Getting Started FAQs
What is study abroad?
The Office of International Education at Carnegie Mellon defines study abroad as any one or combination of the following activities completed in another country: study, research, work/internships and volunteer/service learning.
Who can study abroad?
Any undergraduate, except for first year students, with approval from their academic department can study abroad any semester or for a full academic year. All students, including first year students, may study abroad during the summer. Graduate students may study abroad depending on the requirements of their degree. There may be curricular limitations on when students can study abroad. Many study abroad programs have a QPA requirement of at least 3.0.
I know that I want to go abroad, but I don’t have a QPA of 3.0.
While some programs/universities have a firm QPA cutoff and will not consider anyone with a QPA below this cutoff, others have lower cutoffs or will weigh in recommendations and past history. It is important to give a program an explanation for the low QPA – such as a challenging first year in college or a change of majors.
What subjects can I study while abroad?
Any field available at Carnegie Mellon can be studied abroad, provided the department or college approves the credit. While many departments approve core course work abroad, some departments prefer that students do elective courses while overseas.
Past study abroad experiences have included: economics classes at London School of Economics, biology research in Mexico over the summer, language study in Japan by a computer science major who also interned with a local company, art studios at City University in Hong Kong, the study of drama and social change in South Africa by an international relations and drama BHA, an internship with a US design firm in Germany, computer science courses in Switzerland, chemistry classes in Australia, business courses and a related internship in Australia, and Spanish language study by a psychology major in Costa Rica.
Do I have to know a foreign language?
There are many study abroad programs in English speaking countries, and English is widely spoken and taught around the world. Many non-English speaking countries have universities that teach courses in English, and there are many study abroad program providers that offer coursework exclusively in English. Other program providers offer intensive language study with the option to take other courses in English or the foreign language. While knowing a foreign language opens up more possibilities and will certainly make a student’s time out of the classroom less challenging, lack of foreign language ability should not prevent a student from studying abroad.
Interested in learning a language, but can’t add a whole major or minor? Find out more about the Foreign Language and Culture Certificate.
When can I study abroad?
Most students study abroad during their junior year; however a growing number are studying abroad second semester sophomore year or first semester senior year. Students should consult their academic advisor regarding the specifics for their major.
What about summer study abroad?
Many Carnegie Mellon students study or work abroad during the summer. In addition to the myriad of outside programs for which Carnegie Mellon students can receive credit with departmental approval, there are a handful of programs offered through Carnegie Mellon departments/colleges. For example, architecture periodically holds a summer studio program in varying regions. These programs are run by Carnegie Mellon faculty. Modern Languages hosts a number of programs through outside institutions, such as the Goethe Institute which has various sites throughout Germany.
Can I work, intern, volunteer, or do service learning abroad?
Study Abroad internships provide an understanding of the work environment in a particular country as well as in a specific field. Credit may be earned for an unpaid internship, if the department approves. Some countries allow full-time students to work part-time.
OIE in connection with the Career Center provides a Seeking Employment Opportunities Abroad workshop every fall. See the study abroad calendar for details.
For paid work there are a variety of websites to search such as the University of Michigan’s Work Abroad site.
Where can I study abroad?
There are programs in most countries in the world. If relevant courses are offered, it is possible to study anywhere and receive credit with department/college approval. Check the US State Department Travel Advisory list for current travel advisories.
What does it cost?
There are two basic ways to pay for study abroad at Carnegie Mellon:
- Pay directly to the overseas university or study abroad program. Federal and state aid dollars as well as all loans can be utilized. This is called an External Study Abroad Program (which includes Direct Enrollment Programs).
- Pay through Carnegie Mellon and use federal, state and university scholarships.
- Exchange Programs – pay Carnegie Mellon tuition only which covers tuition abroad. Room, board, airfare and other expenses are the student’s responsibility.
