Frequently Asked Questions
|GETTING STARTED||WHEN & WHERE
TO STUDY ABROAD
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 the following:
- 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
- Gaining maturity and independence
- Watch this video to learn more about why Cal Poly students go on study abroad!
What is the first step to studying abroad?
The first step to studying abroad is to Complete the "Study Abroad 101 Module." This self-guided online module covers academic planning, financial planning, program selection, and the application process.
When should I start planning to study abroad?
Today! We work with students at every stage of planning. It is never too early to start planning ahead for study abroad. We generally recommend starting to plan at least 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 at Cal Poly. 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! Over 50% of Cal Poly approved study abroad programs offer courses taught in English. Please refer to your program’s online brochure and/or website for its specific language requirements. Some countries allow students to begin their programs with no prior foreign language experience. Also, we offer programs in English-speaking countries that don’t have a foreign language requirement.
How do I make an appointment for study abroad advising?
You must first complete the 'Study Abroad 101 Module' prior to meeting with a Peer Advisor or a Study Abroad Advisor. This module gives you a foundational overview of study abroad at Cal Poly, answers many of the questions you may have, and introduces you to some useful resources that will guide your next steps. After completing the 'Study Abroad 101 Module,' you may meet one-on-one with a Study Abroad Peer Advisor during virtual drop-in advising hours. Study Abroad Advisors are also available by appointment; however, you must 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 the best 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. Please note that the International Center is closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All study abroad services are available virtually (including drop-in peer advising, workshops, info sessions, and advising appointments). Updates regarding all campus closures during COVID-19 can be found at Cal Poly Coronavirus Information.
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, C5, C Elective, D2, D3, D5. You won't necessarily take all of these GEs abroad, but the more flexibility you have, the better. 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. 2nd through 5th year students may study abroad. Because Cal Poly is on the quarter system, the most common terms to study abroad are summer and fall.
Where can I study abroad?
The sky's the limit! There are over 400 Cal Poly Approved study abroad programs in 75 countries. A good place to start looking is the Advanced Search. More information on how to search for programs is covered in detail at the online Study Abroad 101 Module.
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 GE requirements. Meet with a Study Abroad Peer Advisor to discuss academic planning. Visit the Advanced Search on the Study Abroad website to search for programs in your academic area.
Travel is currently restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Will study abroad be available again in the future?
Yes, travel to certain countries continues to be restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. View the latest study abroad related COVID-19 announcements for updates on which programs are restricted. The International Center continues to monitor the worldwide situation of the COVID-19 outbreak. The safety of our students and employees abroad and of international students and scholars on campus is our highest priority. We are in communication with the CSU, campus stakeholders, and San Luis Obispo County Public Health in our response to the novel coronavirus.
Are there study abroad options for engineering students?
Yes! Cal Poly offers many engineering-focused study abroad programs, including International Exchanges, Partner Programs, Global Programs, and National Student Exchange. Cross-cultural communication skills and problem-based learning are especially important for future engineers. Engineering students may decide to study abroad on engineering programs during a regular academic term, or to complete GE courses on a summer study abroad program. Refer to your major flow chart, meet with your academic advisor, and plan ahead to include one or more study abroad programs into your college experience in order to prepare for a career in engineering.
Can I study abroad multiple times?
Yes! Again, we recommend beginning your planning early and meeting with a Study Abroad Peer Advisor to plan your courses. If you plan on taking major-related courses, we also 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 400 of them in 75 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 typically available, advising resources are limited, and transfer credit is not guaranteed. It is critical for you to confirm whether/how your courses can transfer back to Cal Poly before applying to non-approved programs. Carefully review the Guidelines for Non-affiliated Study Abroad.
*Can I study in a location that has a government 'Travel Advisory?'
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 Advisory Level 3 or 4, or in countries that appear on the CSU Risk Management Authority high hazard list, unless an exception is granted by the home University President.
