Undergraduate Study Abroad

Academic Planning

Information about integrating your study abroad semester into your curricular program at Brown.

Academic Planning

As you plan for your semester abroad, it's important to have a solid academic plan for your studies. We recommend you review important information about earning credit abroad and meet with your concentration advisor(s). To understand how your program's courses convert to Brown credits, refer to the transfer credit conversion chart. If you have questions, please reach out to your study abroad advisor or to studyabroad@brown.edu.

Course load and credits

When selecting courses to take abroad, you must meet both program and Brown requirements as described below:

  • Enroll in a full-time course load, as defined by your program. For many approved alternative and petition programs, this means enrolling in 4–5 courses worth 15–16 semester credit hours.
  • Enroll in a sufficient number of credits abroad to maintain full-time enrollment at Brown. You must enroll in the equivalent of 3–5 Brown course credits per semester. You may transfer a maximum of five Brown credit hours per semester abroad, regardless of how many credits you take abroad. Remember, the total number of credits you can earn per semester at Brown is five, which is inclusive of both transfer credits and remote coursework. So if you plan to take a one-credit remote course through Brown, the most transfer credits you can bring back is four. Refer to the Transferring Study Abroad Credits webpage for more information about minimum credit requirements.

Language Requirements

If you are studying in a country or on a program with a Brown language requirement, you must take all of your coursework in the local language. If you are taking courses in English in a country where the host language is not English, you must take one course in the local language (e.g. a Danish language course while studying in Denmark). If you are on an Approved Alternative or Petition Program that allows you to take regular university courses at local institutions, at least half of your courses must be taken at the local institutions in the local language. 

You must also meet the language requirement of your study abroad program, which may be above and beyond Brown’s language requirement; check your program's website for more information.

If English is not your first language or a primary language, keep in mind that some host university study abroad programs in English-language locations (e.g. the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand) adhere to their university's overall language proficiency guidelines for international applicants for whom English is not a first language or a primary language.

Brown’s Writing Requirement 

Writing completed in courses taken away from Brown (including study abroad courses) will not meet Part I or Part II of Brown’s writing requirement. The only way to satisfy a writing requirement during a study abroad term is through a writing-designated remote course through Brown.

Courses Eligible for Transfer

A course taken abroad is eligible for credit transfer as long as:

  • It is in standard undergraduate academic disciplines offered at Brown. Generally speaking, most liberal arts courses taken at other colleges and universities are transferable to Brown. More specifically, Brown will transfer credit for courses at other colleges that are similar to courses offered in our own curriculum.
  • It is taken for a letter or number grade (not on a “pass/fail” basis), and you earn a grade equivalent to a C or above.
  • It is worth at least the equivalent of .25 Brown credits (1 semester credit or 2 ECTS). Refer to Transfer Credit Requirements for more information about study abroad credit conversion.

Non-Transferable Courses

You will not receive transfer credit at Brown for the following:  

  • Courses covering subject matter not taught in Brown’s undergraduate curriculum. While not exhaustive, the following are examples of coursework that is not transfer eligible: vocational or technical training courses (e.g. Excel, EMT training, CPR, physical education, practical military training, among others;) self-study or other self-directed courses. Additionally, Brown generally does not grant credit for internships. If you have questions regarding the eligibility of credit for these experiences, please ask your study abroad advisor. 
  • Courses taken abroad on a “pass/fail” basis.
  • Courses for which a grade equivalent to a C- or below was earned.
  • Courses worth less than .25 Brown credits (1 semester hour credit or 2 ECTS).
  • Courses that duplicate courses for which you have already received credit at Brown. (Conversely, students must not take Brown courses similar to what they have transferred from their study abroad program.)

Taking non-transferable courses may prevent you from maintaining good academic standing and making satisfactory progress toward your degree. Only consider taking a non-transferable course if you can manage this course in addition to the full-time course load for your program, and with the approval of your study abroad advisor.

Preliminary Course Plan

You should research course options when selecting a program abroad and plan to discuss a preliminary course plan with your concentration advisor as part of the study abroad application process. Make sure the overall credits for your course plan totals between 3–5 Brown credits. If you need support finding where course information is listed for a program, please contact your study abroad advisor. When planning your courses, keep in mind Brown language requirements and any other prerequisites set by the host university.

Important: Enrollment in specific courses during study abroad is not guaranteed by Brown or by your study abroad program, so it's important to have alternate courses in mind as a back-up if you aren't able to get into your preferred courses.

Changing courses while abroad

Course offerings may change abroad, therefore you should remain in contact with your concentration advisor (regarding concentration requirements) and study abroad advisor (regarding transfer credit requirements) if you decide to register for different classes than you initially anticipated. If you make changes in your course enrollment while abroad related to courses you are hoping to take for concentration requirements, you should email your concentration advisor with information about the new course(s) to ensure that you will receive the necessary approval for course(s) when you return.

Some institutions abroad do not evaluate student work at the end of every term. If a student's period of enrollment ends at a time when the host institution does not normally provide assessment, students may need to make individual arrangements for evaluation of their work. Note: this does not refer to special arrangements allowing students to deviate from a normal program or calendar of the host university.

Save all course materials (syllabi, exams, papers, notes, projects) and bring them back with you to Brown. Some departments will want to see your completed work prior to approving study abroad courses to fulfill concentration requirements.

Brown's College Curriculum Council requires that students be in good academic standing to study abroad.
Where possible, Brown requires students to pursue their studies entirely in the language spoken in the host country. For this reason, students must demonstrate competency in the host country's local language before studying abroad.