Advisor Guidelines for Education Abroad

This page is designed to help faculty and advisers to advise students who are considering one or more study abroad programs. If you do not find the answer to your questions here, please feel free to contact WWU Education Abroad (EdAbroad) for additional information (360) 650-3298.

As the number of WWU students studying abroad continues to increase, EdAbroad would like to strengthen our collaboration with academic departments to better support our students in developing education abroad plans by holding Academic Advisor Workshops. We will provide information about EdAbroad processes and education abroad options, as well as answer your questions. Please contact Krista Mantello to arrange a workshop or to schedule an information session for your department.  

Choosing a Program

There are many factors to consider when advising students about choosing a program. Some of the significant considerations include:

• Student’s academic goals: is the student hoping to make rapid progress in their academic major(s) while abroad, complete foreign language requirements, gain internship experience and credits, or simply have an immersion experience in a different cultural setting? There are programs available to help meet most students’ goals.

• Length/term(s) of program: some programs run for one WWU term, some are very short-term (for example, three weeks in the summer), and some last for entire semesters (sometimes two WWU terms, depending on scheduling), or an academic year. Some of the programs in the Southern Hemisphere follow the Southern academic year calendar (February to November).

• Cost: there are varying scales and models of program cost structures, from programs that are comparable to total costs for on-campus studies (with living costs in Bellingham), to programs that are considerably more expensive than on-campus study. Students (and you) should remember, though, that most forms of financial aid apply to the required costs in approved WWU study abroad programs, and also that there are limits to federal grants and loans.

• Accommodation options: some programs offer only one guaranteed form of accommodation, while others have the full range. The three major options are - residence halls, homestays with host families, and shared or studio apartments.

WWU offers a variety of international opportunities, please visit Types of Programs for descriptions of options as well as our Major Advising Pages (MAP's) for a list of program options within specific major/minor departments.  

View the Student Learning Outcomes for Study Abroad.

Choosing Courses and Crediting

Students are advised to take the following steps:

• Using your Degree Works, determine what degree requirements you need to fulfill.

• Research course offerings for your program. Identify courses you would like to take and alternate courses. To find courses at your host institution, refer to the host university course catalogs, host university department website or host university international office website. Your study abroad program may also have this information for you and the EdAbroad staff can also assist you.

• To obtain major or minor credit you must follow the requirements of the appropriate academic department. Because the departmental advising process varies across departments, students are advised to determine specifically what information their department requires to evaluate course credit, and what process they should follow when they return from study abroad. Some departments have provided study abroad guidelines, which can be found on the EdAbroad website.

• Schedule an appointment with the department or academic advisor. In general, most departments will have you meet with the department or academic advisor who may be faculty or administrative staff, depending on the department. When you meet with the advisor, come prepared to these meetings by bringing the Departmental Academic Advising Form, as well as links to or a copy of the course descriptions or the host institution course catalog highlighting the courses you plan to take.

• You do not need an advisors signature for elective credit only.

• All coursework taken abroad will be evaluated by the appropriate advisor and/or credit evaluator and the equivalent Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U) grade will be recorded on your WWU transcript. INTL courses are graded S/U and these do not factor into your WWU GPA. Please save everything from your courses, tests, notes, syllabi, etc. for the academic advisor to review upon your return. Credit that is not applied towards a major or minor will go towards electives for graduation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some approved WWU study abroad programs require that students have anything from one term to four years of college-level course work (or the equivalent) in the local language prior to departure for the program. Many programs, however, have no formal language prerequisites – including some programs in countries in which English is not the national language. Information on language and other prerequisites may be found in the individual program’s brochure, available in this website. Language guidelines for study abroad outline the steps to take before studying abroad in order to receive credit and who to see for assistance in transferring language credit.

Students can participate in an international internship that may range from a few weeks to six months of full-time work. The internship integrates academic credit at Western Washington University with on-the-job experience, allowing students to gain valuable skills while working towards a degree. Students should start planning at least two quarters in advance for an international internship. Students are advised to work closely with a faculty or academic advisor when doing an international internship. International Internship Guidelines and International Internship Guidelines for Health and Human Development provide more information about requirements and procedures. To search for internships students can visit the EdAbroad Programs page. If students select an internship that is not available through the EdAbroad Programs page, they may apply through the generic International Internship application.

Independent Study allows students to pursue an educational experience not available through regular Western Washington University catalog course offerings. Students can participate in an international independent study through a WWU department and the Education Abroad office. Students should start planning at least two quarters in advance for an independent study abroad. Please view the WWU Independent Study Abroad Guidelines for more information about requirements and procedures.

The EdAbroad office advises students that they are responsible for making sure their study abroad transcripts are sent to the EdAbroad office for processing upon completion of their program. Transcripts take on average three months to arrive upon program completion. Once received, EdAbroad will process the transcript using the International Credit Evaluation e-sign form. In some cases this e-sign form is routed to the language or departmental advisor for evaluation. The advisor will indicate the total number of credits earned, the S or U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) grade and the course level. Students must follow departmental guidelines and processes for obtaining major or minor credit.