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Frequently Asked Questions

office of international programs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Our students rate an international experience and studying abroad as one of the most significant activities during their education at Boston College. They return to our campus with a more advanced knowledge of their studies, they have become more mature, and they return with a deeper understanding of their host culture as well as their own culture.

As much as going abroad is exciting for our students, it also creates many questions and some concerns. We have addressed the questions that students and parents most commonly ask.

Why should students go abroad?

Study abroad enables students to integrate studies at BC with a curriculum abroad and thus gain new perspectives on a variety of subjects. Students will exchange ideas and information with peers from different cultures and gain an increased awareness of cultural diversity and international issues. Perhaps the most important aspect of study abroad is that students will live in a new and challenging environment that inspires both personal and intellectual growth. In an increasingly global workplace, employers look for students who can communicate and work successfully in an international environment. 

Who goes abroad?

About 40% of BC undergraduates from all fields of study participate in some type of international experience (semester, full year, or summer programs) by the time they graduate.

When may students go abroad?

Most study abroad students are juniors, and a small number are first semester seniors; however, students may enroll in a summer course program abroad following their freshman year. 

How can students go abroad if s/he is unable to go for a semester or year?

Students who are unable to go abroad for a semester or year can participate in a BC faculty-led summer course. Summer courses are credit-bearing; a course counts towards the overall graduation requirement, courses may count for major/minor credit, and often there is no minimum GPA required to qualify for these programs. Courses in BC’s summer program are between three and six weeks long, and are currently offered in sixteen countries around the world. 

What is the difference between a BC program and an external program?

Boston College currently offers over 60 of its own programs in 30 countries. For those programs, BC works with the best universities around the world. Depending on their linguistic background, students often enroll directly in those universities or choose to study in a carefully tailored curriculum that combines instruction in the host language with courses that are offered in English. Most BC programs have on-site coordinators. Programs offer a wide range of activities that expose students to the cultural richness of the host country and integrate students into everyday life abroad. Students going on a BC program pay BC tuition and remain eligible for all of their financial aid. Courses taken as part of BC programs abroad are treated just as courses taken at the home campus. Students receive full credit; courses can fulfill curricular requirements, and their grades are calculated into their GPAs.  Currently, about 75% of undergraduate students enroll in BC programs.


An external program is organized by a university or provider other than BC. An approved external program is a program that, based on past experience, OIP believes to be of high quality both academically and in terms of providing excellent services to our students. In exceptional cases, students may petition the Director of OIP for permission to enroll in a non-approved external study abroad program. Students who choose an approved external program are assured that all successfully completed course work will be counted toward graduation. Students attending an external program pay a program fee directly to the program provider and an administrative fee of $ 1,000 per semester to BC. They forfeit BC financial aid, but remain eligible for state and federal financial aid, and they receive full credit for their coursework abroad. However, their grades are not calculated into their GPA.

What are the most popular study abroad destinations?

Historically, the most popular study abroad destinations have been Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Australia, and France. More recently, students have increasingly enrolled in programs in locations such as Argentina, China, Chile, and South Africa.

How important is international experience for a career later on?

Increasingly, research supports the view that students who have had international study experience are better equipped to compete in a global job market because of specific skills and attitudes they acquired while abroad: better foreign language skills, deeper cross-cultural insights, and in general a higher level of maturity. 

Do students need to speak a foreign language in order to go abroad?

While students are encouraged to study abroad in order to gain fluency in foreign languages in which they already have some background, there are many programs in non-English-speaking countries where classes are taught in English. Most of these programs also include a language course in the language of the host country. 

Should students study abroad for a full year?

Study abroad for a full academic year is considered the “gold standard” among international education experts. If their academic curriculum allows it, we encourage students to study abroad for a whole year. The cultural integration and overall academic and personal added value of an international experience increases substantially with the longer time period spent abroad.

What is the process for studying abroad?

The first step in the application process is for students to explore our web site and to meet with an Advising Assistant (AA) who will help them begin the program selection process. In addition, OIP has a resource room with information about all BC programs and approved external programs. Once students have narrowed the choices, they must meet with a designated Program Manager (PM) and decide which program to apply for. Students may not apply for multiple programs simultaneously. If students are not able to apply to the chosen program, the PM will assist in finding an alternative program. A student who is notified that s/he may apply for a BC program will be provided with the application materials. If students are approved to apply for an external program s/he will follow the external provider’s application process and deadlines. 

What is the role of the Program Manager?

The PM has special expertise about the universities and programs in the region in which students wish to study and helps students choose an appropriate program based on their academic and other interests.  The PM is the primary contact for students they are abroad and even after they return to BC. Currently, the Office of International Programs (OIP) has six Program Managers. 

How does BC prepare students to study abroad?

