Why Study Abroad

Travel may broaden your mind by exposing you to new places and people; however, to get academic credit you must do more than travel.

If you enjoy traveling to new places, or going on a tour with friends, you may wish to think about other options that would be more consistent with your goals.

You might consider visiting a country as part of a guided tour, or even independently, and you can go backpacking with friends or relatives.

All of these options may be great learning experiences, without the added rigors of a study abroad program.

UCF Study Abroad

Factors in Selecting a Program

Before you begin the Study Abroad process, it is essential that you take a moment to reflect.

First, consider the reasons you want to study abroad:

  • What are your interests, goals, and expectations?
  • Will studying abroad enhance your academic, professional, or personal goals? How?

Second, think about the requirements of studying abroad:

  • Are you in good standing with the university academically, financially, and with the Office of Student Conduct?
  • Do you have access to the requisite financial resources?
  • Will studying abroad affect your academic plan?

Third, reflect upon your learning preferences:

  • Do you require quiet and/or uninterrupted study time?
  • Do you learn best through practice?
  • Do you prefer independent research?
  • Are you very dependent on access to your instructor?
  • Do stressful or unexpected situations impact your ability to learn?

Fourth, honestly describe yourself.

The aspects of your self-identity that you choose to accentuate can play an important role in choosing a study abroad program:

  • What ethnic, racial, temperamental, religious, or gender aspects of your identity would you highlight? 
    For example, do you consider yourself a young, heterosexual female; a quiet, African American male; a homosexual, Catholic Latino?

It is not realistic to expect that a group of your peers or an institution abroad will adapt to your needs and learning preferences. If you feel that you can only learn within a very specific environment, you should be especially careful in selecting your program. You may want to look into non-credit bearing options. Conversely, if you want a challenge, start developing your adaptation skills. These skills can pay handsomely in your future careers and life.

Before You Start

The following are factors to consider when making your decision about a particular program:

 

Graduation Requirements

UCF’s summer programs serve to fulfill the summer enrollment requirement. Some minors, such as International Engineering and World Comparative Studies require a study abroad experience.

Experiential Learning

Some study abroad experiences involve internships, service learning, field experiences or research opportunities abroad. The skills developed will likely help prepare you for your career. You must coordinate with your academic department if you wish to use an experiential program to fulfill a requirement for your major.

Accommodations

Some programs incorporate home stays and others use dormitories or hotels. While home stays provide more opportunities to interact with people from the local culture, you may prefer a higher degree of independence. The types of accommodation available for each program are listed on the program webpage.

Cost

Program costs can vary significantly. Check the individual program webpage for fee details. Remember that program fees do not normally include tuition fees or travel costs. Develop a budget that includes program fees, tuition/academic fees, costs of travel, and the estimated costs of additional activities that you may want to pursue while in country. You may use federal financial aid and scholarships for credit bearing programs. You are also eligible to apply for Study Abroad administered scholarships, as well as many prestigious scholarships.

Program Length

UCF study abroad programs vary in length from one week to two semesters. Make sure the program you choose will be compatible with your academic plan of study. Participation in an unplanned or incompatible program can delay your date of graduation.

Language of Instruction

Not all programs are delivered in English. Check the level of proficiency necessary to participate in a program to ensure that you will be able to understand and take advantage of the information delivered in the courses taught abroad.

Advising

You are encouraged to discuss your options with your academic advisor to ensure that your academic needs will be met. Depending on how advising is structured in your academic program it may be advisable to speak to several advisors (e.g. college, department, athletics, or financial assistance). The courses offered may apply to your major, minor or count as elective credits in a language or other subject. If you are interested in learning a language, your current level of proficiency (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced, conversational) may be a factor.

Credit

Programs offered by Study Abroad are usually for academic credit; however, under specific circumstances, the option may exist to enroll in a zero credit course. Regardless of the credit options available, students must be registered in coursework associated with the program. Further, students should be aware that zero credit courses may still carry fees.

