Education Abroad Glossary


Section 2 Education Abroad Program Features and Types
2.1 Learning Outside the Home Campus
2.2 Study Abroad Program Types
2.3 Program Descriptors and Program Subtypes
2.4 Program Duration
2.5 Scheduling
2.6 Orientation
2.7 Learning Outside of the Classroom


Section 2: Education Abroad Program Features and Types

This section attempts to standardize uses of terms related to various program features and types of programs.


2.1. Learning Outside of the Home Campus

Education abroad is a subset of a wider universe of study outside of the home campus that includes a variety of educational experiences. These terms help place education abroad in that broader context.


Abroad (or Overseas or Foreign): As adjectives, terms used to describe the country or culture that hosts the U.S. student during his/her international educational experience. Each term has some drawback; for example, U.S. students in Canada are not technically “abroad” or “overseas,” and “foreign” often has a pejorative usage in popular press.


Domestic Off-Campus Study: Off-campus study that occurs away from the student’s home institution but within the same country. See Off-Campus Study.


Education Abroad: Education that occurs outside the participant’s home country. Besides study abroad, examples include such international experiences as work, volunteering, non-credit internships, and directed travel, as long as these programs are driven to a significant degree by learning goals.


Independent Study Abroad: 1) A research project or other individualized project that a student pursues overseas. This may be offered as part of the curriculum on an overseas program, or the student may be doing the project independent of a program. 2) Study abroad programs undertaken by students that are not part of their home university’s officially approved study abroad offerings. (This phenomenon goes by various other names, such as “study on an outside program” or “study on a non-affiliated program.” Institutions have different policies about this and different terminology).


Junior Year Abroad (or JYA): Study abroad during the entirety of a student’s junior year in college. This term was once used widely as a near synonym to Study Abroad. However, it has gradually fallen out of favor, as it does not reflect accurately the diversity of program durations or of the class standing of participating students.


Off-Campus Education (or Off-Campus Learning): Educational activities/programs outside the confines of the participant’s home campus, whether abroad or in the country where the home institution is located. Includes not only for-credit study, but also a variety of activities that do not result in academic credit or fulfillment of degree requirements. Experiences such as non-credit internships, volunteering, and alternative break travel programs can all qualify as off-campus education when driven to a significant degree by learning goals.


Off-Campus Study: A category of off-campus education that results in progress toward an academic degree at the home institution. Domestic Off-Campus Study and Study Abroad are subtypes. Includes not only exchanges and off-campus study terms but also such activities as field research projects, field trips, biology or geology field courses, internships yielding credit or fulfilling other degree requirements, or course-embedded service-learning. Although “progress toward an academic degree” most often means the home institution will grant or accept degree credit, possibilities include satisfaction of a language requirement or completion of a senior thesis. See Off-Campus Education.


Program Site: The geographical location at which an education abroad program takes place. Most commonly, a site is identified by the name of the host city or town, but it may sometimes be named for a different unit; for example, a region, a rural community, or an archaeological site.


Study Abroad (synonymous with, and preferred to, Overseas Study or Foreign Study): A subtype of Education Abroad that results in progress toward an academic degree at a student’s home institution. (Or may also be defined as a subtype of Off-Campus Study that takes place outside the country where the student’s home institution is located.) This meaning, which has become standard among international educators in the U.S., excludes the pursuit of a full academic degree at a foreign institution. (In many other countries the term study abroad refers to, or at least includes, such study.)


Study Abroad Program: 1) An education abroad enrollment option designed to result in academic credit. Several study abroad programs may be housed at the same location or center. Simultaneously, an educational institution or an independent program provider may offer distinct programs at a location. 2) The administrative unit at an institution that oversees study abroad options for its students. Separate options at separate locations are considered programs. When two or more options are offered at the same location, they are distinct programs if a) their sponsor(s) give them different names, and b) they meet either of two additional criteria: either they have different sponsors and application procedures for admission (for example, Program Provider 1 at the University of York and Program Provider 2 at the University of York are distinct programs even though their students may have access to the same classes; or they have the same sponsor but separate application pools and completely separate student bodies and courses (for example, Provider 1 Brussels Language and Culture and the Provider 1 European Union may be distinct programs because students must apply to one or the other and, once admitted, never are in same the classroom together).