All BC students are required to attend a mandatory OIP pre-departure orientation session during the semester prior to departure. Students will also receive a Handbook for Study Abroad which provides information on study abroad policies, procedures and other recommendations, as well as BC program-specific information. The programs also provide on-site orientation upon arrival in the host city

What is the visa process?

The visa process varies for each study abroad program, depending on the country and program length. This information will be addressed during the pre-departure meeting. Students may also refer to the program page or contact the Program Managers for more information. International students may have different requirements and should refer to their embassy website.

What support services will students have abroad?

On-site support services vary by program. In many cases, a BC coordinator on site will assist students. In addition, virtually all host universities provide an orientation for newly arrived students. These orientation programs may vary in length, ranging from a few hours, to a few days, up to a full week, and are meant to provide students with an introduction to the institution, the culture, and the city in which they are located. The study abroad office at the host university is the first point of contact for students who need anything including university resources such as accommodations for a disability, counseling or health services, or simply where to buy a phone card. 

What are the requirements for study abroad?

To study abroad during the semester or academic year, students must be in good academic standing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (higher for some programs), have no more than one deficiency (withdrawal or failing grade), have a declared major, and be making good progress toward completing core requirements. Arts and Sciences students must also meet the study abroad foreign language requirement (completion of at least one year of college level foreign language instruction). Some programs also have additional requirements. In addition, your student must have a satisfactory disciplinary record and receive the approval of the Office of the Dean for Student Development. Final approval to enroll in a study abroad program is at the discretion of OIP, the academic dean, and your student’s major department(s).  These requirements are the same for both BC and external programs. Summer courses require that students be in good academic and disciplinary standing.

What will students study abroad?

Whether students study abroad on a BC program or an external program, they will be able to study virtually every BC subject area as well as many that are not taught on our home campus. In some instances, a student may be able to construct a program suited to his or her academic needs with the guidance of a faculty advisor. OIP encourages students to identify their desired courses with input from their major department and to learn where those can best be taken with the help of their Program Manager.

Will students' courses abroad count toward graduation?

Students are expected to enroll in a full academic course load at the host institution, although the number of classes taken may vary widely depending upon the host institution. A full course load at the host university is the equivalent of a full course load at BC (15 BC credits per semester). For more information, please refer to “Selecting Courses Abroad” on the OIP website.

How are grades from abroad dealt with at BC?

Grading procedures are not the same in all countries. In many programs, students will not have on-going assessments, but rather will be assessed at the end of the semester (or year) in the form of a cumulative exam or paper. Grades earned abroad on BC programs are translated or converted to equivalent grades at BC and the grades are calculated into students’ GPA. For more information, please refer to the "Transcripts" page on our website. If a student is on an external program, the courses and grades will appear on the BC transcript but will not be calculated into the GPA.

Are there programs for students with special needs?

While we do our best to accommodate every student not every program is equipped to provide for students with special needs. Students should refer to their Program Manager to receive more information on study abroad programs.

What will it cost for students to study abroad?

Students on a BC study abroad program will continue to pay BC tuition and can be considered for BC, federal, and state financial aid. In addition, they will need to cover expenses for housing, airfare, travel, books, and meals. For some programs, housing costs are put on the BC bill. Estimated expenses for BC programs are available on the OIP website under “Finances.”

External program participants pay tuition and all other program fees directly to the program provider. Consult the program provider for costs. You remain eligible for federal and state financial aid only. An ‘External Program Fee’ is placed on your BC bill to cover all BC services provided. If you receive financial aid, complete a “Consortium Agreement” (available at Student Services) and submit it to the financial aid office of your external program. The signed consortium agreement should then be sent back to Boston College where the address is listed on the form.

Will study abroad cost more than staying at BC?

In economically difficult times, it is important to remember that studying abroad does not have to be more expensive than staying on campus. While some programs in large European metropolitan areas may cost more than a semester in Chestnut Hill, expenditures for many other programs are less than at BC. There are many ways in which some measures of frugality can go a long way; for example, cooking instead of frequent use of restaurants, travel in the host country instead of longer trips in the region, taking advantage of many subsidized cultural activities such as free museums, and student tickets for performances. Sometimes external programs offer cost benefits and might be an alternative for those students who are not on BC financial aid. 

How does study abroad affect students' financial aid?

Students participating in a BC program remain eligible for BC, federal, and state financial aid; however, depending on the program cost, the amount of aid may be adjusted. If a student is participating in an external program, he or she will not be eligible for BC financial aid but can apply federal and state financial aid. We always encourage students who receive financial aid to consult with their financial aid advisor prior to going abroad. 

What do I do if I am expecting a refund?

