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Study Abroad Guide

Here are some topics to consider as you consider Study Abroad Programs:  


  • Is location important to you? 
  • Are you studying a particular language or culture? 
  • Do you want to be in a specific region or city of a specific country? 
  • Do you prefer an urban or a small-town setting? 


Most programs are divided into the following three categories, Summer, Semester and Year-long: 


Private language schools normally organize monthly "modules," while American and Canadian programs generally last 4-6 weeks. Pitt students regularly study French at the Universitè Laval in Québec, which has just this kind of program. 


Specifics vary, but for the most part… 

  • American programs follow traditional U.S.-semester calendars. 
  • Private schools will often organize their offerings month-to-month, allowing more flexibility. 
  • Programs dependent on host-country institutions will be tied to those institutions’ academic schedules. For example, students doing a Fall semester in Italy will begin school in October, and students interested in a spring semester in Italy should expect to stay there through June to take final exams. 


  • available through host-country universities and private schools. 
  • The University of Pittsburgh has semester and year-long exchange programs with the University of Tours and with the Institut D’études politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris. 

Program Type 

What kind of program or academic institution are you interested in? 

  • Do you prefer an American institution abroad? 

Advantages: familiarity of processes, ease of transferring credit  
Disadvantages: language progress may suffer because of isolation, spending so much time with other Americans 

  • Would you like to enroll directly in a language school in that country? 

Advantages: favorable prices, international population, some have agreements with American universities for transfer credit, set tuition, etc. 
Disadvantages: uneven quality, need to make sure that school is established has a good reputation, need to confirm that credits will transfer to Pitt  

  • Are your language skills already advanced enough to enroll directly in a foreign university? 

    Advantages: greater rigor, high likelihood of forging strong ties with target-language classmates, and thus culture; some American programs offer this option within their own programs, complete with transition tutors, etc. (e.g., Umbra institute in Perugia). 


  • Do you want to live in a dormitory situation with other students from your program? 

    Advantages: familiarity 
    Disadvantages: language learning tends to suffer if everyone speaks English, as does level of exposure to target culture 
  • Do you want to live in an apartment? 

    Advantages: autonomy regarding schedule, meals 
    Disadvantages: language progress and target culture exposure depend to a large extent on roommate situation (Americans v. Internationals; friends v. new acquaintances; students v. adults) 
  • Do you want to live with a family? 

​Advantages: meals often included, language progress often greatly improves, ties to target culture, establishment of friendships  
Disadvantages: possibility of some loss of autonomy, but this varies from case to case. 

Internship Opportunities 

Do you want to participate in an internship abroad? Not all programs offer this option, so check carefully if this is important to you. 

  • Do you want to do an internship for credit? 
  • Do you want to do work related to your major? If so, check with your major advisor to see if study abroad internship credit will be accepted toward major credits. 

Academic Requirements 

  • Does the program have minimum QPA requirements? 
  • Does the program have language proficiency requirements? 
  • What is the language of instruction? If you’re interested in improving your Italian or French, but the coursework is all in English, you won’t make as much progress as you will if your coursework is in the target language. 
  • Are you going abroad to pursue specific disciplinary specialties? Many programs specialize in narrow fields: decorative arts, language, photography, political science, history, etc. If your interests lie in one of these areas, you might want to consider looking into such a program. 

Transferring credits 

  • Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences will normally accept 15 credits per term of block credit from an accredited study abroad program. If you are considering a program that is not accredited in the United States as a credit-granting institution, consult the Dean’s office before finalizing your plans. 
  • General Education Requirements: if you are considering taking courses toward your General Education Requirements, it is best to have those courses pre-approved by the Dean’s office before you register. 
  • Major or minor in French and Italian: courses that are intended for major or minor should be pre-approved by your advisor. In some cases, your advisor will approve a group of courses for greater flexibility at registration time (in case of closed or unavailable classes). 

Financial Considerations  

The Global Experiences Office (formerly the Study Abroad Office) has information on financial considerations and funding opportunities, such as scholarships. In general, it is best to meet with a financial aid counselor to discuss your situation as early in the process as possible. 



Prof. Brett Wells 
1317 E CL 


Prof. Lorraine Denman  
1317 F CL