Students are sometimes surprised by the striking contrast of academics abroad. The academic rigor, structure, and expectations at your host institution will likely be quite different than what you are accustomed to at ISU. We recommend you research the differences pertaining to academics between the United States your host country to help you better prepare. Below are some differences of which students commonly experience while abroad.
- Classes may not meet with the same frequency as those at ISU. For example, some meet only once per week while others may meet multiple times or be expected to attend working group sessions/labs.
- You may be in class with any combination of study abroad students, international students, or local students. This can sometimes make communication a bit challenging. However, this provides an excellent opportunity to learn about new people, places, and cultures.
- If you are taking a general education or elective course, be aware that some of your peers may be taking it for major credit and thus may have pre-existing knowledge of the subject matter. Don't be discouraged!
- Interactions between students and instructors could be either more formal or more casual than what you are used to. Instructors who are more formal may discourage you from asking questions during and/or outside of class as this can be seen as an insult in some cultures or fields of study. However, you could also have instructors who are very social, open to discussions, and may even encourage social gatherings outside of class.
Attendance & Behavior:
- Students must pay attention to the attendance policy for each individual course. You may find that if you miss any classes your grade will be lowered.
- Some instructors will be less flexible in allowing absences and offering make-up coursework or assignments.
- Personal travel is not an acceptable excuse for missing classes while abroad.
- You may be required to clock in and out of each class session.
- Acceptable attire for class may be more professional rather than casual. For example, leggings, exercise/athleisure clothing, running shoes, flip flops, and pajamas are NOT viewed as acceptable classroom attire in many countries.
- Be cognizant of your instructors' classroom policies and expectations (e.g., late policy, bathroom breaks, cellphone/technology usage, communication style, etc.).
Assignments & Grading:
- There are often less assignments and minimal homework throughout the term. As such, students may be expected to be more independent and self-guided in structuring their study time to prepare for assignments/exams.
- Students may be expected to know and utilize unfamiliar methods when researching, writing, or testing. You may need to seek out assistance or find online resources to help you navigate these differences. For example, you may be required to use MLA citations but only have experience using APA. If taking math or science courses, you may be expected to have familiarity with certain formulas or theories.
- Final grades may be based off of only one or two projects and/or papers. Additionally, you may not have access to your final grades until your official transcript is received and processed by ISU.
- The grading scale is different at each institution. Visit both the Grade Conversions and Credit Transfer sections of our website to familiarize yourself with the grading scale and credit differences of your host institution.
Learning & Resources
In addition to classroom differences, you may find that you need to adjust your learning and study strategies while you are abroad. As mentioned above, your studies may be more self-guided and require independent action outside of the classroom. Many students are accustomed to having regular homework and assignments throughout the semester that keep them on track with the course material. However, this is not the case in many host countries.
Lack of "busywork" is not an excuse to be more relaxed in your academics; failing to keep up with the course material on your own time, could result in poor grades at the end of the term. As a reminder, all credits earned abroad count towards your ISU cumulative GPA and pass/no pass is not permitted.
Resources at your host institution may also differ from ISU. For instance, there may not be an on-campus library, writing center, tutoring services, etc. If you are unable to find the assistance you need, we recommend connecting with your host institution's on-site staff. Additionally, all ISU study abroad participants will continue to have access to the online ISU library resources during their time abroad.
If you are accustomed to receiving academic-related accommodations (e.g., extended time or untimed tests, large text, notetaking, use of technology in class, class seating, etc.) at ISU and would like to receive similar accommodations abroad, you must initiate this conversation with your ISU study abroad advisor and/or host institution. It is recommended that you do this as soon as possible as not all host institutions are equipped to offer accommodation services, or they may be limited in their offerings.