- Sponsored Study Abroad Programs – pay Carnegie Mellon tuition, room and board; tuition, room, board and other relevant expenses will be covered for the study abroad program. (This is a great option for students who receive considerable federal, state and university aid.)
IMPORTANT: All students are enrolled at Carnegie Mellon during the time abroad regardless of the type of study abroad program chosen. All students must attend pre-departure orientation to receive the forms required to register.
Will my financial aid apply to study abroad?
Yes. Federal and state funding always apply. Institutional aid is applicable for those paying through Carnegie Mellon (see above drop down.)
What should my planning timetable look like?
Plan Early! The earlier a student starts, the more options they will have.
- The first year is a good time to attend a study abroad information session, browse the web and visit the study abroad library in OIE, 3rd Floor Warner Hall.
- Sophomore year, start looking for specific programs and meet with academic advisor(s).
- Junior year, students will either be abroad or be planning their experience.
Most applications are due a semester before the study abroad experience. Students should consider how courses, research, language study and internships abroad will fit into their academic studies and future professional goals.
All students are required to attend Pre-Departure Orientation the semester before the study abroad experience to obtain necessary forms for registration. See the study abroad calendar for details.
How do I find out about study abroad programs and universities to which I may apply?
There are many ways to find out more about study abroad programs at Carnegie Mellon. Usually it is best to start by attending an information session. There are two large information sessions held each semester. No reservation is required for these sessions.
Once a student has attended an information session and is ready to start a detailed search, they can schedule an appointment with one of our study abroad advisors by calling the receptionist at 8-5231. The advisor will assist students to find the program that is right for them. Search engines such as www.iiepassport.org, www.studyabroad.com and www.goabroad.com are also good resources for finding programs.
The Office of International Education, located on the 3rd Floor of Warner Hall, also has a library of study abroad resources, many of which students may take home. The study abroad library is open during regular office hours, Monday through Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm.
How do I find out if programs or universities abroad are good or not?
There are thousands of study abroad programs offered to U.S. undergraduates, and their quality varies greatly. The best way to find out about the quality of a program is to talk to a study abroad advisor, students who have attended the program and/or faculty. Typically, Carnegie Mellon students participate in programs that deservedly enjoy good reputations.
Study abroad, admittedly, has a mixed reputation. It is often termed "the best semester of my college career", but sometimes summed up as, "not a lot of work". Carnegie Mellon is dedicated to enrolling students in programs that provide a challenging academic environment and cultural immersion. The tempo and intensity of the work may vary greatly from the Carnegie Mellon experience and may require more independent work and have less ongoing evaluation. For example, a course grade may be determined solely by a final exam or final paper. We recommend that students pace their work evenly throughout the semester and read broadly from the course materials, even when pages are not assigned.
How do I apply?
- External Study Abroad Programs: Submit the completed application to the university or study abroad program directly. Programs vary in the amount of time they take to make an admissions decision.
- University Exchange Programs: Pick up the application from OIE or download them from our website. Then submit the completed application to OIE. Admissions decisions are made by Carnegie Mellon.
- Departmental Exchange Programs: The application process is handled by the academic department.
- Sponsored Study Abroad Programs: Complete the application from the external study abroad program or foreign university and submit it to OIE. We will then forward the application to the program with a cover sheet. Students are informed of their acceptance directly from the program. If the application is submitted online, all supporting documents may be sent through OIE.
When should I apply?
Most application deadlines occur early to mid-semester prior to the term abroad. Some programs have application deadlines one year in advance.
What are my chances of being accepted?
Acceptance rates are extremely high for students in good academic standing who choose a study abroad program that match their academic interests and course backgrounds. However, some programs fill quickly so apply early.
When will I find out if I'm accepted?
Usually, students are notified two weeks to three months after submitting a complete application. Some programs admit on a rolling basis and respond right away; some hold applications until a cutoff date and then respond to all students at once. Universities overseas typically take longer, and application may be reviewed by faculty in the relevant academic department(s).