Program Curriculum

Study Abroad

Cultural Studies and Policy Studies graduate students are welcome to participate in UW and non-UW study abroad programs and may receive elective credits. Current elective course numbers include:

Cultural Studies - BCULST 596: Study Abroad (5-15, max. 15)*

Policy Studies - BPOLST 598: Directed Research (1-5, max. 15)*

Why Study Abroad?

Study abroad is widely recognized for adding value to one’s education - offering new perspectives on global issues, expanding research methodologies, building new relationships and networks, and in some cases, cultivating language skills. International experience can also provide a competitive edge in the job market. For graduate students, study abroad is often closely linked to their career paths and therefore, more applicable to their professional and scholarly ambitions.

Critiques of Study Abroad

While there are many benefits to study abroad, there are also critiques. Before choosing to study abroad, students should consider what they are looking for in a program and hope to gain from the experience. When examining programs, Matt Sparke, UW Professor of Geography and International Studies, suggests asking these questions:

  • Tourism: Is the program functioning like a vacation with associated dangers of objectifying poor communities while undermining student safety with unsupervised entertainment-seeking behavior? 
  • Escapism: To what degree does the program encourage students to treat the foreign base, hotel, or NGO compound as an escape from having to live with and learn from local communities?
  • Opportunism: Are the organizers of the program making money or a name for themselves with the programming?
  • Careerism: In what ways does the program present itself as a CV-burnishing and self-improvement opportunity?

For more critique of study abroad, we suggest reading American Sentimentalism and the Production of Global Citizens by Ron Krabill, Associate Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Bothell. 

UW Program Options

Most UW study abroad programs are directed at undergraduate students; however, many are open to graduate students. As with any undergraduate course, we recommend approaching the instructor, or program director, to discern his/her openness to your participation. Bear in mind, additional academic work is usually required to ensure that the credits earned meet graduate-level standards.

Appropriate Program Options for graduate students include:

Exploration Seminars

Exploration Seminars are short-term study abroad programs (3-4 weeks) led by UW faculty that occur during the gap period between the end of Summer quarter and beginning of Autumn quarter. Students earn five credits which are applied to Autumn quarter. Exploration Seminars are well-suited for students who desire coursework in specific areas of study; a short-term experience that does not conflict with the UW academic calendar; desire on-site support; and have limited or no foreign language background. Most Exploration Seminars are open to undergraduate and graduate students on all three UW campuses. Graduate students may be asked to complete additional assignments to meet graduate-level rigor.

Students participating in Exploration Seminars pay a program fee that covers five credits of tuition and many expenses (e.g., lodging, some meals, field trips, program overhead, etc.). Because the program fee covers tuition, the five credits earned will not be included in the student’s Autumn tuition bill. Seminar options are advertised during December and January for the following Autumn, and applications are typically due in February and March.


The UW has an affiliation with IE3, an internship organization operated through the Oregon University System. Internships are available in a variety of non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, and private organizations around the world. Host organizations provide supervision and logistical support for students in the host country. Many internships require foreign language proficiency, though numerous English language internships are available.

Independent Learning

Independent Learning is an option for qualified graduate students seeking UW credit for international activities that do not align with other study abroad program models. These activities include independent research, internships, practicums, or employment as a TA on a UW Study Abroad Program.  To be considered for Independent Learning you must first meet with a UW Study Abroad Adviser on the Seattle campus to discuss your proposal and the application requirements. Students applying for the independent research option must meet these Standards for Approving Independent Learning.

For more in-depth advising on Program Options, set an appointment with UWB Global Initiatives


  • Begin early!  Recruitment and application deadlines for study abroad programs occur several months before the actual experience. 
  • Contact your faculty advisor (Cultural Studies: your Portfolio Advisor; Policy Studies: the Academic Director) to discuss your desire to study abroad and how it relates to your academic and professional goals. (If you already have a particular program in mind, share this opportunity.)
  • With your faculty advisor’s approval, search for study abroad programs on the UW Study Abroad search site.  Please note - when searching for Exploration Seminars, select the Term: Early Fall.
  • Consider programs which complement the course sequence of your program.  Students find the summer period between the first and second year to be most conducive.
  • Apply for programs.  Once accepted to a program, notify the Graduate Office and your faculty advisor to begin processing appropriate paperwork. You will need to submit a General Petition to request approval from your Portfolio Advisor, then, upon approval, you will be sent the code to register.

Financial Aid

Financial aid and scholarships are available for most study abroad experiences.  Read Financing Study Abroad to learn more about options. Consulting with a UWB financial aid advisor about your particular financial aid situation is also recommended.

*The Cultural Studies and Policy Studies programs require that students complete at least 10 of their required elective credits in BCULST or BPOLST courses, excluding Study Abroad, Internships, and Directed Research. 

Search for a Study Abroad Program

Use the UW Study Abroad search site to find a program that fits your interests. Search by program name, quarter, language, city, country, region, and more.