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There are several factors you should consider when planning for study abroad. By taking the time to think about the following areas before you begin your study abroad application, you can make the process as smooth as possible. In addition to reviewing the information below, you should also read through our helpful Planning for Education Abroad pamphlet. 

Declare a Major

In order to apply for permission to study abroad, you must first declare your major and be assigned a major adviser. You should do this early in the fall semester of your sophomore year since departments and faculty are often very busy at the end of the semester. Once you have declared, you should set up a meeting with your adviser to discuss your goals and academic plan for study abroad. The courses that you intend to take while abroad should be integrated into your overall plan for fulfilling both your major and graduation requirements.

If you are considering a second major and/or correlate sequence, you do not need to declare these in order to complete your study abroad application. If you are declaring a multi-disciplinary major, it is possible that your major approval may not be granted before the study abroad deadline but will be approved by the time the Committee on Leaves and Privileges meets in January. In this case, you will need to confirm with the OIP that you have submitted a complete proposal to the program director.

Area Studies

The Committee expects applicants for study abroad to have acquired sufficient area studies coursework to support their academic proposals, as well as to enable them to take full advantage of the academic opportunities offered by study abroad programs. Thus, the Committee expects that students will have completed at least one or, depending upon the student’s purpose, even several courses directly relevant to the proposed study abroad program location. Besides language requirements —which, depending on the student’s academic goals, may serve as area studies coursework for students who must take at least two years— students should expect to take at least one area studies course at the intermediate level. The area studies requirement is particularly important to study abroad in non-Western and developing nations. Students looking to study in Africa, Latin America or Asia would be well advised to read the course offerings in the college catalogue in detail. They should also be aware that many courses essential to study outside of Western Europe may be offered only in alternate years, and thus should plan accordingly.

Language Proficiency

Language proficiency is a primary consideration in achieving one’s academic goals in a non-English speaking country. Beyond being able to hold a simple conversation or to order a meal in a foreign language while traveling, students studying abroad must be able to follow lectures, read scholarly texts, and to function on their own for long periods in an unfamiliar culture. In planning ahead for your study abroad, make sure you are aware of Vassar’s language requirements and policies. These requirements, for you as a Vassar student, may differ from the program requirements so make sure to read them thoroughly.


At Vassar, students are eligible to go abroad during their Junior year and, in some cases, during the first semester of Senior year. Therefore, the process to apply for permission to study abroad takes place in fall of the Sophomore year. Students should meet with their major adviser to determine whether you should apply for a semester or a year abroad. In certain cases, required courses for the major may only be offered in a specific semester and therefore this may determine which semester fits your overall academic plan.

Ordinarily, requests for back to back semester leaves in two different countries are not considered. All such requests will be evaluated on an individual basis. Please keep in mind that while studying in two different countries is possible in theory, there may be other barriers to accomplishing this such as insufficient time to obtain the necessary visas.

The Office of International Programs oversees student participation in semester and academic year programming. Students wishing to study abroad during the summer or winter breaks pursue these options independently and should be sure to consult the Registrar and relevant academic department(s) regarding transfer of credits. It is also important to keep in mind that Vassar’s financial aid policy regarding study abroad does not apply to summer or winter.

Coursework Abroad

When you meet with your major advisor to discuss your study abroad plans, you should provide them with information about the courses you would like to take while abroad. If you would like courses from your program to be counted towards major requirements, you must speak directly with your department chair. Every department has different rules in regards to if/how transfer units can be used for major credit, so planning ahead is important.

All coursework abroad must be taken for a letter grade and the letter grades will appear on your Vassar transcript. Only those grades earned on Vassar sponsored programs are calculated into the Vassar GPA. For non-Vassar programs, all courses and grades will appear on the transcript, but only grades of “C” or better will be awarded transfer credit. The Registrar has established semester or credit hour equivalencies to Vassar’s unit system. However, the precise number of units a student receives often depends on how the courses and hours are listed on the transcript and how many credit hours are awarded per course by the host institution. Due to the nature of the transfer credit process, the Vassar course equivalents listed on the transcript may not correspond exactly to course names listed on the program transcript.

Please note the following restrictions:

  • Credit will not be awarded for courses that have substantial overlap with other previously credited work.
  • Credit will not be awarded for pre-professional (non-liberal arts) coursework.
  • Credit will not be awarded for internships unless specifically approved by the OIP (under guidance from the Committee on Leaves and Privileges) and a relevant academic department.
  • One term of an introductory language will transfer as a half unit; credit equivalents for intensive language study for one term will be evaluated on a case by case basis.