Application Process

After you have selected a study abroad program click the ‘Apply Now’ button on the program page to begin the application process. After you have submitted your application, the Program Leader associated with the program will contact you to schedule an interview. After this interview the Program Leader will decide to approve, deny or waitlist your application. If approved, you will be sent an email in which you will be asked to “commit” to your program selection. After you have “committed”, you will be considered a participant in the program and liable for all fees associated with your program.

Program costs will be posted to your UCF account according to the schedule on the programs’ webpage. There is a non-refundable deposit built into the initial charge; for Semester Programs this deposit is $350 and for Short-term Programs it is $150. If you do not “commit”, your application will become inactive and no fees will be posted. Approved students are able to “commit” based on available space. Be advised that programs sometimes reach capacity before the “commitment” deadline.

OVERALL PROCESS

Overall Process

SHORT TERM PROGRAM TIME LINE

Short Term Process

EXCHANGE TERM PROGRAM TIME LINE

Exchange Term Process

Academic Policies and Procedures

UCF academic regulations and procedures apply to most of the academic activities of study abroad programs. Study abroad participants for short-term programs must be registered in one or more courses while abroad. The minimum course load required will be included in the informational materials for the specific program. Participants in a Reciprocal Student Exchange (RSE) must be registered full time (12 credit hours or more for undergraduates per semester, 9 credits or more for graduate students). UCF class and term overload policies also apply to study abroad programs.

Filing to graduate the semester before or the semester you plan to study abroad is not advisable and may result in ineligibility for your chosen program and/or financial aid. Consult with your advisors before making any decisions.

Credit seeking non-UCF students may be admitted to programs, contingent upon Study Abroad and faculty leader approval. Undergraduate auditors, senior citizens, as well as State of Florida and UCF personnel must follow the policies listed in the UCF undergraduate catalog for their specific situations. Registration waivers may be applied to tuition but not to any program fees. Graduate student registration is addressed in the UCF Graduate Catalog.

UCF Study Abroad courses are subject to the regular UCF academic deadlines and registration processes. Study Abroad courses are identified in the class schedule and registering for them requires a special permission number. You must fulfill all application and commitment requirements before getting the permission number to register.

RSE participants must register at UCF and at their host institution during the same semester. Courses selected at the institution abroad must be approved in advance to ensure that the UCF registration is consistent with the courses taken abroad. You are responsible for informing UCF of any changes in your registration at the host institution. You may not be able to get credit for courses that have not been previously approved. RSE participants must bring back course information, assignments, and copies of work produced, such as papers, exams and homework, transcript. This information may be required for the UCF faculty of record to be able to assign your grade.

Grades from study abroad programs are not always posted at the end of the semester spent abroad. Short-term program grades may be delayed days; RSE grades may be delayed for a month or two, while the information is received from the institution abroad. An “N” will show on your transcript until the grade has been posted by the UCF faculty of record. The late posting may create a issues with financial aid and scholarships. If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance and ask for advice regarding your particular situation.

All grades received while studying abroad in an exchange or short-term program become part of your UCF record. In addition, Study Abroad grades will be factored into your UCF grade point average.

While out of the country, you must keep abreast of the deadlines for the semester following your study abroad program.

 

Passports and Visas

A passport is an official document issued by a government to certify your nationality. In addition to being required by immigration officials, your passport will be your principal identification document while you are abroad. All international travelers need a valid passport and you will be required to provide Study Abroad with a scan of your passport before participating in a UCF program. To obtain or renew a passport, please visit the U.S. Department of State website. You can fill out the application and turn it in at any U.S. Post Office. UCF has a location that accepts passport applications and does not require an appointment (The Spot). If you already have a passport, make sure that it will not expire for at least 6 months beyond your return date, as this is a requirement of many countries. You are responsible for ensuring that your passport is valid for the necessary period of time to travel. You will not be refunded if you fail to obtain a valid passport. The normal processing time for a passport application or renewal is from 4 to 6 weeks, but it may take longer during busy travel seasons. There is an expedited process that takes about 2 weeks, but you will incur additional fees. You must also sign your passport before it is valid.

We further recommend that you prepare a passport replacement kit before you leave, containing the following documentation and support items.