Study Abroad Program Track (roughly synonymous, and preferable, to Study Abroad Program Concentration): One of two or more identified enrollment options within the same study abroad program. Tracks may be distinguished from each other on the basis of several defining criteria, the most common of which are content (for example, a cultural studies track versus an environmental studies track) and language of instruction. If students in the different enrollment options share no courses, these options are separate programs rather than separate tracks.


Study Away: Study that takes students entirely away from the home campus for a period of time, whether to a destination within or outside the U.S. The term tends to be used most often at campuses where the same office is responsible for both study abroad and domestic off-campus study. Roughly a synonym for Off-Campus Study.


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2.2. Study Abroad Program Types

These definitions synthesize various program characteristics into idealized models. They are based on the type of student experience, including pedagogy and program format, rather than such features as sponsorship, duration, or whether faculty-led or not. The types do not constitute sharply differentiated boxes nor do they necessarily imply different degrees of cultural immersion.


Field Study Program: A study abroad program type whose pedagogy revolves around experiential study outside the classroom setting. Examples include field research programs, internship programs, service-learning programs, archaeological field schools, and field biology programs.


Integrated University Study: A study abroad program type in which the predominant study format is participation in regular courses alongside degree-seeking students from the host university. May be either via Direct Enrollment or enrollment facilitated by a study abroad provider organization.


Overseas Branch Campus: A separate campus of a college or university whose main campus is in a different country. Formal accreditation is typically through the country where the main campus is situated, and the academic structure typically mirrors that of the main campus. Unlike study abroad programs, overseas campuses offer degrees. They may be aimed primarily at host country students or at students from the country of the sponsoring institution.


Study Abroad Center: An education abroad model in which the predominant study format consists of classroom-based courses designed for non-host country students. Centers may be operated independently, be special units within a host country university, or be sponsored by a college or university in another country or by a study abroad provider organization. Many study abroad centers have permanent staff and facilities.


Travel Seminar (preferable to the roughly synonymous Study Tour or Study Travel Program): A program in which students travel to many different cities or countries and receive instruction in each location, often regarding a designated, unifying topic. Examples include shipboard education programs or European cultural studies tours. This is a distinct program type and differs from field trips or excursions within other program types/subtypes.


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2.3. Program Descriptors and Program Subtypes

The terms in this subsection are frequently used in characterizing study abroad program formats, models, and types. Several also describe subtypes of the major program types described in the preceding subsection.


Academic Internship Program: A subtype of field study program in which the focal activity is a credit-bearing internship. See also Internship.


Area Studies Program: A subtype of study abroad program whose primary focus is the study of the host country or region from the perspectives of a variety of disciplines.


Bilateral Student Exchange: A program involving reciprocal movement of students between two institutions. May be student-per-student, or a specified number of incoming students may be accepted per outgoing student.


Custom Program (or Customized Program): A study abroad program administered by a program provider organization according to specifications of a college, university, consortium, or other group.


Departmental Program: A study abroad program operated by an academic department (or by a college within a university); often coursework is specific to the discipline of the sponsoring department. In some cases the department bears full administrative responsibility; in others it runs the program through a partnership with the education abroad office.


Direct Enrollment: Study at an overseas university without the assistance of external offices such as those of a program provider. Not to be confused with Integrated University Study, for which it is sometimes used as a synonym.


Duration (or Length): The period of a sojourn or education abroad program, excluding the pre-departure preparation or post-return activities.


Embedded Program (or Course-Embedded Study Abroad): A short study abroad experience that forms an integral part of, or an optional add-on to, a course given on the home campus. Most commonly, the study abroad portion of the course takes place during a midterm break or after the end of the on-campus term and is just a week or two long.


