Overseas Studies

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Study Abroad Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing a Program & Application Process

Why should I study overseas?
When should I go?
Can I go abroad for more than one semester? Is there a maximum?
Am I required to go to a location where I can get major/minor credit?
How early can I start applying?
Can I apply to more than one program?
What is the "Two-Step Application Process"?
Where can I get passport photos taken for my application?
Is the study abroad application process competitive?
Does the Office of Overseas Studies offer summer programs abroad?

 

Eligibility

Is there a minimum required GPA?
Can only certain majors study abroad?
Do I have to speak a foreign language?
My program requires two semesters of a college-level language — what does this mean?

 

Credit

Where can I find a list of the courses that count for my major/minor abroad?
Will all the courses that I take be awarded USC credit? 

Isn't there a limit on the number of units I can transfer to USC?
Can I earn credit for my major/minor on a USC Dornsife study abroad program?
Can I take General Education courses abroad?
I heard that you take classes on a Credit/No Credit basis — is that true? Will those courses still count toward my major? What about transcripts?
How do I obtain credit for my overseas internship?
Can I participate in programs not offered by USC and still receive credit?

 

Overseas Travel and Housing

Does USC arrange my travel?
What kind of travel documents will I need?
What are the overseas living arrangements?
I live in USC housing. What should I do about my contract through the housing office if I go abroad?

 

Costs & Financial Aid

Can I afford to study abroad?
Can I use my financial aid to go overseas?
Are there any scholarships available? What about working abroad?

 

Contacts

May I talk to an alumnus of the program?
I still have a lot of questions. What should I do next?

 

 

Choosing a Program & Application Process

Why should I study overseas?
There are numerous benefits to studying abroad, both academic and personal.  On an academic level, you will become a more well-rounded student by taking courses not offered on campus, or those similar to on-campus courses with a different academic context. You can also develop new intellectual pursuits, improve both your foreign language and English communication skills, or begin a new language. You will become more self-reliant and resourceful, make new friends, learn about your heritage or gain new perspectives on your identity, and delve into local arts, culture, cuisine, and sports. You will also make your resume more attractive to future employers because you will improve your interpersonal skills, and you can even gain international internship or volunteer experience.

 
When should I go? 

Most programs require students to have at least sophomore standing upon commencement of the program; some programs require junior status. Transfer students may study overseas upon completion of two semesters at USC. Most programs are open for both semester and year-long study, but some are only available in the spring or require attendance for a full year. Think about your degree plan and speak to your advisor when deciding what would be the best time for you.

 
 Can I go abroad for more than one semester? Is there a maximum?
Yes! Many students choose this option. Some go to the same program for a full year to really immerse themselves deeply in their host country's culture. Others go to two different locations to have two different experiences. While we encourage students to decide whether they want to go for a semester or year when they apply, most programs allow you to apply for a semester and then extend if you want to stay. You may study abroad for a maximum of two semesters on programs through our office.


Am I required to go to a location where I can get major/minor credit?

No. While there are some programs that are only open to certain majors and some that require you to take courses for major credit, you can go abroad for elective credit if you choose.


How early can I start applying?
Applications are due the semester prior to studying and are available at the Office of Overseas Studies at the beginning of the semester in which they are due.  For some programs, applications are accepted on a rolling basis and may be submitted prior to the deadline.  In the case of all other programs, applications will not be processed until after the deadline and early submission will not affect chances of admission.
 

Can I apply to more than one program?

Yes, but only if one of the programs is competitive. If you can't decide between several programs, study abroad advisors are happy to meet with you to help you narrow down your choice.
 

What is the "Two-Step Application Process"?
Approval for participation in one of USC's study abroad programs is a two-step process.  Most programs require both a USC application and a secondary program specific application.  All applicants are reviewed by the Office of Overseas Studies and, if approved, their application is sent to the respective study abroad program.  The criteria for selection differ from program to program.  Being accepted by the Office of Overseas Studies does not guarantee acceptance to a program and the competitiveness of some programs may vary depending on the number of applicants from colleges outside of USC.


Where can I get passport photos taken?
Passport photos can be obtained at any of the following locations:
USCard Services
Walgreen's
Triple A at Washington & Figueroa (for AAA member only)
Kinko's
Quik-Pix  (located in University Village)
US Post Office


Are the study abroad programs competitive?
Some programs are more competitive than others, due to higher GPA requirements or enrollment limits.  While it is rare that students are not able to participate in the program of their choice, we do advise students applying to competitive programs to choose a backup as well.


