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

Learning Abroad in Urban Studies

    “As an Urban Studies student you know about a sizable Midwestern city. Get out there and explore. You’ll never see home the same way again.”
    —Judith Martin, Professor, Urban Studies Program

    “I can't tell you how many times I have had conversations with people about my trip to China. As a student I did not recognize how often I would be relating my experiences abroad to others. It has had a profound impact on my ability to relate and discuss with others my personal experiences and thoughts on topics ranging from traveling internationally to regional cuisine. I hope everyone has an opportunity to travel abroad. I am so happy I did.”
    —Josh, China Architecture and Urban Planning Seminar

    “I realize that we truly have nothing to complain about. I appreciate the good life we all have here after seeing the hardships of a developing and unjust society.”
    —Matt, Study Abroad in Mexico


    Study Abroad Process

    This is the basic process you'll complete in order to study abroad. The order in which you do things is somewhat flexible.


    Academic Planning

    Review the following suggestions from the Urban Studies Program before beginning your study abroad research.

    Choose your study abroad experience wisely

    • No one program is best suited for urban studies students. There are many good study abroad programs, and the best one for you depends on what you want.
    • Set some goals. Do you want to broaden your urban coursework? Pursue an internship? Study a foreign language? Do research for your senior paper?
    • Prioritize your goals. Consider your long-term academic and professional goals, as well as your on-campus degree requirements.
    • Consider short-term and long-term programs.
    • Prepare academically. You may need to take language or other prerequisite courses for your chosen program.
    • Give yourself time to research and talk to advisers and students who have studied abroad. Early planning not only helps you prepare adequately but also can improve your chances for scholarships. A minimum of six months advance planning is recommended.

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

    • Find great urban studies coursework, internships, community engagement options, and research opportunities
    • Compare and contrast your host city with cities in the US
    • Expand your cross-cultural communication and problem-solving skills.
    • Prepare yourself to work in an increasingly diverse and international workplace
    • Build confidence in yourself personally and professionally
    • Broaden your academic horizons and globalize your world view
    • Improve your language skills
    • Broaden your academic horizons and globalize your worldview.
    • Improve your language skills.
    • Gain valuable life experience
    • By its nature, Urban Studies takes place in a cultural context. There is much to be gained from understanding the history and traditions of cultures outside your own. Study abroad is one very exciting way to begin to discover new approaches and build your professional skills.

    Consider timing and length

    • There is no “best” time for everyone. It depends both on the individual student and on the type of education abroad experience.
    • Introductory short-term programs and language study can be great as freshmen or sophomores.
    • For many students the junior year proves ideal for a semester or year-long experience.
    • 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.

    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 art history 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.

    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.
    • The Urban Studies program is especially partial to programs that get you into classes at a host university and programs that get you out of the classroom and into the community.
    • If you prefer to participate in a classroom-based study abroad center, seek one that houses you with a family or host-country roommate, or look for systematic experiences outside the classroom such as internships, community engagement, research opportunities, or the option to take some courses in a host-country university.
    • Be realistic. Not all students are ready for the same amount of cultural immersion.

    Look for a program that provides insights into another urban region

    • Seek to study in a society that contrasts with yours. Encountering a radically different “other” will provide new insights into your own urban region. The department encourages students to consider study outside of Western Europe.
    • There are programs that are appropriate for all focus areas within urban studies including social/cultural studies and urban infrastructure/environment.
    • Consider taking at least one course about the US taught by a host-country faculty member, if such a course is available. An outside perspective on your own society can be a real eye-opener.
    • Look for opportunities to study how the geography and history of an area have affected its urban culture, environment, economy, and politics. Can you apply what you have learned in class here to understanding new urban settings?

    Choose courses to fulfill your Urban Studies requirements

    • To count toward the major, any course taken abroad must be accepted by the University of Minnesota at the upper division level.
    • For some students, especially transfer students, it can be important to choose a program that yields resident credit. (Transfer credits may constitute no more than fifty percent of the upper division coursework for a CLA major.)
    • The Urban Studies adviser will screen overseas coursework and help you fit appropriate courses into your major requirements. Courses must have significant urban content.
    • Many programs will not offer any curriculum under an Urban Studies rubric, but check out disciplines such as anthropology, architecture, cultural studies, geography, history, planning, or sociology for appropriate courses.
    • For exact course substitutions to fulfill requirements (Geography 1301, 3401, 3371, 3561, 4001, 4002) the course needs to be equivalent. It may be easier to apply study abroad courses to your track electives or to liberal education requirements.
    • Internships abroad might apply toward the internship component of the major. Although the department requires an internship, you may be able to use a foreign internship only toward a workshop requirement. Your chances of counting the credit for the requirement will improve if you work with the Urban Studies adviser before departure. If you are doing an internship on your own, outside the auspices of a study abroad program, you will need to register for the University’s internship course (UrbS 3900) and fulfill the academic requirements in order to obtain Urban Studies credit.

