University of Iowa

Political Science

As our world becomes an increasingly global community, governments and cultures interact with one another more directly than ever before, and gaining an understanding of how they do so is growing in its importance. For political science majors, the opportunity to experience cultures and view political systems from multiple perspectives is invaluable.

Through study abroad, you not only have the chance to gain a richer, more immediate understanding of different governmental systems, but you will find a wealth of new perspectives on your own political environment and how it operates.

Durban, South Africa

Many study abroad options are available for you. From short-term, faculty-led programs to full-year enrollment at a foreign university, there are plenty of opportunities to earn credit. You can fulfill political science requirements, take General Education classes, explore general electives in subjects that interest you, or immerse yourself in language study and internships.


Study abroad during your first year of college is not usually recommended. There are many transitions you need to make between high school and university. First year students usually concentrate on completing General Education Program requirements or exploring different disciplines by taking lower-level elective credit. You might consider studying abroad as early as the summer following your first year at the University of Iowa.


Sophomore year is a good time to study abroad for a semester or a year. You can use your time abroad to complete coursework for political science, work on general education and elective credit, or study a language.


Plaza de Espana in Seville, Spain

Like your sophomore year, junior year is also a great time to study abroad. And for those in the honors program, the junior year presents an excellent time to complete fieldwork or research abroad.


While it is possible to study abroad during your senior year, it is not necessarily recommended. Your time may be best spent at the University of Iowa wrapping up your studies, working on research projects, or pulling together applications for graduate school if you intend to continue your education. Developing personal relationships with faculty members in the department can be invaluable for this purpose, and you cannot do that if you are overseas. However, if none of these situations apply to you, fall semester can present a good opportunity to go abroad.

Generally speaking, honors students should not study abroad as seniors. The senior thesis can absorb your attention for most of your final year.

General Education and Electives

Most study abroad locations offer coursework that can apply towards the General Education Program requirements of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Humanities, Historical Perspectives, Fine Arts, Foreign Civilization & Culture, and foreign languages are some of the most common Gen-Eds that students complete overseas. Also, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requires that all majors acquire either fourth-semester competency or the departmental equivalent in a foreign language. This can be done overseas on intensive language programs in as little as one semester. Study Abroad is authorized to approve GEP courses, so please consult your study abroad advisor for information about the approval process.

Taking elective courses abroad is also exciting because you have the chance to explore a topic you might never be able to study in the U.S.

Lincoln Thompson in Chile

Political Science Major Requirements

Students in political science must complete a minimum of 33 semester hours of political science coursework. At least 12 of these 33 hours must be taken at the University of Iowa.

30:001 Introduction to American Politics and the four introductory courses (i.e. 30:020 Introduction to Politics through 30:070 Introduction to Political Communication): These can be taken abroad, but the credit-worthiness of each course must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Obtain a Credit Approval Form from your study abroad advisor, and take course descriptions of any courses you are considering taking abroad to your academic advisor to be certain they will meet the requirements for the political science degree.

Eighteen hours of advanced undergraduate courses: at least 12 of these hours must be earned in regular class work. These are the best courses to take abroad, as these courses can address a variety of specialized topics. The credit-worthiness of each course must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Obtain a Credit Approval Form from your study abroad advisor, and take course descriptions of any courses you are considering taking abroad to your academic advisor to be certain they will meet the requirements for the political science degree.

Note that 30:029 First Year Seminar and 30:191 Government Internship cannot be taken for political science major credit.

BS in Political Science

In addition to the major requirements for the Political Science BA, you are also required to take 30:100 Understanding Political Research, either 30:193 Undergraduate Research Tutorial or 30:185 Honors Research Project, and three semesters of math or statistics courses.

30:100, 30:185, and 30:193 will count toward your 18 semester hours of 100-level courses.

For the most part, the additional courses for the BS cannot be taken abroad.


You must complete 30:180 Honors Seminar on the Study of Politics (you are encouraged to take this class as a sophomore), and at least one additional honors seminar. Honors students must also complete 30:185 Honors Research Project or 30:186 Honors Senior Thesis. 30:186 must be taken the semester prior to the one in which you graduate. (Note that this precludes study abroad during your senior year.) You must receive a grade of B or above in this nine semester hour sequence.

You will need to schedule an oral discussion of your honors thesis.

You can do thesis research abroad, though you might not get research credit at the UI—speak to your academic advisor about this.


Internships are encouraged as part of your political science study. It is possible for you to take an internship overseas, so consider the unique opportunity to do so!

Earning Credit

Your study abroad advisor will provide you with a Credit Approval Form, a document that helps structure a dialogue between you and your academic advisor regarding transferring credit from abroad toward degree requirements. Check your intended program's website or course catalog and provide your academic advisor with course descriptions of the classes abroad you propose to substitute for classes at the University of Iowa. Your academic advisor will make a decision about each proposed class and record it on the Credit Approval Form, which you will file with Study Abroad prior to your departure.

Sometimes course offerings at overseas universities change at the last minute, even after you arrive abroad—if this happens to you, be sure to alert your academic advisor by email before you register and get further guidance about transferring credit from abroad toward degree requirements. Hopefully a replacement course can be found that can earn the credit you need, but this is not guaranteed. Be as flexible as possible regarding transfer credit from study abroad.

