Choosing a Program

Determining which program will best meet your goals requires careful consideration of a number of areas, including program type, academics, language requirements, finances, and cultural factors. Find the program for you here.

Defining Your Goals and Questions to Consider


  • What do you hope to gain from this experience?
  • How much time do you wish to spend abroad--a summer, semester, full academic year?
What are your strengths and weaknesses for the type of program you are interested in?

  • What additional preparation will you need before you go?


  • What are your primary academic goals for studying abroad?

  • Do you want to fulfill major/minor/distribution requirements or explore a different area of study?

  • How much time is appropriate to spend abroad given your goals and academic plan?

  • How will you incorporate your studies abroad into your academic plan at Rice?
Do you want to enroll directly at a foreign university, taking classes with local students (possibly even in the local language), or attend a program designed specifically for visiting students?
  • Do you want to perform research, field work, etc. while abroad?


What are your language skills and goals for language acquisition while abroad?
Is there a language prerequisite for your program?
What is the language of instruction?
Are language courses at your proficiency level available?

  • Will you have opportunities to interact with local students, a host family, or others who will encourage you to practice the language?
  • What obstacles will you encounter if you do not speak the local language?


  • How is the program integrated into the culture of the host country?
Does the program have components that enable interaction with local people?

  • Will you live in an urban, suburban, or rural setting?
  • Will you live with a host family or in a dormitory?

  • Will you live with other international students or with host-country students?

  • Will you have access to local cultural activities, excursions, and/or time for independent travel?

  • What are the political, social, health and safety situations in your location of interest?


  • What are your cost considerations?
How much does the program cost?

  • Is my destination of choice affordable?

  • For how long can I afford to be abroad
  • Are the costs of housing, food, and travel included?

  • Do you receive financial aid or scholarships, and how will these be applied to study abroad?

  • Are additional program features such as orientation and cultural activities/excursions included in the program fees?
Are excursions and activities included in the fees?

  • What extra expenses can be anticipated beyond tuition, room & board, and airfare?


Do you meet the eligibility requirements for study abroad and the admission requirements for your selected study abroad program? (including in some cases additional requirements for specific academic departments or courses at foreign universities?)
  • Do you want to incorporate an internship into your experience?
  • Do you have any special needs such as a medical condition, learning/physical disability, mental health condition or dietary restriction that may need accommodation or specialized resources while abroad?

Types of Programs

Consideration of which type of program to choose is just as important as identifying preferences for location and academic focus. Read the information below to learn about different program types.

University-based programs

These programs allow visiting students to enroll in regular classes alongside students at the host university. Students participate in all aspects of foreign university life, and there is often have a wide variety of courses in many disciplines to choose from.

Grades depend heavily on a final exam or paper (contrasted from having a number of assignments through the semester). Visiting students are expected to perform at the same level as their host university classmates and will be graded on the same scale as them. English may be the primary language of instruction for some university-based programs; others may be instructed in the host country's language and require a certain degree of language proficiency. The academic term may begin or end later than U.S universities--calendars should be carefully reviewed to ensure that they fit with the Rice calendar.

Foreign universities will typically offer housing in dorms or in student apartments; some universities offer housing in a designated international dorm. Although they usually do not offer same level of support and services that students are accustomed to receiving at Rice, they usually have an international student office that provide some services. As such, these programs are best suited for students who are independent, have clear goals, and are interested in full immersion into host culture.

There are several different ways to study at a foreign university:

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 Study Abroad Office. Interested students will meet with an advisor to plan for the nomination and application process in coordination with the foreign university. Participants pay Rice tuition to Rice while they are attending the foreign university, while room and board are paid directly to the host university by the student. Services offered to exchange students vary by institution, but will often include housing assistance, orientation, and social events throughout the term.

Direct enroll

Students will apply directly to the foreign university of choice and make arrangements for courses and housing through the university's international office. Students wishing to participate in a direct enroll program must be independent and able to function with little local university support. Students will pay the host university tuition and all fees directly to the host university.

Program providers

Program providers offer post-arrival orientation and assistance with course selection, registration and housing. A resident director and other staff in each location provide on-site support and organize cultural activities to encourage students to engage in the local culture.

Rice-approved third-party programs

Program providers are other U.S. universities or third-party private organizations that facilitate study abroad. 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 field-based study, internships, research, and other experiential learning opportunities. Participants will receive application guidance, an orientation program, academic advising, enrollment assistance, housing, cultural activities, and ongoing support during the program. Students on affiliate programs pay the program tuition and fees directly to the provider.

Rice-approved program providers may offer direct enroll experiences into universities as noted above, as well as the following opportunities:

Study center-based programs

Some program providers or U.S. universities operate study centers overseas where they host programs specifically designed for U.S./international students. These programs offer a structured curriculum often focused on a particular discipline or area of study. Centers situated in non-English speaking countries allow for students to receive instruction and support in English Courses are generally structured similarly to U.S. university courses. These programs often follow the U.S. semester system. Participants take courses with other U.S. and/or foreign students. Most of these programs offer housing with homestay families, university dormitories, or student apartments. Participates may also be able to gain exposure the host culture through homestays, organized cultural excursions, independent research projects, field coursework, and sometimes volunteering or service-learning opportunities.

Combination/hybrid programs

These programs merge the characteristics of the direct enrollment and study center models. They allow students to enroll in a course or courses at a local university while also attending courses taught by the program at a study center. A minimum language proficiency may be required. Individuals who are less comfortable with their language abilities may benefit from this type of program for its balance of host country immersion and support via the study center.

Field-based programs

Field-based programs are often located in areas of the world where more traditional study is not easy to arrange, offering a unique academic experience abroad. These programs take advantage of their locations in the field to engage students in field research and experiential learning. Most programs focus on very specific themes such as ecology, public health, or social justice. These programs tend to feature small groups of students who take all of their courses together. Courses may be taught by a combination of professors, local experts, and working professionals. A large portion of class time is spent 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. Assessment is often based on the quality of observation and analysis demonstrated in your work.

These programs tend to follow a U.S. academic calendar. Housing options vary depending on location but typically involve a homestay or accommodations in field stations or camping.

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. They are typically administered by individual departments in collaboration with Rice Study Abroad. Students can earn up to 6 hours of credit while spending one to six weeks abroad. These programs range from intensive language study to field research. All courses are either taught by or approved by Rice professors. They may be an extension of a semester course taught at Rice or simply stand-alone. Faculty-led programs 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 accommodations in field stations. Selection of participants is typically carried out by the program's faculty leader. Rice Study Abroad provides faculty members and student participants with ongoing administrative, logistical, and additional support prior to departure, throughout the experience abroad, and until the program's return to the U.S.

Other program features internships

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 professional experience with a company, a government body, or a non-government organization. Academic credit can only be granted 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).

Intensive language study

Programs with this feature offer students a full load of language courses throughout the experience. This is an excellent option for greatly increasing 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.

Resources for Researching Programs

In addition to the comprehensive information on this website, you can consult the resources below to help you learn more about study abroad and to research specific programs in your academic area of interest:

Talk to Study Abroad Ambassadors to hear more about the benefits of studying abroad, how to maximize your experience, and information on individual programs.

Attend the annual Study Abroad Fair and speak with program reps to learn about the various Rice-approved programs available.

Meet study abroad returnees to gather specific program information, follow blogs, and communicate with fellow Rice students currently abroad to learn about their experiences.

Read program evaluations from past study abroad participants, available upon request in our office. Read about other students' experiences in the programs that you are considering.

Discuss program ideas with professors who may have knowledge and experience with programs in specific areas of study.