    Conduct fieldwork for your senior project

    • Study abroad can provide an opportunity for you to pursue unique fieldwork experiences. You may be able to pursue independent research, research through an internship or volunteer opportunity, or research through your study program.
    • You can use appropriate research as the basis for your senior project—though the actual senior project must be completed for 2 credits once you return to the UofM through UrbS 3993 (fall semester) or 3955 (spring semester).

    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 U Credit Abroad Search for classes that have been approved for Liberal Education. If a course is not listed, it may still meet a liberal education requirement. We encourage you to submit your course(s) for evaluation.

    Develop or improve second language skills

    • If you are at the beginning or intermediate level, consider a program where you can study a language and be surrounded by it.
    • If you already have reasonably advanced language skills, consider a program taught in the language.
    • Plan your language course sequence carefully or you may find yourself out of sequence upon return to UMTC. French, German, Italian, and Spanish are the only languages at UMTC that offer each of the first four courses both fall and spring semester. For all others, only the first and third courses are offered fall semester and only the second and fourth in the spring.
    • For more on language learning, see Additional Options to Consider at the end of the Programs section below.

    Once You Have Selected a Program

    • Use the Academic Planning for Study Abroad (APSA) form to structure your academic planning and document your consultation with your adviser(s).
    • 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 syllabi (or at least good course description)s.
    • 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 Urban Studies adviser 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 Urban Studies adviser to review overseas courses for which you wish to obtain final approval for use toward the 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 liberal education requirements and completion of these requirements is not reflected on your 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



    The Urban Studies Program has identified the following programs as examples of options of potential interest to its majors and minors. These are for illustration only, and you need not confine your search to those on the list.

    Africa and the Middle East


    University Study in Israel: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center (also University Study)
    • Jerusalem (population 0.8 million), holy city of Islam and Judaism alike, provides a fascinating case study of an ethnically divided city.
    • Participants study in the Rothberg International School. Course offerings include Historical Geography of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Through the Ages: Historical Geography & Archaeology.
    • Instruction at the Rothberg School is in English; no prior Hebrew is required. Students fluent in Hebrew may also take regular courses. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.


    MSID—International Development in Kenya

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Academic program based in Nairobi (population 3 million) and built around grassroots development internships. Homestays and research further enrich cultural immersion.
    • Past internship placements include women’s empowerment, literacy, ethnographic research, public health/nutrition, environmental issues, urban education, urban community development.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Swahili is required. Fall or Spring semester. 


    MSID—International Development in Senegal

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Academic program based in Dakar (population 2.5 million) and built around grassroots development internships. Homestays and research further enrich cultural immersion.
    • Past internship placements include social work agencies, youth projects, women’s groups, orphanages, health clinics, community centers, urban education, urban community development.
    • Instruction is in French. Fall or spring semester. 

    South Africa

    University Study in South Africa: University of Cape Town 

    • Program type: University Study
    • The University of Cape Town is one of Africa’s leading research and teaching institutions, located in a stunning setting on the slopes of Table Mountain overlooking a spectacularly beautiful city.
    • The university’s Department of Environmental and Geographical Science and its School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics both offer courses focused on urban issues.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior study of African languages required. Fall or spring semester, academic or calendar year.



    Universidad de Buenos Aires (available through IFSA Argentina)

    • Program type: University Study
    • Huge, prestigious institution in the Argentine capital (population 14 million), one of South America’s great port cities. Opportunities also for urban internships or community engagement.
    • Sample courses offered in the past: Urban Geography; Land Use & Planning; Urban Politics; Urban Sociology; Urban Anthropology—The Modern City, the Post-Modern City.
    • Instruction is in Spanish; 5 semesters of prior Spanish are required. Fall or spring semester, calendar or academic year.


    MSID—International Development in Ecuador

    • Program type: Field Study
    • Academic program based in Ecuador’s capital, Quito (population 1.4 million), and built around grassroots development internships. Homestays and research further enrich cultural immersion.
    • Past internship placements include rural women’s empowerment, literacy, public health/nutrition, community environmental conservation, urban education, urban community development.
    • Instruction is in Spanish. Fall or Spring semester. 


    Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (available through IFSA Peru)

    • Program type: University Study (and Study Abroad Center)
    • Located on a campus in Lima (population nearly 9 milion), PUCP is Peru’s oldest private university. IFSA supplements university courses with 2 required center courses.
    • Curriculum includes offerings in urban geography and urban sociology. For course descriptions in the online course catalog, look under Sumillas
    • Instruction is in Spanish; five prior semesters of Spanish required. Fall or spring semester, calendar or academic year.

    Asia and Oceania


    Study & Intern in Sydney

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Area studies program located in Australia’s largest city (metropolitan population 4.5 million). Multidisciplinary curriculum includes Analyzing & Exploring the Global City: Sydney.
    • Program centerpiece is an outstanding internship option (6 credits in semester program, 3 or 6 credits in summer program), for which an astounding variety of placements is possible.
    • Fall or spring semester, calendar or academic year, or summer.

