In Spring 2016, I did an Independent Study Abroad semester in Leiden, Holland. It was a wonderful experience which enhanced what I had been learning at JCU, and helped me decide what I want to specialize in later on.
The first question which probably comes to mind when you think about studying abroad is, “Where should I go?” John Cabot University works with a lot of partner schools through their direct exchange program, but if you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, it’s also possible to choose another program and go independently. This gives you a lot of freedom in your choice, but I suggest you stay smart about it.
I chose to go to another American university, Webster University in Leiden. That way, I was sure that I was familiar with the academic system (I have never been part of the European system at a university level) and that my courses would transfer back to JCU with no problem. You should also try to balance your academic values with your desired location (country/culture). I value small classrooms, personal interactions with the professor, the ability to choose my courses, and being part of a community. Since I had Romanian friends from back home studying in Holland for their Bachelor’s degree and I knew that I wanted to go to another American university, the choice was easy: Webster, a prestigious university based in St. Louis, Missouri, with campuses all around the world, was an easy choice.
Studying abroad independently brings a lot more hassle than when you chose to apply for a direct exchange – the most tedious part being the extra paperwork! Having said that, it has its advantages too: you have more time to choose your university (the deadline for direct exchange programs is in the beginning of the previous semester; for independent study, it is later) and you can make it more personal and relevant to you. Maybe, like me, you have friends studying in a different country or you plan on coordinating your studies with someone else – the independent program offers you the flexibility to do so.
There are a couple of steps you need to take if you are considering studying abroad through an independent exchange. First of all, have a chat with your academic advisor or stop by the Advising and Academic Success Program (AASP) in the Tiber Campus. Don’t forget that as a JCU student, your priority should be staying on track for graduation and completing your requirements. Doing your mandatory core courses abroad is frowned upon and may not be allowed, so you should carefully plan you academic schedule with your advisor and/or the AASP.
Once accepted into the desired university, you will need to complete the Course Away Form, which can be found at the Registrar’s office or on the Intranet Resources (the Registrar tab in MyJCU). The form includes the course equivalencies and must be signed by your advisor, the Dean of Academic Affairs, and the Registrar’s office.
Finally, before your departure you will have to complete a Leave of Absence form, which states that you will not be attending JCU for the following semester and thus you will not be paying the tuition or attending classes. You will need 4 to 6 staff signatures for this form, so plan your time accordingly.
If you plan to study abroad, you should be aware that you will still be part of the normal advising session, coming up with an on-campus course schedule for the upcoming semester, just in case your study abroad plan does not work out for any reason. After your official acceptance at the other university and the completion of the Course Away and Leave of Absence forms, you will also have to drop your JCU courses. You can do this by yourself on the Registrar platform.
For more questions, you can visit the Independent Study Abroad page.