If students expect a refund from a financial aid package, they must submit a Refund Request through Agora. BC will not automatically forward aid funds to external programs. Refunds cannot be requested before funds arrive at BC or prior to the start of the BC term for which you are abroad. For more information on the refunds, please check the BC eRefunds webpage.

Why does BC charge home tuition for its study abroad programs?

BC treats a semester or year abroad with a BC program exactly as a semester on campus. Students can transfer all their financial aid, receive full course credit for a semester/year, and their grades abroad are factored into their GPA. In addition, students can receive transfer credit for many required courses in their major, minor, and university core subjects. OIP advisors and staff provide many services to your student before departure, during their stay abroad, and after they return. These services include advising students, coordinating with faculty, and liaising with the host university.  Additionally, many programs have on-site coordinators who provide a range of services to students. Your tuition dollars support all aspects of your student’s study abroad experience.

Are students still eligible to pay tuition with a payment plan?

Students participating in a BC program may arrange to pay for tuition through a payment plan.

Will there be a refund for BC Activities Fees & Health Services if my student is going abroad?

All students who study abroad are charged for a full year of fees on their fall semester bill. Students will receive a refund for their semester abroad at the start of the semester. Students who study abroad for the full academic year will initially have fees placed on both semester bills but will receive a full refund once they have turned in their Final Confirmation Forms.

Why might students receive a BC tuition bill if they are on an external program?

Even if a student is enrolled in an external program, s/he must submit forms confirming their participation in a study abroad program. These forms must be submitted to OIP by certain deadlines before he or she can be registered as a study abroad student. Until that registration is completed, students will continue to receive a tuition bill from BC. We encourage your students to return all forms to our office promptly to avoid this issue.  

Why does BC charge a fee for an external program?

Boston College charges a $1,000 fee for students studying abroad on external programs because they receive the same advising and pre-departure services as students going on BC programs. OIP remains responsible for students while they are abroad provide the same academic services as those students who participate in BC programs once they return home. Courses taken abroad appear on student transcripts and are counted toward the BC degree. They do not, however, count towards the student’s Grade Point Average (GPA).

What if students withdraw from the program?

In the event that a student must withdraw from his or her program, OIP should be contacted immediately. Students going on external programs should also be sure to contact the program provider. If a student (except a School of Nursing student) returns to BC within the first two weeks of the semester he or she may re-enroll at BC. If the withdrawal from a BC program occurs after the designated final confirmation dates, there will be a $500 withdrawal fee. If the program has already begun there will be a $1,000 fee plus charges for any other expenses incurred by BC. Summer program withdrawals will be handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Do students need a bank account abroad?             

In most cases, students will find it most convenient to use credit and ATM cards. These cards will allow her or him to access funds from a home account and make purchases abroad. MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted credit cards. Before a student leaves home, it is advisable to check with their bank or credit card company about fees for withdrawals and purchases made abroad. Some countries will require students to establish a bank account and to prove that he or she has adequate funds to live there. If this is the case, the on-site coordinator or host university usually assists or advises students about setting up a bank account during the orientation period. It is recommended that students take some money ($400-500) in the form of traveler’s checks while traveling and to have additional funds transferred once the bank account is established. 

Does BC arrange flights for students?

Students are responsible for booking their flight and transportation to their housing abroad. Students from similar areas going on the same program may want to coordinate to travel together. The pre-departure orientation is a great place for these students to connect.

How is housing arranged for students going abroad?

The housing application process varies depending on program. General information on accommodations is provided on each specific program page. Students going on external programs will work with their provider to secure housing for their time abroad.

What happens if students have guaranteed on-campus housing and s/he goes abroad?

If a student is guaranteed four years of housing at BC he or she must complete a “Leave of Absence Form” for the period in which they will be abroad. The form is due to the Residential Life office by July 1 for fall and full-year students and by October 15 for spring students. Students going abroad for a year or for spring semester must select a proxy to participate in the housing selection lottery. 

How safe is study abroad?

In Annual Assessment Overviews, the vast majority of incidences reported have to do with theft and pick-pocketing. Incidences abroad are not more frequent than on campus. Just as at home, much of your student’s safety will be determined by his or her good judgment and decision making. Certain steps—traveling with companions rather than alone (especially at night), using caution in interactions with strangers, knowing and staying away from dangerous areas, and not drinking to excess—will help make your student’s study abroad experience safe and enjoyable.

What is HTH Worldwide Insurance Services and why is membership mandatory?

HTH is an actual health insurance that provides worldwide medical coverage for students while they are living and traveling outside of the United States. If needed, he or she will be able to access a large number of medical care providers and facilities abroad that work directly with HTH. HTH Worldwide Insurance does not replace required medical insurance within the United States; rather, it provides BC students with supplemental medical services and assistance overseas.