  • Two passport photos (U.S. format in inches).
  • A clear color copy of the photo and signed signature page of your passport, indicating passport number, date, and place of issue.
  • Photocopy of your social security card.
  • An additional official photo I.D. (driver’s license, etc.).

Always report the loss of your passport to the U.S. consulate and the police, as well as to the Program Leader and Study Abroad. You’ll likely need to make an appointment with the nearest consulate passport office, visit with your kit and a police declaration of theft, and you can get another passport relatively easily. You should be prepared to pay a replacement fee.

In addition to your passport, many governments require a visa to enter the country. A visa is an official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region. Visa requirements vary from country to country and can be effected by your length of stay or the purpose of your visit. Many countries allow American tourists to visit without a visa, but some countries require Americans who are participating in specific type of study abroad programs to have a student visa. You will be provided with information on visa requirements for Americans as part of the specific program information if one is required. Be aware that visa requirements and costs may change with little notice. Traditionally, visa fees are not included in your program fees; please check each program page for specifics. Additionally, visa requirements differ based on citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen make sure that you include the appropriate citizenship information in your program application and contact Study Abroad staff about your status at studyabroad@ucf.edu so that we can better assist you with the visa process.

Non-UCF Students

Credit seeking non-UCF students may be admitted to programs, contingent upon Study Abroad and Program Leader approval. Undergraduate auditors, senior citizens, as well as State of Florida and UCF personnel must follow the policies listed in the UCF undergraduate catalog for their specific situations. Registration waivers may be applied to tuition but not to any program fees. Graduate student registration is addressed in the UCF Graduate Catalog. Non-UCF students interested in taking part in a UCF program should begin the conversation with their advisors at the home institution regarding the transfer of course work.

Students who are enrolled at a Florida public institution and are accepted into a UCF program will need to file an electronic “Transient Form” through Florida Virtual Campus (www.flvc.org). Paper-forms are not accepted by UCF.  Once this form is approved by the home institution it will be routed to the UCF Registrar’s Office where a UCF Personal Identification number (UCF ID) will be issued, a UCF account where charges will be placed will be created and a registration window will be provided. IAGS must be notified by the student immediately after the UCF ID is issued.

Students who are enrolled at a non-Florida public institution and are accepted into a UCF program will need to apply to UCF (at a charge) as a non-degree seeking, study abroad student.  IAGS can assist with this process. In both cases it is extremely important to communicate regularly with the UCF Office of International Studies.  UCF transcripts are not automatically sent to the home institution upon completion of the program and must be requested.

 

Program Cancellation and Withdrawal Policy

Withdrawal Prior to “commitment”

If you have applied to a program but have not “committed” you may withdraw your application at no charge.

After “commitment”

If you wish to withdraw from your selected program after you have “committed” you will be financially responsible for any and all funds committed on your behalf. This amount may be the entire program cost as purchases are made quickly after your “commitment” is received. When students “commit” their intent to participate in the program, they acknowledge having read and accept the Study Abroad Terms of Participation, Assumption of Risk Agreement and Release as well as any other documents that Study Abroad, the UCF program leaders or third parties require participating students to agree to. Students thereby also accept the associated financial commitments. When a student withdraws he or she will only receive funds that Study Abroad has been able to recover. Study Abroad makes every attempt to limit the financial loss to the student, the program and the university. However, if a student withdraws for reasons other than those deemed exceptional by the university, he/she may owe the entire cost of the program. After the program’s application period closes, Study Abroad begins paying program fees to vendors. If a student withdraws after the application period, any amount that may be refunded, if anything at all, by UCF to the student will be assessed and issued after the financial review of the program has concluded. This process may take several months after the program has ended.

All withdrawal requests must be submitted by e-mail to Study Abroad (studyabroad@ucf.edu). Study Abroad will not accept verbal notifications of withdrawals. Withdrawal requests cannot be made through the Program Leader or Instructor. The withdrawal process is complete only after you have received confirmation from Study Abroad that we received and approved your request. Study Abroad may not issue any refund if the program participant cancels his or her application after “commitment”, unless the circumstances of the cancellation are deemed by the University to be exceptional, including but not limited to severe illness, death, involuntary call to military service, or university administrative error.