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 the official program 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 degree progress report. You should meet with a Study Abroad Advisor if you are planning on studying abroad your final term. Please also check with the Advising Center to see if there is a blanket substitution or if a 'Petition for Special Consideration' is needed. Consult the Cal Poly Catalog regarding your college's academic residence requirements for graduation (i.e., 28 of the last 40 units must be taken in residence). Additionally, you should plan for alternate scenarios in case the transfer coursework you are relying on to graduate does not end up being offered on your program, as course offerings can change.
*I am graduating in June/December; can I study abroad after that?
Even after you graduate, there are many options to go abroad again for volunteer service, internships, graduate school, or work. You can explore the resources on our Go Abroad Again handout. In some cases, you might decide to delay your graduation in order to study abroad before you complete your degree requirements. You should speak with a Study Abroad Advisor to discuss the details of your specific situation. Some students even decide to declare a double major or minor in order to take additional classes abroad before graduating. Additionally, you can often study abroad independently (not though Cal Poly) the term after graduation.
VIRTUAL INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE
What is Virtual International Exchange?
A virtual international exchange is an online sustained and collaborative learning approach that can be either synchronous (real-time) or asynchronous (at different times to accommodate international time differences). The International Center provides opportunities for Cal Poly students to participate in virtual international internships and virtual international study abroad programs. Students can gain valuable work experience in an international setting from the comfort of their own home. Cal Poly's study abroad partners offer virtual internship programs in various disciplines, such as agriculture, architecture, arts, broadcasting, computer science, engineering, environmental studies international business, marketing, film and video editing, non-profits, communications and journalism, and more. Students can also engage in a virtual semester taking courses in a variety of disciplines ranging from Art History, Communication, Cultural Studies, Psychology, Philosophy and Sociology, and more. Students may choose to enroll in 1-5 courses within a semester (a la carte or full-time enrollment). Virtual study options offer opportunities for students to take coursework from experts at multiple universities worldwide, and to collaborate with students in other countries. Students can opt to take all coursework for fall through a virtual study abroad program or can take even just one course to complement Cal Poly curriculum.
What are the benefits of participating in a virtual program?
Virtual programs give students the unique opportunity to develop intercultural competencies and technological skills while also gaining professional experience and/or knowledge in a specific academic discipline. As the world becomes more reliant on virtual technology and companies devote more resources to conducting business online, having an internationally focused virtual experience will be a crucial component of your Cal Poly education! Participating in a virtual program can also help you become better prepared to eventually apply for an in-country study abroad later on!
Are there scholarship opportunities for virtual programs?
It depends on the program, but some of our service providers have offered full tuition scholarships for their virtual offerings!
Can I use financial aid for a virtual program?
If I the program is offered by an affiliated partner with Cal Poly (and is listed on our website) and offers academic credit, then certain types of financial aid may be eligible for virtual programs! If you are receiving financial aid, we recommend reaching out to your Financial Aid Counselor or emailing email@example.com to learn more.
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 abroad program, the units 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. You may find it helpful to review the Office of the Registrar's Transcript Processing Timeline. Early in the planning process, 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 substitution forms can be found at your academic department or Advising Center. Some colleges have pre-approved course lists; please check with your academic advisor for the best method for getting major coursework approvals. GE-related substitution forms can be found on the Academic Planning page of the study abroad website.
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.
- If you attend a Cal Poly Global Program or CSU 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, University of Glasgow) or an international exchange (or some non-affiliated programs), your grades/courses will count as 'transfer credit' and will count towards your Higher Ed Cumulative GPA, but not your Cal Poly GPA.
Keep in mind that, when you apply to graduate/medical/law school, etc., you may need to produce all of your transcripts (including those from study abroad). It is always recommended to do your very best in your courses while on study abroad.
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 Cal Poly receives a transcript from a partner program, and all grades listed will be honored. It is not possible to receive a letter grade on your study abroad transcript and then request for it to be changed to credit/no credit for your higher ed GPA.
Where can I go to take 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 below 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 Partner Programs 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 GE requirements, it may be helpful for you to meet with a Study Abroad Peer Advisor who will indicate which programs may be a good fit for your academic goals and personal goals. 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 Major 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 assistance with the GE Course Substitution Form, please meet with a Study Abroad Peer 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, in the case that the courses you originally selected are not offered.
