Study Abroad

Have you wanted to see Othello performed at the Globe Theater? Have you dreamed of sipping coffee in Joyce’s favorite Paris haunts? Have you imagined walking down the Delhi streets of Midnight’s Children? Then study abroad may just be for you.

UW-Madison and many affiliated universities and programs offer semester- and year-long programs that, with a little planning, can fit easily into your four year undergraduate experience. These programs offer students the opportunity to not only learn new things in new places but, equally important, to live, travel, and work in a wide variety of foreign cultures and locales.

A study abroad program can take a lot of forms: it can be a week or a year; it can include study at a university, an internship at a local business, or volunteer work through a local NGO; it can involve a homestay with a family, a dorm in a university, or an apartment with other international students. It’s up to YOU to decide where you want to go and what you want to do!

As a UW-Madison student, you have two main options: applying through a UW-sponsored program or seeking out an external program. Below, you can read more about each option, and the relevant requirements and costs of doing so. As always, if you have further concerns about how you might fit a study abroad program into your educational track, please contact the English undergraduate adviser.


More information about study abroad opportunities

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UW-Madison Programs

The Study Abroad Office offers a wide range of programs for students of all levels and disciplines. These programs will carry UW-Madison credit, meaning that the grades that you earn while in the program will appear on your UW-Madison transcript and will factor into your GPA. The credits are also considered “in residence,” which could be an important factor if you decide to study abroad during the last 30 credits of your undergraduate program.  Refer to the Major Advising Page for English Majors to get started.

The Division of International Studies students page also offers a wider range of international study opportunities, including funding for language acquisition and information on affiliated internship and volunteer programs.

Non-UW Programs

There are numerous online resources for finding study abroad opportunities run through peer institutions throughout the U.S. or by in-country universities and colleges. (While most of these programs are perfectly dependable and well-known, be sure to vet any programs before applying.)

These programs fall under the category of transfer credit. While you are participating in a program you are enrolled through that program/university and at the conclusion of the program you would submit a transcript to the UW-Madison Office of Admissions and the courses and credits (but not grades) would be posted. If you are gone during a fall and/or spring term you would also need to apply for re-entry in order to return to UW-Madison. More information is available on the Office of Admissions website.

Students interested going on a non-UW program should also keep in mind the 30-credit residence requirement.

Information on English courses

Most study abroad programs will have numerous courses that count toward the 120 minimum and fulfill level (60 credit rule) and/or Breadth requirements. Because most study abroad programs do not offer a heavily English-oriented course load, students often use study abroad experiences to fill out general requirements or to pursue different courses of study. However, it is perfectly acceptable to take courses that would count toward an English major while studying abroad, though you should be aware that offerings in the area of English language and literature may be limited or non-existent in some cases.

In order for a course to count toward the English major it must be about English literature, language, or writing. For example, “Masterpieces of Russian Literature: Great Novels of the 19th and 20th Century” is a course taught in English at the University of Copenhagen. Although the course is taught in English, the content is Russian literature and would therefor not count toward English major requirements. However, a course about E.L. Doctorow’s Fiction would count because he is an American author (original language of the book is English) regardless of whether the course taught at the University of Copenhagen is taught in English or Danish.

The easiest way to determine whether a course in a UW program might count toward an English major is to make sure that is assigned the subject code of ENGLISH and has a level of I, A or D (Intermediate or Advanced).

It’s worth noting that some universities still prefer a lecture format, sometimes with a small group discussion called a tutorial group.  If possible, talk with other students who have returned from your chosen program to learn more about modes of instruction.

Logistical considerations

Declaring your English major: If you think you want to study abroad but have not declared your English major, talk with the Academic Advisor sooner rather than later. There are three options in the English major: literature, creative writing, and language and linguistics. There is some flexibility with courses in all three areas, but the literature option contains the most electives: three. Electives are intermediate or advanced courses in English that may be in literature, creative writing, or language and linguistics. Creative writing has one elective and language and linguistics has none. If you are studying in Australia, you may want to take a course in contemporary Aboriginal literature written in English. Although our department does not offer exactly this course, we do offer courses that deal with Indigenous and post-colonial literature. Therefore, this course could count as one of your electives. The creative writing option does allow you to take one intermediate creative writing workshop abroad, even if it is not taught in English. All other courses for the major must be taught in English and focus on writers who write in English.

Planning your courses: Meeting with your advisor a semester or two before you study abroad is very practical. Together you can discuss which courses you are likely to find in a foreign university and which you are not. The seminar class, English 245, for example, is most often not a class you may take abroad.

The IAP pages for specific universities generally have an “Academics” tab that will lead you to the courses that have already been evaluated. Established programs usually have a list of intermediate or advanced courses that are guaranteed to transfer as specific English major requirements. Knowing which program or programs to which you are applying will help your advisor navigate those course lists.

Courses in newer study abroad partnerships or new courses within established programs may need to be evaluated by the English Academic Advisor. The student asks for a specific transfer, say a course in London that they feel is equivalent to a course in Victorian literature at UW-Madison. The advisor then assesses the syllabus and makes a decision. If that course number isn’t quite right, the advisor might give the student the more general study abroad course number, English 622. It would still fulfill one of your electives.

Timeline to graduation: Because a great deal of reading, analysis, and writing are at the heart of an English major, we don’t recommend that you take more than three English courses per semester. This is another reason to speak with your advisor: you do not want to take four English courses during your last semester.

Although junior year is the most popular time to study abroad, students also go during their sophomore or senior years, or during summer or winter break. If you decide to go during your senior year, make sure that your program will fulfill your Senior Residency Requirement. Remember: studying abroad in your final senior semester may cause you to miss your UW graduation because semester end dates vary from country to country.

Creative Writing and Honors considerations: The Creative Writing program faculty ask that you only take one creative writing workshop per semester. Leaving a workshop and your directed study, English 695, until your last semester at UW may not be an option. Similarly, expecting that you can do your directed study while abroad may be misguided. Talk with both your Academic Advisor and the Creative Writing coordinator Ron Kuka about these issues as soon as you can.

Completing either an Honors or a non-Honors thesis while abroad will most likely not be an option either. You may contact potential thesis advisor while you are abroad and, perhaps, even start some research on your topic, however. The Honors option in literature now includes both a one-and a two-semester thesis. Talk with your Academic Advisor about these possibilities.

If you are thinking about studying abroad and are majoring in English or are planning to major in English you should make an appointment to talk with an advisor early on so that you can plan which requirements you will fulfill while in Madison and abroad.