Exchange: A program involving reciprocal movement of participants—whether faculty, students, staff, or community members—between institutions or countries.


Faculty-Led Program (or Faculty-Directed Program): A study abroad program directed by a faculty member (or members) from the home campus who accompanies students abroad. Usually, though not always, brief in duration.


Hybrid Program (or Mixed Program): A program that combines two or more of the program types to a significant degree. For example, a study abroad center might emphasize courses just for study abroad participants but also permit students to enroll in host university courses and to do a credit-bearing internship.


Immersion Program: An informal term for a program that integrates students into the host culture to a substantial degree. Includes integrated university study programs and some varieties of field study programs.


Island Program: An informal term for a program whose pedagogy formally includes little cultural immersion, such as a program in which home-campust students live together and home-campus faculty instruct them in facilities owned by the home campus. Usage of this term is declining because of pejorative connotations.


Language Institute: A study abroad center whose primary mission is language instruction. Some language institutes also provide foreign language instruction to students from the host country.


Language Program: A study abroad program whose primary purpose is language instruction. Includes such variants as language institutes, language-focused programs for foreigners at host universities, and language-focused programs run by U.S. universities.


Multilateral Student Exchange: A reciprocal agreement among three or more participating institutions. Typically, in such exchanges the balancing of number of participants occurs across all the participants in the system, so that an outgoing student need not go to the same institution, or even the same country, as the incoming counterpart.


Multi-Site Program: A program in which students spend a significant amount of time studying in each of two or more locations.


Program Design: The basic structure of an education abroad program. Combines such considerations as duration, scheduling, level, phases (for example, a one-week orientation followed by 10 weeks of classroom study and a four-week internship); and pedagogical model (for example, field study, integrated university courses).


Program Model: A combination of characteristics that provide a shorthand description of an education abroad program. Examples: short-term, faculty-led travel seminar; summer intensive language program; geology field research program; integrated program in a Spanish-speaking university; student exchange program in business studies; work abroad program; internship program in environmental studies.


Research Program: A subtype of field study program in which the main focus is research conducted by participating students.


Service-Learning Program: A subtype of field study program in which the pedagogical focus is a placement in an activity that serves the needs of a community.


Sojourn: A period of time spent living in a cultural setting different from one’s own.


Student Exchange: A reciprocal agreement whose participants are students. Subtypes are Bilateral Exchanges and Multilateral Exchanges. Exchanges often involve some system of “banking” tuition (and sometimes other fees) collected from outgoing students for use by incoming students. The term student exchange is sometimes used erroneously as a synonym for study abroad.


Theme Program (or Thematic Program): A study abroad program focused on a particular subject (for example, the European Union, environmental studies, or gender and development).


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2.4. Program Duration

Many of the terms describing program duration are used universally (for example, semester or academic year), but these definitions are often imprecise. Those offered below provide meanings strictly in terms of the length of time that students are at the education abroad site and participating in an education abroad program. This classification scheme separates the definition of program length from the definition of program scheduling.


Quarter: Corresponding in length roughly to a term on a U.S. quarter calendar (generally about nine to 11 weeks).


Semester: Lasting roughly the length of a term on a U.S. semester calendar (generally about 12 to 17 weeks.


Short-Term: Lasting eight weeks or less; may include summer, January, or other terms of eight weeks or less.


Two Quarters: Corresponding in length to two terms on a U.S. quarter calendar (typically about 18 to 22 weeks), regardless of whether or not the home or host institution is on a quarter system.


Year: Lasting at least as long as a typical academic year of two semesters or three quarters. Generally between about 26 and 45 weeks of actual coursework (excluding vacations).


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2.5. Scheduling

These definitions concern the time of year in which the program abroad takes place. [Seasonal terms (fall, winter, spring, summer) refer to the northern hemisphere regardless of the location of the education abroad experience].


