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How to Choose a Program

Program selection is one of the most exciting and important parts of the study away process. Selecting the program that is the best fit for you will help facilitate a successful experience once you are away. There are many options available both at SUNY Plattsburgh and throughout the SUNY system, so it is important to take time to research program options carefully. Outlined below are some areas to consider when selecting your study away program.

Goals for Studying Away

One of the first steps of program selection is to think about why you want to study away and what you hope to gain from the experience. Making a list of goals or answering some of the questions below may help you select a program because you will be able to identify the aspects of studying away that are most important to you.

  • Do you want to learn or develop a second language?
  • Would you like to take classes at a university that offers different courses than your home university?
  • Are you interested in studying in a country where you want to travel and learn more about the culture?
  • What size university or program best suits you?

Duration and Timing of Program

Study away programs vary in both length and the time of year they are available. You can typically choose from programs that are held in the summer or winter term, spring or fall semester, the academic year, as well as short-term programs. Students should consider how long they want to study away and the time of year that is best for them in terms of course scheduling, club and activity obligations, as well as the climate of the location.

  • Faculty-led (short-term): At SUNY Plattsburgh a faculty-led program is one that lasts approximately one to three weeks and travels in conjunction with a mandatory SUNY Plattsburgh course. Travel typically occurs at the beginning or end of the semester, or during a college break. These programs are only available for SUNY Plattsburgh students.
  • Summer: Summer programs usually occur during summer break (sometime in May, June, July or August) and vary in length from a few weeks to a few months, although most programs are 4–6 weeks.
  • Winter: These programs usually occur during winter break in late December or January. Programs can vary in length from a week to a month.
  • Semester: Semester programs are approximately 15 weeks in length, but can sometimes be slightly longer or shorter. Some semester programs follow the American academic calendar, although others start earlier or later than U.S. universities.
  • Academic year: Students have the opportunity to study away for an entire year. These programs usually allow for the most in depth study away experience. Typically students have vacation periods where they can travel or visit family and friends.


One of the most important aspects of the study away experience is the opportunity to learn in a different academic environment. Programs outside the U.S. may offer different academic systems that affect teaching style, as well as course structure and offerings. You should consider these aspects of the program, as well as if you will need to take courses in your major or fulfill general education requirements while away. SUNY Plattsburgh programs offer links to course information at partner universities, which allows you to research potential course options in advance.


Study away programs can be offered in the language of the host country, English, or a combination of both. It is important to determine whether the courses you want to take are offered in the language of your choice. It may also be helpful to know which language is commonly spoken outside of the host university and if you will need any second language skills before applying for a program.


Study away programs are available at various costs. Price is determined by factors like program length, location, included services, and the type of program or host institution. It is important that you know what you can afford before applying. Typically, financial aid can be used for study away programs, but please contact your financial aid office for specific information. Cost estimates are available after searching for a SUNY Plattsburgh program on each individual program page. 


It is important to research where programs are located, including the country, region, city and the university. You should consider climate, population, languages spoken, history and culture, available health services, how much interaction you may have with Americans versus locals, and any other aspects of the location that are important to you. It may also be helpful to find out if there are travel opportunities or unique activities that you can participate in through a particular program or location.

Program/Partner University Size

You will find that study away programs vary in size from small groups to universities with thousands of students. Program size can impact your study away experience in many ways, such as interaction with other students and faculty. You should consider your preference when selecting a program.

Visa Requirements

Depending on the location and length of your program, you may need a student visa to study away in the program of your choice. It is important that you consider whether you will need to apply for a visa in terms of both time and cost. Some student visas require several weeks to process applications and that students visit the consulate for an appointment. Appointments may not be available for weeks or months and are likely only available in locations like New York City, so you must leave plenty of time to apply for a visa before your study away program begins. Also, many student visa applications require a fee, which may need to be budgeted for in addition to travel costs for a consulate appointment.

Housing and Meal Options

Where you live while away can be an important aspect of your experience. Housing options vary, but choices usually include a combination of university housing, off-campus housing, or homestays. Some housing options may also offer opportunities to live with other students (American or international), or on your own. It is important to consider your preferences and the cost of housing when selecting a program. When thinking about housing, it is also helpful to research cooking and dining options. You may find that some programs offer limited meal plans and expect students to prepare meals independently, while others offer meals with your host family.


It is important to consider the services available for study away programs. Some programs may not offer the same facilities or services that are available in the U.S., depending on where they are located or how the program is structured. If you have any requirements it is important that you ensure they are available to you while away or make alternate arrangements in advance of your arrival. Examples include services typically provided by the learning center, counseling, accommodations for physical or dietary restrictions, etc.

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