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How to Apply for Study Abroad

The process of applying to study abroad is determined by the type of program for which you have chosen to apply. In general, there are three different program types available to students: UB Programs, Other SUNY Programs, and Non-SUNY Programs.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Program

Define Your Goals

There is much more to studying abroad than just taking classes in a foreign country. Your perspectives will become global, your attitudes will become international, and you will make memories that will last a lifetime. Studying abroad may be that defining moment that will change your life. Your international experience builds a noticeable sense of independence and self-confidence and opens doors to new opportunities, new friends, and new career paths. The benefits of study abroad are endless, but it is important to consider your own reasons for choosing to study abroad. Do you want to learn a new language- or possibly build on the language skills you have already acquired? Do you want to conduct research in a new environment? Perhaps you are a philanthropist and want to give back to the global community in the form of service learning or volunteer opportunities abroad. Or maybe you want to gain first-hand experience working in an international business environment through an internship. Anything is possible, and preparation is the key to a successful study abroad experience.


Classes completed abroad may fulfill degree requirements (major, minor, general education) with the approval of the relevant academic department. Prior to selecting a study abroad program, complete the Study Abroad Course Planning Form with help from your academic advisor. Attach overseas course syllabi and submit them to the Office of Study Abroad Programs along with the completed form. The Office of Study Abroad Programs will work closely with the Transfer Course Articulation Office (TAURUS) and academic departments for course articulation approval. It is strongly recommended that you secure approval for more courses than you intend to take, to allow for flexibility when registering for courses at your host institution abroad.


The country you select determines both the cultural setting and the main language of communication. Some students know they want to study in a big city while others are looking for a more remote destination.

Language of Instruction

The language of instruction should be a main factor when considering where to study abroad. It is a common myth that in order to study in another country, one must possess the language skills to communicate in the native language of that country. The truth is that there are many, many programs in non-English speaking countries where courses are taught in English. So, when reviewing your options of study abroad destination, don't automatically rule out non-English speaking countries.

If you are interested in increasing your proficiency in a foreign language, there is no doubt that the study abroad experience is the best way to immerse yourself in another language.

Many programs abroad offer language instruction at the beginner level, and therefore do not require any previous knowledge of a foreign language for admission. Some programs are designed to teach you a foreign language - a great way to fulfill your general education language requirement, while others offer courses taught in English regardless of the country's native language.

What Does the Application Look Like?

In general, a study abroad application will consist of the following core items:

  • Basic demographic information (name, academic status, major, etc.)
  • A statement of purpose or study statement (this is where students have the opportunity to describe the academic reasons for selecting a particular program, detailing how the study abroad program will fit into a student's overall academic program and goals, and how the program will be of benefit to the student's personal, academic, and professional development)
  • Academic recommendations - required number of recommendations varies by program (Students request academic recommendations of instructors who have had them in class. The recommendation may be a brief form to be filled out by the instructor, or for some programs, it should be a typed letter on departmental letterhead.)
  • A transcript (depending on the program, either an unofficial or official transcript will be required)

As there are hundreds of study abroad programs available, one could imagine the application process will vary slightly by program. Some programs with partner institutions abroad may also require students to complete a host campus application in addition to the core items outlined above.

UB Programs Abroad

The University at Buffalo offers more than 80 study abroad programs, many of which are directed by our faculty. UB has a large number of exchange programs where students can study at international partner institutions without paying additional tuition.

Other SUNY Programs Abroad

In addition to the almost 80 programs offered by UB, students can choose among the almost 1000 programs offered by other SUNY campuses in more than 70 different countries. Grades earned on other SUNY programs abroad are not factored into the overall UB GPA. UB students who participate on other SUNY programs will receive pass/fail grades for the courses taken abroad.  

Non-SUNY Programs Abroad

Students who choose to study abroad outside of the SUNY system are required to complete a Leave of Absence Form with the Registrar's Office. UB's Study Abroad Office should also be notified of student's plans to study on a Non-SUNY program abroad.
Credits earned on a study abroad program administered by a Non-SUNY institution or SUNY Community College will be viewed as transfer credits at UB.  Grades earned will not be factored into the overall UB GPA. There is no guarantee that credits earned abroad on these types of programs will count as credit toward graduation or toward a major/minor/general education requirement.