Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I study abroad?
Studying abroad is an amazing way to learn about the world, and to learn about yourself. According to research as well as feedback from study abroad alumni, some great reasons to study abroad are:
- Globalizing your college experience
- Enhancing your cultural awareness
- Improving your language skills
- Building your resume & expanding your career possibilities
- Facing and overcoming new challenges
- Living the adventure of a lifetime
- You can find out why Cal Poly alumni decided to study abroad by watching this video.
What is the first step to studying abroad?
The first step to studying abroad is to attend a Study Abroad 101 Workshop. These workshops usually run during weeks 2-9 of the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters, and are typically led by a Study Abroad peer advisor, graduate intern, or Study Abroad Advisor. At the workshop, you will be guided through goal setting, financial and academic planning, program selection, and the application process. Visit the Study Abroad website to view the schedule and register to reserve a spot for the Study Abroad 101 Workshops.
When should I start planning to study abroad?
Today! We work with students at every stage of planning. Further, we generally recommend starting the early phases of study abroad planning 9-12 months before the term you wish to study abroad. Your first step is to attend a Study Abroad 101 Workshop, which will help you begin to narrow down your study abroad options and give you an overall picture of study abroad programs that are available. After attending the workshop, you will be able to come to study abroad drop-in advising.
Do I need to know a foreign language?
Not necessarily! Please refer to your program’s catalog and/or website for their specific requirements. Some countries allow students to begin their programs with no prior foreign language experience. Also, we offer programming in English-speaking countries that don’t have a foreign language requirement.
How do I make an appointment to speak with someone?
You must first attend a Study Abroad 101 Workshop prior to meeting with a Peer Advisor or a Study Abroad Advisor. After you have attended a 101 Workshop, just drop by the International Center during the daily drop-in peer advising hours. Study Abroad Advisors are also available by appointment; however, you should first meet with a Peer Advisor before requesting an appointment with a professional Advisor. Group advising is also available at Info Sessions. Info Sessions focus on specific types of programs, and are a great way to get advising on specific programs or areas of interest.
Where is the study abroad office located?
The Study Abroad Office (Cal Poly International Center) is located in Building 52, Room E32.
WHEN & WHERE TO STUDY ABROAD
When should I study abroad?
The “best” time will be different for every student; this will depend on your academic progress and the types of courses you want to take abroad. We recommend beginning your planning early (as early as your first year), and saving the following GE areas, which can be easily found abroad: C1, C2, C3, C4, C Elective, D2, D3, D5. If you plan on taking major-related courses, we recommend meeting with your academic advisor to plan when will be the best time to go and which courses will be best to take abroad.
Where can I study abroad?
Almost anywhere! A good first place to start looking is by utilizing the Advanced Search. More information on how to search for programs is covered in detail at the Study Abroad 101 Workshops. There are over 200 Cal Poly Approved study abroad programs in 50 countries.
Where can I study with my major?
Almost anywhere! Students can study abroad and take coursework not only in their major of study, but also for their minor and general education requirements. Meet with a Study Abroad Advisor or Peer Advisor to discuss academic planning. Visit the Advanced Search on the Study Abroad website to search for programs in your major, and to view the drop-in advising schedule for study abroad.
Can I study abroad multiple times?
Yes! Again, we recommend beginning your planning early and meeting with a Study Abroad Advisor to plan your courses. If you plan on taking major-related courses, we recommend meeting with your academic advisor to plan when will be the best time to go and which courses will be best to take abroad.
Is it possible to study abroad on a program not approved by Cal Poly?
We recommend studying abroad on a Cal Poly Approved program -- there are over 200 of them in 50 countries. However, if you prefer to study abroad on a program that is not Cal Poly Approved, you are welcome to do so. Please just be aware that this will take extra work and planning on your part. Financial aid is not available, advising resources are limited, and transfer credit is not guaranteed. It is critical to confirm whether/how your courses can transfer back to Cal Poly before applying to non-approved programs.
*Can I study in a location under a government 'Travel Warning?'
CSU Study Abroad Offices are restricted by the CSU Chancellor's Office Executive Order 1081 from operating study abroad programs in countries where there is a U.S. State Department ‘Travel Warning’ unless an exception is granted by the Chancellor.
Can I take a class at Cal Poly in the winter quarter if I am going on a spring semester study abroad program?
Most likely, no. Spring semester on most campuses starts in late-January, which will overlap with both winter and spring quarters at Cal Poly. We are always attempting to expand our quarter-long options, so please continue to check back!
If I study abroad on a fall semester program, will I be back at Cal Poly for winter quarter?
Most likely, yes. Most fall semesters end at about the same time as Cal Poly’s fall quarter (mid-December). You should check with your specific program for dates as some universities hold their finals in January, after our winter quarter begins.
*Can I study abroad my final semester and still graduate?
Maybe. Students receiving transfer credit may need to be on campus the last two quarters of their college career in order to have their transfer credit posted to their progress report. You should meet with a study abroad advisor if you are planning on studying abroad your final semester. Please check with the Advising Center to see if there is a blanket substitution or if a “Petition for Special Consideration” is needed.
