Study Abroad Guide


Study Abroad Guide

Questions to ask yourself as you begin to look for a Study Abroad Program


  • Is location important to you?
  • Are you studying a particular language or culture?
  • Do you want to be in a specific region or city of a specific country?
  • Do you prefer an urban or a small-town setting?


Most programs are divided into the following three categories:

  • Summer: private schools like the Istituto Leonardo da Vinci in Italy normally organize monthly "modules," while American and Canadian programs generally last 6 weeks. Pitt students regularly study French at the Universit" Laval in Québec, which has just this kind of program.

  • Semester: specifics vary, but for the most part…
    • American programs follow traditional U.S.-semester calendars.
    • Private schools will often organize their offerings month-to-month, allowing a great deal of flexibility.
    • Programs dependent on host-country institutions will be tied to those institutions’ academic schedules. For example, students doing a Fall semester in Italy will begin school in October, and students interested in a spring semester in Italy should expect to stay there through June to take final exams.
  • Year-long: available through many host-country universities and private schools.
    • The University of Pittsburgh has semester and year-long exchange programs with the University of Tours and with the Institut D’études politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris.


What kind of academic affiliation are you interested in?

  • Do you prefer an American institution abroad?

Advantages: familiarity of processes, ease of transferring credit, etc…
Disadvantages: language progress often suffers as a result of isolation, spending so much time with other Americans

  • Would you like to enroll directly in a Language School in that country?

Advantages: favorable prices, international population, some have agreements with American universities for transfer credit, set tuition, etc.
Disadvantages: uneven quality, need to make sure that school is established has a good reputation

  • Are your language skills already advanced enough to enroll directly in a foreign university?

Advantages: greater rigor, high likelihood of forging strong ties with target-language classmates, and thus culture; some American programs offer this option within their own programs, complete with transition tutors, etc. (e.g., Arcadia University/Umbra institute in Perugia).


  • Do you want to live in a dormitory situation with other students from your program?

Advantages: familiarity
Disadvantages: language learning tends to suffer greatly, as does level of exposure to target culture

  • Do you want to live in an apartment?

Advantages: autonomy with regard to schedule, meals
Disadvantages: language progress and target culture exposure depend to a large extent on roommate situation (Americans v. Internationals; friends v. new acquaintances; students v. adults)

  • Do you want to live with a family?

Advantages: meals often included, language progress often greatly improves, ties to target culture, establishment of friendships, …
Disadvantages: possibility of some loss of autonomy, but this varies from case to case.

Internship Opportunities

Do you want to participate in an internship abroad? Not all programs offer this option, so check carefully if this is important to you.

  • Do you want to do an internship for credit?
  • Do you want to do work related to your major? If so, check with your major advisor to see if study abroad internship credit will be accepted toward major credits.

Academic Requirements

  • Does the program you’re interested in have minimum QPA requirements?
  • Does the program you’re interested in have language proficiency requirements?
  • What is the language of instruction? If you’re interested in improving your Italian or French, but the coursework is all in English, you won’t make as much progress as you will if your coursework is in the target language.
  • Are you going abroad to pursue any particular disciplinary specialties? Many programs specialize in particular fields: decorative arts, language, photography, political science, history, etc. If your interests lie in one of these areas you might want to consider looking into such a program.

Transferring credits

  • …into the College of Arts and Sciences: CAS will normally accept 15 credits per term of block credit from an accredited Study Abroad Program. If you are considering a program that is not accredited in the United States as a credit-granting institution, consult the Dean’s office before finalizing your plans.
  • …as GERs: if you are considering taking courses toward your General Education Requirements, it is best to have those courses pre-approved by the CAS Dean’s office before you register.
  • …for major/minor credit: courses that are intended for major or minor credit should be pre-approved by your advisor. In many cases, your advisor will approve a group of courses for greater flexibility at registration time (in case of closed or unavailable classes).

Financial concerns

The Office of Study Abroad has a very informative web page dedicated to financial considerations, Financing Study Abroad, and offers regular workshops on this topic. For information, contact Study Abroad at 412.624.7413. In general, it is best to meet with a financial aid counselor (412.624.7488) to discuss your situation as early in the process as possible.

Department Study Abroad contact information:


Prof. Brett Wells
1317 E CL


Prof. Francesca Savoia
1328 CL