Program Models

What's a good fit for you?

The degree to which you are rubbing shoulders with British people or students will depend a great deal on the type of study abroad program you select.

Some study abroad programs, especially short-term ones (e.g., summer and winter programs) are designed specifically for North American study abroad students. They may be taught by faculty from U.S. universities taking a group of students overseas.

This type of program, known as an “island program,” attempts to replicate the U.S. classroom in a foreign setting, taking advantage of the site to reinforce the content of the class. University of Iowa examples included the UG International Business in London winter program and the London Performance Study theater program in the summer. Students are in class together and live together, and are taught by a UI professor.

Alternatively, a “direct enrollment” program places study abroad students in the British classroom with degree-seeking British students, taught by British faculty. Study abroad students do the same academic work as their British counterparts. Students are integrated in local housing with British and other international students. Examples include the Iowa Regents Semester in Wales program and the UK Exchanges.

Some study abroad programs offer a blend of both program models. For example, all study abroad students might be required to take one or two classes offered by the program (e.g., “British Cultural History”), often taught by local British faculty who have experience working with American students. Then students have the option of taking some direct-enrollment classes at a local university, or undertaking an internship. This type of program, known as a “hybrid,” is often offered in the larger cities, especially London.

Finally, a distinction should be made between "exchange programs" and regular "study abroad programs." Exchange programs are virtually all direct-enrollment programs at foreign univesities with which the University of Iowa has an exchange agreement, whereby we agree to exchange students on a one-for-one basis. UI students pay tuition and fees here (and depending on the particular exchange program, may also pay for a dormitory and meal contract), then study abroad at our partner institution with no further charges. In other words, the cost of attendance is the same abroad as it is in Iowa City (more or less -- transportation and the cost of living will increase the costs a bit). A study abroad program, on the other hand, is a "one-way street." The University of Iowa has a contractual agreement with a foreign university to send students abroad. Because we send a volume of students, there is usually a tuition break to pass along. But the cost of a study abroad program is usually more than the price of UI tuition and fees, if you an Iowa resident. If you are a non-resident, a regular study abroad program may cost more-or-less the same as it does for you to study in Iowa City.

Students considering study abroad should ask themselves what level of cultural immersion they might be comfortable with. No one model is appropriate for everyone. Generally speaking, it is the philosophy of Study Abroad to encourage as much immersion in the host culture as possible while studying abroad, but this can be done in many ways. For example, a student on an “island” program might seek out ways to get involved in the local community through volunteer work, or joining clubs or sports teams.

Further reading

Cultural Immersion Worksheet

Making Friends Abroad