Swansea University in Wales

The programs listed below are based at foreign universities with comprehensive political science or government departments; are short-term, faculty-led programs; or offer coursework designed for study abroad program participants.

While we suggest you look at these highlighted programs first, feel free to browse the programs section of the Study Abroad website, explore the programs database, and consult materials in the Study Abroad Resource Room.


Iowa Regents Semester in Newcastle

Iowa Regents Semester in Tasmania 

The Iowa Regents Semester in Australia offers undergraduate students an opportunity to study for a semester at the University of Newcastle or the University of Tasmania (UTAS). Participants are fully integrated academically and socially with their Australian peers. Course listing are available on the University of Newcastle and UTAS websites.


USAC Spanish and Latin American Studies in Santiago
This group program allows students to experience the culture and physical beauty of Chile through study in specially designed courses combined with family home stays and some program travel. Classes are held in classroom space in the downtown campus of Universidad Andrés Bello. Participants are allowed student privileges on campus through this affiliation. More information is available on the USAC website.

Costa Rica

USAC Heredia

USAC Puntarenas

The Spanish Language, Ecological and Latin American Studies program is offered at two possible locations, Heredia or Puntarenas, in affiliation with the Universidad Nacional de Heredia. The program allows students to experience the culture and physical beauty of Costa Rica through study in specially designed courses combined with family home stays and some program travel. Students will expand their Spanish language skills through personal interaction with the host culture in the homestay setting, through field trips and optional tours, and in the classroom via accelerated study according to Tracks. The program offers a one week optional tour to northern Costa Rica and Nicaragua, or to Bocas del Toro in Panama, depending on the session. UI students earn resident credit on this program. More information is available on the USAC website.


Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland
University College Cork’s Politics program and its Government department are separate entities. The Politics program focuses on the issues that form politics that in themselves are political: human rights, equality, the environment, justice, gender, and energy supply. This department draws on courses from the Government, Philosophy, and History departments to form its course.

University of Cork

The Government department teaches courses more specifically in politics and government in themselves, and less on the cultural aspects that form them. Of special interest is a "Certificate in Political Issues in Ireland Today," offered during the spring semester only.


USAC Business, Architecture and Italian Studies in Turin
Offered during the fall or spring semester, an academic year, or an intensive summer session at the University of Turin's Scuola di Amministrazione Aziendale, this program's curriculum is designed to address core degree requirements while providing complementary courses with an international dimension. More information is available on the USAC website.


Iowa Exchange Netherlands

Study for a semester or a year at Radbound University in the Netherlands alongside local students in regular classes and standard student housing. Though the language of instruction at Radboud University is Dutch, a number of classes throughout the curriculum are taught in English. Prior Dutch language is not required for participation.

South Korea

Ewha Womans University Exchange in Seoul

This program offers students of all genders the opportunity to study at the world's largest female educational institute and one of the top universities in Korea for a semester, academic year, or calendar year.

Many courses are offered in English. Political science students can find major-related courses under "Social Sciences" on the Ewha English course offerings website. Students may also take courses to fulfill certain Gen-Ed requirements or participate in Korean language courses to fill their minimum 12 s.h. schedule. The program also offers students the chance to take part in cultural activities, such as sports events and field trips, that will help them immerse themselves in the culture and history of Korea while getting to know native Korean peers.

Ewha Womans University Summer Program in Seoul

This four-week program, hosted by the Ewha International Summer College (ISC), offers students of all genders the opportunity to study at the world's largest female educational institute and one of the top universities in Korea.

Students select two courses for 3 s.h. each, earning a total of 6 s.h. on the program. Knowledge of the Korean language is not necessary as courses are taught in English. Political science students may find major-related courses under the category "Politics and International Studies" on the Ewha summer course offerings website. Outside of classes, students have the opportunity to take part in cultural excursions and field trips to further immerse themselves in the culture and history of Korea.


USAC International Business, Spanish, and Cultural Studies in Bilbao 
The USAC program in Bilbao offers courses at every level of Spanish language study. Alternatively, students can take less language and choose from several courses taught in English to fill out their semester. Internship placements at libraries, small businesses, schools, or service organizations can be arranged for students with an advanced language level in Bilbao. These practicas are unpaid, but convey elective academic credit. More information is available on the USAC website.

CIEE Language and Society Program in Seville 
This semester program is designed for intermediate or low-advanced level students of Spanish interested in rapidly improving their language skills and in acquiring an understanding of the Spanish culture and its artistic, literary, historical or political traditions. Students' linguistic and cross-cultural development is enhanced by participation in community life, volunteer work, field trips and housing with Spanish-speakers in homestays.

United Kingdom

Regents Semester in Scotland
The University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Studies maintains an international reputation for its instruction in the politics of the UK, as well as European and global politics and justice, and studies in International Relations, Social Anthropology, Social Work, Sociology, Canadian Studies, and South Asian Studies.

Regents Semester in Wales
At Swansea University, courses in politics are offered through the school of Politics & International Studies. The courses offered allow students to develop critical and analytical skills, as well as communication skills, while studying how and why governmental systems operate the way they do. The program asks students to consider their own opinions about politics and government.