*I am graduating in June/December; can I study abroad after that?
You can often study abroad independently the term after graduation, or you can even declare a double major or minor in order to take additional classes abroad. You should speak with a Study Abroad Advisor to discuss the details of your specific situation.
I need to graduate in four years. Can I still study abroad?
With careful planning, absolutely! The majority of past study abroad participants have reported that they still went on to graduate on time. Students can take classes abroad to fulfill requirements for their major, minor, and general education requirements.
Will my credits transfer?
Generally, yes they will! If you are participating in a Cal Poly approved study program, every unit you earn abroad will be reflected on your Cal Poly transcript. Some approved programs offer Cal Poly credit, while others offer transfer credit. Both Cal Poly and transfer credit can be applied towards your major, minor, and GE requirements. Before you leave for your time abroad, be sure to seek academic advising in your major. You can discuss which classes will count toward specific graduation requirements so that your courses will transfer back accordingly. 'Course Substitution Forms' will be helpful to get your courses pre-approved before studying abroad; major-related forms can be found at your academic advisor’s office; GE-related forms can be found at the study abroad office. Some colleges have pre-approved course lists; please check with your academic advisor.
Do I get grades for my classes abroad?
Yes, you will be graded, unless you select a credit/no credit option with your program; this option must also be reviewed with your academic advisor as some majors have requirements on the number of credit/no credit courses that can be taken. Also:
If you attend a Cal Poly Global Program or Cal State International Programs, your grades/courses will count as “resident credit” and count towards your Cal Poly GPA.
If you attend a partner program (CEA, CIEE, DIS, EARTH, TEAN, USAC, SAS, SIT) or an international exchange (or some non-affiliated programs), your grades/courses will count as “transfer credit” and count towards your Higher Ed Cumulative GPA, but not your Cal Poly GPA.
Can I take a study abroad class pass/fail? Can I audit a study abroad class?
Please refer to the question above for more details. Some programs allow you to audit classes; please refer to the program’s website and/or catalog for course options. Also note that is Cal Poly receives a transcript from a partner program, all grades listed will be honored.
Where can I go to take classes for my GEs?
Almost anywhere! We encourage students to save their GE area Cs and Ds for their study abroad programs. For more information on this, please meet with a Peer Advisor and visit the Cal Poly GE website for a list of the GE pre-approved study abroad courses. Watch this video to learn how to get study abroad courses approved for GE credit:
Is it possible to participate in an internship on a study abroad program?
Yes! Many of our affiliates offer joint study abroad-internship programs. Use the Advanced Search to identify programs that offer an internship component.
Whom do I talk to in order to get my classes abroad signed off (pre-approved?)?
To get classes pre-approved to count toward your major, minor, or general education requirements, you should first meet with a Study Abroad Advisor who will advise you on the compatible programs for your academic goals and personal preferences. You will then work with your major or minor academic advisor to make sure the courses you take abroad will be substituted toward your major/minor requirements here at Cal Poly. You will typically complete a “Course Substitution Form” with your advisor in order to get the courses pre-approved for substitution. You should do your homework before meeting with any advisor by researching potential classes that will be offered at your host institution and printing course syllabi/descriptions. For help with general education “Course Substitution Forms”, please meet with a Study Abroad Advisor.
Will I know what courses I am taking before I go abroad?
Maybe. Some programs have a set list of courses that you will be taking (such as the Cal Poly Global Programs). Other programs allow students some choice in their courses. Similar to those at Cal Poly, the course lists are subject to change each term and no courses are “guaranteed” to be offered. We recommend having a few-back-up/alternative courses pre-approved for transfer before you go abroad.
Once I have completed my program, how will my transfer credit be applied at Cal Poly?
Please have your transcripts sent to the Cal Poly Registrar’s Office for processing. The Evaluations Unit will enter your transfer credit (you should eventually be able to view this on your Poly Profile under the “View Higher Education Credits Detail” link). Here is the address to send your transcripts to:
Cal Poly State University
Admissions Office (01-206)
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
How much does it cost to study abroad?
The costs associated with each individual study abroad program are outlined on the online 'Budget Sheet' of each program. Fees vary by program and location of study. For example, on USAC programs, the fees and estimates for cost of living are listed after each location description in the USAC catalog or on the USAC website. For CEA programs, you can similarly find cost estimates on their catalog or the CEA website. For the Cal Poly Global Programs, International Exchanges, and the CSU IP programs, students pay the same fees as at Cal Poly for the term abroad; the cost of living for those programs will vary by location of study. For National Student Exchange (NSE), students have the option to pay Cal Poly tuition or in-state tuition for the host university. There are some programs where students will spend roughly the same amount OR LESS than they would have spent at Cal Poly.
Is financial aid available?
Some programs administered by Cal Poly or the Cal State system allow students to use all (or most) of the current financial aid award while they are abroad. Other programs offer scholarships and discounts due to their affiliation with Cal Poly. Please refer to the Financial Aid & Scholarships information for more details. You can meet with a Study Abroad Advisor and/or a Financial Aid Advisor for more information.
Are scholarships available?