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 Admissions Office for processing. Make sure your study abroad transcripts are sent to the following address:
Cal Poly State University
Admissions Office - Transcripts
1 Grand Ave.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Upon receipt of your transcripts, the Evaluations Unit will enter your transfer credit into your academic record. You will eventually be able to view transfer credit on your Poly Profile under the 'View Higher Education Credits Detail' link. It may take up to two quarters for the credits to be evaluated and appear on your Degree Progress Report. You may find it helpful to review the Office of the Registrar's Transcript Processing Timeline.
How much does it cost to study abroad?
Watch this video to learn about Financial Aid & Scholarships for Study Abroad:
It depends on which program you select. Costs vary based on program type, location, length, activities & excursions, cost of living, and other factors. All Cal Poly approved study abroad programs are a good value, but they range in price from very affordable to very expensive. The costs associated with each individual study abroad program are outlined on the online 'Budget Sheet' of each program's brochure page. There are some programs where students will spend roughly the same amount OR LESS than they would have spent at Cal Poly; on other programs, students will spend more than what the would spend at Cal Poly.
- On Partner Programs such as USAC, 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. Cost information is available on all partner programs' websites.
- For Cal Poly Global Programs, International Exchanges, and CSU IP programs, students typically pay similar fees to what they would normally pay at Cal Poly. The cost of living for those programs will vary by location of study. Refer to each program's 'Budget Sheet' for cost estimates.
- For National Student Exchange (NSE), students have the option to pay Cal Poly tuition or in-state tuition for the host university.
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 may only accept some types of financial aid, but offer students additional scholarships and discounts due to their affiliation with Cal Poly. Please refer to the Financial Aid & Scholarships information for specific details on which grants and loans can be applied to each program type. We recommend that you attend a 'Financial Aid & Scholarships for Study Abroad' workshop, which is offered twice every quarter. Many students also find it helpful to meet with a Financial Aid Advisor during the study abroad planning process. Click below to access the 'Fund Your Study Abroad Experience' handout:
Are scholarships available?
Yes! There are several 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 contact 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 twice every quarter.
What are the minimum eligibility requirements to study abroad?
While this can vary by program, Cal Poly's absolute minimum requirements for students to be eligible to study abroad are:
- 2.5 GPA (higher ed and Cal Poly)
- Not actively on academic probation at the time of application and participation
- In good disciplinary standing (see Disciplinary Standing Policy below)
Disciplinary Standing Policy
Students must be in good disciplinary standing in order to participate on a study abroad program. For students with a disciplinary record, all sanctions must be completed by time of application and you must be off of disciplinary probation by the start date of your program
- Policy for Virtual Programs: Applicants who are on disciplinary probation and want to apply for a fully virtual study abroad program may request an exception to the disciplinary standing policy and have their individual situation considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have any questions about your eligibility for study abroad, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and request an advising appointment to discuss your request.
What GPA do I need to study abroad?
The minimum GPA requirement for Cal Poly students to be eligible to study abroad is a 2.5 GPA (both Cal Poly and higher ed). In addition, each program may have their own GPA and other admission requirements. Please refer to your program’s brochure page and/or website for the specific requirements. Many programs have a minimum GPA requirement of 2.5, while others have a minimum GPA requirement of 2.75, 3.0, or 3.2. In addition, most programs require at least sophomore standing; others require junior standing.
Can I study abroad with a GPA below the minimum requirement?
The flexibility of minimum GPA requirements varies by program. Some programs have no flexibility with the minimum GPA requirement, while others may have a small amount of flexibility. Students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of their study abroad program may be advised to postpone studying abroad until their GPA has improved, or they may be required to submit supplemental statements, letters of recommendation, and/or attend an in-person interview at the International Center. Students should communicate any special circumstances that resulted in their low GPA to a Study Abroad Advisor. Student participation in study abroad is at the discretion of the Cal Poly International Center, the program provider, and/or the host university abroad.
