Students' Role in Planning for Academics Abroad

You have the most important role in planning for your study abroad experience! Keep these things in mind throughout the entire process. 

Academic Policies

  • You will receive academic credit for all coursework taken abroad on official Penn State Education Abroad programs.
  • Please note that you will not receive Penn State credit for sport or physical activity courses (e.g. sailing, bowling, yoga) taken abroad unless the sport activity course is taught by a Penn State professor on a faculty-led program.
  • You must receive an A-F letter grade.  If a different grade scale is used by the host institution, Penn State will convert the grade to A-F scale before posting the grade to your transcript.  You may not take classes on a Pass/Fail or audit basis.
  • You must maintain the minimum credit enrollment required by both Penn State and the institution abroad, whichever is higher.
  • You must consult with your academic department to ensure you will receive credit for internships taken abroad.
  • If you are enrolling in courses at an international host institution, please note that you may not register for courses until you are abroad (in most cases).
  • Students planning on a Leave of Absence (LOA) prior to their semester of international travel are still eligible to study abroad. However, your return of LOA must also be approved for that term. Students are responsible for maintaining their access accounts and checking their email for Education Abroad requirements during their LOA.
  • If you will be on probation through the Office of Student Conduct during the time that you plan to study abroad, be advised that you may be required to attend a meeting with Education Abroad and Student Conduct prior to an admission decision being reached or prior to departing for the study abroad program.

Before Going Abroad…

  1. Meet with an academic adviser about your study abroad plans. The earlier the better! They will help you review your degree audit and determine what types of courses to take abroad. Your academic adviser can tell you whether they will fulfill major/minor requirements, general education requirements, language requirements, etc.
  2. Schedule an appointment with an Education Abroad adviser to determine which programs will meet your academic needs. We recommend meeting with an EA Adviser at least 1 year prior to your planned semester abroad.
  3. Make a list of courses that will meet your needs based on your discussions with your academic and EA advisers. Be sure to have backup course options listed.
  4. We recommend you plan to take a mix of major, minor, general education, and elective requirements while abroad. A mix will allow you more flexibility in programs and courses you can take abroad. 

While Abroad…

  • Enroll as a full-time student according to host institution’s policies and Penn State’s policies.
  • Complete the course equivalency process when your schedule is finalized to make sure you receive your grades on time.
  • Resolve academic issues, i.e. grade disputes, while abroad.
  • Communicate with professors or on-site support staff regarding any course-related problems.
  • Keep in touch with education abroad advisers. We work closely with all international partners and can be a valuable resource to you.

Back at Penn State…

  • Wait to receive your grades. This can sometimes take several months! If you haven’t completed the course equivalency process, please do so  immediately. You cannot receive your grades without going through the course equivalency process. You cannot graduate with an “NG” or “No Grade” on your transcript.
  • Contact with questions about equivalency.
  • Submit petition for course substitution if a course was expected to meet degree requirements, but it does not. This process must be completed within your college or academic department.

Researching Courses to Take Abroad

As far as identifying courses to complete on the program, it is important to know that all courses you take on the Penn State study abroad program will be assigned Penn State credits and grades.  You will want to review all of the courses available, lists of which are typically accessible from the Education Abroad program page.  You can also look at the historical course equivalency list available on the program brochure page as a reference, but this only shows the courses Penn State students have recently taken on the program, so the list is quite limited. 
Here is the basic breakdown of how you might meet degree requirements:

  1. Any miscellaneous courses will count as elective courses.  If you only need elective courses, you have the luxury to choose any courses available on the program that look interesting to you and that fulfill your personal and academic goals.
  2. General education requirements are usually also easy to fulfill since there are many courses at Penn State that can fulfill each general education requirement. Your academic adviser just needs to see that the course can fit into that particular general education category. 
  3. If you are looking to fulfill specific graduation requirements, you will need to do some more research on the specific course offerings.  You will need to consult with your academic adviser to verify that the international course will be a match for a requirement in your major.  

Discussing Courses with your Academic Adviser

How courses can meet specific requirements varies by College, so it is important to work closely with your academic adviser on finding courses that meet degree requirements.  

  • As you review the course options for those courses that you hope will fulfill general education or major degree requirements, print off the course description or tentative syllabus from the study abroad program website.  
  • EA recommends that you take information on twice as many courses as you plan to take abroad to your academic adviser for review. This will give you some pre-approved alternate courses for when it comes time to register for classes abroad.
  • Be sure to discuss which courses to take prior to and upon return from study abroad as well.