


What resources are available at the Study Abroad Center?

We encourage students interested in studying abroad to reach out virtually 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, and meet with a Program Coordinator to go through program specifics.