Program Cancellations

Study Abroad will refund all fees paid to the university if UCF decides to cancel a program for safety and security reasons prior to its start. If a program has to be cancelled by UCF after it has started, refunds of fees paid will be prorated and may be limited by non-recoverable payments that have already been made to vendors. Refund of tuition fees will depend on how much academic credit the participant will be able to receive for work already completed or to be completed through alternative arrangements. Study Abroad will assist participants in arranging alternatives for completing planned academic credit.

 

In Country

Jet Lag

Long trips that cross time zones can disrupt your circadian rhythm, resulting in a temporary condition called “jet lag.” Some symptoms include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and an impaired ability to concentrate. Keep the effect of jet lag in mind when you are planning activities for your first few days in country, as your body may not react normally.

In Country Orientation

Most programs usually have an orientation, following your arrival in country, to discuss the local environment, as well as program rules and local norms. You are required to attend these orientations. In the case of a Semester Program, there may be a university-wide orientation for international students, or you may have a personal orientation conducted by the Host Institution’s Exchange Coordinator.

Course Registration Abroad

The process of registration for study abroad courses will vary. If you are taking part in a short- term program that includes a single (or multiple) course option, Study Abroad will work with you throughout the process. However, if the program abroad requires a placement exam or you are taking part in an RSE, you will need to learn the process of registration at your host institution. RSE students will also be required to work with an academic advisor in their college at UCF.

Reflections and Journaling

Regular reflections can provide an effective way to get the most out of an experience. Your program may have reflections incorporated as an activity. Otherwise, you can reflect on your experiences through journaling or by posting your experiences online. Online blogs have the added bonus of allowing you to share your experiences with others.

Culture Shock

Culture shock is disorientation caused by sudden exposure to cultural differences. Although most people experience culture shock, every experience and person is different; no one expects a student going to Paris to have the same type of culture shock as a student going to Cape Town. Prepare for its effects by being aware of the different emotions you may experience. The various aspects of culture shock can last for weeks or months depending on your ability to adapt. Even if you are a well-travelled individual, you may still have problems adjusting. There are numerous ways to combat your feelings of disorientation until they pass:

  • Learn as much as possible from local residents about their culture.
  • Keep in touch with other American students. If you are directly enrolled in a foreign university, find out their local hangout for American students. It can sometimes be helpful to meet with them and share experiences.
  • Keep yourself busy doing things you enjoy. When you have free time visit museums, go to movies, and tour local sites of interest.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends at home. Letters, phone calls, Skype calls, or email contact will make you feel less isolated.
  • Try to keep your long-range goals in mind. Experiencing a new culture will often involve some frustration and feelings of loneliness, but they don’t last forever.
  • Do not overdo any of the preceding suggestions or you risk never making the adjustments to your new environment which are requisite to your purpose for being overseas.

For most students, the symptoms of culture shock decline after the first few weeks, as they begin to understand their host culture better. However, if you find that the feelings of irritability and depression linger, you may wish to seek help from a doctor or counselor. Your program director or your international student office at your host university should be able to direct you to counseling or support organizations.

Local Customs

The topic of cultural differences and customs is a significant but somewhat elusive issue. On one hand, it is important to realize that there are some variances to consider. On the other hand, it is crucial to avoid making stereotypes. Furthermore, these differences are not written down and cataloged in any official document, so learning to adapt to these differences is often done through experience. However, there are some common areas where many students notice cultural differences, such as:

  • Politeness and Etiquette During Meals
  • Types of Humor
  • Physical Contact and Space
  • Appropriate Greetings
  • Concepts of Time and Promptness
  • Drinking and Drunkenness

Certain behavior can affront local custom and show ignorance or disrespect. In many countries for example, women traditionally cover certain parts of the body, such as the head, arms, and legs. In others, it is frowned upon for couples to hold hands or display other types of physical affection in public. Most countries have customs associated with religion and sacred places. In certain Islamic societies, non-Muslims may not enter sacred sites. In Thailand, Buddhist monks must carry out an elaborate purification ritual if a woman touches them or even sits beside them on a bus. Understanding local customs will help you feel a part of the new culture and avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Your body language can be extremely important, especially if you are not fluent in the local language. Saying hello and goodbye via a simple hand gesture, for example, is done quite differently from place to place. When to shake hands or kiss is signaled in different ways from culture to culture. How close to sit or stand when talking also varies greatly. These are just a few of the many simple habits for you to learn and then follow in order not to give unintended offense.

