Advising Students About Studying Abroad

Program Selection

Students have over 200 programs to explore when deciding which will best align with their academic, personal, and professional goals. These programs can include classroom learning, internships, research, fieldwork and service learning experiences.

We have programs for all majors that range in duration from one week to the full academic year, and they take place here in the U.S. and in many countries around the world.

We offer a variety of program structures and encourage students to research which option is best for them. There are differences in academics, housing options, on-site support, internship and volunteer opportunities, costs, and extracurricular activities depending on the structure.

Conversation Starters

Helping students to speak meaningfully about their experience should begin before students go, not just after they return. Advisors can help students go beyond the basics by asking questions that could help students better prepare, better experience, and better reflect on their time on program.

Below are suggestions of questions for advisors to ask students who are considering programs, are on program, or have returned from a program. 

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Program Selection

  • Have you checked if your major or certificate has a Major Advising Page which may help narrow down program options?
  • What programs most interest you?  What classes can you take on that program?
  • Are there opportunities to do an internship, research, or volunteer? How important are these experiences to you?
  • How does housing work on this program? Is it provided or do you need to find your own housing?  Will you have a roommate?
  • What are the program costs?  What is included in the fee you’ll pay to UW-Madison and what are the estimated additional expenses? Have you talked with financial aid about the program? What scholarships are available?
  • Did you know that you can talk to a study abroad advisor if you have unanswered questions?
  • If you know which program you prefer, did you know that you can find the study abroad advisor’s name, email, and link to starfish calendar in the ‘contacts’ tab?

Before Departure

  • What led you to choose this program?
  • Why are you interested in studying on this program?
  • How would you describe your feelings about going on your program (i.e. nervous, excited, unsure)?
  • How do you think this experience will complement your education at UW-Madison?
  • What do you look forward to the most on this program? What are you least looking forward to? Why?
  • If the experience doesn’t turn out like you expect, how will you react?
  • What do you think will be one of the most challenging aspects of your time on program?

On Program

  • What has been the easiest to adjust to? What has been more difficult? Why?
  • Thinking back to how you felt before your program started, how would you describe your feelings now?
  • What is one thing about your host country/culture that has surprised you?
  • How do you think this experience will complement your education at UW-Madison?
  • How do you plan to apply the academic and personal learning to your remaining time at UW?
  • What are some cultural successes/failures you’ve had thus far? What have you learned from this?
  • What’s an academic or personal goal you would like to accomplish before returning home?

After Program

  • In what way has your cross-cultural awareness expanded as a result of this program?
  • What is one thing about your host country/culture that surprised you? Why?
  • What was one thing that was difficult during the experience? How did you work through that difficulty?
  • What do you feel the most accomplished about? What’s one thing you would have done differently? How would that have impacted your experience?
  • What would you tell an employer (or friend or parent) who is unsure of the benefits of study abroad?
  • How are you applying, or how do you intend to apply, the academic and personal learning to your remaining time at UW?
  • How does your experience complement your education at UW-Madison?
  • What are some examples of how you gained new knowledge and understanding of your major and/or concentration?
  • What’s one thing you think your family or friends don’t understand about your experience? What steps can you take to help others to understand?
  • How has the transition been from your program, to returning home, to campus? Are there any resources that would be helpful for you?

Returned Student Resources

A Note on Travel

The questions deliberately leave out asking specifically about travel. Travel is a great side-benefit to studying abroad and students should take advantage of the opportunities. In speaking meaningfully about study abroad experiences, especially in job interviews, travel should be seen as one part of the experience and not the focus.

Study abroad can be a differentiation for employers, but it does not guarantee a job, especially if a student can’t speak professionally about their program. The employer evaluating a potential employee for their skills and ability to fit the organization is looking for the individual to link skills to practical experience. Travel experiences will naturally come out in conversation when sharing stories, but encourage students to talk about what they got out of the experience.

We also share with students not to use the word trip when describing their experience, but rather talk about their programA trip is something we take to a store or a vacation.  Students are participating on a program that has been designed to meet academic goals.


We value our collaborations with the advising community and academic units in support of your students participating on our programs. We have assigned a professional team member to serve as a contact for your department/college. If you do not know who your contact is, please email Susan Lochner Atkinson, Associate Director for Advising.

Some ways we can collaborate:

  • Academic Unit meetings: We can meet with you and other key members of your academic unit to provide an overview of study abroad and host workshops or information sessions for your students and staff.
  • Data: We can provide comprehensive participation data reports on students in your major and where they are choosing to study and what they are studying.
  • Major Advising Pages: We can work together to create a Major Advising Page for your students that will include information on best times for them to go, which programs contain courses for their major, and highlight current programs evaluated and chosen by you for your students.
  • Online Advising Tools: We can work with you on the development of your online advising tools, such as a major advising checklist, to include information on study abroad/away.
  • Campus Liaisons: In addition to contacts for departments and colleges, we have a designated staff member for various units on campus through our Campus Liaison Initiative.
  • Events: We host Advisor lunches or workshops on a variety of topics throughout the academic year!

If you have a specific workshop you would like for your department, please fill out the presentation request form.

  • Presentations can vary from 5 minutes to 60 minutes and can be modified to focus on a specific topic, including a particular region, country, program, and major or certificate.
  • Requests must be submitted at least 2 weeks prior to the event.