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Academics Abroad

Living in a new place, you’re bound to want to explore and experience as much as you can while abroad. But don’t forget the “study” in study abroad! Finding the right balance and adjusting to a different academic system can be challenging when coupled with the excitement of living in a new country.

Academics abroad may be different or similar to MSU depending on the program you choose. Some of the main differences in academic approaches can be seen between faculty-directed and direct enroll or exchange programs.


  • Students take MSU courses for MSU credit
  • Courses are taught by MSU faculty and staff
  • Courses consist of MSU students and sometimes students from other US institutions
  • Excursions and site visits included
  • Academic expectations (including assignments and exams) are similar to MSU on-campus courses

Direct Enroll or Exchange

  • Students enroll in courses at a university abroad (host institution)
  • Courses taught by host institution faculty
  • Courses consist of host institution students and other international students
  • Courses may count for MSU or transfer credit
  • Academic structures vary by location but may include lectures, seminars and labs
  • Academic rigor, attendance policies, participation, classroom etiquette and communication with professors may differ from MSU
  • Excursions may be offered as an option
  • Assignments and exams may have different academic policies compared to MSU

Regardless of the program type, remember to attend class, read your course syllabi, complete your homework and exams, and ask questions if anything is unclear!


Courses taken on direct enroll, exchange and affiliated partner programs must be pre-approved by MSU prior to departure.

To obtain approval, you will need to identify the courses you plan to take on your program and complete a Course Approval Form.  The courses you plan to take abroad will come back to MSU and fit into your plan of study.

To learn more, visit Education Abroad Course Approval Process.

NOTE: This is not required for faculty-directed programs.


You must be enrolled in the minimum number of credits required for your program. These are stated on the program’s individual webpage.

  • Most semester-long programs require a minimum of the equivalent to 12 MSU credits per semester.
  • Faculty-directed programs will differ depending on the length of the program. Check each program page for details regarding how many credits can be earned.
  • To be eligible for financial aid, you must meet the minimum credit level required for aid eligibility. 

Exceptions to the minimum requirement rule can be made under certain circumstances for graduating seniors by contacting the associate dean of your college prior to departure.

To learn more, visit Enrollment Requirements.


Grades for faculty-directed programs will appear as numerical grades on our MSU transcript (0.0-4.0).

Grades for direct enroll or exchange programs will appear as graded credit or transfer credit depending on the courses your select.

To learn more, visit Academic Expectations and Grades.

Michigan State University expects education abroad participants to perform academically at standards commensurate with on-campus performance.