Does the Office of Overseas Studies offer summer programs abroad?

No. Several schools and academic departments at USC operate their own summer programs overseas, for which students may receive USC credit. Program requirements vary.  For information about the USC faculty-led, problem-based learning programs called Problems Without Passports.


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Eligibility

Is there a minimum required GPA?

Yes.  Students need at least a 3.0 cumulative USC GPA to study abroad through the Office of Overseas Studies. Some programs have a higher GPA requirement due their academic rigor.

Can only certain majors study abroad?
No.  All programs are open to all students regardless of major, with the following exceptions:

  • SACI - Animation and Digital Arts majors only
  • Sciences Po Paris - International Relations, Political Science and Economics majors only
  • Rome - Classics majors only
  • Cortona - Fine Arts majors and minors only
  • British American Drama Academy - Theatre majors and minors only
  • University College London - Art History, Earth Sciences, Psychology and Neuroscience majors only
  • King's College London - International Relations, English, Biological Science and Neuroscience majors only
  • Queen Mary University of London - students must take at least 2 courses for major credit.  
    Starting Fall 2012 this program will be limited by major.

Do I have to speak a foreign language?
No.  The Office of Overseas Studies administers some programs with no language requirement whatsoever.  In addition, many other programs have language requirements of as few as two semesters.  Our website has individual program pages with information regarding specific requirements.


My program requires two semesters of a college-level language - what does this mean?
Two semesters of college-level language is equivalent to having completed the second semester course in that language.  You can also meet this requirement by taking the placement test and placing out of second semester.  Note that the placement test results are only valid for one year. For information, contact the Testing Bureau: http://sait.usc.edu/testing_bureau.


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Credit

Where can I find a list of the courses that count for my major/minor abroad?
The Office of Overseas Studies does not keep a list of USC equivalents for all courses offered on every study abroad program. Instead, students must look at the online course catalog for their chosen program and ask their academic advisor whether major/ minor credit will be granted for individual courses. Many departments keep lists of courses that have been pre-approved. If a course you want to take has not been pre-approved, your advisor may ask for a syllabus or course description to evaluate the content. Syllabi and course descriptions can often be found online; if you cannot find them contact the Office of Overseas Studies.

Will all the courses that I take be awarded USC credit?  
Usually. All courses taken through an Office of Overseas Studies program that are in an undergraduate area of study offered at USC will be granted USC credit and will count toward the 64-unit residency requirement. Examples of courses that would not be granted USC credit would be Global Tourism or Gaming Industry Management, which are areas of study not offered at USC.


Isn't there a limit on the number of units I can transfer to USC?

The units that you earn on a USC-approved study abroad program (and that are eligible for USC credit) are considered to be taken "in residence" and will count toward the 64-unit residency requirement. They are not "transfer" units. You can check the Programs pages on this website to see how many USC units you can earn on each program.


Can I earn credit for my major/minor on a USC Dornsife study abroad program?

Yes, if your major or minor is in the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences or many of USC's other undergraduate schools. The Office of Overseas Studies offers 50 semester and year-long programs all over the world; there are probably several locations that would suit your interests and allow you to graduate on time! As part of the application process, you are required meet with your academic advisor, who pre-approves the courses you plan to take. 

* Note: students with a major in the Marshall School of Business or the Annenberg School for Communication must participate in a study abroad program through Marshall or Annenberg in order to receive major credit. Other USC pre-professional schools may not award major credit for programs offered through the College. However, all undergraduates are welcome to participate in College programs for double major, minor or elective credit.


Can I take General Education courses abroad?

Students are not allowed to fulfill GE, Writing, or Diversity requirements on a study abroad program.


I heard that you take classes on a Credit/No Credit basis - is that true? Will those courses still count toward my major? What about transcripts?

With the exception of USC Paris and USC Madrid, all of the courses you take abroad will appear on your USC transcript as Credit/No Credit and will not affect your GPA. As long as your courses have been approved by your academic advisor, they will count toward your major or minor.

Most students who study abroad receive a copy of their transcript, which contains letter grades. If you are planning to apply to graduate school, you may be required to submit this transcript - so getting good grades is still important!


How do I obtain credit for my overseas internship?
In order to receive credit for an overseas internship it is important to follow USC guidelines. Note that credit for internships is never guaranteed. 


Can I participate in programs not offered by USC and still receive credit?

