group of U of M Students in front of a windmill in Spain

Learning Abroad in Religious Studies

    “What I took away was that in a place so completely foreign to me [India], becoming familiar with different places and people gave me a confidence and an incredible feeling of comfortableness… The purpose of my religious studies major—to understand the human experience–was profoundly illuminated in India.” —Caitlin Priem (class of 2010)

    “I greatly enjoyed the Jordanian standard of hospitality, and I was also able to enjoy some great travel experiences both within and outside of Jordan.” —Joseph Mitchell (class of 2010)

    Learning Abroad Process

    This is the basic Learning Abroad Process you'll complete. The order in which you do things is somewhat flexible.

    Academic Planning

    Review the following suggestions from the Religious Studies program before beginning your study abroad research.

    Choose your study abroad experience wisely

    • No program is “best” for everyone. The trick is to find the right learning abroad option for you.
    • Religion can be studied anywhere in the world. Selecting the best program for your needs and interests is important, and it can take time.
    • Whether your interests are in contemporary or historical religious communities, thought or practice, study abroad will challenge your assumptions, deepen your knowledge, and broaden your understanding of the cultural foundations of religion.
    • In addition to general factors in Choosing a Program, keep in mind the following suggestions specifically from the Religious Studies Program.

    Align study abroad with your personal, academic, and professional goals

    • Experience diverse religious contexts and practices. Gain first-hand perspective on the cultural construction of religions.
    • Explore religious texts, artifacts, and media from different cultural and national perspectives.
    • Enhance your analytical and critical thinking skills.
    • Improve your language skills.
    • Prepare yourself for a life of engagement as an effective global and local citizen. Gain confidence in yourself personally and professionally. Forge international friendships.
    • Wherever you decide to go, take courses and seek out experiences that help you locate and understand religious activity within its sociocultural contexts.

    Work on your religious studies major or minor

    • Track I or Track II: Consider selecting a program located geographically within your Area Concentration or one that offers thematic courses related to it.
    • Consider programs with courses that will satisfy your “Traditions” or “Contexts” requirements.
    • Consider fieldwork or internship experiences that can be developed into your senior thesis.
    • Track II: Consider intensive or advanced language study.
    • Students in Track I of the major may apply no more than 15 study abroad credits toward their major; students in Track II may apply no more than 13 study away credits.
    • Only upper division courses will fulfill requirements in the Religious Studies major.

    Consider timing and length

    • There is no “best” time for everyone, although religious studies majors often find the sophomore or junior year easiest.
    • Keep in mind that RELS 3001W, a required course for the major and minor, is offered only in spring semester.
    • Introductory short-term programs and language study can be great as freshmen or sophomores.
    • Senior-year study abroad, although common, may require additional planning. When are graduate school applications due? Do you need to take exams given only at particular times of year, or only in the US? Will the grades from your study abroad arrive in time for graduation?
    • Consider more than one learning experience abroad.

    Seek cultural immersion

    • Deep involvement in the host culture leads to personal growth and instills the cross-cultural skills that are so important to success in the workplace and community.
    • Consider a program that houses you with a family or host-country roommate.
    • Be realistic. Not all students are ready for the same amount of cultural immersion.

    Pay special attention to program type

    Format and teaching approach are every bit as important as location and length. Consider your learning style, your educational and personal goals, and department advice.

    Field Study programs

    Learn through doing. Programs built around internships, community engagement, field research, interview projects, etc., may work especially well for experiential learners.

    University Study programs

    Become a temporary foreign student at a host university. Seek locations offering religious studies methodologies, theoretical perspectives, or courses different from ours.

    Study Abroad Centers

    Take classroom courses tailor-made for non-native students. Many such centers also offer opportunities to engage in field study and/or to take courses as a local university.

    Fulfill Liberal Education requirements

    • Advance planning can help you apply study abroad credits to many of the University’s Liberal Education requirements.
    • Decide early which requirements you want to satisfy through courses taken abroad and plan your coursework accordingly.
    • Consult the Learning Abroad Center’s U Credit Abroad Search for courses that have been approved for Liberal Education.

    Once You Have Selected a Program

    • Use the Academic Planning for Study Abroad (APSA) form to structure your academic planning.
    • Once you have chosen the courses that you want to take abroad (always choosing more courses than you intend to take), meet with the director of undergraduate studies in Religious Studies—preferably at least 3 months before departure. Bring your transcripts, your APSA form, and the course descriptions.
    • Meet similarly in other departments for additional majors or minors.
    • If your preferred study abroad program is not accredited, explore with you advisers the possibility of earning credit for your experience abroad through credit by exam or as a Directed Studies course under faculty supervision. Be aware that both options have cost implications.
    • To complete the APSA process you will also need a signature from a college adviser.

    While You Are Abroad

    • If, once you are in country, you become interested in a course that was not included on your APSA but might be pertinent to your major or minor, gather as much information as you can about the course and then consult by email with the director of undergraduate studies before committing yourself.
    • Hold onto course materials (e.g., syllabus, exams, papers, reports, and at least a photocopied table of contents of any key textbook) and bring them home with you.

