Carnegie Mellon University

Planning & Preparation

In order to make students’ experiences abroad as happy, healthy and safe as possible, and in order to make their transition back to Carnegie Mellon as seamless as possible, OIE has instituted several policies that all students must follow in order to study abroad during their time at Carnegie Mellon. These administrative procedures and the procedures laid out by the study abroad program/host institution are a large part of the planning and preparation process.

All students, regardless of the study abroad opportunity chosen must attend a Pre-Departure Orientation and submit all required forms in order to be registered for study abroad and receive transfer credit upon return. Students must have adequate health insurance coverage during their time abroad and an International Student Identification Card (ISIC). All international travel requires a valid passport and many countries also require a visa.

During the second half of each semester, OIE holds several Pre-Departure Orientation sessions. Students are required to attend one of these sessions the semester before the abroad experience (in the Spring for Summer, Fall and All-Year programs; in the Fall for Spring programs.) These sessions address administrative procedures, health and safety preparation and cultural training.

Students who do not attend a Pre-Departure Orientation may not be registered for study abroad or receive credit for the experience.

Registration should be completed in advance - to register:

  1. Visit CMU’s The Bridgehttps://cmu.collegiatelink.net/organization/studyabroad/events
  2. View the Pre-Departure sessions by logging in. Click “Log In” in the top right-hand corner. You will then see all of the Pre-Departure sessions listed.
  3. Choose the session that best fits into your schedule.
  4. RSVP for the session.

Several forms (examples below) are needed to be completed through the CMU Study Abroad Portal, and are available for students after they attend a Pre-Departure Orientation:

  • Study Abroad Transfer Credit (SATC) Form: Document classes to be taken abroad and Carnegie Mellon equivalents. Obtain signatures from the appropriate departments. This form is not available online. Students may only receive this form by attending Pre-Departure.
  • Personal Data Sheet: Complete this form to provide our office with emergency contact information, demographics and an academic profile.
  • Study Abroad Information & Agreement Contract: Read and sign this legal document.
  • Study Abroad Release: Read and sign this legal document.
  • Financial Documents:
    • Acknowledgement of Financial Responsibility: For all students studying abroad. Fall, Spring or All Year programs only
    • Consortium Agreement (pdf): For students going on External or Direct Enrollment programs who have federal or state funding to be used while abroad. Fall, Spring or All Year programs only.
    • Sponsored Study Abroad Financial Responsibilities Contract: For students going on Sponsored Programs; Fall, Spring or All Year programs only.
  • ISIC (International Student Identification Card): Students must submit a photocopy.

Study abroad courses must be taken for a letter grade, not as pass/fail; however, letter grades received abroad are not factored into a student’s QPA at Carnegie Mellon.  Only the course name and number of units will be transferred.  Transfer credit is awarded upon receipt of an official transcript for courses in which the equivalent of a U.S. “C” or better has been granted with the following exceptions: U.S. equivalent “B” or better for Economics and Math courses.  Credit can be granted for general education requirements or major/minor requirements, at the discretion of the relevant academic departments.

All study abroad transcripts must be sent directly from the host institution or program provider to the Carnegie Mellon University Registrar’s Office.  When the transcript is received by the Registrar, a copy is sent to the student’s Associate Dean’s office for distribution.  Academic departments will then assess credit and add the course title and number of units, but not the grade received abroad, to the student’s Carnegie Mellon academic record.  OIE does not receive or retain any copies of study abroad transcripts.

Departments should notify students when transfer credit has been awarded. Students should follow up with their academic advisor to ensure that the transfer process is complete.

On-Campus Housing

Students living in campus housing should carefully review:

Housing Services website for study abroad

Housing Study Abroad Information (pdf) 

Students should submit all necessary documents on time since on-campus housing is limited. Students studying abroad in the spring will be contacted about room draw. A deposit is required by February to participate in room draw. Students studying abroad in the fall should contact the Housing Assignments Coordinator at 412-268-2139 in December for their room assignment.

Off-Campus Housing

Students who live off-campus often coordinate with students going abroad during the opposite semester to arrange sublets. See the Off-Campus Housing  webpage for more information.

All international travel requires a valid passport.

Have a passport?

Ensure that a current passport will be valid for at least 6 months beyond the study abroad program’s end date.

Need a passport?

U.S. passport applications must be done in person at a designated site such as a courthouse or post office. Passport applications can take approximately 6 weeks to process. See the U.S. State Department website at www.travel.state.gov for more details.

Need to renew a passport?

U.S. passports may be renewed by mail only if it expired after age 18 or less than 2 years ago. Renewal forms are available online at www.travel.state.gov and at passport agencies. The process generally takes about 4-6 weeks but can take up to 12 weeks, so plan ahead!

The process for renewing a passport that was originally issued to a minor is the same as applying for the first time.

Need a visa?

A visa states the purpose of entry into a foreign country and is required by most countries. Apply early. This process can take up to several months. A valid passport is required to apply for a visa. It is important to find out what the visa requirements are for the host country. Embassies serve citizens based on home address, so students need to go to the Foreign Embassy closest to their hometown. This may mean taking time out of winter or spring break to visit the consulate or making a special trip home. For those with a Pittsburgh address, the New York embassies are generally the designated consulates.

