Factors to consider when selecting an OCS program

  • IDENTIFY your academic goals for your time off-campus.
  • CONSIDER how you want to connect with the local community in your host country.  Do you want to live with a host family, take courses with local students or engage in an internship while abroad?  Do you prefer an urban location, a small town or rural setting or a combination of both?
  • REVIEW the conditions of the host country, particularly if you have any special needs such as a learning disability or chronic medical condition.

To get started with the process, we recommend that you attend a First Step Meeting in the fall of your second year at Whitman, followed by an advising appointment with an off-campus studies adviser.

Types of Programs

You will want to select a program that meets your academic needs and learning style.  Whitman's Partner Programs can roughly be divided into four different types:

DIRECT ENROLLMENT - These study abroad programs provide an opportunity to enroll in a foreign university as a visiting international student and study and live alongside local students. (Examples: University of St Andrews and University of Otago)

HYBRID PROGRAMS - These study abroad programs provide an opportunity to study in a non-English speaking locale either with U.S. students at a study abroad center or with host national students at a local university abroad or a combination of the two. Hybrid programs are especially well suited for students with 2-3 years of college-level courses in the target language. (Examples: IES Paris and Middlebury Programs in Spain)

FIELD-BASED PROGRAMS - These study abroad programs offer courses in the natural sciences, social sciences or arts on location to small groups of students from US institutions. Studies in field-based programs involve learning directly from the local community through participant observation, research, apprenticeships and/or internships. (Examples: School for International Training and The School for Field Studies)

U.S. BASED PROGRAMS - Whitman also offers 4 semester-long U.S. Partner Programs in fields as diverse as: US politics (American University's Washington Semester), urban studies and professional internships (The Philadelphia Center), acting conservatory (The O'Neill Center's National Theatre Institute) and oceanography/maritime studies (SEA Semester).


While studying abroad is often exhilarating, the differences between higher education in the United States and the academic norms abroad can be challenging and often requires some adjustments on the part of the student.

Academic expectations of foreign universities and study abroad programs might be quite different from those you experience at Whitman. For instance, you may receive syllabi that are not much more than a brief course description with few details about how you will be graded in the course. And, on some programs, you might be expected to study on your own more independently outside the classroom, similar to the expectations in U.S. graduate schools.

Universities and programs abroad are often much more rigid about deadlines and regulations. They rarely accept work after the regular deadline and are unlikely to reschedule examinations. We therefore urge students to avoid taking an incomplete abroad. We encourage students considering study abroad to discuss with the Off-Campus Studies (OCS) staff what sort of academic experience they can expect on various programs before making their program selection.

One of the benefits of off-campus study is the opportunity to learn in a different academic environment from what you have experienced at Whitman. This means that you can select from experiences as different from Whitman as studying with British students at a large research university or partaking in hands-on field studies in an agricultural community in Costa Rica.

You will want to select a program that meets your academic needs and learning style.