There are scholarships available to students who study abroad. We recommend researching scholarships early, starting with the resources at Financial Aid & Scholarships on the study abroad website. Partner programs administer their own scholarships, so check your program’s website for additional scholarship information. If you already receive financial aid, then you might qualify for additional assistance; please meet with a Study Abroad Advisor and/or a Financial Aid Advisor for specific financial aid questions. You are encouraged to attend a 'Financial Aid & Scholarships for Study Abroad' workshop to learn more. These workshops are offered 3-4 times every quarter.
What are the minimum requirements to study abroad?
This varies by program. Some programs have a minimum requirement of 2.5 GPA and others are 2.75 and higher. In addition, most programs require at least sophomore or junior standing. Requirements are usually listed on the program page for the specific program you are interested in. The minimum requirements for Cal Poly are: 2.5 GPA, not actively on academic probation, and in good disciplinary standing. If you are unsure of your GPA or have questions or concerns about the requirements of your program, be sure to meet with a Study Abroad Advisor.
What GPA do I need to study abroad?
Every program has their own GPA and other admission requirements. Please refer to your program’s catalog and/or website for their specific requirements. The minimum requirements for Cal Poly are: 2.5 GPA, not actively on academic probation, and in good disciplinary standing.
Can I study abroad with a GPA lower than what is required?
The flexibility of requirements (such as the GPA requirement) varies by program. Students with a GPA lower than the requirement for the program often can provide a personal essay and/or faculty recommendation letters to support their application. The final decision, however, is at the discretion of the Cal Poly International Center, the program provider, or host university abroad. Students should discuss their special circumstances with a Study Abroad Advisor and their program.
I don’t speak another language. Can I still go abroad?
We offer many programs that are located in English-speaking countries or at English-speaking universities all over the world. Language learning courses often begin at the basic/introductory level to allow for all levels of language learning. Many counties have an option for homestays, which allow for further language immersion. In addition to these options, many of our programs in non-English speaking countries offer intensive foreign language courses.
Can first-year students apply to study abroad?
Depending on the type of program you have chosen, you may be able to apply as early as your first year! We normally recommend the earliest timing to be the summer between freshman and sophomore year. If you have questions about the enrollment requirements for a specific program, then come talk to a Study Abroad Advisor.
How do I apply? When do I apply?
Each program has their own application process, however, most processes begin with applying through Cal Poly Abroad. Please refer to your programs website and/or catalog for additional application procedures. We recommend beginning your application process as soon as possible! (Especially if you need to get courses pre-approved (for affiliated partner programs and/or programs with transfer credit).
Is it possible to apply for more than one program at a time?
We do not recommend this- completing applications for multiple programs on Cal Poly Abroad can result in multiple charges of the International Center fee being posted to your account. We recommend only applying to one program at a time also because of the work involved with course approvals and applications, but if you are planning to do back-to-back programs or are unsure about which program is your first choice, then you should meet with an advisor.
Where can I get help with the application process?
Come to the International Center during drop-in peer advising for assistance with the application process. Also, Info Sessions are a great place to get help on the application process for specific types of programs. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
How do I apply for a passport? Where can I get a passport photo taken?
Passport applications are available online, but if it’s your first time applying, you may have to appear in person. More information on current processing times, locations for applying and forms can be found on the U.S. State Department Website. Passport photos can be taken at many locations for a nominal fee, including: AAA offices, FedEx, Kinkos.
*Do I need a visa?
A visa is an official stamp or seal that is placed inside of your passport. Some programs do require that you obtain a visa prior to departure. This will depend on the location and length of the program. You should be notified by your program provider if you need a visa and the process for applying for the visa. You will need a current passport before you can apply for a visa.
Is there a Pre-Departure Orientation?
Yes. All study abroad applicants are required to complete a series of online pre-departure training modules. Additionally, students will be required to attend at least one in-person pre-departure meeting specific to their program type.
Where will I live while I am abroad?
There are usually 3 different types of living situations offered during study abroad programs. Your program might offer a choice between types or might only have one option. You should refer to their catalog and/or website to get specific information on what they offer. Some programs (especially non-affiliated programs) may not offer housing assistance and you may need to find housing on your own:
Homestays: live with a host family that will prepare you 1-2 meals per day. Provides a high level of language immersion.
Apartment: similar to Cal Poly. Apartments are generally shared with other students from your program or host university with shared common areas. Generally these are “self-catered” or require you to purchase and make your own meals.
Dorm/University Housing: similar to Cal Poly. Dorm rooms are generally shared with other students from your program or host university with shared common areas. Some might come with a meal plan.
Do I have to take a full load of classes when I am abroad?
Yes. You must maintain full time student status while you are on study abroad. You are expected to stay on track towards your graduation requirements without falling behind. Most study abroad programs have attendance policies, and you are expected to attend all of your classes.
Are resources available for Health & Safety while abroad?
Yes. Your health and safety while abroad is a top priority of Cal Poly. Please carefully read all of the information about Health & Safety on the study abroad website.
What can I do after I return from study abroad?
There are many ways you can stay involved and remain connected to your study abroad experience both on and off campus! Read all of the information at Upon Return on the study abroad website.
*Please refer these questions to a Study Abroad Advisor.