Can I study abroad if I am on academic probation?
To be eligible for study abroad, you must be in good academic standing. You may not be on academic probation when you apply for study abroad, nor while you are on study abroad. Once you are back in good academic standing, you can apply to study abroad.
I don’t speak another language. Can I still go abroad?
Yes! Over 50% of all Cal Poly approved study abroad programs offer course taught in English. There are many programs located in English-speaking countries or at English-speaking universities all over the world. Language courses often begin at the basic/introductory level to allow for all levels of language learning. Many countries 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?
We normally recommend the earliest timing for study abroad to be the summer between freshman and sophomore year. Depending on the type of program you have chosen, you may be able to apply for study abroad during your first year. If you have questions about the enrollment requirements for a specific program, please consult a Study Abroad Advisor.
How do I apply? When do I apply?
Before you may apply to a specific study abroad program, you must complete the online Study Abroad 101 Module. Once you have completed the Study Abroad 101 Module, you may apply to a specific study abroad program. Each program has its own application process -- some are more complex or time-consuming than others. The application process typically begins with applying for the program you have selected through the Cal Poly Abroad website (abroad.calpoly.edu). Look for the 'Apply Now' button. Please refer to your program's website and/or catalog for additional application procedures. We recommend beginning your application process 6-12 months prior to the start of the program, especially if you need to get transfer courses pre-approved.
Is it possible to apply for more than one program at a time?
We do not recommend this! Your priority should be to make an informed program selection, and then you apply to that specific program. 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 and time involved with course approvals and applications. If you are planning to do back-to-back programs or are unsure about which program is your first choice, then you should visit drop-in peer advising for guidance on program selection.
Where can I get help with the application process?
We encourage you to attend virtual drop-in peer advising for assistance with the application process. Info Sessions are also a great place to get help on the application process for specific types of programs. You can also email email@example.com with questions.
How do I apply for a passport? Where can I get a passport photo taken?
Information on passport applications, processing times, locations for applying, and forms can be found on the U.S. State Department Website. Passport applications are available online, but if it’s your first time applying, you may have to appear at a local passport/post office in person. Passport photos can be taken at many locations for a nominal fee, including: AAA offices, FedEx, Kinkos, and Costco.
*Do I need a visa?
A visa is an official stamp or seal that is placed inside your passport. Some programs require that you obtain a visa prior to departure, while others allow you to enter the country with just a valid passport. Visa requirements will depend on the location and length of the program, and may also depend on your country of citizenship. You will typically be notified by your program advisor if you need a visa, and given instructions for applying for the visa. However, ultimately it is each student's responsibility to research and obtain all necessary visas or entry permits. 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. Please see Before You Go to review Student Pre-Departure Resources.
Where will I live while I am abroad?
Different programs offer different living situations, such as dormitories, apartments, homestays, and/or hotels. Your program might offer a choice between housing types, or it might only offer one option. You should refer to the program brochure and/or website to get specific information on what housing is offered. Some programs (especially International Exchanges) may not offer housing assistance, and you may need to find housing on your own. Common housing options on study abroad include the following:
- Homestays -- live with a local host family that will prepare 1-2 meals for you per day. Homestays provide a high level of language and cultural immersion.
- Apartment -- similar to living off campus at Cal Poly. Apartments are generally shared with other students from your program or host university, and have shared common areas. Generally these are 'self-catered' and require you to purchase and make your own meals.
- Dorm/University Housing -- similar to living on campus at Cal Poly. Dorm rooms are generally shared with other students from your program or host university, and have 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 connected to your study abroad experience upon return to Cal Poly! Taking an active role in the international community will help you adjust to being back in the United States and give you a way to meet other people who value study abroad the way you do. Start by checking out all of the information at Upon Return on the study abroad website. Options for returnees include the following:
- Attend the Returnee Conference
- Join the International Club (i-club)
- Join a Language Group
- Volunteer as an International Welcome Ambassador
- Become a Study Abroad Peer Advisor
- Go Abroad Again
*Please refer these questions to a Study Abroad Advisor.