As a religious studies major, you know that religions are more than formal teachings and practices that give rise to traditions; they are also ways of life that evolve within specific communities and cultural contexts. Study abroad gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a chosen culture and study the intimate connection between religion and the people of that culture up close. It is an incredibly valuable experience to study a religion while participating in the social life that informs it—an experience that will perhaps give you a deeper appreciation for a religion than you could accomplish from afar. Study abroad is also a valuable distinction when applying to graduate and professional programs—both common pursuits for religious studies majors.

To aid you in coordinating study abroad with your major requirements, this page offers advice about when to study abroad (see the "Timing" tab), how to fulfill your academic requirements abroad (see "Academics"), and how to choose a study abroad program best suited to your needs (see "Programs").

There are many study abroad options available to religious studies majors. From short-term, faculty-led programs to full-year direct enrollment in an international university, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pursue your academic and extracurricular interests abroad.

In general, the best time to study abroad as a religious studies major is during the fall semester of your senior year. Studying abroad during the fall of your junior year is also possible. If you’d rather not study abroad during the academic year, winter and summer break programs are also available.

As you plan your study abroad experience, keep in mind that your religious studies orientation and your senior seminar are course requirements that must be completed at the University of Iowa. Students are encouraged to complete the orientation by their junior year at the latest and the senior seminar as juniors or seniors. Both courses are offered during spring semesters only.

Students intending to study abroad are strongly encouraged to be in touch with a Study Abroad Advisor and the Department of Religious Studies' Director of Undergraduate Studies early on in the planning process. If you are a double major or completing a minor, be sure to consult with an academic advisor in your second major or minor department as well.

There are many opportunities for religious studies majors to fulfill academic requirements abroad. In general, courses taken abroad can be substituted for UI courses with approval from the appropriate UI department. Consult with a study abroad advisor about getting overseas courses approved for UI requirements. Once you select a program of interest, your study abroad advisor will give you a Credit Approval Form to complete with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Religious Studies. Note: If you plan to complete courses toward a second major or minor while abroad, you will need to get approval from your second major or minor department.

Religious Studies Courses

Lucky you! The Religious Studies Major Curriculum is quite flexible, which is great for study abroad. With the exception of your required orientation course and your senior seminar (RELS:1005 and RELS:4950), which must be completed at the University of Iowa, it should be fairly easy for you to find overseas equivalents for some of your religious studies course requirements. In general, it will be easier to find equivalents for your religious studies foundation courses (e.g. RELS:1506 “Intro to Buddhism” or RELS:1080 “Intro to the New Testament”) than for your advanced-level courses (e.g. RELS:4660 “The Karma of Words”), which tend to be more specialized. In general, overseas equivalents need to have requirements comparable to those of courses offered by the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa.

Typically, religious studies majors do not enter the major until their sophomore or junior year—thus, the department is relatively flexible about incorporating a variety of courses into the religious studies curriculum. If you are a religious studies minor or unsure of whether you’ll declare the major, keep in mind that the department will work with you to incorporate previously completed coursework (including study abroad courses) into the major. Having said that, all courses completed abroad must be taken through an accredited university in order to be considered for credit at the University of Iowa. You cannot substitute non-academic or religious experiences participated in abroad for UI courses.

With the approval of the Department of Religious Studies, students may transfer up to 15 semester hours of religious studies coursework completed at another institution to count toward the religious studies major. However, some study abroad programs offer UI resident credit that will not count toward the 15 s.h. limit. (For more information about resident credit, talk to an advisor in Study Abroad.)

General Education Courses

Since your General Education requirements are typically lower-level, non-specialized courses, it should be relatively easy to find equivalents for some of your Gen Eds overseas. The World Languages requirement is an especially good Gen Ed requirement to complete or work toward abroad. If you are interested in taking language courses overseas, information about language-intensive study abroad programs that could be used to fulfill your World Languages requirement is provided under the “Programs” tab of Study Abroad’s General Education advising page.

You might also consider finding overseas equivalents for Gen Ed courses that include a cultural component. You could likely find equivalents for several courses approved for the “Culture, Society, & the Arts” areas of the Gen Ed curriculum—and many of these would be interesting to take in a new cultural context. (See the “Cultural, Society, & the Arts” tab on the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s General Education web page.)

Second Majors and Minors

Religious studies majors completing a second major or minor are encouraged to substitute overseas courses for some of their second major/minor requirements with the approval of the corresponding department. Information about study abroad opportunities related to other majors and concentration areas is offered on the MAPs. (e.g. If you are completing a second major in International Studies, be sure to consult Study Abroad’s International Studies advising page.)

Worried about funding your trip? International Programs offers various scholarships to UI students for study abroad. Information about these scholarships and how to apply for them is available on the scholarships page.

You can start your search with the recommended programs below, but feel free to browse the Study Abroad program database for other possibilities. The specific programs recommended below may change, so check with your major advisor and Study Abroad advisor for the latest updates.

All students who study abroad must be in good academic and disciplinary standing. Each program listed has coursework taught in English unless otherwise stated. In addition, each program has specific eligibility requirements that may include GPA, prerequisites, and/or class standing. Please see the specific program page on the Study Abroad website at



Wells College Florence: Lorenzo di Medici
Fall, Spring, Academic Year

Wells College facilitates enrollment for students at Lorenzo di Medici in Florence. Lorenzo di Medici has a Religious Studies department that offers courses relevant to this major. Courses include World Religions; The Holocaust: Jewish and Christian Responses; Women in Religion; Food and Religion: Rituals, Traditions and Taboos; and Jewish Life in Italy from the Renaissance to the Present. Course offerings vary by semester.

