Getting Started

Getting Started

Welcome to the “Getting Started” page. This page is for anyone who feels a little lost, confused, or overwhelmed with where to begin. This should answer all of your questions for the basics of getting started. 

Application Process

  • Complete our Getting Started General Intake Form
  • Watch the General Advising Video
  • Create your Study Abroad Profile and begin to explore our programs to find one that is right for you.
  • Attend a one-on-one meeting with your Study Abroad Advisor to discuss the next steps needed to begin your WOU study abroad application.
    • If you would like to schedule an appointment about the process going forward, you can do it through Handshake. From your Wolf Portal, click on Wolf Link, this will take you to Handshake. Once you enter Handshake, find the Western Oregon University Career Center Tab. Should be in the middle of the page. When you click on it, you will be taken to the Career Center page. Scroll down and click on the Schedule Appointment button. Enter some information and for the type of meeting click “Study Abroad.” If it is not there, go ahead and click “Career Counseling.” If there are any issues, please let me know and we can schedule an appointment in person at our office WUC 119. 
  • If your program is offered through a third-party program provider, begin their application process as soon as your WOU application shows “WOU Approved.” WOU approval does not constitute acceptance to the program. It simply means that WOU has approved you to move to the next stage of the application process.


Pre-Advising Questions to Ask Yourself

As you start thinking about studying abroad (your goals, the type of experience you want to have, the programs you might be interested in, the planning process), you may want to consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do you want to come away with from this experience? What are your top priorities when it comes to studying abroad? Is it satisfying specific major/graduation requirements? Is it the practical or cultural experience? Perhaps personal growth? Connections to faculty members? Maybe all of the above?
  • How comfortable do you feel traveling and/or living abroad? Are you looking for a program/experience that will be more structured with on-site support? Or are you looking for a more independent experience?
  • Do you have dependents or other special needs that will need accommodation while abroad?
  • How long do you want to be away?
  • Do you want to live in a dorm? With a host family? In an apartment?
  • How important is cost to you? Do you have a personal budget or cost-range in mind?
  • What scholarships and financial resources do you currently have to attend university? What others are you able/willing to apply for to fund this experience?
  • When is the best time for you to go? Have you talked with your major advisor about graduation requirements and perhaps figured out when a study abroad program would fit in nicely with your graduation schedule?

Types of Study Abroad Programs


Language Learning

These programs focus on the acquisition of language skills, and are often very intensive and immersive! Some language learning programs allow a student to bring back a significant number of language credits – even up to the equivalent of one year of language coursework. Students often engage in cultural activities and excursions to better understand the target culture and language they are studying. For language learning, homestays are the most common form of housing in order to encourage further language acquisition outside of class.

Direct Exchange Programs

An exchange allows students to enroll directly at a foreign university for a semester or for an entire academic year. Students have access to most courses that the university offers in a wide range of academic disciplines. Exchanges sometimes have lower overall costs than other programs of similar length. This is because exchange students have fewer planned excursions or on-site services and customized support. Students participating in exchange programs need to be prepared for an independent experience. Students who succeed in exchange programs typically have high levels of self-reliance, resourcefulness, and willingness to adapt to unfamiliar teaching styles and living arrangements. Depending on the exchange program, students may be required to take courses in the local language with native speakers of that language. Students should also be flexible, as classes cannot always be arranged or guaranteed before arrival; registration often happens on-campus after the arrival date; and individual courses may need to be approved later once the student has access to the course syllabi. However, an exchange program also allows students the flexibility to customize their experience and get deeply involved in the local culture and community.

Third-party Sponsored Programs

These programs are operated by organizations such as CCSA, CIS Abroad, GEO, IE3 Global, and AHA International, etc., and add to the wide diversity of programming options available to WOU students. All of the programs from these organizations listed in the study abroad website have been approved. Students may choose third-party programs that satisfy major, minor, or elective requirements, as well as internships. Sponsored programs are great for students who want to study abroad with students from other colleges and universities all over the United States. Third-party sponsored programs have on-site staff to support.


The WOU Study Abroad Office has programs that offer both full internships and internships blended with coursework mostly organized through third-party provider programs. In all cases, these internships are unpaid and offer academic credit towards the student’s degree. Depending on the program, the internship placement may be pre-selected or students may be able to customize their experience to meet their own needs. These are an excellent way to build practical experience and add substantial skills to a student’s resume.

