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 OIP
The vast majority of study abroad opportunities are organized through the Office of International Programs. Start your planning by attending one of their "Study Abroad 101" programs and meeting with an OIP study abroad advisor.
In October 2020 OIP Director Nick Gozik held an info session with IS majors entitled "Study Abroad: 2021 and Beyond." Watch the video for his presentation and the Q&A session that takes up questions about COVID restrictions, selecting your study abroad location, and much more.
Consult with IS Peer Advisors, Faculty, and Adminstrators
We encourage IS majors and minors to talk with one of our Peer Advisors about studying abroad. They are great at talking through their decision process and sharing stories about their experiences.
IS majors and minors should also talk about their study abroad interests/plans with their academic advisor, and and the IS Program’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (Prof. Nakazato). 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; please do not take the risk of not receiving credit by waiting until you return from abroad to have courses approved.
- Please note that OIP (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 OIP and Prof. Nakazato to understand your specific situation.
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
Talk to Christina Hatzipetros at OIP about the McGillycuddy-Logue Travel Grant, which helps to fund BC summer or semester/year programs abroad for undergrads who receive BC institutional financial aid. There are also a number of other fellowships to apply for at BC and externally (speak with Ms. Hatzipetros and consult our research funding page), but you need to plan ahead -- so get as much info as you can in August/September of your sophomore year.
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.