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Academic Expectations

Michigan State University expects education abroad participants to perform academically at standards commensurate with on-campus performance. This includes attending class, taking exams, reading required materials, completing homework, etc. You must follow the local (not MSU) academic calendar for these activities. If you are not maintaining good academic standing while abroad and fear that you may fail one or more courses, you can notify the on-site director or leader. Obtaining a GPA lower than 2.0 for individual courses will result in no academic credit awarded. In some cases your grades will impact your MSU GPA. If this results in an overall GPA lower than 2.0, you will be placed on academic probation and have one additional semester to raise your GPA above 2.0. If you are unable to do so, you will be denied financial aid.

Most instruction in short-term programs is done in English by MSU faculty who accompany the program. Some semester-long program courses are taught in English by local faculty, and those that have a foreign language requirement are taught in the local language.

If you intend to study abroad for an additional semester (beyond your original program), it is your responsibility to contact your academic adviser to determine whether or not this is academically appropriate and what steps may need to be taken.

Credit Load

Number of credits

All students participating in year-long and semester-long programs must enroll for a minimum of 12 credits per semester, or the minimum number specified.

Students participating in short-term programs are required to enroll in the minimum number specified in the program information sheet or the program's webpage.

The only exceptions to this policy are for graduate students who are participating in short-term programs that require a minimum enrollment of more than three (3) credits. These students must take at least one of the regularly-offered program courses. If this course offers variable credits, students must take the course for at least three (3) credits. However, students participating in programs requiring enrollment in three (3) or fewer credits are NOT eligible for a reduced course load, and must enroll in at least the minimum number of credits for that program. No students participating in partner programs are eligible for a reduced course load.

All undergraduate students must enroll in the minimum number of required credits for their internship program. Please note that business majors, except for accounting and hospitality business students, are allowed to complete a maximum of three internship credits. All business students should meet with their advisers to discuss how these credits may impact their degree progress. Graduate students may enroll in fewer credits provided that they can obtain the appropriate visa for the host country. If a reduction in credits is possible, the program fee for graduate students will be increased to cover the academic program costs. The increased program fee amount will be determined during the semester prior to participation. Please contact your OEA program coordinator for further details.

If you are doing directed study abroad (such as MSU independent study credits with the guidance of an on-campus faculty member) or conducting dissertation research, you are welcome to do so for extra credits above the minimum number of credits for your program. University policy does not allow off-campus sections of dissertation research, so these credits cannot be considered part of your program credits. If you are doing directed study abroad (such as MSU independent study), contact OEA for clarification of policies and proper enrollment procedures.

Your enrollment status will be checked by the Office for Education Abroad and if you are not enrolled in the minimum number of study abroad course credits, you may be dismissed from the program and/or billed and held responsible for paying an additional program fee. Once this additional fee is posted to your account, you cannot be retroactively enrolled in any courses. If you are participating in a partner, you may be billed for additional credits if you chose to take more credits while abroad.

Type of credits

MSU's standard policy states that a senior who has earned sufficient credits from MSU and meets the minimum requirements through prior arrangement with the associate dean of the college and the Office of the Registrar cannot transfer more than 10 of the last 30 credits from an accredited four-year college or university. Exceptions to this rule may be made up to a total of 15 credits, but arrangements MUST be made with the associate dean of your major college before departure. The associate dean of your college must submit a written request to the Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education, 208 Administration Building, before an exception can be granted.

Credit/no credit

The option to select CR/NC instead of grades follows the same rules and regulation as on campus. Choice of the CR/NC system must be communicated to your leader or the Office of Study abroad prior to the end of the 5th day of classes of the semester. For abbreviated sessions, you have 1/14 of the number of weekdays (not classes) to notify your leader or OEA that you wish to earn CR/NC.

Adjusting to a Different Educational System

When we find ourselves in a new setting - particularly in a new culture - we usually judge and compare everything against "home." We tend to use our own cultural framework to make sense of our observations and experiences.

It is difficult to generalize about different educational systems around the world. Most undergraduate instruction will include lectures, seminars, laboratory sessions, papers, and examinations, but that may be where the similarities end. Although it may not be explicitly stated in the syllabus, attendance is important. Adjusting to a new system may be compared to the feeling you have in MSU courses prior to taking the first exam. You usually understand the discussion and lectures, but not until you take the first exam do you really understand what you are being asked to retain. You may feel this way throughout your semester abroad.

For instance, you may attend lectures, but a larger share of the classroom time may be spent in small tutorial and seminar groups. You may be asked to be an equal contributor to these discussions. Generally speaking, emphasis is put on reading widely and making use of what you have read in essays and during seminars. Your reading will not usually be based on a textbook or directed in the detailed way that is common at MSU. If you are told: "You may wish to have a look at these specific titles," that implies strong advice that these books should be read! Don't rely on being told exactly what to do or when to do it.

In many cases, the professor may be expecting you to be reading on your own and ask you for original research and thought in the exam essays. You will be expected to provide your own motivation and to assume responsibility for your own education and learning, and not to simply wait to be taught the course material.

It is likely that exams will be essay-type. Before you take your first exam, ask for clarification of the grading system. This will help alleviate any surprises when you receive your results! Grades issued for certain courses on partner programs will be translated into MSU numerical grades (3.0, 3.5, etc.). This translation is based on MSU agreed-upon standards, which can be found at the MSU Education Abroad Partner Programs website. You may appeal your initial grade through the usual process defined in Spartan Life; however, because the grade is issued by an instructor abroad, the process can be lengthy and involved.