Rarely.  To do so, students must file a request for exception to residency, which is initiated with their academic advisor and must gain approval from the department chair, school Dean and Office of Degree Progress.  Exceptions are not readily granted.  A student must have a strong academic rationale and support from his or her major department.  Personal reasons, program location, and avoidance of GPA or language requirements are not sufficient rationale for exception.

If an exception to residency is granted, the student is normally approved to transfer in 8 units of credit.  USC financial aid and scholarships will not apply to programs not sponsored by USC however, and units are NOT guaranteed to be transferable.  In addition, units transferred from non-USC programs are considered regular transfer units and do not count toward the 64 units required to be taken while in residency at USC.

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Overseas Travel and Housing

Does USC arrange my travel?
No.  Some programs are operated in cooperation with other universities or organizations, and group flights may be available.  Many of the programs offer excursions with pre-arranged transportation during the term.


What kind of travel documents will I need?

All students studying abroad must have a passport, which should be valid for at least six months beyond the last day of their program. Before departing the US, you will also need to obtain a student visa from your host country's consulate. Visa procedures are different for each country, and processing times can take as little as one day or as long as three months. Note that most consulates keep your passport while processing your visa, so you will not be able to travel outside of the US during that time. International students should keep in mind that visa procedures may differ from those of their US-citizen counterparts.  Once you have decided on a destination, look at the country's consular website and familiarize yourself with student visa requirements.


What are the overseas living arrangements?

Living arrangements vary between programs.  Housing options include dormitories (either with dining halls or cooking facilities), homestays, apartments (with other Americans, native citizens, or other foreign students), group homes, or shared cabins in the case of the Field Studies programs.


I live in USC housing.  What should I do about my housing contract if I go abroad?

Students should be careful to distinguish between "university-owned" and "university-managed" housing. 

If you are in housing that is "Managed by USC" (for example Tuscany Apts. or other properties where your lease is with a company such as Westar), you are typically on a 12-month lease and cannot be released from one semester of your lease while you study abroad. 

Students who live in housing that is both "owned and managed by USC" rather than only "managed by USC" and are accepted to participate in a USC-approved semester study abroad program are eligible to be released from their university housing contract for the semester they are away provided they meet all deadlines set by USC Housing.  Such students are eligible to particpate in the USC Housing Renewal (UHR) process; however, there is no absolute guarantee that students will be able to reenter university housing upon return from an overseas program.  Students in USC housing who go on a year-long study abroad program are not eligible for UHR.

For students in non-university housing, it is their responsibility to make housing arrangements both before and after studying overseas.  The Office of Overseas Studies maintains a message board for students leaving for and returning from overseas.  Many students post available apartment rentals on this site, and others post when they need to find a roommate.  This is often an effective way to find someone to sub-lease an apartment, or find housing for when you return from overseas.  You can view this message board on the Students section of this website.

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Cost & Financial Aid

Can I afford to study abroad?
Yes! Many students fear that studying abroad will be too expensive.  But there are programs for a wide range of budgets, with some costing considerably less than a semester at USC.  The key is to be flexible about where you study abroad.  If you would like to find out estimated program costs, please see the Programs pages on this website.


Can I use my financial aid to go overseas?

Yes.  USC financial aid including loans, grants, and scholarships are applicable to USC-sponsored overseas studies programs.  Financial aid packages are reevaluated in consideration of the cost of a specific program, and aid packages are adjusted according to the modified cost of attendance.

In cases where the semester overseas is projected to be less expensive than an on-campus semester, the estimated family contribution (EFC) will be maintained and the aid package will be reduced.  If a program is projected to be more than an on-campus semester, the student and family may be eligible for additional loans in the amount of the price differential. 


Are there any scholarships available?
What about working abroad?
Scholarships are available for certain overseas programs.  Detailed financial aid and scholarship information is available on the Office of Overseas Studies scholarships web page.  Generally, there are many more scholarships available for study abroad in non-Western or developing countries.  Scholarships for study in Europe and Australia are quite limited. Students can work part time in the UK and Australia only.

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Contacts

Can I talk to an alumnus of the program?
Program evaluations from previous participants are available in the Office of Overseas Studies. These evaluations detail student perceptions of academics, housing, costs and experiences. Most students who fill out an evaluation include their email address so future students can contact them.

I still have a lot of questions.  What should I do next?
If you've narrowed down your study abroad options to a few programs, stop by our office to learn more about each program individually.  Our office houses student evaluations, course catalogues, course syllabi, brochures, videos, and travel books to help get you started.  You can also set up an appointment with a study abroad advisor who can help assess your individual needs and decide which program is best for you.  Please call us at 213-740-3636 for more information.

 

 

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