Studying abroad can be a rewarding and valuable experience. It’s a great opportunity to increase your language skills rapidly, be exposed to a culture that is different from your own, and gain greater independence and self-awareness. There are also some programs that may offer opportunities for research, hands-on learning, and professional internships. Opportunities for study abroad include three major options:
Students studying on IAP programs will receive credit for all political science courses they take abroad. These credits will be posted to the student’s transcript as UW-Madison courses equivalent to the courses they took while abroad. Equivalent grades will also be posted to their transcript.
Students that complete an internship through IIP will not necessarily receive political science credit, but there are options to earn credits from other departments. Completing an internship abroad is a great way to make your resume stand out.
Study Abroad in Non-UW Programs
To find out more about how you receive transfer credit for a non-UW study abroad program, please visit the Office of Admissions page and schedule an appointment with an advisor.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NON-UW-APPROVED AND A UW-APPROVED PROGRAM?
If you decide to attend a non-UW-approved program, remember the 30 credit rule, which requires that you earn your last 30 credits in residence. This will have an impact on determining the appropriate time to study abroad. If you are enrolled in a UW-Madison program, then you are still considered in residence during your time abroad.
Also, the College of Letters and Science requires a minimum of 15 credits in the major be taken on the UW-Madison campus (these cannot be taken abroad, even through a UW program). For those in a non-UW-Madison program, remember that the political science major requires that you take 15 credits at the 300-level or above in residence (i.e. these credits cannot be earned with transfer credit).
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO STUDY ABROAD?
In order to fulfill your degree requirements efficiently, and to ensure you are prepared for your study abroad experience, it is recommended that you wait until you have reached junior standing. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Speak with your Political Science advisor about when would be the best point
WHAT ABOUT FINANCIAL AID?
If you choose a UW study abroad program, you are able to use federal financial aid if you are enrolling in a program of 4 weeks in length or longer. If you receive financial aid from other sources, be sure to check with the source of the funds on whether it is possible to use it for a study abroad program. Check out IAP’s Financial Aid page for more information about funding study abroad. IAP also offers a number of information sessions about funding study abroad each semester.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET A SCHOLARSHIP FOR MY STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM?
IAP administers a number of scholarships to help with the cost of studying abroad with UW-Madison programs. The National Security Education Program (NSEP) scholarships are available for study outside Western Europe and Canada. If you are eligible for a Pell Grant, we highly encourage you to apply for the Gilman Scholarship! See IAP’s Scholarships page for more information.
WHAT SHOULD I DO TO PREPARE FOR MY STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM?
You will need to schedule an appointment with your academic advisor as part of the process of preparing to go abroad. The meeting with the advisor ensures that you understand what requirements you have to fulfill for degree and major requirements and how the courses you plan on taking abroad might fulfill these requirements. IAP maintains a historical list of some of the course equivalencies available on study abroad programs. This list is individual to the program and can be found on each program page on the IAP website. These equivalencies are very useful for planning ahead.
If a course equivalency is not available it can be helpful to your advisor to have course descriptions from your program. If you can provide these, be sure to bring them along to your meeting. If this information is not available, decisions may have to wait until you return. Both you and your advisor will go over your outstanding requirements to be sure that you understand them. The staff at IAP will work with you before, during, and after your program to submit course equivalency requests for all of your study abroad courses. Final decisions about course equivalencies are made by the department at UW-Madison that offers the on-campus course equivalent.
WILL MY CREDITS EARNED IN MY STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM TRANSFER?
Students are probably most concerned about this issue. However, this question really includes two parts: whether credits earned abroad will transfer, and how they will transfer. Virtually all credits earned in study abroad programs taken through an accredited university will transfer to Madison for degree credit if they are liberal arts courses. If you are not certain about the courses, you should be sure to check with your academic advisor and with the Office of Admissions (for non-IAP approved programs). However, many students do not give any thought to how what they do abroad can enrich their academic lives. They get too focused on the question of credits, without thinking about whether it makes sense to take the courses they’re considering taking in the first place. Likewise, students often make the assumption that they can meet certain requirements with courses taken abroad, and this might not be realistic. To make the most of your study abroad experience, it’s important to think strategically about how a study abroad program fits into your overall academic plan.
The various General Education, breadth, and major requirements will be more difficult or less difficult to earn abroad, depending on the specificity of the requirement. So for example, it helps to know that it is very difficult for a course from a study abroad program to count as an ethnic studies course. On the other hand, the literature requirement can be met relatively easily with courses taken abroad. Courses that are core requirements for a major, e.g., International Studies 301 or Psychology 225, are unlikely to be earned abroad because the contents of such courses are so narrowly tailored to the requirements of the program on this campus. Thus, it is a very good idea to discuss these issues with your academic advisor, since they are likely to be familiar with which requirements can and cannot be earned abroad.
In political science, this also means that it makes a lot of sense to try to select programs and courses that complement your interests and career goals for the major. Are you interested in enhancing your language skills? Then select a program that focuses on offering coursework that requires you to take courses in that country’s language. If you are interested in a specific country or region’s history, political system, or relations with other countries, then take courses that examine those subjects. Also, consider coursework that will expose you to topics or perspectives for which the country or region is especially known. For example, it makes sense to study renaissance art while in Italy, or take a course on the European Union while abroad in Europe.
HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHAT COURSE EQUIVALENCIES I SHOULD REQUEST?
In political science, there are four courses used for general equivalencies for those who are participating in UW Madison Study Abroad programs:
- PoliSci 390 Study Abroad Topics: Topics in International Relations
- PoliSci 490 Study Abroad Topics: Topics in American Politics
- PoliSci 590 Study Abroad Topics: Topics in Political Philosophy
- PoliSci 690 Study Abroad Topics: Topics in Comparative Government
These courses were created because it is unlikely that courses abroad would be identical in content to those offered here at UW-Madison, even if the titles are similar. If nothing else, scholars abroad often have a different perspective on political events, the motivations of political actors and perceptions about the impact of actions. These courses allow students to take courses abroad that won’t prevent them from taking courses in related areas here. Finally, these courses count toward the 15 credits at the 300 level or above required in the major, and also count appropriately toward the requirement of a minimum of one course in each subfield in the major. At the same time, some courses abroad may fit into specific existing UW political science offerings, and could receive an equivalent for the appropriate course.
For students who are enrolled in non-UW programs, most of the political science courses taken abroad will transfer as Political Science upper-level electives. They will not count toward the 15 credits at the 300 level or above required in the major, since those credits must be earned in residence.
HOW DO MY GRADES TRANSFER?
If you participate in an IAP program, all courses taken are considered in residence and will appear on your transcript as if you had taken the courses here on campus. Grades will be included.
Although the grades for non-UW-approved programs will not transfer, you should be aware that if you are planning to attend graduate school or law school, the transcripts for all college course work will be required as part of the admissions process. So these schools will see your grades for the courses taken in these programs.
SHOULD I SAVE MY COURSE MATERIALS?
For IAP programs, you will need to submit a course syllabus with each course equivalency request. In general, save your course syllabi and any course descriptions and papers that you write for your courses taken abroad. Any questions about course equivalencies can be resolved quickly if you have these materials available. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get this information once you return. Without this information it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to determine course equivalencies. Keep these materials in a safe and accessible location.
WHERE SHOULD I GO ABROAD?
IAP is an excellent resource for exploring your options. The study abroad office offers a variety of services, including walk-in advising, appointments with advisors, open houses and info sessions, and the yearly Study Abroad Fair. Check out www.studyabroad.wisc.edu for more information and for a list of upcoming events!