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Planning for studying abroad is an exciting process that can begin as early as deciding to study at Penn. If you start early and plan well, you should be able to make study abroad a part of your Penn experience.
- Planning for Study Abroad
Planning for studying abroad can begin as soon as you decide to attend Penn and continues through your undergraduate career. The following is a guideline for planning before you come to Penn, your freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years:
- Examine your personal language and area study interests. You can decide to continue current language studies, start a new language, or do both! Penn students have the unique advantage of being able to prepare for study abroad in virtually every language in the world through the Penn Language Center.
If language study doesn't fit into your plans, don't worry! There are many options in English speaking countries and through English language programs. Take an area studies course related to your country of interest to prepare yourself.
- Plan for study abroad with your advisor to carefully select courses in your first and second semesters. Why? Most non-English study abroad opportunities require a solid foundation in a foreign language because it allows you to more fully experience the country and its culture.
- It is highly recommended that you take at least one area studies course, which may be an eligibility requirement for your program.
- Complete the Penn Abroad 101module online to learn about selecting a program and application procedures. For instructions click here.
- Explore scholarships that might provide funding support for future study abroad.
Consider a language program, summer internship, or volunteer activity abroad.
- Complete the Penn Abroad 101 session if you have not already done so.
- Schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Program Manager to discuss your options and to start your application.
- Review the upcoming application deadlines and pay attention to early deadlines for selected national scholarships.
- Talk to your favorite professors about your interests and your plans for study abroad, ask their advice and inquire about their willingness to write recommendations for your application.
Consider summer study abroad and internship options.
- Go abroad! Many Penn students study abroad for one semester or the entire academic year.
- Just learning about study abroad? It may not be too late for the spring semester or your senior year. Complete the Penn Abroad 101 session. Then schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Program Manager.
- Explore opportunities for prestigious scholarships (e.g., Churchill, Fulbright, Gates, Marshall, Rhodes, Thouron) to fund postgraduate study abroad through the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships (CURF).
Extend your time abroad with a summer internship.
- Go abroad! It is not unusual for seniors to study abroad during the fall semester of their senior year. Talk to your academic advisor about your eligibility.
- Explore international post-graduate opportunities. Deadlines for major scholarships for graduate study abroad begin mid-September. Contact the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships (CURF).
- Returning students, share your experience with underclassman.
- General Eligibility Requirements
You must meet the following general eligibility requirements* to study abroad:
- A minimum of 3.0 GPA. Grade notations I, II, (incomplete) or NR (no grade reported) should not appear on your transcript.
- A minimum of one area studies course about the country/region of destination is highly recommended. Your background preparation will not only make you a stronger candidate but will enhance your semester abroad.
- Be in good academic and disciplinary standing at Penn.
*If you do not meet these eligibility requirements, please bring this to the attention of your Program Manager. In some instances, your study abroad application will be considered as long as certain conditions are met before your semester abroad.
In addition to these general study abroad requirements, your study abroad program may have its own specific set of eligibility requirements. Read the program brochure and talk to your Program Manager to determine your specific program requirements.
For more information, see the Policies page.
- Application Procedures
Step One: Complete the Penn Abroad 101 Session
Completing the Penn Abroad 101 session is the mandatory first step in the study abroad application process. The 101 session offers a general overview of study abroad including:
- Selecting a program
- The application process
- Credit for study abroad course work
- Financial aid
These sessions are available to complete independently online. View the Penn Abroad 101 schedule for more information. You must complete the Penn Abroad 101 before meeting with your Program Manager. Plan to complete the 101 no later than one week before the program deadline. Not doing so may jeopardize your ability to apply to the program.
Step Two: Research Your Options
You have many options available. Learn about them via the following resources:
- Penn-approved study abroad programs
The Penn Abroad website contains basic information about each program or university: the academic setting, language(s) of instruction, prerequisites, course and housing options, application deadlines, academic calendar, and costs.
Study abroad ambassadors and past participants are study abroad alumni eager to share their experience with others and often participate in various Penn Abroad events such as the Study Abroad Fair, in-person 101 sessions, and pre-departure orientations. Study abroad ambassadors and past participants can give details and personal accounts from a unique vantage point.
