Why should I study abroad?

Everyone has a different answer to this question, but UM students who have studied abroad are very enthusiastic about its advantages. Here are some of the most common:

  • Academic/intellectual growth: Students learn adaptive, problem solving skills as well as intercultural communication skills; they broaden their perspectives on geography and history; they are exposed to people who think and process information differently than they do.
  • Professional gain: Students interact with a wide range of professionals, gain a sense of drive and direction for their future career, and gain a broader sense of responsibility in a global academic environment.
  • Personal experience: Students can gain an appreciation about what we have here in the United States and they often develop more self-confidence, greater adaptability to a variety of situations and self-reliance. You will see the world from a different perspective.
  • Inter-cultural savvy: Students develop an increased interest in our increasingly globalized world as they become aware of cultural difference, encountering different priorities and ways of life, becoming more culturally sensitive and accepting.
  • Resume building: Many employers operate internationally and many areas in the United States have diverse populations. International experiences are an important advantage for prospective employers.

There are an increasingly number of U.S. colleges and universities that are requiring a study abroad experience prior to graduation.

Can I afford to study abroad?

Yes, you can! These are some of the most affordable academic experiences you can have in a foreign country. Out-of-state students pay the same as in-state students and in almost all cases your financial aid (including loans, grants, and scholarships) can be applied to these study abroad programs just as if you were on campus. For financial aid purposes, they are considered regular University of Montana courses. Compare the total costs of living on-campus, textbooks, and regular tuition with the total program cost of our programs (which includes tuition, accommodations, in-country transportation, group activities like sea-kayaking, and some meals).

Students can use their Federal Pell Grant Program financial aid toward their summer college courses. Students who take advantage of this federal aid for their summer courses can complete their college degree programs more quickly, which can save additional money in tuition and room and board costs. To be eligible for using this federal aid for their summer courses, students must have completed 24 credit hours toward their degree programs during the prior fall and spring semesters and have received passing grades, and they must enroll in at least 6 hours of courses during the summer.

The W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation offers Franke Sustainability Fellowships to support study abroad experiences. 

Who can participate in study abroad?

Our programs are designed for students who have already studied at least one year at a university. They are academically quite challenging and require good study skills and writing skills for success. Students should have a GPA of at least 2.5, as well as good academic standing, strong letters of recommendation, and a well-articulated application essay. We seek students who demonstrate maturity, stability, adaptability, self-discipline, and strong academic motivation. We encourage students from all majors to apply, as we take an interdisciplinary perspective to examine global issues in the conservation of unique wildlife, natural systems, and cultural places.

When should I study abroad?

For most students, their junior year is ideal. At this stage, your study skills are sufficiently advanced to allow you to make the most of this exciting, demanding educational experience. You have chosen your major and can make these inter-disciplinary programs relevant to your professional and personal development goals. Graduate students are also welcome to participate, with separate expectations and grading standards.

Can student athletes study abroad?

Yes. We have had several student athletes on our program. However, you will need to discuss your participation with your coach and the athletic academics advisor.

Will I get credit for studying abroad?

Yes. These are regular upper-division University of Montana courses and your grades will appear on a UM transcript. Transferring these credits to another university is almost always a straightforward process. Credits taken abroad might be applied to your major, minor, elective, or general education requirements. Talk to your academic advisor to identify specific courses that could be counted as equivalents to these study abroad programs.

How will my work be assessed during these courses?

Every course is different, but many of our programs use a module approach of numerous short essay answers to the complex ecological, environmental, and social issues related to sustainability. In 250 words, you will be asked to integrate your learning from field experiences, lectures, readings, discussions, guest speakers, current media, informal conversations and your own insights. The module approach is a way of learning that is far removed from the taking and repeating of lecture notes and will be novel and challenging for many students. You are an active participant in your learning, in that you must always be listening and looking, taking good notes, asking good questions, and generally taking advantage of all of the resources and opportunities you encounter. You can’t get all that staying in a classroom at your home university!

What types of living accommodations are available?

The accommodations range from stylish youth-oriented hotels to clean and safe youth hostels full of local color, to homestays with families, to outback ranches, to tropical beach resorts, to live-aboard catamarans, and are dependent on the program that you choose. Students share rooms only with other students on this program, of the same gender.

Can I fly to my study abroad destination with other students?

Our programs begin in-country but we offer an optional group flight which you are welcome to purchase. Because our students fly from all over the U.S. (many go home for a couple of days before the hop over the Pacific), the optional group flights typically depart from Los Angeles. You will recognize other students at the airport and might have met them at the orientation. We recommend allowing a minimum of three hours between your domestic flight and your international flight. 

Do students ever participate in multiple study abroad programs?

Yes. Over the course of their time as an undergraduate it is quite common for students to go on multiple study abroad programs. They are a fabulous way to broaden your education, develop a globalized perspective, and experience new and exciting places and people. Past students have gone on to another short-term study abroad program, spent a semester abroad, and even graduated from a university in Australia or New Zealand!

Will these study abroad courses delay my graduation?

We offer these programs during the winter and summer semesters to minimize the impact on your course of study. Indeed, many students get ahead with the credits they earn while abroad! The clear majority of students who study abroad still graduate in four years or less.

Are there students who really should go abroad and are there some who shouldn't?

While some might argue that every student should study abroad, we realize that that is not really the case. Some find it impossible due to their schedules (e.g. students with multiple majors) and others who have fragile physical or mental situations. Also, students on disciplinary and/or academic probation are not permitted to study abroad.

Will I be so busy with schoolwork that I won’t get time to see the country I’m in?

These are intense, academically rigorous programs with a lot of reading, exercises and written assignments. That said, they are all designed to help you get the most from your time abroad. After our initial period of orientation with lectures from in-country professors, we spend most of our time on-the-road. Most students return home with hundreds of photos from the places they’ve visited and the people they have met. We do have some free time built into the program, but also encourage students to allow a few days after the program is over to explore on their own (or just relax on the beaches!)

Where can I find out if it's safe to travel abroad?

The U.S. State Department monitors conditions in all countries and provides a wealth of information and guidance: http://travel.state.gov/travel

Are my study abroad dollars going to support the destinations we'll visit?

Yes, we stay at smaller hotels and hostels, eat at locally-owned restaurants, and employ field guides who grew up in the countries we visit. This is a cornerstone of our underlying sustainability and geotourism ethic.