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Advising Students Interested in Studying Abroad

At UWL, we are very fortunate that many of our faculty/staff have their own international experiences to draw from because many of the faculty/staff are either from a different country, studied abroad in the past, or participated in research or post-graduate opportunities abroad. Because of that, we feel that UW-L offers a plethora of resources that students and the community at-large can benefit from.

As someone who has a lot of direct contact with students, a UW-L faculty/staff member may be the first person that a student will get in touch with in regards to studying abroad or other international opportunities.  We find that in order to better serve the students which we work with, we need to build an open communication line with the faculty/staff who interact with students on a more frequent basis. As the first line of contact for many our students, here are some ways that you can help students with regards to studying abroad.

Academic Advisors

If you have a student who meets with you, wanting to know more about studying abroad, here are some ways you can help them better plan for their study abroad experience.
  • Get a head start! Always encourage them to start the research process early.
  • Map out their Academic Program at UW-L. If students already know that they want to study abroad before they graduate, we encourage them to work with their Academic Advisor to map out their academic track/program at UWL, and include studying abroad within their track/program. Once students have a better understanding of their academic program requirements, they will have a better sense of when they could possibly study abroad, and also know what classes they need to target for their time abroad.
  • Research, research, research! Students have to understand that studying abroad is a process that requires time, patience, commitment, and research. As easy as it may be to tell a student exactly what she/he may want to hear, students have to be willing to put in the time and energy to research programs and commit to the process on their own.

Understanding Study Abroad Programs at UWL

When it comes to study abroad programs, we believe it is important for faculty/staff to also be aware of the different types of programs offered through UW-L. This not only helps students, but also gives staff a better understanding of the programs that UW-L utilizes in the event that faculty/staff may be interested in future professional development or faculty-led program opportunities.

Exchange Programs, Direct Enroll Programs, and Provider Programs...Oh, my!

At UW-L, we offer a variety of study abroad locations and options for students through two main avenues: Exchange/Direct Enroll Programs and Provider Programs. The descriptions below are meant to help give you a better idea of the programs.

Exchange Programs are programs in which UW-La Crosse has an agreement with a specific university abroad. These programs are based on a reciprocal exchange which allows UW-L to send students to these universities, and allows these universities to send students to La Crosse. Exchange programs tend to be more affordable because we attempt to keep tuition as close to UWL tuition as possible. 

Direct-Enroll Programs are similar to exchange programs due to the fact that we have an agreement with a specific university overseas. Because there is not a reciprocal balance between the exchange of students to/from La Crosse, tuition for direct enroll programs is not as comparable as tuition for an exchange program. As tuition costs vary from one institution to the next, students should note that overall costs for direct-enroll programs will be significantly more than a regular semester at La Crosse. Below you can check our current exchange and direct enroll programs:

  Provider Programs are third party organizations or affiliates who have their own partnerships overseas; however, through UWL's affiliation with the provider program, students can utilize these programs as another option for studying abroad. Program costs for provider programs tend to be more expensive; however, some provider programs may offer more services (cell phone rental program, included excursions, and/or airport meet and greet program) that may not be included in UW-L's direct exchange or direct enroll programs. As students research programs, it is important for students to be aware of their own needs, and select a program that fits their needs.

International Research or Internships

More students are actively looking for International Research or Internship opportunities abroad. Though not all degree programs at UWL require that students participate in undergraduate research or internship opportunities, the demand for such programs is on the rise. Some students have chosen to utilize the exchange partners and study abroad programs in order to participate in research or internships abroad. However, some departments have specific research or internship programs in place for students in the respective academic major.

If students are required to participate in research or internship experiences as part of their academic program requirements, we would highly recommend that students meet with the faculty/staff in their specific content areas to discuss the appropriateness of an international experience as it relates to their research/internship goals. It is important for students to be aware that not all research or internships opportunities need to be done internationally as there are highly valuable research and internship opportunities available domestically as well.

Students should work with the following areas, either solely or in combination, if they plan on conducting International research, or partaking in an international internship experience:

  • Their Academic Advisor, or an appropriate Advisor within their Academic Department
  • The Office of Undergraduate Research (Research; UG Research Grants),
  • Career Services (Internships)
  • International Education & Engagement  (Study Abroad)

Selecting Courses for Term Abroad

In order for students to match up potential courses for their term abroad, it is imperative that students work with their Academic Advisor to map out the rest of their academic program at UWL, so they understand the sequencing of their courses and know what courses they should target for their term abroad. Students should be selecting courses that match their needs for their expected term abroad. By not targeting courses that they need, students could potentially set themselves off track for graduation.

All courses taken and completed abroad will be transferred back to UWL; even failed courses. Unless otherwise noted, most coursework abroad will transfer back with a letter grade, and the credits will be converted to the U.S. credit system. Students should, when looking for courses overseas, generate a list of preferred courses and alternate courses. Students should also understand that the list of courses is not set in stone, and that most programs require students to enroll or register for courses AFTER their arrival in the host country. Very few overseas programs allow students to register for courses prior to their arrival.

As students are researching study abroad programs and partner universities, they may not be able to locate course listings for their intended semester abroad, so it is recommended that students take a look at what was offered the previous semester/term, to get a general idea of what classes may be available for them. Rule of thumb is if the particular university abroad has the same degree/academic program, then students should be able to find courses that will come back to fulfill requirements within that particular area. Similar to courses at UWL, students should be mindful of possible restrictions set by the host institution; i.e., pre-requisites, language requirements, courses restricted to upper level students, etc.

Also, if students are not able to find a particular program/academic area with the partner institution, students should look for similar programs to see if they can find courses. For example, if they are not able to find courses specific to "Exercise & Sports Science", but they should search for similar programs such as "Athletic Training," "Sports Management," or "Recreation Management."   Or, if students are looking for Psychology or Sociology courses, they may need to take a look at courses listed under "Humanities" or "Social Sciences" faculties at the partner institution.

Students should be conferring their course selections with their Academic Advisor to ensure that they are selecting courses that will keep them on-track for graduation, and also, to ensure that they are adhering to any guidelines or restrictions that the academic department or program may have (i.e., courses that are only offered at UWL, science courses that need to have lab experience coupled with the course, being enrolled in online course for internships, etc.).

Once students have applied and been conditionally accepted into their study abroad programs, they will need to complete an "Academic Plan" for their study abroad program. Students will need to get their list of courses approved by the Chair of the Academic Department. In some cases, the Academic Departments may have other designated faculty/staff serve as the approving body for courses being taken abroad. Students should check with the specific departments to see whom, within each Academic Department, they should be seeking approval from. For most students, this form should be completed and submitted to our office prior to the student's departure; however, in some cases, students may not be able to complete this until after their program start date or their return to the U.S.; i.e., students going to universities who may not have a course listings available prior to departure, or language students who need to take a language placement exam upon arrival before they can select courses.

More Information

If you, or your students would like to learn more about study abroad programs, please do not hesitate to send them to our office. Every semester, we have International Education Ambassadors available to provide general study abroad information. We also have many study abroad related events such as the study abroad fair and information sessions available to help students get started. Check with IEE for event listings or updates.