Study Abroad Guide

Structure of Study Abroad Services at IU

When it comes to study abroad, IU has several offices to serve its students.

The central office is IU Education Abroad, housed in the Ferguson International Center on Eagleson Drive. In addition, most academic units in Bloomington have their own international office.

So what's the difference?

  • IU Education Abroad: Offers a wide range of programs that serve all IU students and also oversees programs offered by academic units. On its Programs page here, click on Education Abroad to see programs managed by this office and choose Unit-Based to see programs managed by the ofifces noted below.
  • College of Arts and Sciences: The International Office administers exchange programs with its partner universities for students majoring in the College.
  • O'Neill School and Public Health: Faculty-led summer programs are open to any IUB student.
  • Hutton Honors College: Short-term faculty-led programs are open to students who meet its eligibility criteria.
  • OVPDEI Overseas Study & Scholarships: Enables students in specific scholarship programs to study abroad.

Program Types

A short-term – from one to six weeks – overseas program for a group of IU students led by an IU professor. Usually for credit. The highly-organized, group structure can be particularly appealing for first-time travelers.

A reciprocal arrangement with a specific partner university. Students can go (or come to IU) for a semester or academic year, paying tuition to their home institution and getting academic credit. Students on exchanges make their own arrangements to travel, live, and study abroad at the partner university. A really immersive experience, attending classes with local students, for an independent student. Foreign language skills are desirable but often not necessary for classes taught in English.

A program managed directly by IU, where IU administers the program onsite and organizes program housing and activities. Semester programs are often language-focused, such as the IU program in Aix-en-Provence in France.

A non-profit organization such as CIEE or IES provides a summer or semester program overseas. These organizations make extensive arrangements and offer great support for students, consequently these programs tend to cost more than a typical semester in Bloomington would. Students often attend classes with other Americans.

How to choose a program

A university education is an opportunity to become the person who we want to be. Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to broaden your perspective, to build valuable skills, and to have life-changing developmental experiences. A study abroad program can motivate you to make the most of your undergraduate degree. It provides a great way to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve been building in your coursework. If you feel compelled by the opportunity to travel abroad and are inspired by what that would mean for you as a person – put that into words as part of the strategy you have for your education, your career, and your life.

Consider a few dimensions of the location where you will study abroad.  Would you like to be in an immersed in a country where the locals speak another language, or in an English-speaking country?  A big city, a college town, or something in-between?  A big city has a lot of opportunities, but paradoxically a smaller town can sometimes allow for greater immersion.  What about the university or location where you will take classes?  A big school, similar to IU, can offer a remarkable breadth of topics of and courses.  But a smaller school or program might provide an intimate and welcoming experience for study abroad students.

Ask yourself what you hope to achieve, and how you hope to grow as a person, by studying abroad.  Do you want challenge yourself to navigate a new environment or to use a different language?  Do you want to have impactful academic experiences that aren’t possible here at IU?  Do you want to gain career-relevant experience, and learn to articulate your abilities through powerful anecdotes?  These are all elements of studying abroad, but identifying which goals are most important to you will help you to select a program that best meets them. 

Study abroad programs typically follow one of these timelines: a full semester, an academic year abroad, or a Summer program.

A full semester abroad makes for a robust international experience. It tends to fit well into a 4-year degree plan, if the student makes efficient progress through their degree requirements in the other semesters.

An academic year abroad (two consecutive semesters) is a great option for a student who wants to have an even bigger international experience in their undergraduate degree. A smaller subset of programs allow students to spend a full academic year abroad. Consider this as you select a program!

Summer study abroad programs vary considerably in their duration. Some programs are a short trip of 2 or 3 weeks abroad, guided by an IU faculty member. Other summer programs are 6 weeks or 8 weeks in duration. Nonetheless—Summer programs don’t take away from the amount of time or courses you have in your full semesters on the IU campus. This can work well for students who have little leeway in their degree in terms of the specific courses they must take.

Think about what types of students and instructors you would like to experience your coursework with abroad.  In some programs, you may be in classes with other American students.  In other programs, like exchanges or direct enrollment, you might be immersed among local students at a destination university, or among international students from all over the world.  Similarly, your instructors might hail from IU or from American universities, or from a university abroad.  This important factor is often overlooked when students consider and compare programs!

You can also consider similar questions when it comes to housing.  Some programs might offer dormitory housing—that could be an opportunity to live around other international students from around the world.  Or you may be on your own in an apartment. Others might offer homestays, a perfect opportunity for immersion in the local community.


Study Abroad Mythbusters

Credit: IU Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Overseas Studies & Scholarship Program
Some of your concerns addressed here!

The process can feel daunting, to be sure, however there are many resources on and off campus to help you. The earlier you start in deciding what kind of program will fit your interests best, the more time you will have to complete applications for programs and scholarships. So plan on using the resources that are available! IU staff are here to help, including those in the College International office.

Not necesarily! There are many programs that do not require proficiency in a foreign languague. If you travel with an IU faculty member on a study tour, the course will be conducted in English. Many exchange partner universities offer English-taught courses and third-party programs often have a mix of options available.

