Study Abroad

Study Abroad at Amherst

 My experience in Costa Rica really opened my eyes to both cultural and environmental issues, some of which I knew about but had always been somewhat disconnected from, and others that I learned of for the first time. "

Alanna Darling '09, Costa Rica

Why Study Abroad?
Amherst's Expectations for Study Abroad
How to Study Abroad: The 5 Main Steps

Why Study Abroad?

For many years, roughly 35-40% of the junior class studies abroad.  Students recognize how valuable a semester or year abroad is to their degree studies, but also how important the experience is for future employment and graduate school study.  Employers and graduate and professional schools highly value the study abroad experience. 

Students can study with a program provider or directly enroll at a foreign university.  It is also possible to conduct research abroad on a growing number of programs that offer independent study projects. Deciding which program and country is just as important as deciding when to go and for how long.  Amherst students study abroad in the fall and spring semesters in relatively equal numbers.  Some choose to study abroad for the full year on one program while others choose to study for a year on two separate programs.  For example, a student studying German and Spanish spent one semester in each country.  Another student spent a semester in France and a semester in Senegal because she was interested in French colonialism.

Study abroad can be an excellent complement to your Amherst academic career and it is important to find the best program for you.  Most students return from study abroad with a new sense of self, a focus on their academic pursuits, and an appreciation of the different culture, language, and learning environment they were a part of while abroad.  Some students decide a semester or year is not appropriate for them during their undergraduate years and opt to pursue a summer or winter term experience.  The Director of International Experience can assist students in researching short-term opportunities as well.

Ask your self these important questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish abroad (e.g. continue with a foreign language, conduct research, experience a new culture)?  
  • What regions of the world interest me? 
  • What type of program fits my interests and needs (e.g. large university or small, independent program)? 

There are, of course, many more questions to ask yourself before choosing a program.  Please meet with the Director of International Experience to talk more about what programs are best suited for you and what you intend to study.

What's the "rate of investment" for studying abroad?  Click here to find out!

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Amherst's Expectations for Study Abroad

Approved programs must be have a curriculum that is appropriate for the liberal arts and an administrative office or team that is well-suited to manage study abroad students. Programs must also offer substantial opportunities for immersion. We believe that the most growth - personal, academic, linguistic - comes from as much direct contact with the host culture as possible. To experience this growth, students are encouraged to spend as much time in the host city and country as possible. (We do not approve "traveling" study abroad programs for this reason.) While it is important for students to spend some time traveling during their free time, it is important that students recognize that should they wish to push past the common tourist experiences, they will need to spend significant time in their host city getting to know the local community and establishments. (It is for this reason that we do not approve traveling study abroad programs.)

Students should familiarize themselves with our policies regarding academic credit.

How to Study Abroad: The 5 Main Steps

It is important to meet all deadlines and leave time for yourself to conduct research to find the program that best fits your academic and personal interests and needs.  Following the five steps below will help guide you through the process.

Step 1:   Explore Your Options

Step 2:   Submit the Declaration of Intent to Study Abroad

Step 3:   Apply to Programs

Step 4:   Submit the Confirmation to Study Abroad and Waiver

Step 5:   Prepare to Depart!

Step 1: Exploring your options

You've already taken the first step: This site gives you an overview of everything you will need to know. Read on.

  • Make sure you visit the Study Abroad Library (located in the first floor of College Hall). It contains extensive program materials and a variety of other information on overseas study, work, and travel, and is constantly updated. 
  • Come to a "Steps to Study Abroad" meeting, scheduled each Friday at 2pm in College Hall, for an overview of how it all works and how to get started.
  • Attend the Study Abroad Fair held every fall on campus, which will be widely publicized when the time comes. Various program representatives return to campus during the year, as well, so be sure to read Career Columns and check the college calendar
  • Make an appointment with your academic adviser to discuss how studying abroad relates to your overall academic plan and requirements for the major.
  • Consider the following questions:
- What do you hope to achieve while studying abroad?
- Do you prefer small towns or the big city life?
- Do you want to be able to have outdoor activities, e.g. hiking and biking, easily available?
- Do you want to live with a host family or independently?
- Do you mind commuting to work or do you prefer a residential academic experience?
- Do you have particular health needs that need to be met while you are abroad?
  • Consult the Program List that has approved programs as well as programs we recommend students petition.  It is an excellent starting point to see which location, language, and/or type of program best fits your academic and personal interests.
  • Consult with Dean Kate Gentile in the Financial Aid Office to discuss financing your study abroad experience. Your financial aid package will automatically transfer to an approved study abroad program; if you are not on financial aid, you pay the program fees as advertised by the program.  See Finances on Study Abroad for more information. 
  • Consider your health and safety needs while abroad. Consult Students Abroad by the U.S. State Department which has a wealth of country- and region- specific information, as well as tips for students studying, living, or traveling abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide country-specific information on what health issues you may encounter as well as recommended immunizations and medications as you develop your plan to stay healthy while studying abroad.
  • International students should consult with the relevant government agency in countries they are considering studying abroad, since advice may be different than that for U.S. citizens. 
  • At any point in the process, make an appointment with the Director of International Experience to discuss your options.

Step 2:   Submit the Intent to Study Abroad

Submit the Intent to Study Abroad Form online. Remember, you must declare at least one major before submitting this form--if you fail to do so, we cannot process your form. You need to meet with your academic adviser to discuss your specific plans and/or with someone in the major department (if different).

Deadlines for the Intent to Study Abroad:

  • MARCH 15 for fall or full year study
  • APRIL 15 for spring study

Step 3:  Applying to Programs

The majority of Amherst students apply to two or three programs. (You are welcome to apply to more, should you choose to do so.) Most programs require the following:

  • an official copy of your Amherst College transcript, ordered through the Registrar's Office
  • one or more letters of recommendation from faculty
  • indication of Amherst College approval, usually via a form signed by the Director of International Experience, which can be dropped off to the Study Abroad Office in College Hall with an addressed, stamped envelope (or, indicate you'll return to pick it up)

If you are accepted by more than one program, you will have to make your final choice, letting us know which program you have chosen--see Step 4 below.

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Step 4: Confirm Your Plans to Study Abroad

As soon as you know for certain which study abroad program you will be attending, print out and take to your advisor the Confirmation to Study Abroad and the Waiver of Liability, read it carefully and submit it to the Study Abroad Office in College Hall, making sure your advisor has signed off on the Confirmation.

Deadlines for the Confirmation and Waiver:

  • May 1st for fall or full year study
  • December 1st for spring study

If you fail to hand in this form, you will not be placed on educational leave and you will be billed for the next semester Amherst College tuition.  If you decide not to study abroad, it is also imperative that you inform the Director of International Experience as soon as you have made this decision. Otherwise, it will be assumed that you continue to intend to be away, which affects housing, registration, and other matters.

Any major changes in your plans, especially if you intend to receive credit in your major, should be discussed with your academic advisor.

Step 5: Prepare to Depart

Toward the end of the semester before your departure--see the College Calendar--you are required to attend the pre-departure meeting specific to your region.   Amherst College will make available its Student Handbook on Studying Abroad at that session. Read it carefully. In addition, your program sponsor or the overseas institution is likely to send you a variety of pre-departure materials, give you advice on passports, visas, travel, accommodations, and the like.

You should also visit Resources for specific information on diversity and inclusion in study abroad, health and safety, resources for applying for student visas, etc.

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YouTube: Amherst Students Speak about Study Abroad - check it out!

Study Abroad: Passport to Global Understanding and Knowledge