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Types of Programs

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a study abroad program is the program type or format. The program type will influence your entire day-to-day experience. Consideration of the program type is just as important as choosing a particular academic focus of study or a particular city or country in which to study. Please review the information below to evaluate the various program types to find the program that is right for you!

University-Based Programs

If you choose to study at an overseas university you will enroll in regular classes and study alongside students from the host country. University-based programs are “full-immersion" programs offering integrated university studies alongside host-country students. Students can participate in all aspects of foreign university life, and choose from a wide variety of courses in many disciplines, taught by host-country faculty. You must have a certain level of language proficiency to participate in university-based programs. Visiting students are expected to perform at the same level as their native classmates, and will be graded as such. In most overseas universities the majority of each course grade will depend heavily on the outcome of a final exam or paper and less on assignments throughout the semester. In addition, classes will follow the local academic calendar and semesters may start earlier or later than universities in the U.S. Calendars must be carefully reviewed to determine coordination with the Rice University calendar. University-based programs normally offer housing in dorms or in student apartments. Some universities offer housing in a designated international dorm. Generally, overseas universities do not offer the same level of support services that students are accustomed to receiving at Rice University. However, there are usually international student offices that do provide some services to visiting students. This option would be well suited to you if you are independent, have clear goals, and are interested in fully immersing yourself in your host culture and meeting local people. 

There are several different ways in which you may study at an overseas university:

  • Rice Exchange Programs: Exchanges are bilateral agreements established between Rice and foreign universities that allow Rice students to study at an overseas partner university while students from the partner university study at Rice. Students participating in an exchange program must be nominated by the Rice University Study Abroad Office. If interested in one of the Rice exchange schools, students will meet with an advisor to plan for the nomination and application process in coordination with the foreign university. Reciprocal exchange programs allow students to pay Rice tuition to Rice University while they are attending the host university. Room and board will be paid directly to the host university by the student. The services offered by host universities to visiting Rice exchange students vary according to the host institutions, often including housing assistance, orientation, and social events throughout the experience. Several of the partner exchange universities may not offer such assistance. Students wishing to participate in an exchange program must be independent and able to function with little local university support, as well as a great interest in immersion into the local community and culture. If English is not the language of instruction, students need to meet the host university's language requirement prior to participating in the exchange. Examples: Sciences Po; Tsinghua University; Instituto Tecnologico de Buenos Aires; The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.
  • Rice Direct Enroll Programs: Rice has partnered with a number of international universities who offer direct enrollment for Rice students. On a direct enroll program, students will apply directly to the foreign university of choice and make arrangements for courses and housing through the university's "visiting student" office. Students wishing to participate in a Rice Direct Enroll program must be independent and able to function with little local university support, and possess a great interest in immersing into the local community and culture. Students on direct enrollment programs do not pay Rice tuition, but pay the host university tuition and all fees directly to the host university. Examples: London School of Economics; Spring in Jerusalem/Hebrew University; Universidad Politecnica de Valencia; Pembroke-King’s College, Cambridge.
  •  University Immersion through an Affiliate/Provider: You may also study at a university through Rice-approved Affiliates/Providers. These program providers offer services such as an arrival orientation in the host country and assistance with course selection, registration and housing. A resident director and other staff in each city or country provide on-site support and organize cultural activities to encourage students to engage in the local culture. Students wishing to participate in a university program through an affiliate provider will have the in-country on-site support of the program provider as well as full immersion into the host university, local community and culture. Examples: IFSA-Butler University of Melbourne; CIEE University of Cape Town; Arcadia University of Auckland; IFSA-Butler Oxford.

Note about Rice Affiliate Programs
Rice-approved affiliate programs are experiences offered by program providers - other U.S. universities or private companies or organizations that facilitate students studying abroad for academic credit. These programs offer a variety of subject areas, locations, levels of immersion, language of instruction, and excursion options. Besides traditional programs with classroom instruction and direct enrollment into host universities through provider assistance as noted above, some program providers offer study centers, field based study, internships, research, and other experiential learning opportunities. Rice has entered into affiliation agreements with select approved program providers. Specific approved programs from the providers have been selected based on the academic and curricular compatibility with Rice University. Students attending affiliate programs enjoy the benefits of the established relationships between Rice and the program provider as well as application guidance, an orientation program, academic advising, enrollment assistance, housing, cultural activities, and ongoing support. Students on affiliate programs do not pay Rice tuition, but pay the program tuition and fees directly to the provider. Rice-approved program providers offer full immersion/direct enroll experiences into universities as noted above, as well as the following opportunities:

Study Center-Based Programs

Some academic institutions have study centers overseas where they host programs specifically designed for international students. These programs offer a structured curriculum that is often focused on a particular discipline or area of study. Depending on the academic focus of the program, your classes may be taught in English or the language of the host country by local and/or visiting faculty. Courses are generally structured similarly to U.S. university courses, with a syllabus, regular assignments, and frequent exams. These programs are also more likely to follow the U.S. semester calendar. Study center programs allow students to study in non-English speaking countries, and they often build in time and programming for critical reflection. If you choose to study on one of these programs you will be taking courses with other U.S. and/or foreign students. This program structure may be either small or large, ranging from 10 to 100 other students. Most of these programs offer housing with homestay families, university dormitories, or student apartments. On study center-based programs, even though academic coursework will be taken with other Americans/international students, you may also gain exposure to a rich cross-section of the host culture through homestays, organized cultural excursions, independent research projects, field coursework, and sometimes volunteering or service-learning opportunities. Examples: NYU Berlin; ICCS Duke; IES Milan; CIEE St. Petersburg, Russia.

