Frequently Asked Questions

The Basics

Who can study abroad?
All enrolled UWM students in good academic and disciplinary standing are eligible to study abroad. Acceptance criteria and deadlines vary from program to program. Exchange programs usually require a 3.0 GPA and study abroad programs a 2.5. When planning to study abroad make sure to investigate the requirements for any program of interest.
Where can students go?
UWM offers numerous study abroad and exchange programs that explore Asia, Western Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Australia. Students also have the option to go on a Non-UWM program to any university they choose as long as it is accredited.
Can I study abroad in a country or on a program that is not offered by UWM?
Students can participate in an accredited Non-UWM program. Students are recommended to speak with the Non-UWM Program Coordinator about getting the program approved. If a student decides to participate on a Non-UWM program the student will need to complete a Non-UWM program application, additionally, students will need to complete a Non-UWM program application. While participating on Non-UWM program students will receive transfer credit that may or may not be applicable to their major, minor, or certificate, it is recommended that students connect with their academic advisor to plan how the credits will affect the student’s academic plan.
When can students study abroad?
Students can choose between Fall, Spring, Academic Year, UWinteriM, Summer, and Spring Break programs. Students must complete at least two semesters of regular coursework a UWM in order to qualify to study abroad (only one semester if they are a new transfer student) so that they are able to adjust to UWM before trying to adjust to an entirely new country and academic setting.
What is the difference between study abroad and exchange programs?
Generally study abroad is a generic term for academic programs overseas. At UWM we distinguish between exchange and study abroad programs. Exchange programs involve the exchange of students between UWM and a partner university abroad. Only fully-matriculated UWM students may participate in UWM exchange programs. UWM students pay normal UWM tuition plus the cost of room and board at the host campus. Non-exchange, or study abroad programs, do not involve international students coming to UWM. Instead, students on these programs simply go abroad and the cost of that program to UWM. In the case of Non-UWM programs, students pay the cost directly to their program sponsor.
How long is a study abroad program?
Short-term programs, usually led by UWM professors, typically last between two and six weeks and take place during the summer or UWinteriM. Semester and Academic Year programs are also available. Both long and short term programs have their merits. Short-term programs are often less expensive and more convenient than long-term programs but longer programs typically offer greater opportunity to learn about the host country and improve language skills. The length of time a student spends abroad will depend on their particular needs and goals, their financial resources, as well as the limits placed by their academic program at UWM.
Where will students live abroad?
Living arrangements vary by program. For short-term programs, lodging is typically provided in hotels and youth hostels.  For longer term programs the most common types of accommodation arranged for study abroad students are residence hall-type housing, homestays, or private apartments or rooms.  Residence hall housing abroad is usually quite different than at UWM. Most students are housed in single rooms with a shared bathroom, kitchen, and living room. Students are usually responsible for buying and preparing their own meals. Once a student has been accepted to their program, they will work with the institution abroad or study abroad program provider to make their living arrangements.

Homestays may be the best way to get immersed in the host culture. The experience of living with a family can provide many unique insights in ways that other arrangements cannot. However, homestays may be more restrictive in that students will be expected to conform to the rules and norms of the family, which will certainly be different from their own family.

Private rooms or apartments generally offer the most freedom, but they are usually the most expensive and difficult to arrange. Students must make their own arrangements for apartments and private rooms and must often pay a deposit before being allowed to move in.

Will students have health insurance while they are abroad?
The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents requires that all students studying abroad be covered by Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI), which is a comprehensive health insurance plan.  This plan costs $34 per month and is included in the cost of all UWM-sponsored programs.  All non-UWM program participants will need to purchase this insurance separately for the duration of their stay. Visit the Health and Safety page for more information.
Can a students with disabilities study abroad?
Students with disabilities can and do study abroad. Students registered with the UWM Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) who are eligible for on-campus accommodation are also eligible for overseas accommodation when it can be arranged. Any site has the potential to be accessible. Students are encouraged to inform the CIE Study Abroad Office as soon as possible so we can help them determine the program that best suits them and can meet their needs. Further, they are also advised to work with their ARC Advisor to identify the accommodation they may need overseas.
What is the Wisconsin Power of Attorney Form?
The Power of Attorney Form allows for an individual of the student’s choice to make financial decisions for them while they are abroad, such as signing a lease, paying bills, etc.
Will I have to visit a doctor before traveling abroad?
The Center for International education requires students that are studying abroad in countries outside of Western Europe, Australia, and Canada to complete a Special Medical Form. Although, students who are who are traveling abroad are recommended to visit their medical practitioner and still complete the form as a precaution.
Will I need a visa to study abroad?
Visa requirements vary from country to country and are dependant on the length of stay. Within the study abroad application, it will list if the specific program needs a visa and the student will be responsible for obtaining their visa for their program.