Gender

Gender and sexual orientation are significant factors in study abroad safety. In some cultures, gender roles and behavior are strictly defined. Become aware of the gender roles and behavioral expectation for the areas you will visit. Your behavior should be sensitive to the local norms, but do not feel pressured to do anything that you feel is inappropriate. If you feel harassed, contact your program leader or host institution’s exchange coordinator. Your director or coordinator can provide guidance and support for medical, psychological, and legal issues.

Be vigilant and use good judgment. As a traveler, you may be more visible and thus more likely to attract interest. Sexual assault is not only rape. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces you to “join” in unwanted sexual contact. It can happen in different situations, by a stranger in an isolated place, on a date, or in the home by someone you know. If you are assaulted, please remember that you are not alone and you may do the following:

  • Go to a safe place
  • Do not shower or change clothes
  • Get help from a trusted person
  • Inform your program leader or host institution’s exchange coordinator

Sexual Orientation

The way that sexual orientation is perceived varies greatly across the globe. No matter how you identify yourself it is important to become aware of the cultural norms, roles, behaviors, local laws and social climate associated with sexual orientation. In some cases, your host country may be more open about diverse sexualities than the USA, while in others engaging in sexual activities with someone of the same sex may be considered a criminal act. Furthermore, do not assume that behaviors that you associate with a particular sexual orientation necessarily apply. For example, in some cultures, you can only associate with people of your own gender in public. In other cultures, showing affection is expected; therefore, men holding hands on the street would not imply anything beyond friendship.

If you are concerned about sexual orientation and your study abroad experience contact your program leader or Study Abroad staff at studyabroad@ucf.edu.

Dating and Relationships

If you decide to date while participating in a study abroad program, be aware that the meaning of certain actions or behaviors changes with place. For example, accepting a drink or a kiss may be perceived as implying that something more is acceptable. Be cautious about giving out your e-mail, phone number, address, or even friending someone on Facebook because you may end up receiving unwanted contacts. Be aware that your accommodations may also have restrictions regarding visits by people who are not part of the program. It is important that you consider your behavior and inform yourself about how dating and relationships generally function in your host culture.

Dating for lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgendered (LBGT) participants may have additional implications. Inform yourself of specific laws pertaining to sexual behavior and sexual/gender orientation in your host country, including the following:

  • The legal status of same-sex sexual behavior in the host country
  • The age of consent for sexual behavior
  • Restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBT people
  • Antidiscrimination laws (these can be national laws or specific to local areas)
  • Sodomy laws

Race and Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity are key factors in the development of personal identity. Perceptions or treatment of your ethnicity have implications on your well-being. Race and ethnicity are subjects of importance in selecting and having a good study abroad experience. You should become familiar with the local discourse on race and ethnicity, the racial and ethnic make-up of your host country, and historical relationships. A well-structured experience may provide excellent opportunities for personal growth. For example, if you identify yourself as an African American, you may be able to discuss the implications of being a racial or ethnic minority in the U.S. Notwithstanding your ethnic or racial identification, you may have the chance to assess the local dynamics associated with race or ethnic relations and then compare those to your U.S. experience. Your race or ethnicity may also be a factor in the way that you relate to the local residents. You or they may feel more comfortable if you look like them or speak like them. However, these similarities in race and ethnicity may lead to some cultural expectations from your part or theirs, which may not be true for other members of the study abroad team. Be aware, if your study abroad is in a very homogeneous society, you may easily stand out, and locals may show increased interest or curiosity. It is important to go with the flow and try not to be offended. You may even enjoy your “celebrity” status. Do not hesitate to share your thoughts and concerns with others in your group or with your program leader and Study Abroad.