- Information Sessions and the Study Abroad Fair
Penn Abroad organizes periodic information meetings about particular regions of the world or a particular program or university. Advisors, faculty, visiting program representatives, and former participants are on hand to answer your questions.
The annual Study Abroad Fair is an excellent opportunity for students to explore their options for study abroad. Students may visit the display tables, collect course catalogues, brochures and promotional materials, and speak with past participants, exchange students and representatives from Penn-approved programs and affiliated universities worldwide. The Study Abroad Fair is held every fall in September.
Step Three: Meet with a Penn Abroad Program Manager
Once you have completed 101 Session, you can meet with a Penn Abroad Program Manager for an individual, 30 minute advising session. Appointments will be made with only one Program Manager at a time.
Please start planning early and allow yourself plenty of time to meet the application deadlines. Students must make the request for an advising appointment no later than one week before their program deadline. In some instances this will not be enough time to make the deadline.
To see the names of Program Managers and the countries for which they advise or to schedule an appointment, visit our Individual Advising Section.
Step Four: Apply
When you've decided to apply for a program, notify your Program Manager. S/he will open an application for you at the end of your advising session. To access your application, click the "Access Your Application" button located on the Student Home Page; this will prompt you to log in with your PennKey and PennKey password.
Your online application will consist of items required by Penn Abroad and by the specific program to which you are applying, which you will see on your application checklist. Some items can be completed online. Others will need to be submitted to the Penn Abroad office. Through your application homepage, you will be able to track the status of your application from anywhere. Read all application instructions carefully! All materials must be received by the stated deadline.
Transcript requirements vary by program; many require students to submit an official hard copy Penn transcript, some will accept an electronic version of the official transcript, and others will accept an unofficial transcript. Students are responsible for obtaining the appropriate transcript as required by their program. If an official transcript is required students must order one from the Office of the University Registrar.
After you have completed the application, check your applicant homepage and your Penn email account on a regular basis for reminders and news from Penn Abroad. Your decision notification will be delivered via email.
You are only able to apply for one program. Penn Abroad will assist qualified students who are declined from their first choice in finding an appropriate program.
Step Five: Meet with Home School Advisor for Study Abroad
In addition to meeting with a Penn Abroad Program Manager, you will also meet with your Home School advisor for study abroad in order to determine academic eligibility, discuss course choices, and begin the course approval process. Your Home School advisor for study abroad will complete the online Academic Approval form on your Penn Abroad application. Lists of the study abroad academic advisors are available for the College, Wharton, Engineering, Nursing, and Huntsman. Students should also meet with their academic advisors to determine which courses will fulfill major requirements.
- Academic Credit
All courses taken abroad will appear on your Penn transcript. It is important that you select a program that will fit into your academic course of study. A required application step is to meet with your designated home school advisor for study abroad, where you will discuss the courses that you will take abroad.
To ensure you receive academic credit for your study abroad courses, you must request course approval via the External Course Approval Tool (XCAT). You may request course approval before, during, or after your time abroad, but requests must be submitted no later than the end of the fifth week during the first semester back at Penn. You should always bring back from your study abroad program or submit electronically via XCAT when appropriate: your papers, bibliographies, syllabi, examinations, and other evidence of your work in all courses in case these are needed to determine course approval.
XCAT also allows you to see precedents, which are courses previously taken by other students and preapproved by departments. You can search XCAT to see if abroad courses you plan to take have precedent equivalencies. If your abroad course has a precedent, simply request the equivalency and submit. Precedents are guaranteed as long as approval is requested before the precedent expires and no additional departmental approval is necessary.
Students should also talk to their major advisor to determine which courses will fulfill major requirements.
Please see Policies page for more information.
Occasionally, a student may wish to attend a university or study program abroad that is not currently affiliated with Penn and therefore not recognized for academic credit. If you wish to study abroad and seek academic credit toward your Penn degree on a non-affiliated program, you must submit a petition to Penn Abroad.
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