The University of Iowa

General Education Program

“The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has designed the General Education Program to provide you with a solid foundation on which to build your education, your career and, ultimately, your life as an educated person. As you begin your study at the University of Iowa, General Education courses will help you develop fundamental skills and knowledge that will prepare you for courses in your major.” (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)

The courses you take at the UI to fulfill your general education requirements have been designed not only to expose you to certain subjects, but to teach you specific skills (e.g. The Interpretation of Literature). In order to fulfill general education requirements abroad, the courses you take overseas need to match not only the content, but the skill objectives of the UI Gen-Eds you’re substituting them for. Keeping this in mind, there are plenty of opportunities for you to fulfill general education requirements while abroad.

Many students opt to fulfill their World Languages requirement abroad. This is easily done and is a great idea because it gives you the opportunity to interact with native speakers of the language you’re studying. The Programs section of this site lists study abroad programs designed to satisfy the World Languages requirement through accelerated language study.

Interlaken, Switzerland 

While this site will focus mainly on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ General Education Program, some colleges (e.g. the College of Engineering) have different general education requirements. All students should be familiar with their college’s general education requirements before enrolling in courses abroad.

For more information about fulfilling general education requirements abroad, consult with a Study Abroad Advisor. (Note: While it isn’t necessary to know which country/program you wish to study abroad in before contacting an advisor, program-specific advisors are available to consult with you about programs that offer pre-approved Gen-Ed courses.) Students in the College of Engineering should consult with the Dean’s Office for further information.

Students often think they need to fulfill all of their general education requirements before studying abroad, but this is not the case. Many study abroad programs offered through the UI can easily satisfy general education requirements.

Gen-Eds can be fulfilled abroad at any time during your four years at the UI. Just be sure to consult with an advisor early about whether the program you’re interested in offers courses that will transfer for Gen-Ed credit.

Most departments provide their students with 4-year graduation plans (e.g. Chinese majors) that can be helpful in determining when to take general education courses.

Also keep in mind that your major requirements might dictate when you study abroad. Check out the Major Advising Page corresponding with your major for more information about when to plan your study abroad experience.

The General Education Program is designed provide you with critical thinking and communication skills while exposing you to various disciplines including mathematics, natural and social sciences, fine arts, and technology. All general education courses offered at the UI are designed with these criteria in mind, and courses taken abroad need to meet the same criteria before being approved in substitution for a UI Gen-Ed course.

Many overseas programs sponsored by the UI offer courses that have already been reviewed and approved for Gen-Ed credit. For more information about these courses, consult with a program advisor in the Study Abroad Office. Note: You’ll need to have a specific program in mind before you contact a program advisor. Check out the Programs section of this MAP, recommended programs for your major (found on your Major Advising Page), and/or browse for programs using the online database. It’s also possible to propose an overseas course for Gen-Ed substitution. Submit your request to an advisor in the Study Abroad Office, who will forward it for review.

All students should consult with a Study Abroad Advisor before enrolling in courses abroad. Be sure to complete a Credit Approval Form (available in the Study Abroad Office) and return it to your advisor by the indicated deadline.

The following is a breakdown of the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s General Education program requirements, with information relevant to study abroad. If you are not in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, consult with the Dean of your college to discuss which general education courses can be taken abroad.

Communication & Literacy

The Communication & Literacy requirement includes coursework in Rhetoric, Interpretation of Literature, and World Languages. Interpretation of Literature and Rhetoric must be taken at the UI. However, UI students are highly encouraged to engage in language study abroad. For information about how to fulfill your World Languages requirement abroad, see the Programs section of this site, which focuses exclusively on language study.

Natural, Quantitative, & Social Sciences

You should be able to find overseas equivalents for some of the UI courses listed under the Natural, Quantitative, & Social Sciences requirement. Do not expect to satisfy your Natural Science Lab requirement with an overseas course.

Culture, Society, & the Arts

You should be able to find overseas equivalents for many of the UI courses listed under the Culture, Society, & the Arts requirement.