    University Study in Australia: University of Melbourne

    • Program type: University Study
    • One of Australia’s most prestigious universities, located in the country’s second largest city (population 3.6 million).
    • Sample course titles: City in History; Shaping the Metropolis; Urban Economic Geography; City Cultures—Urban Stories; Inside the City of Diversity; Marvelous Melbourne—A Cultural History.
    • Fall or spring semester, academic or calendar year.


    IES Japan—Tokyo Society & Culture

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Multidisciplinary language and area studies program for students with little or no Japanese language background, located in world’s largest metropolitan area (population 34 million).
    • Course offerings include History of Tokyo; Contemporary Urban Society in Japan; Architecture, Urban Planning, & Development. Rich field learning opportunities supplement classroom work.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Japanese is required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    New Zealand

    University Study in New Zealand: University of Auckland

    • Program type: University Study
    • New Zealand’s largest university (28,000 students), located in its largest city (metropolitan population 1.4 million). Auckland is home to one out of every three New Zealanders.
    • Urban studies courses are available in a number of departments, including Geography, Planning, Sociology, Urban Design, and even Spanish.
    • Instruction is in English, although some Maori studies courses are taught in Maori instead. Fall or spring semester, academic or calendar year


    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
    • Past internship placements include women's empowerment, literacy, ethnographic research, public health/nutrition, environmental issues, urban education, urban community development.
    • Contribute through an internship or research project with a nonprofit organization
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Thai required



    Study Abroad in Denmark

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Located in Denmark’s capital and largest city, Copenhagen (population 1.9 million), DIS offers an astounding variety of courses on Denmark, Scandinavia, and Europe.
    • Sample courses include: History of Copenhagen: Structure, Plan, Design, and European Urban Design Foundations Studio. Extensive study tours in Denmark and other parts of Europe.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior Danish is required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.


    Language & Culture in Southern France

    • Program type: University Study and Study Abroad Center (two tracks)
    • This UofM program in Montpellier (population 250,000) permits a mix (tailored to language proficiency) of center courses, regular Université Paul Valéry courses, and internships.
    • University offers urban courses in several departments, notably Geography. Sample course titles:Geography of Cities & Geography of the Mediterranean; Urban Development & Urban Policies.
    • Instruction is in French; one year French prerequisite for center track, two for university study track. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or a summer intensive language program.


    IES Germany—Berlin Language & Area Studies

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Program combining center courses, university courses, rich field study opportunities, and internship offerings in Berlin (population 4.2 million). Field trips to other Central European cities.
    • Sample courses: Multicultural Berlin; History of Modern Berlin; Berlin in Literature, Literature in Berlin; Germany and European Unification.
    • Instruction is in German; two years prior college language study required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    IES Germany—Berlin Metropolitan Studies

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Berlin (population 4.2 million) is trying to become whole again after a half century with two different economic and political systems and urban policies.
    • Broad curriculum looks at city from perspective of many different social science and humanities disciplines. Field trips to Paris and St. Petersburg provide comparative context.
    • Instruction is in English; no prior language study required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.


    IES Italy—Rome

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Rome (population 2.7 million) is a living museum of 25 centuries of urban development. Program is strongest on the ancient city. Internships available to students with at least 4 semesters of Italian.
    • Sample course offerings: Roman Architecture & Urban Design; Culture & Urban Change in Contemporary Italy; Rome as a Living Museum.
    • No prior Italian is required. Instruction for most courses is in English; some center and university courses alike are available in Italian. Fall or spring semester, academic year, or summer.

    Universitá di Bologna (available through Bologna Consortial Studies Program, BCSP)

    • Program type: University Study
    • Bologna (population 380,000) is a city full of marvelous medieval and Renaissance architecture. The university is the oldest in Europe and arguably the most prestigious in Italy.
    • Courses on Italy designed for US students supplement. UB curriculum offers urban courses in such departments as architecture, geography, history, political science, and sociology.
    • Instruction is in Italian; at least two prior years of language study are required. Fall semester, spring semester, or academic year. (Academic year option highly recommended.)


    Study & Intern in Toledo

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • Toledo (population 83,000), a quiet hilltop city less than an hour south of Madrid (metropolitan population 5 million) is one of Europe’s best-preserved examples of medieval urban morphology.
    • Wide array of courses offered on Spain, Europe, and Latin America in business, the social sciences, the humanities, Spanish language, plus internship and community engagement options.
    • Instruction is in Spanish; four prior semesters of language study or equivalent knowledge are required. Fall or spring semester, academic year, May term, or summer.

    United Kingdom

    University Study in the UK: Queen Mary University of London

    • Program type: University Study
    • Located in the multicultural East End of London (metropolitan population 12 million), QM is unique among the traditional London colleges in that its buildings are all on one campus.
    • Geography and History departments both offer a range of courses with an urban focus.
    • Academic year (summer also available through IFSA).

    Study & Intern in London

    • Program type: Study Abroad Center
    • UofM area studies program located in the heart of London and offering a multidisciplinary array of course offerings, some on Europe as a whole, but the majority on Britain or specifically London.
    • Special features include a 6-credit course-internship combination (3 credits in the summer) and a 6-credit community engagement course (semester only).
    • Fall or spring semester, academic year, May term, or summer.

    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

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