Study Abroad FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for study abroad?

You must have a GPA of at least 2.7, not be behind in credits, have the approval of your major department and, if applicable, the appropriate language department, and be in good academic, financial, and disciplinary standing. You must also have a plan of study that is transferable to Mount Holyoke and will enable you to graduate on schedule.

Where do I begin?

Start by thinking about your goals for study abroad: Do you want to improve your proficiency in a foreign language? Sharpen your focus on your major? Study a particular place or issue through community-based learning? The more clearly you can articulate your goals, the easier it will be to find a suitable program.  See First Steps for more advice.  

Can I make an appointment to talk with someone about study abroad?

Yes, you can call us at 413-538-2072 to make an appointment with Joanne Picard, Dean of International Studies (who advises about Latin America, Europe, and Oceania) or Donna Van Handle, Dean of International Students (who advises about Asia, Africa, and the Middle East). Appointment times in September are reserved for students applying to study abroad in the spring, as they will have imminent deadlines. It will help us focus on your particular interests if you have done some preliminary research on the web and/or attended a general info session before making an appointment.

Is study abroad just for juniors?

No, students may study abroad as sophomores or first-semester seniors, provided that they meet the usual requirements.

Can I study on a program that is not on the list of approved programs?

We will consider petitions for programs not on our list only in exceptional circumstances, such as if you have a compelling reason to study in a country that is not represented on the list, or a highly specialized major that cannot readily be accommodated. If you have difficulty identifying a suitable program from the list, consult with Joanne Picard or Donna Van Handle.  Note early petition deadlines: typically early December for programs beginning in the fall, and late March for programs beginning in the spring.

Why does Mount Holyoke limit the programs to which I can apply?

There are thousands of study abroad programs, and their quality is highly variable; it is not possible for Mount Holyoke to evaluate every program. With the advice of faculty, we have identified a series of programs that meet our expectations for study abroad (academic and cultural) and in which we have confidence based on our own evaluation and previous students' experience.

What is a "Laurel Preferred" program?

"Laurel Preferred" programs are high quality programs that are competitively priced for their location. Program quality does not reliably correlate to program cost. Students applying for Laurel Fellowships must apply to Laurel Preferred programs. By taking program cost into account, we are able to fund more students for study abroad. (Students not applying for Laurel Fellowships often enroll in Laurel Preferred programs as well because they represent good value.)

I don't speak a language other than English. Does that mean I have to study in an English-speaking country?

No, there are many good programs in other places that are taught in English and do not require previous knowledge of the host country language; examples include many locations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and eastern and central Europe. Our approved programs lists identify the language of instruction for each program.

How many semesters of language do I need to complete before going abroad to a non-English-speaking country?

Most programs taught in the target language will require between 4 and 6 semesters of language study, or the equivalent. Some programs taught partially in English, or focusing on language acquisition, or in a country whose language is not widely taught in the US, will require less (perhaps just a year, or even none). For study in a Francophone country, students must take at least one four-credit course in French each semester they are enrolled at Mount Holyoke, and complete at least one course in culture and literature at the 200 level (215, 219, 225, or 230) prior to their departure. For study in a German-language program, students must take at least one four-credit course in German each semester prior to going abroad.

Do I have to study the local language while I am abroad?

We strongly recommend that you take a language course even if your program does not require it. Knowing a little bit of the language will help you to interact with local residents and learn more about the culture.

I want to study in a country whose language isn't taught at Mount Holyoke; how can I learn the language before I go abroad?

You may be able to find other language courses at the other campuses in the Five College Consortium, or at the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages, which offers mentored or independent courses in more than 25 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu.

Is it true that science majors can't study abroad?

No! Science majors in all disciplines regularly study abroad. Your advisor can help you figure out how best to fit study abroad into your program, and to negotiate any particular issues with course sequencing. Use the Search by Major feature on our website to see where other science majors have studied, and what courses they took.

I have a learning disability; should I wait until I'm accepted to tell my program?

We strongly recommend that you discuss your learning disability (or any chronic medical conditions or other concerns) in advance with us, with AccessAbility Services, and with potential program sponsors. Not all locations will be able to accommodate all needs; if you address those needs at the beginning, you will be better able to find a program that will work for you.  

How difficult is it to get into a program?

If you meet the program's requirements and apply in a timely way, you can generally expect to be accepted. Most programs offer rolling admission, meaning that applications are reviewed as they are completed: if you qualify and there is space, you will be accepted.  Some rolling-admission programs may fill early just because they are popular. Some programs will be more competitive, with a higher GPA requirement, for example, and with admission decisions made only after all completed applications have been reviewed.

