Advising Students in Education Abroad


All students for study abroad generally have a primary or faculty advisor and non-primary advisor based on their declared major. The primary advisor is an advisor in the academic department. The non-primary advisor is an advisor in the Academic Advising and Career Center.

For matters relating directly to the selection of a study abroad program, program features, or the financing of a program, the student can be referred to the Education Abroad Office. For matters relating to how coursework from study abroad will fit into degree structure, a student should work with his/her primary academic advisor(s).

Watch Education Abroad: The Student Experience to get insight on the education abroad journey a student embarks. 


Types of Education Abroad/Study Abroad

Internal Programs

Faculty/Staff-led Programs. These study abroad programs are led by faculty/staff and usually last between 1 to 3 weeks and can be credit-bearing or non-credit-bearing. For UM-Flint faculty-led programs that are credit-bearing, students generally register for the course associated with the program within Student Information System (SIS). Students are not required to complete any transfer paperwork with an academic advisor, in most cases. Opportunities to research, volunteer, teach, or intern may also be provided with faculty/staff-led programs. 

In general, for faculty/staff-led programs:

  • Financial aid and scholarships apply
  • Students receive direct UM-Flint credit for the program
  • Programs generally take place over spring break, and during the spring or summer term

Exchange Programs. Exchange programs allow current undergraduate and graduate students to study abroad in a foreign country for a certain period of time while receiving credits toward their UM-Flint degree. In return, UM-Flint accepts an equal number of students from these partner schools around the world. Students pay tuition at their home universities and are required to pay for housing, health insurance, meals, books, etc. within the host country. Opportunities to research, volunteer, teach, or intern may also be provided with exchange programs. 

Students identify the courses they plan on taking and complete a Learning Agreement with the designated Academic Coordinator of the program, identifying the courses the student intends to enroll while at the host institution. The agreement is submitted to the host institution along with the application. Prior to departure, the student registers for place-holders UM-Flint courses in Student Information System (SIS), which allows . After the student completes the program and a transcript is received, the Academic Coordinator will post the courses/credits and grades on the student’s transcript. In general, for exchange programs:

  • Financial aid and scholarships apply
  • Students receive direct UM-Flint credit for the program
  • Programs are typically one semester (students may spend up to two semesters)


External Programs

Program Providers & Programs Through U.S. & Colleges Abroad

In the field of education abroad/study abroad, the term “Program Provider” refers to an entity which administers education abroad programs open to students from many various colleges and universities. Students pay tuition and program fees directly to the program provider that organizes these programs. Students may be in classes with other American students from around the country or with students at the host institution. Students may also participate in education aboard programs through other U.S. colleges/universities. Opportunities to research, volunteer, teach, or intern are also be provided with provider programs.

Courses taken at foreign institutions (or other American institutions) are considered as transfer courses and students will need to complete an Education Abroad Course Credits Transfer Form and acquire the appropriate signatures to gain approval to take these courses. Upon receipt of the transcript, the appropriate admissions office will post the credits on the student’s transcripts as Pass/Fail. Note that courses which are passed overseas with a “C” average or above may be awarded transfer credit, but the grade does not transfer in or impact the student’s GPA. In general, for affiliated/external programs:

  • Some financial aid and scholarships may apply. Students should meet with a financial aid advisor to determine eligibility
  • Students receive transfer credit and must complete the Education Abroad Course Credits Transfer Form prior to departure.

Role of Primary Advisors and Academic Departments

The Primary or Faculty Advisor plays an enormously important role in the education abroad process. Students are advised to be in touch with their academic department during all steps of the process: the program selection phase, the pre-departure paperwork phase, the actual time abroad, and the return to campus.

Outlined below are the roles and suggested responsibilities for faculty advisors within each phase of the process: 

Planning Stages
  • Encourage students to make appointments with an education abroad advisor.
  • Discuss with students how study abroad can integrate into and enhance the UM-Flint plan of study.
  • Help students determine best timing and what they need to accomplish while abroad. Utilize Study Abroad Worksheet 2: Your Academic Plan to help draft a learning abroad time frame for students.
Course Approval Phase
Application Phase
  • Complete and sign any relevant student application forms which may require a facutly signature.
  • Write recommendation letters.
While Abroad
  • Assist students with course registration advising for the semester they will return to campus.
  • Welcome students back to campus and help them integrate their experiences abroad into their curricular and meta-curricular activities.
  • Advise students about prestigious awards, scholarships, and other programs that draw upon education abroad experiences 

About Transfer Credit

Transfer Credit

Students participating in external programs can receive transfer credit for the courses taken which the right pre-approval. The assignment of transfer credit is one of the critical roles of faculty and advisors in the education abroad process. Faculty advisors will assess course content of the overseas course content and determine course equivalencies and/or whether elective credit can be given – within majors, minors and/or general education requirements. 

At minimum, students can receive elective credit for courses taken through affiliated and other external providers. Often, students may want the course(s) taken abroad to count towards their Major and/or Minor requirements, or General Education requirements. To do so, they must submit a petition to the appropriate Academic Standards Committee.

