VCU professor, Maury Hutcheson, guides students while on study abroad.

Education Abroad

Frequently Asked Questions

How far in advance do students have to plan to study abroad?
For a semester or year-long study abroad program, students should plan at least six months in advance.  For a summer program, plan at least three months in advance.  For the best ISEP placement options, we recommend students apply by January for the following fall and by August for spring programs. Ideally, academic advisors should introduce the idea of studying abroad during a student’s first year at VCU; this allows students more time to plan. We do often work with students who come in to the Education Abroad office at the last minute; it’s never too late to study abroad or to meet with a study abroad advisor to discuss program options, but the earlier, the better.

What are the requirements to study abroad?
To participate in a summer faculty-led program, students must be in good academic standing (2.0 minimum). ISEP and partnership programs require a minimum 2.75 GPA, and to study in a language other than English a student should have completed the equivalent of four semesters in that language. However, each independent program has its own requirements, so check with the sponsoring organization for the program-specific details.

When can students study abroad?
Students participating in VCU faculty-led programs can study abroad at any time unless the program restricts applicants by level. If a student is participating in an exchange program, then the student must have at least two semesters at VCU. And yes, students can study abroad in their last semester. (Study Abroad in Last Semester)

Can students use scholarships or financial aid to pay for study abroad?
Yes, any scholarship money or financial aid students receive for educational purposes from VCU can be used to pay for study abroad as long as the program is approved by the Education Abroad office. We also encourage students to apply for external, non-VCU scholarships in addition to any institutional and federal aid they receive.

What are the study abroad options?
Students can study abroad for a winter intersession, summer, semester or full year abroad. They may take course work to fulfill requirements in their major, minor or general education requirements. They may choose a VCU faculty-led program, the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), a VCU International Partnership University, or travel with another approved program independent of VCU.


Do students need to know a foreign language to study abroad?
No, there are many opportunities for students to study abroad in non-English speaking countries, even if English is their only language. Many programs offer core subject classes taught in English, in addition to language instruction.

Where can students study abroad?
Students can study abroad in any country where they will receive an official transcript from an accredited university. Official transcripts can be awarded by US universities or international universities. If the institution is foreign, then it must be recognized by that country’s government as an official degree-granting institution of higher education (approved by VCU’s international credentials evaluator). If a student wishes to study abroad in a country with a US Department of State Travel Warning, the student will be required to sign a liability waiver in order to participate.


How many credits do students receive for a semester abroad?
Students typically receive 12 to 18 VCU credits per semester abroad. The number of credits received is determined by the international credential evaluator in the Global Education Office. The international credentials evaluator determines credits based on the number of contact hours the student spends in class; 45 contact hours in a semester is typically worth 3 VCU credits. If a student is studying abroad in Europe and the institution follows the European Transfer Credit System (ETCS), then 6 ECTS credits equals 3 VCU credits. Even when foreign universities may assign an unusual number of credits to a course (2.75 credits, for example), the student will still receive VCU credits based on the amount of contact hours s/he spends in class. If a student is extremely concerned about the number of credits s/he will receive while abroad, then s/he should meet with an Education Abroad staff member, who will in turn contact the international credentials evaluator.

What type of courses can students take abroad?
Students can take a wide range of courses abroad from chemistry and engineering to fashion design and sculpture. It is up to individual departments and schools to decide whether the course a student wants to take abroad has an appropriate VCU equivalent, and in most cases they do. Students often fulfill major, minor, general education and elective credits abroad. Academic advisors serve an important role of evaluating course descriptions and assigning the appropriate VCU equivalent.


Can students take classes abroad that do not appear on their course approval form?
Once a student arrives at his or her host institution, s/he may decide to add or drop courses. This will require the student to stay in email contact with his or her academic advisor. Typically the student will email the academic advisor course syllabi for any new courses s/he is planning to take. Once the student returns to VCU, s/he will need to update his or her course approval form by adding the new courses and having them approved by the appropriate academic advisor.

Where should students send their study abroad transcripts?
Once a student has completed his or her study abroad program, he or she should have the transcript sent directly to:

Virginia Commonwealth University 
Education Abroad office 
P.O. Box 843043 
Richmond, VA 23284-3043.

What is needed for credits to transfer?
In order for students to receive credit for an exchange or non-VCU study abroad program, we must receive a completed course approval form and an official transcript from the host university. The course approval form must reflect the courses that appear on the student’s transcript. Credit will not be processed and assigned until the student has turned in course approval forms reflecting the courses appearing on their official transcript.

Is it absolutely necessary for a student studying abroad to visit your office and complete the paperwork?
Yes, the Education Abroad office manages all study abroad participants at VCU. If a student intends to use federal financial aid or institutional aid, we must approve the student’s study abroad program. Students who complete the proper Education Abroad paperwork maintain their full-time student status and continue to have access to all VCU resources including the library, eServices, VCU email, and their VCU student account. We also conduct a mandatory pre-departure orientation for study abroad students and provide them with basic minimal health insurance for emergency medical evacuation. It is imperative that academic advisors refer all students interested in studying abroad to the Education Abroad office.

Where are you located?
We’re located in the West Grace Center,  912 W. Grace St., 4th Floor, Richmond VA 23284.

How can students get into contact with you?
Students can reach the Education Abroad office advisors directly via our website that contains our individual contact information. For general inquiries, students are encouraged to email us at abroad@vcu.eduor to call us at 804-827-7882.


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