Studying abroad is an integral part of the International Studies experience at Boston College. IS majors and minors have studied in more than thirty countries in recent years, participating in programs during the academic year and the summer.
IS majors are expected (but not required) to study abroad for some length of time while at BC; nearly 90% of our majors do so, usually for a semester during junior year. IS minors are encouraged to study abroad as well.
Here's how to get started to plan your study abroad experience:
Start with OGE
The vast majority of study abroad opportunities are organized through the Office of Global Education. Start your planning by attending one of their "Study Abroad 101" programs and meeting with a study abroad advisor. Semester/year abroad applications are due January 5 each year for the following academic year; summer abroad program applications are due in early February for the upcoming summer.
We also host info sessions especially for IS majors/minors. In November 2022, OGE Director Larry Pickener joined IS Program director Erik Owens for an information session about study abroad for IS majors and minors. Click the image at right (or click here) to watch the video on our YouTube channel.
In December 2022, OGE Associate Director Christina Hatzipetros joined IS Program director Erik Owens for an info session about smaller and specialized study abroad programs in Southeastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East . Click the image at right (or click here) to watch the video on our YouTube channel.
Consult with IS Peer Advisors, Faculty, and Adminstrators
Sophomore majors must discuss study abroad with their academic advisor (who must verify this conversation with OGE) during the Fall semester, before applying to OGE in early January. This is to ensure that you're aware of the opportunities and requirements that accompany study abroad. For example:
- IS majors may count a maximum of two courses per semester, or four courses in a year, toward the major from a program abroad or at any non-BC school.
- IS minors may count a maximum of two courses in total toward the minor from abroad or non-BC schools.
- Courses taken abroad must be pre-approved by Prof Nakazato using this form; please do not take the risk of not receiving credit by waiting until you return from abroad to have courses approved.
- Please note that OGE (not the IS Program) determines how many credits are awarded per course while abroad. Not all foreign courses fit the BC-standard model of 3 credits per course; some count for more than three, some less. Students must work with OGE and Prof. Nakazato to understand your specific situation.
- Abroad courses are usually credited as electives, but in certain circumstances may be applied to IS Core or IS Foundation courses.
We also encourage IS majors and minors to talk with one of our Peer Advisors about studying abroad. They are great at talking through their own decision processes and sharing stories about their experiences.
A few tips
Here are a few key principles we encourage you to keep in mind as you consider your study abroad experience.
- Think holistically about your Study Abroad experience.
Study Abroad is an immersive experience that will offer intellectual, academic, professional, cultural, emotional, social, political, and spiritual challenges and opportunities for you. Consider all these aspects when choosing a study abroad program, not just one of them.
- Learn about Study Abroad programs, not just cities or countries.
While you need to think holistically about the experience, the central element of study abroad is STUDY: you will be enrolling in an academic program at another university or research center abroad. So look for academic programs that fit your interests and contribute to your education:
- Most importantly, pick a program that fits your IS major or general interests. As an IS major, make sure the program offers courses/resources on issues you care about, whether that's migration, international security, environmental justice, global media, etc.
- Consider the language of instruction: if you have the skills to take courses in another language, this will greatly enhace your fluency. (Even if you're taking classes in English, commit yourself to expending your language skills in social and professional settings.)
- Consider how course offerings will meet requirements in your major, minor and BC program at large. (See the next section for IS Program requirements.) In most cases you can bring 2 courses back into your major and the other two will count as general credits toward graduation.
- Consider how your academic program can provide a foundation for a senior thesis. Could you take a new course about your thesis topic, or conduct fieldwork that can provide qualitative/quantitative data for your thesis project?
- Think about whether the program or location offers an opportunity to undertake an internship whie you're studying abroad. These can look great on resumes, but more importantly give you valuable experiences to help you make informed decisions about work after college.
- Learn how OIP makes placement decisions
Boston College has contracts with universities around the world to send/receive a certain number of students each semester. This number is not easily changed, and limited spaces means certain popular programs are more competitive to get into. Students should understand how OIP determines study abroad placements, so you can make the best decisions about where and when you'd like to go.
- OIP looks to see if you are making a case to attend that particular academic program, not just that city or country, so do your homework before you write your applicaiton. OIP will be inclined to give priority to art majors to programs that focus on art history, or CSOM students to business programs, etc.
- A high GPA always helps your application, especially for those programs with a particular GPA minimum, but there are spaces for everyone who has the 3.0 GPA required for BC students to study abroad. Check out the OIP Academics page for more info.
- Financial aid is available for study, research, and travel abroad!
Connect with Christina Hatzipetros (email@example.com) in the Office of Global Education for details about financial aid and scholarships for study aborad. OGE administers the McGillycuddy-Logue Travel Grant (which helps to fund BC summer or semester/year programs abroad for undergrads who receive BC institutional financial aid), the Fung Scholarship (for research/study/internships in Asia), the Mizna Fellowship (for research/study in the Islamic world), the Aggad Fellowship (for study/research/service in the Middle East), and Houston Fellowship (for research on Africa & diaspora). OGE also can help you apply for external fellowships including Gilman Scholarships, Critical Language Scholarships, and more; see the full list at the bottom of this page. Also check out our research funding page. But the ky tip here is that you need to plan ahead! Get as much information as you can in August/September of your sophomore year. so you don't miss any deadlines.
What if you can't study abroad?
In each graduating class there are IS majors who haven't studied abroad, for one or more reasons. Some are international students who are already studying abroad at BC and don't want to go to a third country; others have BC athletic commitments that keep them on campus during the academic year; still others need to stay close to home to work or care for family members.
We encourage all students to be creative in considering ways to get abroad, even for a few weeks on a service immersion trip, summer abroad course, research project, or other opportunity. (Financial aid is available for all of those things as well as for traditional study abroad!) But Majors or minors who do not study abroad are not penalized and will not delay their graduation from BC.
If you do not end up studying abroad, please take advantage of other opportunities to engage with international students, use your language skills, and meet people and groups from around the world. Join a Global Conversation, for example, or sign up for the Global Engagement Portal once it's back up and running.