While it is a good idea to complete general education requirements abroad if you can, you are encouraged to prioritize your academic interests and preference for a specific host country when choosing a study abroad program. In other words, don’t organize your study abroad experience around fulfilling Gen-Eds, if you can avoid it. For information about study abroad programs relevant to your academic interests, check out the Major Advising Page corresponding with your major and/or consult with a faculty advisor in your department.

Also note that not every course you take abroad needs to fulfill a specific academic requirement. You can earn elective credit while abroad, too.

Finally, keep in mind that the General Education Program was designed holistically. Many Gen-Ed courses at the UI are designed as continuations of one another (e.g. Western Civilization I, II, and III) and/or as prerequisites to major requirements. If you take too many general education requirements abroad, you might miss out on this continuity.

Note: Although the programs listed here are dedicated to overseas language study that can be used to fulfill your World Languages requirement, it is certainly possible to fulfill other Gen-Eds abroad, and many students do. For information about other overseas programs that offer pre-approved Gen-Eds, consult with a Study Abroad Advisor.

Multilingualism is an exciting and important part of modern life. Increasingly, people with different linguistic backgrounds are living, socializing, and working together. Businesses send employees overseas, conference calls connect workers around the globe, and even the smallest rural American towns are becoming multicultural. Studying a foreign language can help you understand its speakers, learn the history of the region or regions in which it is spoken, and even gain a deeper understanding of your own native language.

World language study is a requirement of the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s General Education Program. Many languages can be studied for Gen-Ed credit (for instance, Classical Greek or Swahili). While dozens of world language courses are offered at the UI, even more options are available overseas. Please note that not all of these programs will fulfill all of your World Languages requirement—additional language courses may need to be taken before or after studying abroad.

The Study Abroad Office has compiled a list of recommended programs and tips for students who want to complete their World Languages requirement overseas. Note: This list is for students who primarily want to study a foreign language while abroad. If you would like to go abroad to take a variety of courses, including courses relevant to your major, check out the recommended programs section of your Major Advising Page. You can also ask a Study Abroad Advisor and/or a faculty advisor in your department for program recommendations.


USAC Lüneburg

A learning abroad experience at USAC Lüneburg offers students the opportunity to receive credit for 4 semesters of college-level German—the entire Gen-Ed Language requirement—in only one semester. No prior experience in German is necessary. In addition to studying German Language, students may choose to enroll in elective courses (instructed in English) that fulfill some of their other requirements. Classes are available in history, politics, German culture, social sciences, and more. The USAC Lüneburg program offers short-term summer study as well as semester-long study.


Please Note: The Chinese Department requires all returning study abroad students to take a placement exam upon their return in order to determine which course level will be appropriate.

CIEE Beijing Intensive Chinese Language

The CIEE Study Center at the Peking University in Beijing is one of the leading intensive Chinese language programs around. The University’s Center for Teaching Chinese specializes in working with the unique needs of each student. Language courses are supplemented with individualized tutorials and expeditions. Students will find that living in Beijing, one of China’s cultural centers, is an exciting and rewarding experience all on its own.

CIEE Nanjing Intensive Chinese Language and Culture

This program is designed for students with at least two semesters of college-level Mandarin. Students can immerse themselves in the traditional, accessible, and historically rich city of Nanjing. Students can choose between university housing or a homestay. Nanjing University offers peer tutors and small class sizes. Additionally, there are opportunities for students who wish to participate in an internship.


Ewha Womans University 

Ewha Womans University Exchange

Ewha Womans University is a private women's college in central Seoul, South Korea. This university accepts international students of all genders. It is one of the city's largest institutions of higher learning and also the world's largest female educational institute. It is also one of the best-known universities in South Korea and is often considered to be the top women's university there.


USAC Torino (Turin)

This exchange program with the University of Torino is available in both semester and summer lengths. This program allows students to study Italian in one of the most bustling and cosmopolitan cities in Italy. All students are enrolled in an intensive six-week language program at the start of the term that allows for rapid acquisition of language and culture. You can receive credit for a year’s worth of Italian Language study in just one semester, or a semester’s worth in a summer.

USAC Viterbo

Viterbo is a medieval city with a lively university community and an active art scene. It is about one and a half hours from Rome and three hours from Florence, with easy connections to the Mediterranean and mountain regions. Intensive Italian language instruction is offered in several different tracks so that students can pick which course of study best fits their needs. Year-long, semester, and summer sessions are all offered.