Academic Year: Year roughly aligned with northern hemisphere academic calendars (usually beginning sometime between July and October).


Fall: Occurring mostly or entirely between September and mid-December. Includes fall semester programs, fall quarter programs, two-quarter fall/winter programs, and summer/fall combinations.


Calendar Year: Year roughly aligned with southern hemisphere academic calendars (usually beginning sometime between December and March).


Spring: Occurring mostly or entirely between January and May. Includes spring semester programs, spring quarter programs, two-quarter winter/spring programs, spring break programs, and combination spring/summer programs. Does not include winter-quarter, winter-break, J-term (January term), or May term programs.


Summer: Occurring mostly or entirely between May and August. Includes May term programs.


Winter: Occurring mostly or entirely between mid-December and the end of February. Includes winter-break programs, J-Term programs, and winter-quarter programs but not spring semester programs.



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2.6. Orientation

Orientation programming in education abroad ideally is ongoing and designed to support students throughout the study abroad experience, highlighting ways to transform experiences into academic, personal, and professional growth.


Continuous Orientation: The ongoing and unified process of providing orientation during all phases of the education abroad experience: pre-departure, on-site, and re-entry.


On-Site Orientation (or In-Country Orientation): Orientation programming that is facilitated at the location of the education abroad experience, usually shortly after arrival abroad. On-site orientation usually includes presentations on the academic program housing, regional geography, health and safety, rules of conduct, and other issues of getting started and living successfully in the new culture. On-site orientation may include follow-up workshops on housing issues, cultural adjustment, career preparation, reentry, etc. In contrast to a pre-session, an on-site orientation usually does not yield academic credit.


Pre-Departure Orientation: Programming intended to prepare students for a meaningful, successful, and educational experience abroad. Pre-departure orientation addresses everything from practical concerns with passports and student visas, health and safety, and academics to cultural adjustment, intercultural learning, and diversity awareness. Includes information on what to expect in the education abroad program, including such matters as housing, finances, transportation, and emergency contacts. Orientation may consist of written materials, in-person meetings, webinars, online training modules, e-mail correspondence, phone conversations, or (typically) some combination of these elements.


Pre-Session: In-country programming offered in the weeks between the beginning of an education abroad experience and the beginning of regular classes. Typically, pre-sessions are used in university-based programs and are designed to provide intensive preparation for coursework in the host university system. This may involve intensive language or discipline-specific study. Successful completion may be a required provision for participation in the education abroad experience. Academic credit is usually awarded.


Re-Entry Orientation (or Re-Entry Program or Re-Entry Conference): Orientation programming intended to support students with readjustment back to their home culture and campus. This orientation encourages students to reflect on what they learned abroad and to articulate their experiences to themselves and to others as tools for building their new skills and perspectives. Reentry orientation may be built into the in-country program and/or given on the home campus after the students’ return.


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2.7. Learning Outside of the Classroom

These terms focus on education abroad through structured experiences, outside of the classroom setting, whether academic credit-bearing or not.


Conversation Partner Program (or Conversation Exchange or Intercambio): An arrangement through which native speakers of two languages are matched in pairs or small groups for the purpose of language practice and cultural exchange. In the study abroad context, this typically means matching a study abroad participant with a member of the host community who wants to learn the participant’s language.


E-Pal Program: An arrangement through which education abroad students are introduced to local students by electronic communication such as e-mail or social networking sites, with the expectation that the pair will carry on a conversation beginning as early as several months before arrival. In some cases, the local student will meet the education abroad student upon arrival and participate in the welcome orientation. In some cases, an e-pal can also serve as an on-site conversation partner and cultural informant.


Experiential Education: Learning by doing. This term, which traces its origins to the works of John Dewey, encompasses a vast array of approaches to learning inside and outside the classroom that complement more conventional instruction. Methods may include research, field trips or seminars, laboratory work, fieldwork or observation, as well as immersion in workplace settings, such as internships, volunteering, teaching, and paid jobs. Giving structure to the learning experience through observation, reflection and analysis is often seen as an essential element of experiential education. Experiential education may be curricular (for credit) or co-curricular (not for credit).


