How to Earn College Credit While Abroad

Going abroad, to a foreign country, can be a fantastic learning experience for a college student. From language, to culture, to learning the skills of traveling on their own, the opportunities are endless for what students can gain. College credit can also be earned while abroad, using the following strategies.

Participate in a Formal Study Abroad Program

Many American universities offer formal study abroad programs, established for earning credit directly through the colleges. These programs can be for a period of time in the summer, or for a semester during the academic year. If your university offers an appealing program, you can register directly. If there's a program sponsored by another university in which you're interested, you may be able to earn transfer credit for participating in the program. The study abroad office at your university will likely have a list of programs already approved for transfer credit.

Many options exist when participating in formal study abroad programs. You may be able to:

  • study Chinese language and culture in Beijing
  • participate in a business internship in Germany
  • visit religious sites important to the Maori in New Zealand
  • see multiple locations in the Mediterranean by spending a semester at sea
  • engage in an environmental scientific field study in Peru

Register at an International University

Another option might be to register directly with a foreign university in the location where you'll be abroad. Upon your return to the U.S., you can seek a transfer of the credits earned to your university. Typically, this will require a credit evaluation. This may be conducted directly by the university, but many require the information to be submitted to an outside credit evaluation service. You'll likely be required to submit transcripts, which will be translated to English. In addition, you might be asked to provide information on what was covered in the courses you are hoping to transfer.

Take Foreign Language Exams

If part of the reason you're going abroad is to gain fluency in a foreign language, you might consider sitting for CLEP exams in the language upon your return to the U.S. Results of CLEP exams are often accepted by universities for college credit. offers an extensive test prep program for the CLEP Spanish examination, to ensure that your knowledge of academic Spanish prepares you to sit for this exam.

Take a Course Online

If the credits you need aren't in a foreign language or don't fit neatly within a study abroad program, you might consider taking an online course. One of the benefits to most online courses is that they're often asynchronous, which means that you can complete the work required for the class at any time and in any location. Therefore, if your university offers online courses, or you can take online courses through another school and transfer the credit, you can take these classes while you're abroad. All you'll need is a computer and an internet connection adequate to complete the assignments required by your online class.

What are Credit Hours in College?

Students interested in learning about the concept of credit hours can read this article, which provides information about what college credit hours are, how they are earned, and a few different types of credit hours.

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