Combination, or hybrid, programs merge the characteristics of a study center-based program and direct enrollment models. A combination program allows students with adequate language abilities to take one or more courses at a local university alongside host country students, while also attending courses taught by the program at a study center. Similar to direct enrollment programs, a minimum language proficiency may be required, depending on your country of study. If you are less comfortable with your language abilities, you may find that a combination program enables you to immerse yourself in your host country university as a direct enroll experience would offer, while also having coursework and support through the study center. Examples: IFSA Butler Argentine University Program; IES Madrid; CIEE in many countries.

Field-Based Programs

Field-Based Programs are often located in areas of the world where more traditional study is not easy to arrange, offering you the opportunity to approach academic learning in a new way. These physical and social science programs take advantage of their locations in the field to engage students in highly interactive, experiential, interdisciplinary learning. Most programs focus on very specific themes such as ecology, health and medicine, or social justice. These programs tend to be small, usually accommodating 25 or fewer students who have a similar academic interest and who take all of their courses together. Courses are taught by a combination of professors, local experts and working professionals. Most class time is spent out in the field, learning about the local culture and history, observing, collecting data and interacting directly with the subject matter being studied while learning practical quantitative and qualitative research methods in both the human and physical sciences. Courses tend to have regularly scheduled assignments and exams. Assessment is often based on the quality of observation and analysis demonstrated in your work. There is often an opportunity to produce original research through a field-based program. These programs tend to follow a U.S. academic calendar. Housing options vary depending on location but typically involve a homestay or rustic accommodations in field stations or camping. Examples: SIT: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management, Madagascar; SIT: Multiculturism & Human Rights, Morocco; School for Field Studies: Sustainable Development, Costa Rica.

Short-Term Faculty-Led Programs

Short-term faculty-led programs offer students the opportunity to travel and study abroad under the leadership of a Rice faculty member. Students can earn up to 6 hours of credit while spending one to six weeks abroad during the fall, spring or summer terms. These programs range from intensive language study to field research. All courses are either taught by or approved by Rice University professors. These programs may be an extension of a semester course taught at Rice, or a stand-alone course. They tend to be small, usually accommodating 15 or fewer students; the majority of participants, if not all, are Rice students. Housing options vary depending on location but typically involve university dormitories, homestay, or rustic accommodations in field stations. These programs are typically administered by individual departments in collaboration with Rice Study Abroad. Typically, selection of participants is carried out directly by the faculty program leader. The Study Abroad office provides faculty members and student participants with on-going administrative, logistical, and additional support prior to departure, throughout the experience abroad, and until the program's return to the U.S. 

A number of the above programs also offer the following opportunities:

Intensive Language Study
Intensive language programs offer students a full load of language courses throughout the experience. This is an excellent option if you are hoping to greatly increase your language proficiency. You will be taking language courses with students at your language level, working toward proficiency or fluency in a focused environment very conducive to language acquisition. Often students take a “language pledge”, only speaking the host language throughout the entire experience abroad. Typical housing for intensive language programs include a residence hall, often with local roommate for language immersion, or a homestay. Examples: Sweet Briar Junior Year in France; CET Intensive Chinese Language, Harbin.

Thematic Focus
Programs with a thematic focus do not necessarily match one specific program type - you could be on almost any of the program types (university-based, field study, study center) and have a program with a thematically-focused curriculum. Thematic focus programs offer a great opportunity to study a specific academic area or interest. Typical housing options for thematic focus programs vary widely and include homestay, residence hall, biological station, camping, or hotel/hostel depending on the theme and location of the program. Examples: ICCS Duke University Classical Studies Rome; IES Vienna Music Program; SIT Development & Social Change, Nepal; SACI-Studio Arts Centers International, Florence.

Internships offer a unique way to immerse yourself in the local society and gain a deeper understanding of a particular field. Several Rice-approved programs sponsor academic internships for credit in coordination with academic study that allow students to gain real word experience with a private firm, an artistic association, a government body or a non-government organization. Please note that not all internships offered meet Rice requirements for academic credit. Academic credit can only be given with the endorsement of a particular academic department; therefore, departments will have control over whether a particular internship qualifies for credit in that department. Some students participate in not-for-credit internships in addition to their academic study abroad experience. Often you must have advanced skills in the host-country language to qualify for acceptance to the internship program (although some internships are conducted in English). Examples: Hansard Society London Internship; American University Washington Semester; IES Summer Rome Internship.

A number of programs also incorporate undergraduate research into the experience abroad. As with internships and service learning, research opportunities abroad allow a unique opportunity for full immersion into the local culture and in-depth study in an area of interest. Again, these research programs do not necessarily match a specific program type but may occur through a university-based, field-based or other type of program. Research credit will also be evaluated by specific departments to determine the awarding of credit. Examples: King’s College London; SIT Post-Genocide Restoration and Peace Building, Rwanda; SFS Comparative Wildlife Management Studies, Kenya and Tanzania.

Service Learning
Many programs also offer a service learning component in addition to the academic courses abroad, often involving both academic credit and varying degrees of service. These service learning programs may not match a particular program type but could be offered through a university-based, field-based or other type of program. Service learning programs provide the opportunity to immerse yourself into the local culture by involvement in service to the local community. As with internship programs, service learning programs should be evaluated by specific Rice academic departments and the Rice Study Abroad Office to determine if the academic/service experience components of the program may or may not possibly meet requirements for an independent study project or other academic goals, and to fully coordinate with your curricular plans. Often students may add an additional non-credit bearing service component to their academic study abroad experience, either prior to or following the study abroad term. For students interested in learning more about additional non-credit bearing international service learning opportunities please contact the Center for Civic Leadership for detailed information. Examples: CIEE Dakar Senegal; IFSA-Butler Chilean Universities Program; IFSA-Butler Argentine Universities Program.

For a complete list of all Rice-approved programs organized by type of program, search our program database.