That said, having foreign language skills is a huge asset, so look ahead to your study abroad experience as a time to hone your skills, at whatever level you are starting.

Some study abroad programs are expensive, but not all of them are. Check out short-term study tours or exchange programs. Exchanges allow you spend a semester or year abroad paying your IU tuition!

And for IU programs, you can use most or all of your existing financial aid.

There are many scholarships available for study abroad. At IU, you will want to review the funding opportunities outlined on the College International page. External awards are also available, through the Fund for Education Abroad and also through the U.S. Government, such as the Gilman Scholarship for Pell grant recipients.

Students in any discipline may study abroad during their time at IU. But, yes, it does involve finding the right program and choosing the right timing.

Your major may require that some courses have to be taken in Bloomington, or there may be a special sequencing that is hard to interrupt. Taking your GenEds and electives while overseas is a great option. Many programs, like exchanges, enable you to take courses in your major. Or a summer program might be better for you.

Talk to your academic advisor early on about your interest in study abroad. The earlier you can plan on which courses you will take abroad the easier it will be.

Well, yeah, that's true. You can't be in two places at once. But within the usual eight semesters of an undergraduate degree, taking one of those to study abroad still gives you lots of time in Bloomington!

Spending several month overseas -- really living in a new community, not just visiting -- is an opportunity that is often not available later in life, so think seriously about seizing this occasion as a student to do it.

Au contraire!

Experience with living overseas and the skills gained during that time are incredibly valuable to employers and graduate school admission offices. There are numerous skills that you will develop -- see the section of this guide on career preparation. The key is learning how to talk about your experiences in a way that shows employers what you have gained from them. A Walter Center career coach can help with that.

Your time overseas may also reveal new interests to you that help you further define what is important to you in a career. A study abroad program is often a period of self-discovery.


Generally not. There are many programs that are credit-bearing, so you will receive IU credit that contributes toward your degree proegress. This is a good topic to address with your academic advisor.


Travel documents and insurance

A passport is an official document provided by the government to a citizen of that country. The U.S. requires all of its citizens, including dual citizens, to leave and enter the country on a U.S. passport. Documents verifying citizenship, such as a birth certificate, are required at the time of application. Processing time is often several months. Passports for individuals over 16 years old cost $130 and are good for ten years.

A visa is a permission slip provided a country’s government allowing you to seek to enter that country. Visa types can vary based on your purpose for travel (student, tourist, etc.) and the expected duration of your stay. You get one before you travel by contacting an embassy or consulate of that country.

The United States has visa waiver agreements with many countries that allow U.S. citizens to visit as tourists for 90 days or less without getting a visa. You just get on a plane and go. However, when you go to those countries as a student enrolled at one of their universities, your status is different and often you must get a visa. You may also need to register with a local immigration office once you are there.

To get a visa, search for guidance on the website of the host country's embassy or consulate in the United States. You will provide your passport – either in person or via mail – to the embassy or consulate along with paperwork verifying your enrollment at the host university. Your passport will be returned to you with the visa affixed to one of its pages, so you cannot get on a plane until your passport is back in your hands.


IU requires students on study abroad programs to have special health insurance that covers practices that many U.S. policies do not cover, such as medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. IU uses the company GeoBlue to provide this insurance, which supplements your regular health insurance. GeoBlue also provides services for overseas travelers, such as assistance locating English-speaking doctors. Once confirmed for a program, students will be automatically enrolled and their bursar accounts will be charged the premium of approximately $38 per month abroad.

This an optional insurance that students may wish to purchase, especially for short-term programs. It insures you against financial loss if your trip is disrupted. For instance, if you break your ankle the day before your departure and you have to cancel your participation, travel insurance will help cover the costs of the lost airline ticket and lodging.


When you’re looking at flights, remember these guidelines:

  • Book one round-trip ticket all the way to your host country, rather than piecing together multiple tickets. That way, if there are any delays, it is the airline's responsibility to get you (and your luggage) on a connecting flight.
  • Make sure you have enough time for connections (2 hours+), especially if it requires moving between a domestic terminal and an international terminal and you are going through immigration/customs. The large transit airports – Chicago, JFK New York, London, Frankfurt – are enormous and complex, so don’t stress yourself out by cutting it close.
  • For international flights, you are supposed to arrive at the departing airport in the U.S. 2-3 hours before the scheduled departure time, even if the first leg of the trip is a domestic flight. (If you’re flying out of Indianapolis, this can probably be closer to two hours; if it’s Chicago, three is better.)
  • Look for student fares.
  • Consider coordinating with your classmates so you don’t have to fly alone.

Think ahead to what you will do about housing while you study abroad. Spring semester is a popular time to go abroad; does this mean you will need to arrange to sublet your space in an apartment? Or if you go abroad in the fall, what are your housing options when you return? There is not a one-size-fits-all answer but do consider this as you make your plans.

If you secure on-campus housing through RPS and cancel your contract halfway through the academic year in order to study abroad, RPS will not charge you a cancellation fee once you produce documentation of your program.