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Getting Started

Studying abroad is an integral part of the undergraduate experience at Vanderbilt. About 50% of Vanderbilt undergraduates study abroad, from all schools and across most majors.

Why Study Abroad?

The overwhelming majority of college students who study abroad report profound transformational change. Studying abroad has been shown to not only transform an individual’s personal and global outlook, but also to enhance academic ability. According to a ten-year study undertaken by the University System of Georgia, students who study abroad “have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups.”

The same researchers also looked at learning outcomes when the same course was taught on campus and overseas and found suggestive evidence that “big-picture” learning, including “conceptual learning and the sense of why [a given fact] is important or relevant, clearly came across more strongly in the study abroad classes.”

In another national study, 83% of study abroad alumni reported that studying abroad had a “strong impact” on their lives and choices, even fifty years after they returned home. Other research shows that 70% of students said that study abroad helped spark their choice of career direction. And at Vanderbilt, 97% of returning students who studied abroad tell us that their experiences overseas helped them develop confidence and independence. If you are wondering how you might convey the values of study abroad to employers, watch these videos!

Study overseas, when intentionally pursued, can help students gain global job opportunities and develop key skills such as adaptability and resilience, global understanding, tolerance, leadership, and independence. These skills are increasingly in demand in the workplace, and 80% of study abroad participants indicate that studying abroad helped them develop confidence in their skills as they tackled their first job out of school.

Studying abroad also gives students opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom, including through travel and exploration as well as via internshipsresearch, and volunteering. In addition to these opportunities, preliminary research suggests that living and learning abroad may bring improvements in creative thinking.

GEO encourages all students to explore the option of study abroad.

Fast Facts

You can study abroad for a full academic year, a semester, a summer, or a Maymester. You can even participate in a combination of these options if your schedule allows.

Your financial aid package applies to your semester or academic year abroad. If you select a program whose estimated cost is greater than the cost of a semester at Vanderbilt, your aid can be increased.

Some students believe that they cannot enroll in a study abroad program because their major is particularly demanding. With proper planning, students of all majors can study abroad. Please see one of GEO’s advisors to explore what might work for you!

GEO study abroad programs earn a special type of credit called Study Abroad/Away Credit. The grades your earn will not count toward your GPA, but the credits you earn are not transfer credit: You are considered to be in residency at VU while you are abroad on a GEO program. The credit you earn can help you fulfill your major and minor requirements just as courses on campus can. (College of Arts and Science students will not, however, earn credit toward AXLE for the courses they take abroad.)

If you are studying abroad for a summer or Maymester, you can apply for need-based study abroad scholarships through GEO.

Studying abroad in your senior year may delay your graduation. For this reason, you must first get approval from your home school. GEO’s online application will remind you to take care of this.


To study abroad at Vanderbilt, you will need to meet certain requirements:

  1. At least two semesters of coursework at Vanderbilt (transfer students must have completed at least one semester at VU at the time of application)
  2. Good academic and disciplinary standing
  3. Minimum GPA of 2.7 (note: some programs require 3.0 or higher). The GPA minimum does not apply to faculty-led courses, such as Maymesters abroad.
  4. A passport valid for 6 months past your returnfrom abroad (apply for or renew your passport now!) If you will not have enough time between international trips to submit your passport with each visa application, or if you will require additional blank pages for visas and entry stamps, you may be eligible to apply for a second US passport. Learn about eligibility and requirements here.
  5. Language or other coursework requirements, if any (depending on program)

Types of Study Abroad Programs

GEO offers programs in more than 40 countries across the globe. These programs can be sorted into three different types: Study Center programs, Direct University Enrollment programs, and Study Center + Direct University Enrollment Hybrid programs.

Study Center programs tend to serve primarily US study abroad students, and often have a thematic focus or specialty, such as language acquisition or research. Examples include DIS Copenhagen, all SIT programs, and CIEE’s Cape Town Service Learning program.

Students in Direct University Enrollment programs will enroll directly in a university abroad, studying alongside local students and other international students. Direct University Enrollment programs typically provide access to a wide variety of coursework across multiple disciplines. These programs may also be facilitated by a third party that coordinates housing and other services; examples include IFSA-Butler’s support at the University of Leeds, or CIEE’s support of students at Murdoch University. Another type of direct enrollment is the exchange program, where students receive support directly from a partner university’s international office.

Study Center and Direct University Enrollment Hybrid program combines the two types. Students are based at a study center alongside a cohort of U.S. study abroad students, and may also have the option or requirement to take courses at one or more local universities. Examples include the CASA programs in Spain and Latin America and CIEE’s study center in Buenos Aires.

The Application Process

Prospective students apply through the GEO website by clicking the Apply Now button on the program page. Alongside the GEO application, students studying on most partner programs will fill out a second application directly with partner (instructions are provided in the program’s GEO application). Both applications are due by Vanderbilt’s program deadline. Application requirements vary by program: some may require recommendations, essays, an interview, or dean’s approval.

After the application deadline closes, GEO reviews any academic or disciplinary holds before clearing students to study abroad. While GEO determines the eligibility of Vanderbilt students applying to study abroad, final acceptance into the program comes directly from the partner offering the program.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve had a brief introduction, we hope you are ready to begin exploring your own journey abroad! First, consider the following:

  • What are your goals for studying abroad?
  • What type of study abroad program interests you?
  • How long would you like to study abroad?
  • Are there any classes or requirements you must fulfill while abroad?

Next, we suggest taking the following steps to get started:

You may also begin by watching this 30 minute Study Abroad OverVU recording.