Accommodations

The options for your accommodations abroad will be detailed on the specific program webpage. Options may include host families, university residence halls, or a modestly priced hotel. Be realistic about your expectations. The information on the website will include a list of what is provided by the accommodations and what you are expected to bring or purchase. Participants in RSE programs may have to arrange individual accommodations with the assistance of the host institution’s exchange coordinator (information about this process will be provided to you by Study Abroad staff).

If you intend to arrive earlier or stay later than the program dates, you must arrange accommodations yourself and be prepared to cover those additional expenses. Arrangements for accommodations or logistics outside of the program dates are not the responsibility of Study Abroad, the Program Leader or the host program, institution, or family. You are expected to stay in the accommodation provided for the full length of the program. If circumstances require that you leave early, you must notify, in writing, the Program Leader, or on-site Program Leader and Study Abroad at least one week in advance of your departure; no refund will be given for early departures.

If you are dissatisfied with your accommodations, notify the Program Leader or host institution’s coordinator. If your lodging was arranged as part of your program, your situation will be evaluated and every attempt will be made to address and resolve any issue(s). If deemed appropriate, you may be reassigned during your program. However, you are only permitted to change your accommodations when it has been approved by the Program Leader(s). If you arranged your housing yourself, you will need to address your concerns with the housing administrator or owner.

Serious infractions or repeated offenses of the housing rules and regulations may lead to expulsion from the home, facility, or even from the program. If you are expelled from the housing but remain in the program, you will be responsible for locating and paying for your alternative housing. No refunds will be provided in those circumstances.

You are personally responsible for any and all damages you cause to the home, dormitory room, apartment, or classroom. If you shared your accommodations with other program participants, and we are unable to determine who is responsible for the damage, the cost will be divided equally among all occupants. You will be financially responsible for any outstanding bills associated with your accommodations, such as telephone or Internet usage charges. If you depart without having paid your outstanding bills, Study Abroad will request that your status with the university be changed to “not in good standing” until your financial obligations are met. “Homestays” provide a window into a different culture by immersing you in the local culture. The more time you are with a family, the greater opportunity you will have to experience day-to-day life in your host country. This experience requires a certain amount of flexibility and an interest on your part in interacting with the host family. You should expect cultural differences as well as differences in rules and regulations. It is imperative that the rules set by the family are followed. It may or may not be like living with your family, as family relationships and dynamics vary. When arranged by Study Abroad, homestay families are screened and trained by our local partners. If you choose a homestay accommodation, become aware of some of the cultural differences and prepare to have a period of adjustment. Host families are accustomed to hosting independent, adult students; however, just remember to be courteous and respectful. For example, please let them know ahead of time if you will not be home for dinner, intend to return late, or other schedule changes.

Returning Home

Returning to Campus Depending on the term and duration of your program, you may have to start making preparations for your return to UCF prior to leaving your host country. Some issues, such as your UCF housing and next term registration will need to be addressed in advance. Study Abroad cannot assist with the logistics of your return to campus, unless the issues are associated with your study abroad (for example, Study Abroad may be able to assist with course substitutions associated with your study abroad program). However, we cannot help you with arranging housing at UCF for your next semester. You should continue checking UCF email to ensure that you do not miss important deadlines. Before you depart the U.S., you should check and arrange for what you will need regarding housing and financial aid for the semester following your return.

Courses and Substitutions

Courses conducted during the UCF short-term programs and RSE (Reciprocal Student Exchange) courses that have an exact equivalency articulated between UCF and the host institution are treated just like any other course at UCF. For RSE courses, you may need to provide the appropriate information for the UCF faculty of record to evaluate and post your grade. However, as is the case for partner programs, if the courses are to be treated as transfer credit or if the equivalencies have not been previously articulated between the two institutions, you will have to follow the appropriate transient or course substitution procedures for your college or academic department at UCF.  If you have any questions about course substitution, contact Study Abroad staff at studyabroad@ucf.edu. If you are a non-UCF student and want the credits to be transferred to your institution, you must request that an official transcript be issued and sent to your home institution.