The American College of Thessolonikki

This program in the city of Thessalonikki offers students an American-style educational experience in the heart of Greece. Beginning instruction in Greek Language is offered for students with no prior study and there are more advanced programs for those that already have a foundation in Greek. Students studying at ACT have the opportunity to explore Greece through organized trips to historical sites, like the royal tombs of Vergina, the Acropolis of Athens, and Mt. Olympus, or through sailing, kite surfing, or diving in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean. The University also coordinates volunteer opportunities at film festivals and refugee soup kitchens. Semester and summer programs are available.


USAC Studies in the Czech Republic

Students interested in studying Czech culture and language can do so through USAC’s semester or summer term program at Charles University in Prague. Charles University in the beautiful medieval city of Prague is the oldest university in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to taking intensive courses in Czech language, you may choose to take courses on experimental Czech film, study the art and architecture of Prague, or participate in an internship.


All of the programs listed below are USAC programs and provide students the opportunity to complete their Gen-Ed Language requirements in a single semester. Programs are offered in semester, year, or short-term summer program lengths.

Madrid, Spain

The program at La Universidad Rey Juan Carlos has two main areas of focus: intensive language and Spanish and European Studies. You can take courses in Cinema, Photography, Art History, and you are given the option to enroll in Field Study programs that take you to some of the most important historic and cultural locations on the country. A large, metropolitan university, La Universidad de Rey Juan Carlos is situated conveniently close to the subway; students will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Madrid and put their language study to good use!

Alicante, Spain

The Alicante program is a great choice for students who would like to live in the city and have the opportunity to explore some of the natural beauty of the Spanish Mediterranean coastline. The University of Alicante boasts a gorgeous campus; 70% of which is made up of gardens, arboretums, and fountains. Busy cafes, lively nightlife, and a thriving street market are just a few of the other enticing features of the University of Alicante. Many classes in writing and literature are offered in addition to intensive language study.

San Sebastian, Spain

USAC San Sebastian at the University of the Basque Country offers students a chance to immerse themselves in two of the cultures that exist side by side in this unique region on the Northern coast of Spain. Study either Spanish or Basque—or both! Many of the courses offered are available to both local and visiting students alike, providing a wonderful opportunity to get to know your Spanish peers. Classes are offered in everything from Basque Folkdance to the Spanish mystery novel.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The USAC program at Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica is ideal for students who would like to pair their study of the Spanish Language with learning about the diverse cultures of Latin America. The Puntarenas program offers three areas of focus: Spanish Language, Ecology, and Latin American Studies. Students take courses in the USAC Puntarenas, overlooking the ocean and situated just a few blocks from downtown markets and cafes. Students are also encouraged to take field studies courses that will allow them to explore and enjoy the nearby rainforest.

Heredia, Costa Rica

Located just outside the Costa Rican capital city of San Jose, USAC Heredia offers the excitement of living near a city while studying Spanish language and Latin American Culture. USAC courses are held at the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica in Heredia, which has a student population of over 13,000. While enrolled, USAC students enjoy the same privileges as local students and have the opportunity to participate in student clubs and organizations. This USAC program also boasts many exciting field trips; visit the Cloud Forest, the Irazu Volcano, or a coffee plantation. Students may supplement their language studies with courses on Latin American Cuisine and Pre-Columbian Art and Cultures.

Santiago, Chile

The Universidad Andres Bellow has roughly 19,000 students and is considered one of Chile’s most prestigious private universities. Conveniently located near the subway, students will enjoy exploring the diverse urban and natural framework present in one of the most southern countries in the world. Intensive language study can be complimented with courses in photography, women’s studies, or political science, to name a few.



The Pau program offers an extraordinary opportunity to study the French language intensively, to take courses in other disciplines, and to experience student life at a French university. Through formal coursework and personal interaction with the host culture, you will greatly expand your language skills and knowledge of French society. Pau is the perfect environment if you are looking for immersion into real traditional French culture in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful regions in France. The Pau program offers an intensive language approach that allows you to complete up to one and a half years of university language coursework in one semester.