Study Abroad Student Handbook
United States United States
Center for Global Education

Who Runs Your Program

In this section, you will learn how to better understand who runs your program, and whether it is closely connected with your U.S. home university. Before deciding on a study abroad program in the United States, it's important to identify what kind of relationship your U.S. College or University has with your study abroad program; essentially, you want to know who is "in charge," and who will help you if you need assistance.

There are five general types of study abroad program sponsors, which can be classified by the kind of relationship your U.S. home institution's staff has with a program's international staff. This can help you determine how much communication goes on between U.S. staff and abroad staff; does each party know what the other party is doing?

1. Five Types of Program Sponsors

  1. Home University Owned and OperatedHome University Owned and Operated:Your university usually operates facilities and programs abroad as if they were a part of its campus. It employs some or all of a program's staff abroad and owns, leases, controls or operates some or all of the program facilities and operations abroad. Staff and facilities abroad vary greatly from a one person office to a full campus.
  2. Home University PartnershipsHome University Partnerships:The study abroad program is a result of a cooperative arrangement or agreement between your university and one or more educational institutions or organizations abroad. This allows your university to send its students on programs owned and operated by an American or a foreign college, university or independent program provider.
  3. Independent StudentIndependent Student:Students find and enroll in programs independent of their university. In some cases, students will remain enrolled in their home campus, using their financial aid. In other cases, students will be required to take a leave of absence. Upon return, students may or may not receive credit for study completed abroad.
  4. Individual Faculty/Staff Travel Study ProgramIndividual Faculty/Staff Travel Study Program:Many short term/summer programs are led by an individual faculty or staff member accompanying the group, with no permanent office abroad.
  5. Hybrid ProgramsHybrid Programs:Many study abroad programs are mixtures of the four previously mentioned types of programs. For example, your home university may have an administrative office abroad, while courses and housing may be offered by a foreign university, and activities may be arranged by an independent program provider.

2. Four Types of On–Site Program Providers

The program sponsors listed above, may provide on–site program administration in the United States through four types of program providers:

  • Foreign University Programs:Students directly enroll in the courses offered by the foreign university. Foreign universities offer varying levels of services and support.
  • U.S. University Abroad: Students can enroll in other home universities' programs abroad with which their home university has a formal agreement.
  • Independent Program Providers: Many study abroad providers are neither colleges nor universities, but are only in the business of providing study abroad programs. Programs vary from well-staffed organization with offices in the U.S. and abroad to a one person office anywhere in the world.
  • Hybrid Program Providers: Many study abroad program providers are mixtures of the three previously mentioned types of program providers. For instance, your university may have an administrative office abroad, while courses and housing may be offered by a foreign university, and excursions may be arranged by an independent program provider.

After you understand who runs your study abroad program in the United States and whether it is closely connected with your home university, the next step should involve a review of whether the level of support services both in your country and in the United States will meet your needs. Remember that there is no U.S. organization that regulates the quality and certifies any minimum standard for study abroad programs. For this reason, it would be wise to take an active role in evaluating a program prior to participating in it. It is important to look at the many types of activities provided by your program.

3. Activities Include

  • Excursions/Field Trips
  • Travel/Transportation
  • Classes
  • Housing
  • Counseling (if provided)/Student Services/Health Office
  • Academic Advisement for classes

4. Study Options

There are many options in deciding where to pursue your academic goals. Most U.S. colleges, universities and independent programs offer different selections of courses and degree programs. In general, U.S. colleges and universities operate on the belief that students should take advantage of the opportunity to experience and learn new things. This is one of the main reasons why most programs do not allow students to choose a career until they've taken beginning courses across many fields of study. As an international student, you may be accustomed to specializing in only one field of study. Most students in the United States now believe that it is to their advantage to receive a degree in more than one discipline, and as the job market gets more competitive, employers are also now looking for employees with diverse backgrounds. In this section you will find out what are some of the areas of study in the United States and the types of programs available.

1. Liberal Arts Liberal Arts programs are very popular among Undergraduate students. These programs provide students with a broad background across many areas of study, including arts, math, literature, foreign languages, and social and natural sciences. Individual colleges and universities set their requirements.
2. Specialized Programs Whereas many Undergraduate students opt for a broad background, most Graduate students have an interest in a specialized field. Specialized degrees include the Masters and Doctorates (Ph.D's) in Fine Arts, Business Administration, Architecture, Engineering Medicine, and Dentistry, to name a few. These programs prepare students to enter particular professions. Students must hold an Undergraduate degree to qualify for these programs.
3. Language Academies Many international students who come to the United States hoping to learn English apply to ESL programs for full-time language study. The benefit of this is that language academies, naturally, emphasize an intensive English-language experience focusing on reading, writing and speaking English. One of the disadvantages is that most students, if not all, are foreign students who are also learning English. Some of these academies, like the New York Center for English Studies, are run by private businesses. Others, including the University of Southern California's Language Academy are affiliated with major universities.
4. Fine Arts Education If you're interested in dance, photography, ceramics, fashion design, graphic design, interior design, or any career in the arts, you may also want to look into private colleges who specialize in the arts. Many U.S. fine arts colleges balance artistic expression with practical career goals. The Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) is an excellent place to learn more about fine art programs in the United States.
5. Religious Affiliations American universities like Yale and Harvard are recognized internationally as excellent institutions of higher education. But what many people don't know is that these universities are only two of many which were founded on religious principles. Many top students from across the country look to private religious colleges and universities for their academic studies.

5. Contracts and Obligations

signatureParticipation in a study abroad program very likely will involve contracts. You, and maybe your parents, will have to read through and sign a number of important documents. Some of these documents might limit a program's responsibility or liability in the case you are injured in the United States, other contracts might hold you responsible for certain behavior, still other contracts may require you to release personal information. Read everything before you sign. If you have to, re–read everything, have your parents read everything, or have your lawyer read everything before you sign anything. Don't let anyone pressure you into signing an agreement that confuses you, or one you don't understand. Ask study abroad administrators to explain exactly what they are having you sign, what it means, and what happens if you don't want to sign. Know your rights and take time to think about any possible consequences of signing or not signing. Among other things, think about the following when deciding to sign or not sign a contract:

  • By signing, what are you agreeing to do/not do?
  • What rights do you gain/give up?
  • Does the contract protect you or your program sponsor?
  • Is the contract legally sound?
  • Can the contract be broken after you have signed?

5. Relevant Questions

  • What are the main differences among the five general types of program sponsors?
  • Can you identify which one of the five general types of program sponsors your program has and why you prefer that type of program?
  • What kind of relationship does your home college/university have with the study abroad program in the United States?
  • How long has the program been in existence (a new program doesn't necessarily mean a bad program)?
  • What is the program's current financial situation?

6. Checklist

  • I have asked my program's administrators how closely my .home college/university will be working with my program coordinators abroad.
  • I know which of the five types of program sponsors runs my study abroad program.
  • I am aware of what kind of facilities my program has abroad (i.e. a one person office versus a comprehensive campus).
  • I know whether I will be enrolled in a foreign university, a U.S. university or an independent program abroad.
  • I understand what services and activities will and will not be provided for me by my program.

7. Resources

Country Specific
Student Handbooks
TerraDotta logo