Skip to main content
Michigan State University

this site all msu sites

Study Abroad FAQ

How should I prepare for study abroad?

Those of you planning to study abroad should consider a few tips before leaving campus. If you do your homework before you set off on this journey, you'll likely maximize the experience—and minimize visits to this office when you return.  Consider the following:    

  1. Orientation Sessions:  Attend all orientation sessions (yes, all of them) for your specific program.  Attendance is usually required, for good reason. The MSU faculty member and the Office of Study Abroad (OSA) in charge of your specific study-abroad program will explain all the critical details that are likely to make a difference between success and failure—or joy and dismay. 
     
  2. Financial Aid:  Be sure you understand how your enrollment in study-abroad courses in the summer might affect your financial-aid package for the following academic year. Don't be caught unaware when you return to campus in the fall, only to discover that your summer study abroad was included in your financial-aid package for the next academic year, leaving you with less money for the fall and spring semesters than you had anticipated.  (Please Note: If you determine now that you can't afford to participate in a study-abroad program for this reason or others—with the exception of medical and family emergencies, you'll likely loose your deposit.) 
     
  3. Know the Rules: Understand that you're studying abroad, not at MSU. (No, don't say, "Well, duh." Remember, this is the office that receives more than 1,500 complaints from students each year—including study abroad.) If you're a guest student at another institution with a non-MSU instructor, the academic policies and regulations that govern that institution will differ from MSU's. For example, you might not be protected by a document similar to MSU's Academic Freedom Report or Code of Teaching Responsibility.  Don't be surprised if you leave your first class session without a course syllabus, which is required at MSU.  Try to find out—before you leave campus—as much as you can about the courses you're going to be taking at whatever university in whatever country:  grading scheme, assignments, exams, deadlines, etc.  Again, reduce the surprises by attending the orientation sessions for your program. Ask as many questions as you can think of to shrink the unknown. 
     
  4. More about grades:  Some students report the grading standards and expectations of host university instructors are uncomfortably rigorous. That may or may not be true; therefore, simply commit now to working hard this summer. At the same time, don't expect MSU instructors teaching MSU courses abroad to relax their standards, just because the venue is far from the banks of the Red Cedar. You're studying abroad; you're not on holiday.
     
  5. Transfer Credit:  If your study-abroad program doesn't offer MSU courses, don't leave town without visiting with your academic adviser to confirm in writing:  (a) the courses you're about to take at another university in another country will transfer to MSU, and (b) the courses will substitute for courses required in your major at MSU, if that's part of your plan.  Leave nothing to chance, especially if your study abroad program is sponsored by another university. 
     
  6. Cultural Differences:  Part of any study abroad experience is learning about another culture—the values, beliefs, behavior, customs, habits, etc., of the host country.  While the effects of the Global Village will keep you from feeling totally like a fish out of water, you'll nevertheless be immersed in a different culture, which will require you to understand and respect those differences. This includes classroom climate and expectations. Don't leave the safe harbor of the MSU campus without reviewing those differences with the OSA staff or your program director. (For those of you planning to study abroad before you graduate, the College of Arts and Letters offers AL 200—Cultural Difference and Study Abroad each fall semester.) 

Study abroad will likely change your perspective on life. Enjoy the experience. 

Questions? Contact the Ombudsperson