The assessment of transferability may take place through several processes:

  1. Early Assessment. of anticipated courses in consultation between student and faculty. The student should provide general course description and syllabi if available. Please note that some external programs do not provide complete syllabi.
  2. Course Approval. The Education Abroad Course Credits Transfer Form is a paper form signed by a faculty advisor and several relevant faculty prior to the student’s study abroad experience. On this form, the student indicates anticipated course work, and asks the faculty advisor and/or relevant faculty in other departments to sign off on the courses’ appropriateness. The basic rule for “who should sign?” is -- if specific course credit is to be assigned (i.e. an exact course equivalency), a faculty or advisor in that specific department should sign. Elective and/or general education units can be signed for by the primary faculty advisor, in most cases.
  3. Receipt of Transcript. Following completion of study abroad, students are instructed to have formal transcripts sent to the appropriate admissions office. The admissions designee will add the courses which students have received a “C” or higher unto the students transcript. Admissions designees will use this information from the Study Abroad Course Credits Transfer Form to assign transfer credit for the study abroad experience.
Specific Rules About Transfer Credit  
  • Transfer Credits. All acceptable courses completed with a grade of “C” or better at a regionally accredited two-year or four-year institution are entered on the student’s permanent record and may be applied toward graduation requirements. Generally, students receive elective credit for these non-UM-Flint courses. Student can petition with departments to determine if the transfer courses can fulfill General Elective, Major, or Minor requirements. They do so by submitting a complete Study Abroad Course Credits Transfer Form and may also need to submit a Petition Form to the School/College. Petition Forms can be picked up at the main offices of the 4 Schools/Colleges.
  • More than one course. Current university policy allows students to enroll for just one off-campus course. If a student wants to register for more than one course, they must petition the Academic Standards Committee of their school/college for permission to do so before leaving Flint.
  • 30-hour rule. Students must complete 45 credits including the final 30 credits at UM-Flint. Therefore, UM-Flint students with 90 or more credits must petition the appropriate Academic Standards Committee for a possible exception to this policy.

Best Practices in Education Abroad/Study Abroad Advising

encourage them prior to college Enrollment

Increasingly, parents and students are asking about education abroad options prior to enrolling. Luckily, students in every major can (and do!) participate in education abroad opportunities. It’s possible as long as students start early, work closely with advisors and consider summer as a viable learning abroad period as well as the regular academic year. 

  • Recognize that education abroad/study abroad is important in college selection process
  • Talk to students and parents even before the students enroll
General Advising Tips

Advisors acknowledge that working education abroad into the curriculum takes extra planning, patience and time – as well as initiative on the part of the student. That said, many faculty, staff, and students recognize that studying, working, and volunteering abroad are vital and desirable parts of the college experience for many UM-Flint students.

  • Start talking to students as early as their first year
  • Help students to determine specifically where study abroad will fit into their major(s) and identify the best term(s) to go abroad
  • Try to match quality of courses abroad
  • If education abroad won’t fit into the curriculum, suggest a summer program or a short-term volunteer or travel spring break trip
  • If the traditional model of studying abroad isn’t appealing, students can consider volunteer, work or internship abroad
  • Encourage students to check out the education abroad website
  • Help promote the Education Abroad Office's Information Sessions and individual advising appointments
  • Suggest that students prepare a list of questions prior meeting with an education abroad advisor
  • Refer students to the Office of Financial Aid for financial aid and financing questions
  • When completing the Education Abroad Course Credits Transfer Form, meet with the student to discuss the form content; don’t let them “drop and run!”
Encourage Students to Think About Study Abroad

Advisors acknowledge that students vary in their ambition to have an overseas experience. For a good number of students, the seeds were planted long before they arrived on our doorsteps. For others, the seed may be planted here in Flint. UM-Flint advisors use a variety of tools to encourage students to consider study abroad. By the way, many of these same tools also help in verifying and supporting the experiences of returned study abroad students!

  • Use major-specific advising sheets where available
  • Plan a group advising or info session by major and invite OSA and students in your major who’ve been abroad
  • Require that students who have been abroad submit reports and/or present to first-years
  • Feature returned study abroad students on your department’s website and advertise student Blogs
  • Publicly display journals and drawings following return from study abroad
  • Hire incoming exchange students as language tutors
  • Conduct faculty-led summer or short-term programs
  • Suggest that students consider working, researching, and interning abroad as an alternative to a traditional study abroad experience.
 Welcoming Students Back to Campus

Many of our students experience “reverse culture shock” when they return. Symptoms may include depression and/or frustration with family, friends and university norms. Some advisors report that it’s hard for students to get back into the swing of things, particularly students who studied where regular homework was not required. OSA and department advisors play an important role in encouraging students to share their experiences in meaningful ways and to verify the relevance and importance of their cross cultural experiences.

  • Require that students who have been abroad submit a report and use those reports to ensure the quality and match of the overseas programs
  • Invite returned students to present to first-year students and departmental study abroad information sessions
  • Feature returned study abroad students on the departmental website
  • Advertise student Blogs
  • Displays journal, drawings, and photos of returned students
  • Refer students to the Stories & Experiences webpage
  • Contact OSA for a list of students who are returning from study abroad
  • Encourage students, to share the overseas experience and submit photos to the annual photo contest
  • Suggest that students highlight their new skills (language, cross-cultural, problem-solving, etc.) during interviews and on their resumes.


The information above has been adapted with permission from the Office of International Education, Carnegie Mellon University.


Advising a student with a disability? Download the Education Abroad Advising to Students with Disabilities (/ You can also refer them to the Office of Accessibility Services at 264 UCEN (Phone: 810-762-3436).