Learn about your location

Before you travel abroad, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the country or countries in which you will be traveling by doing the following: review online resources, talk to people who have lived or studied there, consult travel and language guidebooks, read local news sources, etc. To learn more about different facets of your host country, such as health and safety tips, information on diversity and inclusion, faith or religious resources, and other details, please review the links provided below:


Every student should consider studying abroad. There are over 200 programs to choose from in approximately 40 countries. The eligibility requirements can vary from program to program, so it is a good idea to read through programs of interest on the Study Abroad website to see what is required for participation.

Eligibility criteria for WOU students who wish to study abroad:

  • Be a student in good standing at WOU.
  • Meet the language requirement for the program if any
  • Meet any other specific program provider requirements.
  • Complete an initial advising session with a study abroad advisor.
  • Complete all required WOU and study abroad program paperwork.
  • Have a passport valid six months beyond the end date of the program.
  • If you are in your senior year, you should know that you cannot graduate the same term in which you study abroad. Receiving grades for courses that you complete abroad can take time to be counted as credit if you enroll in a foreign university/institution. You should plan to graduate at least one term after your study abroad program has ended.

Academic Planning

Studies have shown that students who study abroad tend to have higher graduation rates. However, in order stay on track to graduate while also getting the most out of your academic experience abroad, it is important to do some academic planning. Here are some key steps to follow:

STEP 1 – Talk to your academic advisor as early as possible about making study abroad a priority in your college plans.
While it is true that you can study abroad anytime between freshman year and graduation, every student has a different path to graduation. For example, based on your major and/or extra-curricular activities, you may need to be on campus for specific terms or semesters. Take this into consideration when you speak with your academic advisor about how studying abroad can fit into your four-year graduation plan.

STEP 2 – Select courses carefully
All work done on your study abroad program will become part of your academic record. Grades for your study abroad classes will be factored into your cumulative GPA. Be thoughtful and mindful as you select your courses in your study abroad program.

STEP 3 – Know the program requirements
All programs have a minimum GPA requirement, and some may also have specific prerequisite courses or required language levels. Pay attention to these requirements and be sure to ask your study abroad advisor if you have any questions.

STEP 4 – Ask about Financial Aid requirements
If you are receiving financial aid or have scholarships, speak with a Financial Aid counselor to learn what grades you need to maintain while abroad and how many credits you need to take. Many scholarships require “full time enrollment.” Make sure you understand what that means. If the program’s credit system is different from yours (semester vs quarter, for example), be sure to check with your study abroad advisor on how many credits you will likely receive on your selected program.

Housing Arrangements

Most programs include housing as part of the program fee. Also, most programs have pre-arranged housing and do not offer students a choice in the type of housing they may receive. The most typical types of housing arrangements include: home-stays with a host family, apartments, residence halls, and/or hostels. Some programs include a certain number of meals per day if the student lives with a host family. In other programs, students may be responsible for some or all of their meals. Please refer to the housing description and budget of the program page on our website for more specific information about the housing options available for each individual program.


For apartments, the same standards of courtesy and responsibility apply in a foreign country as they do in the U.S. You are renting from a local landlord, and thus, you are expected to abide by the apartment complex rules. Apartments often have multiple rooms and up to 4-5 tenants. If your program has this housing arrangement, you will likely be responsible for the preparation of your own meals.

Residence Halls

There are some third-party programs and some direct exchange programs that offer this form of housing. Residence Halls are typically within close proximity to a local university. In exchange programs in particular, it is possible for you to have roommates from the local host country. Review the information on the program page for specific details or consult with your study abroad advisor. In terms of meals, some residence halls may have an optional meal plan and a cafeteria, whereas other programs with residence halls may not include any meals.


Living with a host family is common for language and cultural immersion programs. Building a relationship with your host family can be a very important part of your study abroad experience. The composition of host families varies from family to family. Host families provide you with an opportunity to see daily life close up and to increase your language proficiency and cultural immersion through daily conversations and practice.

Your host family’s home may be different from what you are accustomed to in the U.S. Try not to form preconceived notions about what to expect, and be open to the situation in which you are placed.

Host families usually live within reasonable distance from your school or learning center. They will provide you with a private room with study facilities, bed linens, and meals where appropriate. It is important to respect your host family’s rules and to be courteous to their requests.

Try to reach an early understanding with your hosts regarding the rules and customs of their home, especially with regard to such things as the use of hot water, helping with meals, and inviting guests. It is important to be conscious of cultural differences that exist. A gracious attitude toward your hosts will go a long way in overcoming cultural misunderstandings. A small gift at the beginning of your stay is a kind way to express gratitude to your host family for opening up their home to you. Pictures of your family and school life are also good icebreakers and help your hosts to know you better.