Need a visa letter?

Some countries require a letter from the home institution (that’s us) verifying the payment method and ensuring that the student will return to the U.S. to complete their degree. Students who need a visa letter should complete the visa letter request form (pdf) and submit it to the study abroad office on the 3rd floor of Warner Hall or email the form to goabroad@andrew.cmu.edu. Letters take 3-5 days to process and may be picked up at the OIE front desk.

Carnegie Mellon requires that students have adequate health insurance coverage during the entire study abroad experience. This insurance must cover students door to door for all situations that can occur while abroad, including accident coverage, medevac and repatriation of remains.

Verify Coverage

Students should verify that their current policy will provide the required coverage for the entire abroad experience. Providers commonly consider treatment in foreign countries as “out of network,” which means that patients must pay upfront for medical care and seek reimbursement from the insurance company.

Carnegie Mellon’s Student Health Insurance

Students can purchase Aetna Student Health through Carnegie Mellon’s University Health Services Office.  Plan details can be obtained by visiting: www.cmu.edu/health-services/student-insurance/plan-details.html, by contacting University Health Services at x8-2157 or shinsure@andrew.cmu.edu, or by contacting Aetna directly at www.aetnastudenthealth.com.

Insurance Provided by Study Abroad Programs

Some study abroad packages include health insurance as part of the program fee and some do not. Students should not cancel their current policy if additional insurance is offered.

The International Student Identity Card

Students are also required to purchase the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This card also provides supplemental coverage for hospitalization, accident related medical expenses (including medical evacuation), accidental death, and dismemberment while traveling outside the continental U.S. It also offers travel benefits and discounts to students traveling, studying and working abroad. The ISIC card must be purchased in the U.S. to include all discounts. A detailed handbook is included in the purchase price of the ISIC card which explains the benefits in detail. Please note: This insurance does not replace the required health insurance described above. This is a supplemental policy only.

Students can purchase the ISIC card through www.myisic.com/orders/travel or STA Travel, online at www.statravel.com. The cost is $25. Proof of student status is required.

Not Covered?

A variety of companies provide short-term insurance specifically for study abroad students. Carnegie Mellon does not endorse a specific plan.

Students in the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas (most commonly F-1 or J-1) who are going abroad during the academic year should make sure to understand the extent of their abroad experience on their immigration status. They should meet with their Study Abroad Advisor if any questions arise, but should also meet with their Foreign Student Advisor for more detailed immigration situations. 

International students should always ensure that their I-20 or DS-2019 has a signature within a year of their return to the US. 
Where and how to receive a signature:

  • Visit OIE Express, each Monday, from 3 to 4 pm in OIE (Warner Hall, 3rd Floor). You can receive a signature on the spot.
  • Stop by OIE on a Signature Day for a signature on the spot. These days normally coincide with upcoming vacation breaks.
  • Drop off the document in our OIE office for 3-day processing.

To make an appointment with your Study Abroad Advisor, visit our CMU Study Abroad Portal.
To make an appointment with a Foreign Student Advisor, call 412-268-5231.

To help prepare for your time abroad, see if your country’s embassy abroad has an emergency alert system. Many countries now have a system that will alert individuals if any large-scale emergency occurs and/or if an evacuation is necessary.

Students with all types of disabilities are studying abroad today. Study abroad programs are committed to making their programs accommodating to students with physical, mental, learning or other disabilities. OIE is committed to ensuring all students have the opportunity to study abroad, and we are happy to assist students in finding a program that can meet their needs.

Remember that many other countries are not as accessible as we may think they should be. Research the laws of the host country regarding persons with disabilities and the availability of services and accommodations that can be found in the host country. Attitudes toward disabilities vary by location.

Mobility InternationalAccessible Journeys and disABILITY are excellent online sources of information on international travel for students with disabilities.

Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities should notify the study abroad program and explain the required accommodations. American providers are generally able to easily accommodate students with learning disabilities. Direct enrolling in a foreign institution may or may not present accommodation challenges to students with learning disabilities, depending on the pervading attitude toward learning disabilities in that location. Be prepared to explain in detail. Failure to disclose this information, though within a student’s right to do so, is not recommended. The added stress of foreign study coupled with not having the appropriate accommodations could prove to be overwhelming.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

The key to a successful study abroad experience for a student with a disability is communication. The Office of International Education and the study abroad program should be aware of any special needs or accommodations required. Equal Opportunity & Disability Services at Carnegie Mellon is another crucial partner in this process. Students with documented disabilities should work with the Disability Services Office to provide a detailed description of the disability and the accommodations required to the study abroad program or school.

Be sure to inquire about additional costs, if any, for services. Do not assume that such services will be free as they are here. If services are not provided free of charge, please contact the study abroad staffEqual Opportunity & Disability Servicesand/or Mobility International. They can work with the program or school to find a solution.