Academics

Will students remain enrolled at UWM while abroad?
If the student chooses a UWM program, they will be registered as a UWM student and can use financial aid. If the student chooses a non-UWM program, there is a separate application and program fee that is necessary for maintaining enrollment, transferring credits, receiving advising, and orientation. They will initially be registered for a 12-credit placeholder course that is used to generate eligibility for financial aid. Upon their return and submission of an official university transcript to the CIE Study Abroad Office, the transfer credit and courses will be placed on their UWM record.
Can students improve language skills abroad?
Absolutely! Studying in a country where students would be immersed in the language is the best way to maximize and improve language skills and competency. UWM offers various programs in which students have the opportunity to continue learning and improving in many modern languages. These programs generally require a minimum of 4 to 5 semesters of college level language study or the equivalent.
I only speak English. Can I study abroad?
Yes! UWM has several study abroad programs in English speaking countries, including Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Additionally programs with courses taught in English are available in many non-English-speaking countries, such as France, Germany, Korea, Sweden, and others.
Do I have to be a junior to study abroad?
No. Students are eligible to study abroad any time after completing two semesters at UWM, although some programs require junior standing to participate. Transfer students are eligible to study abroad at any time after their first semester at UWM.
Are there specific programs for my major?
UWM offers a wide variety of study abroad programs that are suited to many different majors. Many of our programs are at comprehensive universities like UWM, they offer courses in many different subject areas. We also offer some programs that are focused on certain subjects, such as the arts, social sciences, business, or foreign language. The best way to find out what subjects are offered is to browse specific program pages. Another good strategy is also finding the provider or university’s website to see what courses may be offered now and in the future.
How do students receive credit for studying abroad?
On UWM-sponsored exchange and study abroad programs students will be registered as a UWM student and earn 3 to 18 UWM credits depending on the length of the program. Non-UWM program students will receive transfer credit. This is a very important distinction in many majors and minors, so it is important that students speak with their academic advisor. All courses taken abroad will come back as electives; if a student needs a course taken abroad to count as a specific UWM course, they must complete the Course Equivalency Approval Form. This form will allow them to have courses approved by the appropriate department/faculty prior to departure.

Credit for non-UWM programs will transfer as long as:

  1. The program is sponsored by an accredited institution
  2. Passing grades are earned in courses taken abroad
  3. Grades are verified by an official transcript from the host university
  4. Work done overseas does not duplicate previous work
  5. UWM departmental approval was obtained for all completed coursework
How will grades earned abroad affect a student’s GPA?
All the grades that a UWM student receives while abroad on a UWM program will appear on their transcript and be calculated into their grade point average. If they participate in a non-UWM sponsored program they will earn transfer credits and their grades will not count toward their GPA. Do keep in mind, however, that graduate schools typically request a transcript from any courses taken abroad to recalculate an applicant’s GPA.
Will students have to delay graduation if they study abroad?
Not necessarily. With careful planning, students can remain on track to graduate in four years. Some of our study abroad students have even finished their undergraduate education in less than 4 years! We advise students to start planning early and to work closely with their academic advisers to design the best course of study that will ensure that they remain on track toward graduation. Some students find that it is best for them to remain at UWM for an extra semester or year after studying abroad (which is why many choose to study during their junior year) because of the new focus they gained as a result of their time overseas.
How do students register for their next semester at UWM while abroad?
UWM students may register for the next semester’s courses via PAWS the same way they would at home. They should maintain contact with their UWM academic advisor for course selection and advising. When registering for classes students must take into account any time differences between Milwaukee and where they will be studying. Maintenance is often scheduled late at night in Central Standard Time and therefore they may have to plan their usage accordingly. Furthermore, PAWS will work only on computers that are in the English language, so you must set your computer to the English language to use PAWS. Alternatively, you can change the three-letter code in the URL for PAWS to “lang=ENG” to trick the computer and use PAWS.
What if a student wants to participate in volunteering abroad program?
Unfortunately, the CIE Study Abroad Office assists students who are looking for programs where they receive credit. If the student is looking for non-credit programs or opportunities CIE cannot assist.