    After You Return

    • Make an appointment with the director of undergraduate studies in Religious Studies to review overseas courses for which you wish to obtain final approval for use toward the religious studies major or minor. For other majors or minors, you will need to do the same in a different department.
    • Bring to that appointment the course materials plus a brief explanation of why you think the course should be counted.
    • Check to see if your study abroad coursework has been posted to your UofM transcript. If your study abroad courses were evaluated and approved for APAS report, contact the Learning Abroad Center.
    • Be aware that courses taken abroad may require many weeks, or even months, to get accepted and posted at the University of Minnesota. Times vary with programs. Let the Learning Abroad Center know well in advance if impending graduation or other special circumstances lend particular urgency to your case.

    College/Department Scholarships for UofM Students

     

    Programs

    Africa and the Middle East

    Israel

    University Study in Israel: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center (also University Study)
    • Participants study in the Rothberg International School. Strengths include Jewish studies, Biblical history and archeology, Israeli and Middle Eastern studies, Islamic studies, Hebrew, and Arabic.
    • Although most Rothberg students are from other countries, participants fluent in Hebrew may also take regular Hebrew University courses alongside Israeli students. Internships also available.
    • Instruction at the Rothberg School is in English; no prior Hebrew is required. Fall semester, spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    Kenya

    MSID—International Development in Kenya

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Academic program built around grassroots development internships. Homestays and research further enrich cultural immersion. Great for students interested in social justice.
    • Past internship placements include rural women’s empowerment, literacy, ethnographic research, public health/nutrition, sustainable agriculture, community environmental conservation, refugees.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Swahili is required. Fall or Spring semester. 

    Senegal

    MSID—International Development in Senegal

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Academic program built around grassroots development internships. Homestays and research further enrich cultural immersion. Excellent for students interested in social justice issues.
    • Past internship placements include social work agencies, youth projects, women’s groups, orphanages, health clinics, community centers, and many more.
    • Instruction is in French. Fall or Spring semester. 

    South Africa

    University Study in South Africa: University of Cape Town 

    • Program type: University Study
    • A top-tier South African university that offers courses in the comparative study of religion, as well as in African religions and in Islam. Extensive volunteer opportunities available.
    • Sample course themes: religion and globalization, religion and postmodernity, religion and popular culture, gender and religion, religion and violence, religion and postcolonial theory.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior study of African languages required. Fall or spring semester, academic or calendar year.

    Americas

    Ecuador

    MSID—International Development in Ecuador

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Academic program built around grassroots development internships. Homestays and research further enrich cultural immersion. Excellent for students interested in social justice issues.
    • Past internship placements include rural women’s empowerment, literacy, public health/nutrition, sustainable agriculture, community environmental conservation, fishing or handicraft cooperatives.
    • Instruction is in Spanish. Fall or Spring semester. 

    Mexico

    Study Abroad in Mexico

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Intensive language course over winter break, May session, or summer in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
    • Instruction is in English; prior study of Spanish is very useful but not required. Fall or spring semester.

    Asia and Oceania

    Japan

    Exchange in Tokyo, Japan: Sophia University

    • Program type: University Study
    • Jesuit university with two campuses, one of which teaches in English and draws many Japanese students who have lived abroad for extended periods of time.
    • Instruction is in English; prior Japanese language study preferred but not required. 

    New Zealand

    University Study in New Zealand: University of Auckland

    • Program type: University Study
    • New Zealand’s largest university, located in its largest city. A good place to keep on track for your language studies: Latin, ancient Greek, and a number of modern languages taught at all levels.
    • A rich array of religious studies courses scattered among Anthropology, Asian Studies, Biblical Studies, Christian Thought and History, History, Philosophy, Sociology, and Theology.
    • Instruction is in English, except that many Maori studies courses are taught in Maori. Fall or spring semester, academic or calendar year.

    University Study in New Zealand: University of Otago

    • Program type: University Study
    • Otago is located in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island, a particularly attractive location for students interested in outdoor activities.
    • Although a small department, Religious Studies at Otago has strong offerings in Hinduism and Buddhism. Christianity and Judaism courses are available through the Theology department.
    • Instruction is in English. Fall or spring semester, academic or calendar year.