How many programs can I apply to?

In most cases, two or three programs will be sufficient. Keep in mind that applying to programs takes time, and money for application fees and transcripts.

What if I apply to study abroad and then decide not to go?

Simply submit the Study Abroad Decision Form indicating that you will not be going abroad. Students applying for programs that begin in the fall have until May 15 to turn in the form, and students applying for spring programs have until November 15.

How will my credits transfer?

Liberal arts courses completed with grades equivalent to C- or better will transfer automatically as elective credit.  See Credit Transfer for more information.

If my program courses are worth 3 credits each, will I receive 4 credits for each course at Mount Holyoke?

Because there are many different credit systems, we transfer credit on a full-load for full-load basis rather than course-by-course. If you complete what your host program or university defines as the normal full-time course load for a semester, you will receive 16 credits here. For example, most programs that award 3 credits per course will define the normal full-time course load as 5 courses (15 credits) per semester, which transfers as 16 credits.

Is study abroad pass/fail, or will my grades transfer?

Study abroad is NOT pass/fail!  You will receive grades, and you must earn grades equivalent to C- or better for credits to transfer.  Except for MHC's own program in Monteverde, only the credits, not the grades, will appear on your MHC transcript.  When you apply to graduate school, for employment, etc., you will need to submit both your MHC and study abroad transcripts.

Can I fulfill requirements with courses taken abroad?

Yes, provided that the courses are approved for that purpose by the chair of the appropriate department here. It is wise to obtain such approvals in advance, whenever possible.

Do I pay Mount Holyoke when I study abroad?

No, except for Mount Holyoke programs and exchanges, students pay their program directly. All students pay Mount Holyoke an administrative fee for study abroad, which is currently $900 per semester.

What does it cost to study abroad?

Most programs abroad cost less than study at Mount Holyoke, though there are exceptions. Students who are receiving little or no financial aid at Mount Holyoke will often find that it is less expensive for them to study abroad. For students who are approved for Laurel Fellowships, their family contribution will generally be the same while they are abroad as if they were on campus.  For some students who receive a combination of need-based and merit aid at Mount Holyoke, their family contribution may be higher than it is here, as Laurel funding is based on need.

Does Mount Holyoke financial aid travel abroad?

Mount Holyoke aid does not travel. The Laurel Fellowships substitute for the need-based aid that students would have received here.

If programs abroad generally cost less than Mount Holyoke, isn't it less expensive for Mount Holyoke to send me abroad than to have me here on campus?

No. The aid that you receive on campus essentially represents a tuition discount. The Laurel Fellowship funds that we provide for study abroad represent an actual (and greater) cost to the College, even if the amount of aid you receive is less. (Think of it this way: a shop might offer you a coupon for $5 off any purchase in the store, but they would not offer you $5 to spend in another store.)

If I receive a Laurel Fellowship, what will it cover? How much will it be?

Your budget will include tuition and related required academic fees (if any), room and board, Mount Holyoke's administrative fee for study abroad, and allowances toward books, personal expenses, and roundtrip airfare. You will be expected to make the appropriate family contribution, and to carry the appropriate loan. The amount of your Laurel Fellowship will be based on need and, just like the aid you receive here, is meant to cover the difference between your own resources and the budget for your program.

What are my chances of receiving a Laurel Fellowship?

Mount Holyoke aims to fund all qualified students. Typically we approve more than 90% of eligible Laurel applicants each year.  

Do I have to show that study abroad is essential to my major to be considered for a Laurel Fellowship?

No, but you do have to outline academic goals for study abroad. Those goals may be related to your major or minor, to developing language proficiency, or (for students with little or no previous experience outside the U.S.) the educational benefits of developing a broader perspective on yourself and the world through study in another country.  Students who have already lived outside the U.S. for an extended period of time will need to argue persuasively that study abroad will decidedly enhance their work in their major at Mount Holyoke in order to be considered for Laurel funding.  See Laurel Fellowship Criteria for additional information.

Can the McCulloch Center advise me about summer study?

The McCulloch Center does not have extensive resources about summer programs, but we do have some information on file in the McCulloch Center Lounge. In general, we recommend that you start by looking at summer programs run by colleges and organizations that have semester/year programs on our approved programs list. Credit for summer study, whether abroad or in the US, is evaluated by the Registrar's Office.