How to Apply

How do students apply?
Application instructions vary slightly by program type and some have additional requirements. For the most accurate information on applying for a program, visit our How to Apply page.
When are the application deadlines?
For Summer, Academic Year and Fall programs the deadline is March 1st. For UWinteriM, Spring Break and Spring programs the deadline is October 1st. Some programs may have an earlier application deadline. Check the program page to make sure you know when the correct deadline is. Scholarship applications may not correspond with program application deadlines, so be sure to research them carefully.
When should students apply for a passport?
All students wishing to participate in a study abroad program must have a valid passport by the time they apply for a program. Those without a valid passport should apply for one as soon as possible as it takes several weeks for the passport application to be processed and the document delivered. Please refer to U.S. Department of State website for a passport application, instructions, and additional information. Failure to apply for a passport before the UWM application deadline will result in their ineligibility to participate.

Our office takes passport photos at very competitive prices! Visit our pre-travel services page for more information.

Will I need a visa to study abroad?
In most cases, yes; there are many types of visas and the visa rules and regulations are constantly changing. It’s important, therefore, to plan ahead to ensure that students have the visa they need to cover their stay outside of the United States.
What happens after I’ve applied?
After the application deadline, the study abroad coordinator along with any relevant departmental faculty/staff review all of the applications to determine whether or not to accept a student for their chosen program. Students receive official notice of this decision via e-mail. If accepted, the e-mail will contain important information about next steps, such as how to commit or decline their participation in the program, and expectations as the student prepares to go abroad. This information will likely include any post-decision forms and requirements, any orientations or class meetings that the student is required to attend prior to departure, and any other relevant details. It is important to make note of any post-acceptance requirements as failure to meet those expectations can jeopardize a student’s participation in the program.

Finances

How much will studying abroad cost?
Costs vary depending on program type and length. Students on exchange programs pay for UWM tuition, room and board while abroad, international airfare, and any incidental expenses. Students on non-exchange, study abroad programs will pay a program fee instead of UWM tuition and may also be charged for room and board while abroad. Each faculty-led study abroad program participant, on the other hand, pays an equal share of the total cost of the program.
How do I make payments?
As part of the initial application, students make one payment, the application fee, directly to the CIE Study Abroad Office. This payment can be made online via credit or debit card, or in person using personal check or money order. After being accepted to the program, the CIE Study Abroad Office posts the program fees to students’ UWM PAWS accounts. Students then work through the Cashier’s Office to make payments just as they normally would for their tuition and fees on campus. Please visit the Cashier’s Office website, or in person in Mitchell 285, for more information on payment methods.
Can I apply my normal financial aid and scholarships to study abroad?
Yes, most federal, state, and campus-based aid can be applied to the costs of studying on any UWM or UWM-partner study abroad program, much the same as if you were still on campus. Financial aid is available to help UWM students who need assistance covering the expenses of study abroad programs. Students must meet Financial Aid Office guidelines and deadlines. Aid for summer and UWinteriM study abroad programs is often limited. Our office works closely with Gayla Jenkins in the Financial Aid Office at UWM. Please contact Gayla (jenkinsg@uwm.edu) for questions related to your own financial aid situation.
Are there any additional scholarships and grants for study abroad?
Yes, there are several local, state, and national scholarship and grant opportunities available for students. Application deadlines vary, so be sure to pay close attention to when to apply.

For more information on scholarships and grants, visit the Financial Aid and Scholarships page.

For Parents and Family Members

Why should my student study abroad?
Studying abroad is an occasion to learn about another country, its culture and its people, while either earning academic credit or participating in a non-credit opportunity. Additionally, this experience provides a chance to learn about oneself in the context of the world community.
How does the CIE Study Abroad Office support study abroad students?
The staff of the CIE Study Abroad Office work individually with each student to address specific needs and concerns before, during and after their experience abroad. Whatever type of program your family member or friend has chosen, we hope that the information in this section, and throughout our website, helps you understand their unique experience. Further, we hope that it allows you to provide the support at home that your participant needs to enjoy a rich and profound experience abroad. If you or your student have questions, please feel free to contact us.
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of students’ educational records. Educational records include financial information, health information, academic or nonacademic misconduct matters, study abroad program and application information. This law prevents the UWM, including the CIE Study Abroad Office from releasing information considered confidential under this law without the student’s prior written consent.