    Thailand 

    MSID—International Development in Thailand

    • Based in Chiang Mai, Thailand
    • Explore the complexities created by issues such as environment, globalization, public health, and social justice
    • Contribute to an internship or research project with a nonprofit organization
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Thai required

    Europe

    Denmark

    Study Abroad in Denmark

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Copenhagen-based DIS, one of Europe’s largest and academically strongest study abroad programs, offers a wide variety of courses on Denmark, Scandinavia, and Europe.
    • Sample courses: Holocaust & GenocideKierkegaard’s AuthorshipMuslims in the WestNordic Mythology; Religion & Politics in Europe.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Danish is required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    Greece

    Arcadia Greece

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center (semester/AY), Field Study (summer)
    • Semester: Courses in three clusters: Ancient Greek/Classical Studies, Byzantine Studies, Modern Greek Studies. Latin or ancient Greek available on demand from beginning to advanced levels.
    • Summer: Two 3-week summer programs, on Archaic/Classical Greece and Hellenistic Greece, are built around field trips throughout Greece.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Greek, either ancient or modern, is required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    Ireland

    Trinity College Dublin

    • Program type: University Study
    • A prestigious institution located in the center of the Irish capital. Greatest strengths in religious studies are Christianity and Judaism; some courses available on Islam as well.
    • Sample subject areas: ancient and modern history; Greek and Roman culture; philosophy and theology; dialogue among religions; science-religion relationships; ethics; war and peace.
    • Instruction is in English. Academic year only.

    Italy

    IES Rome

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Area studies program taught mostly in English. Students sufficiently proficient in Italian may take; some additional center and university courses. Internships available.
    • Religious studies courses include The Advent of Christianity; The Jews of Rome; Studies in the Roman Catholic Tradition; Issues in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church.
    • Most courses are taught in English; no prior Italian is required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    Spain

    Study & Intern in Toledo

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Strong humanities/social science curriculum offers several courses of interest to religious studies majors, including Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Art in Toledo; and Theology of Spanish Mysticism.
    • Internships available, as well as a community engagement course on immigrants in Spain.
    • Instruction is in Spanish. Fall or spring semester, academic year, May term, or summer.

    United Kingdom—England

    Kings College London (available through IFSA United Kingdom)

    • Program type: University Study
    • Students interested in applying should have minimum GPA of no less than 3.3.
    • The Theology and Religious Studies department is particularly strong in philosophy of religion. It also offers work in Hebrew Bible and Christianity and has an outstanding Classics program.
    • Fall semester, spring semester, or academic year.

    University Study in the UK: Lancaster University

    • Program type: University Study
    • Located between the Irish Sea and the moors of the Pennines, and just a short distance south of the Lake District, Lancaster enrolls some 10,000 students.
    • Extensive Religious Studies curriculum includes courses on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Japanese religion, sociology of religion, religion in the UK, and many more.
    • Fall semester, spring semester, or academic year.

    School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) (available through IFSA United Kingdom)

    • Program type: University Study
    • World center of expertise on Africa/Asia/Middle East. Courses offered on Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and various African indigenous religions.
    • Course themes include religion and politics, religion and current events, social/historical contexts of world religions. Students may register across departments to focus on their particular interests.
    • Fall semester, spring semester, or academic year.

    University of Manchester (available through Arcadia England)

    • Program type: University Study
    • Urban university in the heart of the vibrant, edgy, unpretentious industrial city of Manchester, “capital” of northern England.
    • Although the highly rated religious studies program offers a wide variety of courses, its greatest strengths are in Christianity and Judaism. Some courses in South Asian religions also available.
    • Fall semester, spring semester, or academic year.

    United Kingdom—Northern Ireland

    Northern Ireland: Democracy & Social Change (HECUA)

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Examines historical, political, economic, and religious roots of conflict in Northern Ireland, prospects for peace, and progress being made.
    • Halftime, 8-credit internship complements classroom and field study and could easily focus on a topic related to religion.
    • Instruction is in English. Spring semester.

    United Kingdom—Scotland

    University of Edinburgh (available through IFSA United Kingdom)

    • Program type: University Study
    • Located in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, the University of Edinburgh is among the UK’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
    • Particularly strong in Christianity, Edinburgh also offers courses in Judaism, Asian religions, and African religions.
    • Fall semester, spring semester, or academic year.

    Additional Options to Consider

    Intensive Language Programs

    • Begin your language study or work toward completing requirements for a language minor
    • Work on your CLA language requirement or on a language minor while immersed in the language
    • Complete two, three, or even four semesters of language in a semester or a summer.

    Global Seminars

    • 3-week, 3-credit programs at the 3000-level led by University of Minnesota faculty and staff over Winter Break or May Session.
    • Fulfill Liberal Education requirements, or earn major/minor credit.

    Freshman Seminars

    • Freshman Seminars Abroad combine on-campus instruction during spring semester with a study abroad component during spring break.
    • Seminars are 3 credits at the 19xx level and most fulfill a liberal education requirement.
    • Seminars are designed specifically for first-year students as an introduction to study abroad.

    Non-Credit Opportunities

    • Non-credit opportunities can be a great option for students who do not need academic credit but want to gain skills and experience abroad related to their field of study.

     

    Student Experiences

    Craig in Ecuador

    Through the year-long MSID program in Ecuador, Craig C. was able to take an internship within his Physiology major while also receiving classroom credits towards his Spanish major.

    Visit the Learning Abroad Center's Student Experiences web page for details on other students' experiences studying abroad.