Field Study: Structured learning outside the classroom. Includes such experiences as internships, service-learning projects, field trips and excursions, nature observation and research, small-team field assignments, and individual research projects.


Field Trip (or Excursion): A group journey away from the main instructional location for educational purposes, whether as part of an academic course or as a program-wide activity involving, or open to, participants in all courses.


Homestay Visit: A short-term homestay for a student who is otherwise in another type of housing such as a residence hall or an apartment. May be for as little as a weekend. In this context it is considered a strategy for cultural enrichment rather than a type of accommodation.


Internship Abroad: A work abroad placement, usually connoting working with professionals, with a primary purpose that is educational. Essentially synonymous with the terms Practicum and Practical Training (the latter term also describes a status for international students pursuing an internship in the U.S.). An internship program may be offered for the experience in its own right, or it may be combined with coursework and offered within the context of a study abroad program for academic credit. An internship may be paid or unpaid.


Reflection: A consideration or analysis of a topic or experience that has an academic basis but is also personal in nature. This is a common pedagogical method for courses on study abroad programs that examine cross-cultural issues. Through reflection, participants are asked to examine a particular cultural issue or practice in the host country and analyze it through their personal lens. Generally reflection is done through a journal or other piece of writing (also called reflective writing).


Research Abroad: An activity abroad that typically pairs a study abroad student or students with on-site faculty and/or other local experts to pursue a specific topic or research question. Such research typically results in the writing of an academic paper or article, whether to fulfill requirements for academic credit or other degree requirements or with an eye to publication in a peer-reviewed journal or presentation at an academic conference. The research may be undertaken as part of an organized study abroad program (i.e. a research-based course or independent project) or in a completely independent manner outside the structure of a program.


Service-Learning Abroad (or Community-Engaged Learning): A specially designed experience combining reflection with structured participation in a community-based project to achieve specified learning outcomes as part of a study abroad program. The learning is given structure through the principles of experiential education to develop an integrated approach to understanding the relationship among theory, practice, ideals, values, and community. (Although it is sometimes written as two separate words, service-learning professionals tend to prefer the hyphenated version in order to emphasize the link between the components of service and formal learning).


Student Club (or Student Organization): An association of students united by a common interest or goal. In the education abroad context, local clubs can facilitate interaction with the local student population and encourage further development of language and intercultural communication skills.


Student Council: A representative council of the student body of a study abroad program. Student councils may be asked to provide feedback, suggest improvements, participate in planning and implementing field trips and other activities, call student issues to the attention of program staff, or otherwise contribute to program management during the course of an education abroad program.


Teaching Abroad: A volunteer (or largely volunteer) placement abroad as a teacher or teacher’s assistant. Varieties of teaching abroad programs include student teaching (in partial fulfillment of a teaching certificate); teaching English as a second or foreign language; and professional teaching in a K-12 or university environment. Some programs combine the volunteering with structured learning. Most volunteering is unpaid, though some programs provide a living stipend.


Volunteering Abroad: A noncredit placement allowing the participant to engage with the local community in a structured but unpaid capacity (although some programs provide a living stipend). Although this term is often used interchangeably with service-learning, it differs in that academic credit is not awarded and there is typically less structured learning. Most volunteering is unpaid, though some programs provide a living stipend.


Work Abroad: Immersion in an international work environment with the educational value of the experience itself being the primary purpose. May or may not be for academic credit. Depending on the focus of the experience, it may be designated as interning, volunteering, service-learning, teaching, or just working abroad. Work abroad is sometimes used more narrowly to mean working for pay. By design, work abroad programs are temporary, lasting from a few weeks to two or three years.. Educational work abroad is to be distinguished from career-related overseas assignments, permanent jobs abroad, and migration for gainful employment.


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