Students may choose to complete a FERPA Release form which would allow UWM to release information to anyone of the student’s choice during or in connection with their study abroad.  The form must be complete and signed before a Notary Public in order to be considered valid. CIE offers Notary Services. Visit the Travel Services page for more information.

Other offices/departments on campus (i.e. Norris, Financial Aid, etc.) may require a separate release in order for them to release their specific records. Check with those departments directly for their requirements.

How will we stay in touch?
It is important to discuss plans for communication with your student before he or she leaves the country.

The first step is to plan when and how your student will contact you upon arrival in his or her host country. Depending where the student is studying, the easiest way may be to purchase a phone and phone card in country. Please be patient. It often takes time for students to purchase a phone and get internet access in their housing abroad.

It is also important to have a system in place for getting in touch in case of an emergency. What is the best way for you to get in touch with your student and vice versa? There are many ways to stay in touch, like e-mail. International calling may be expensive. Skype is a great alternative that allows you to call phones and chat via voice and even web cameras.

Please keep in mind that the more time students spend communicating with family and friends back home, the less time they spend immersing themselves in their host culture, one of the most important aspects of the study abroad experience. If your student is engaged in the host culture and study abroad experience, he or she will likely contact you with less frequency. Though you will miss your student, we encourage you to view the fact that he or she is engaged abroad as a positive thing. We recommend encouraging your student to communicate when he or she can and to tell you about all of the things he or she is learning and experiencing. This will help your student to make the most of the study abroad experience while still including you.

How do I contact my student in case of an emergency?
Before your student leaves, be sure to discuss how you will contact each other in case of an emergency. It is also a good idea to have contact information for the program and the CIE Study Abroad Office at UWM.
Will they be safe?
It is no more possible to guarantee a student’s safety abroad than it is to so here on our campus in Milwaukee. Students can, and often do, engage in high-risk behavior. However, prior to their participation on a study abroad program all participants go through pre-departure orientations to learn not only best practices for staying safe while abroad, they also learn about the specific destination(s) to which they may be traveling.

In preparing our students, we emphasize the behaviors and precautions they can  take to reduce their risk. Many problems can be avoided by using common sense and good judgment. For your part, you can research the destinations on your loved one’s itinerary. Rest assured, we in the CIE Study Abroad Office are doing the same, and then some, and we will not send students to a dangerous area.

Additionally, the CIE Study Abroad maintains an on-call response team, and has emergency response protocols to support our programs and students whatever the problem may be. In turn, programs also have their own specific plans that address the local context, and can be activated in case students need assistance.

What if a student gets homesick?
Your student will probably experience some degree of homesickness while they are gone. This is totally normal. Being supportive and positive in addition to encouraging them to make friends and try new things will help them adjust.

Please be aware that students are far more likely to call home in times of frustration. Please try to frame their frustrations in a positive light because they are part of the study abroad experience and contribute to their growth. It is always important to encourage your student to stay positive and to work things out on his or her own. Please try to avoid getting overly involved. Just listening to and supporting your student is often more helpful than trying to resolve the problem from overseas. Remember that because students are more likely to call during times of frustration, you may not hear from your student that the situation has improved. Please make sure to confirm with your student that problems have not been resolved before contacting the CIE Study Abroad Office or the program. Patience is extremely important.

How can I help my student re-enter and readjust?
Just like your student will probably experience some degree of culture shock when they are abroad, it is completely normal and very likely that they may experience some reverse culture shock while the readjust to home. They will have changed and certainly their perspective will have changed as well. It is important to be supportive and understanding as they readjust. Students may contact the CIE Study Abroad Office should they need additional assistance.

Further information on Re-adjusting to the USA.

How can they use and market their experience?
Study abroad is a great addition to a resume! In addition, your student may find that they are interested in more globally-focused careers. Students are strongly encouraged to share their education abroad experiences with future employers.

Learn how to sell your international experience!