The study abroad process includes setting goals, researching available education abroad programs, academic issues, and consulting with resource offices to assist you with their individual expertise. Then the application process and planning courses abroad are addressed.

Study Abroad Process

Set Goals

Consider what you want to accomplish during your study abroad.  Common goals include following an avocation like music or art, exploring your heritage, improving language fluency or setting yourself apart from your peers while having an incredible adventure in an exotic locale.

The purpose of study abroad is to ensure students expand their understanding of other people by experiencing a new culture. Therefore, it is recommended that you choose a country that is not your own country or that does not have a similar culture.


Attend Study Abroad 101 to learn about available programs, their eligibility requirements, course choices, program structure, and financial information.  Peer Advisors in 422 Boucke Building will discuss and compare programs abroad.

Consult Resources

An appointment with the Smeal Office of International Programs is recommended during the program selection process to ensure your goals fit well with the chosen program.  As you narrow your choices find out more about academic program details.

Academic Issues

Meet with academic, international, and minor advisers to plan how available courses will fulfill degree requirements. Some departments will give special permission in advance to use one or more classes from abroad for a minor. The Education Abroad Planning Worksheet form can be helpful during these meetings. Smeal major courses must be taken at University Park.  Credits taken in programs abroad that are approved by both PSU and Smeal may fulfill:

  • Arts (GA)
  • Humanities (GH)
  • Social and Behavioral Science (GS)
  • Natural Science (GN) – not commonly offered abroad
  • Language – at the appropriate level
  • Electives
  • International Cultures (IL)
  • US Cultures (US) – extremely rare
  • Inter Domain (ID) – may be completed abroad if a course is taught entirely abroad, has content primarily focused on the region of study and is a general education domain. 

Application Process

The online application must be complete before the deadline for your first choice program. This is a competitive process and some programs have more applicants than can be accepted, so carefully consider the second and third choices you include on your application. Attend a Tips for a Successful Study Abroad Application workshop to learn how to strengthen your application essays. Workshops are offered multiple times in a semester. Visit the Upcoming Events page to sign-up.

For over-subscribed programs selection will be based on an applicant's academic record (not just GPA) including, but not limited to, evidence of academic planning in consultation with academic advisers, recommendation, and application essays. Essays should be well written, personal, and address the questions in an insightful manner, with answers specific to the program to which the student is applying.

World Campus

Penn State World Campus is NOT a Penn State Study Abroad program. Please read this brochure for a better understanding of the differences.

Non-PSU Programs

Beginning fall 2016 and thereafter, credits earned abroad during fall or spring semester at a non-PSU program will NOT be accepted toward any Smeal degree requirements including general education and electives. Credits toward Smeal majors will be accepted from programs on the full list of Penn State Education Abroad Office programs. Candidates for the International Business Minor must attend a program on the Choosing a Program list.