How does BC prepare students be safe while abroad?

OIP is committed to doing its best to ensure your student’s safety abroad. Each semester our Pre-Departure Orientation focuses on health and personal safety abroad in order to help your student prepare for the experience. Prior to departure, each of our study abroad students receives a Study Abroad Handbook that includes information about safety. In addition, we are in frequent communication with our partners abroad, especially our colleagues at our partner universities and on-site personnel. We monitor U.S. Department of State travel advisories and remain informed about issues in locations where we have students. In the event of an emergency, our partner universities and on-site coordinators follow established procedures to ensure your student’s safety. Your student is provided with emergency contact phone numbers and e-mail addresses should they be needed. All Boston College study-abroad students are automatically enrolled in HTH Worldwide Insurance Services, an organization providing emergency travel assistance, including international medical and security services. The HTH website maintains reports on health and safety issues in 170 countries worldwide.

What should students with health concerns do before going or while abroad?

If your student has a chronic physical or psychological condition that requires on-going treatment or monitoring by a doctor, you need to consult with your student’s physician about the prospect of studying abroad. If your student is on medication, you should discuss the type of care your student may need abroad and the best way for your student to continue his or her regimen. Encourage your student to discuss these matters with his or her Program Manager (PM), another staff member, or a member of University Counseling Service. All information will be kept confidential.

What should students do if they have problems adjusting to being abroad?

It is very common for a student to experience some degree of homesickness or difficulty transitioning to a new culture when he or she goes abroad – even a student who has traveled previously. Being in a new and different environment is challenging and takes a little getting used to; some students adapt sooner while others need more time. If your student appears to be having difficulties adjusting to new surroundings, please let OIP know. Often, we are able to contact someone at the host university or on site, whom we trust to determine whether there is a problem, provide a different perspective on the situation, or arrange for appropriate intervention.

What happens if students become ill while abroad?

Your student should have your emergency contact information. S/he will be informed by our BC on-site coordinators or our partner university staff where to seek 24/7 medical help. Encourage your student to register online with HTH Worldwide Insurance Services prior to departure and to carry his HTH identification card at all times. Emergency numbers are found on the back of the card and the HTH website offers access to providers and facilities wherever your student may be.

What should be my role in the planning process?

While you should be available and lend your student help and support, planning and then going abroad is an important step in your student’s path toward taking responsibility and well-informed decision making. When your student is abroad, it is often tempting to stay closely in touch with him/her. While you should arrange communication with your student as soon as they have arrived at their destination, once your student has settled in, limit and observe your interaction. Trust the local infrastructure of on-site coordinators and university personnel to help your student with the many challenges, small and large, that are part of any study abroad experience. 

What is FERPA?

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) is a federal law that guarantees the confidentiality of student records and general information. Accordingly, our office cannot release student information to any third parties, including parents, without student consent. We are able to assist with program specific questions or any other questions related to the study abroad process.

Should I plan to visit my student while s/he is abroad?

Visiting and traveling with your student can be a great experience, but be sure to plan such a visit for either a vacation period or after the end of the academic schedule. We discourage parents from visiting during the academic programs.

What resources are available for parents of study abroad students?

Some recommended publications for parents of study-abroad students include the following:

  • NAFSA’s What Parents Need to Know Before, During, and After Education Abroad, available to order through the NAFSA website: www.nafsa.org
  • CIEE’s Knowledge is a series of brochures designed to help parents and their students prepare for study abroad and is available at www.ciee.org
  • Boston College’s Handbook for Study Abroad. All of our study abroad students receive a copy of this publication at the pre-departure orientation.
  • University of the Pacific has an on-line cultural training called “What’s Up With Culture?” for study abroad students. You may want to look at it yourself and encourage your student to view it before going abroad. The website is: www.pacific.edu/sis/culture.
  • Letsgo.com offers parents and students helpful travel guides with information regarding accommodations, food, and sights listings, as well as numerous tips for student travelers looking to save money while traveling, working, or studying abroad. Available through their website at www.letsgo.com.

Where can I find more information about study abroad?

The Association of International Educators (NAFSA) is an organization serving study abroad professionals and institutions. You will find information on its website at: www.nafsa.org. The Forum on Education Abroad is another organization founded by and for study abroad professionals with study abroad-related topics on its website: www.forumea.org. In general, external program providers have information for both students and parents on their websites.

What websites should be bookmarked while students are abroad?

U.S. State Department:   www.travel.state.gov
HTH Worldwide Insurance Services:  www.hthworldwide.com
BC Office of International Programs:  www.bc.edu/international
BC Student Services:   www.bc.edu/offices/stserv/

Do you have some basic information material from your office that I can download?

To obtain some basic information about study abroad please download “General Information OIP.”