IES Rome
Fall, Spring, Academic Year

UI students participating in this program take an Italian language course and then select from a variety of area studies courses. Students are also able to earn credit by participating in an internship or service learning/social action placement and accompanying academic seminar. Relevant courses include Mystics, Philosophers, Saints and Sinners: Studies in the Roman Catholic Tradition; Issues in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church; and The Jews of Rome: Sites and Times of the Oldest Diaspora in the World. Course offerings vary by semester.

United Kingdom

Iowa at Oxford: Mansfield College
Academic Year

This program enrolls Iowa students at Mansfield College at the University of Oxford, among the top five universities in the world. Participants live in student housing while studying with their local peers through Oxford’s unique tutorial system. Oxford’s tutorials in theology allow students to explore religious traditions from around the world through intensive independent study guided by Oxford’s world-class faculty. Courses include Buddhism, Hinduism, Modern Theology, Nature of Religion, and Reformation.

Lancaster Exchange Program
Fall, Spring, Academic Year

Through the Lancaster Exchange Program, Iowa students enroll at Lancaster University, living and studying on campus with their British peers while fully immersed in the local culture. Lancaster’s Religion department is ranked 13th in the UK and offers a robust selection of religion and theology courses across all levels. Courses include Ethic, Philosophy, and Religion; Christianity and the Modern World: Traditions and Transformations; Indian Philosophical and Religious Thought; Modern Religions and Atheistic Thought; and Religion and Violence.


Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland
Fall, Spring, Academic Year

The Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland program allows UI students to live and study with their Irish peers on campus at the University College Cork (UCC). UCC offers a variety of religion courses, including many that explore the unique religious traditions of Ireland. Courses include Buddhism in Practice, Contemporary Religions in Ireland; Religions in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to the Study of Religions; One God - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and Western Esotericism and New Religious Movements.


ISEP Åbo Akademi University
Fall, Spring

ISEP facilitates the direct enrollment of UI students to Åbo Akademi University which is located on the southwestern coast of Finland. UI students take all their classes in English alongside their international and Finnish peers. The Faculty of Arts, Psychology, and Theology offers a variety of courses for religious studies majors. Courses include Hinduism and Buddhism; Religion, Film, Society; Ancient Religions of the Mediterranean and Middle East; Religion and Gender; and Religion and Popular Culture.

ISEP University of Eastern Finland
Fall, Spring

UI students can study in the heart of the eastern Finnish lake country at the University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu campus. Students choose to focus either on the Western or the Orthodox Christian tradition in the School of Theology, which explores the convergence of Eastern and Western traditions. Courses include Introduction to Biblical Studies, Church History (Western Theology and Orthodox Theology), Patristics (Orthodox Theology), Dogmatics and History of Dogma (Orthodox Theology), Practical Theology in Western Theology, and Introduction to the History of Comparative Religion.


South Korea

Ewha Womans University Exchange
Fall, Spring, Academic Year, Calendar Year

This exchange program allows UI students to enroll as international students at Ewha Womans University. Students can take courses related to the religious studies major through the Christian Studies department and the Global Korean Studies department. Courses include Religions of Asia, Theology of the Old Testament, Understanding Korean Religion, The World of the Old Testament, Christianity and the World, and Religions of Korea. Course offerings vary by semester.



TEAN Semester in Australia: University of New South Wales (UNSW)
Fall, Spring, Academic Year, Calendar Year

University of New South Wales offers a wealth of religious studies courses from which UI students can choose. At UNSW, students study the fundamentals of religious beliefs and the challenges facing various religious groups in the world today. Courses include World Religions, Contemporary Islam, Women and Religion, Philosophy of Religion, and Terror and Religion.

Iowa Regents Semester in Australia: University of Tasmania
Fall, Spring, Academic Year, Calendar Year

The Department of Religion at the University of Tasmania explores big questions: What is the meaning of life? How do we create a just society? What is our place in the world? Courses include Ethnicity, Religion and Race; Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome; Magic, Spirituality and Religion; Religion and Gender; and Comparative Philosophy and Religion.

New Zealand

TEAN Semester in New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington
Fall, Spring, Academic Year, Calendar Year, Summer

Victoria University offers religious studies courses through their School of Social and Cultural Studies. There are hundreds of courses from which UI students choose. Course offerings include Islam in the Contemporary World; The World’s Religions; Judaism: Holocaust Israel & Diaspora; Religion in New Zealand and the Pacific; Evil and Salvation; Reading Religion: Authority, Subversion and Gender; and Global Christianity: Struggle and Liberation.

TEAN Semester in New Zealand: University of Otago
Fall, Spring, Academic Year, Calendar Year

In Otago’s Religion program, UI students will critically examine religious beliefs and practices and their influence on human behavior. Students will investigate religion’s evolutionary origins, psychological underpinnings, and historical development as well as its links with modern politics, law, and social movements. Courses of interest include Zen Buddhism; Religion and Identity; Introduction to Judaism; Christianity and Islam; and Ancient Religion: Egypt to Mesopotamia.