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International Students Abroad

Introduction

Even though you may already be currently studying abroad in the U.S., U-M encourages you to consider traveling to a third country to further enhance your experience and skills.  Undertaking an additional international experience in a third country can add to your intercultural communication abilities, further enhance your resume, and allow you to gain an additional perspective.  As an international student studying in the U.S., you likely already have some knowledge and experience applying for a visa as well as living and thriving in a new country.   However, there are some important considerations you should think about regarding your status as a student in the U.S. before embarking on a program elsewhere.

Questions to Consider/Action Items

Pre-Departure

How will studying abroad affect my U.S. student visa?

Studying abroad, depending on the length of the program, could affect your visa status in the U.S.  Regulatory language for F-1/J-1 students indicates that the student should not be absent from the United States for more than five months. It’s important to discuss your plans with not only an IPE Advisor and your Academic Advisor, but also with the International Center which maintains your SEVIS record. A student visa will only remain valid as long as you are taking a full course load in the university that signs your I-20 document. If you are studying abroad through a U-M program it likely will not affect your status.  However, if you are studying abroad through a third-party program provider or via another university you will need to keep the International Center informed.

How will applying for a program or internship abroad differ for me?

Remember to look into getting a visa to your study abroad country based on your passport and home country.  Do not assume that the information given to U.S. students applies for you as well. As an international student, you may need to follow a slightly different timeline than other students. For example, if you are attending a program in a country where those with a U.S. passport do not need a visa but you do, you will likely need to be several steps ahead of the U.S. students in order to have applied and received your visa in time to embark for the program. As there are many international students from many different countries at U-M, we can’t know every passport or visa requirement for every student.  It is your responsibility to know what paperwork you need to submit, as every country’s passport has different benefits. Every international student’s situation regarding visas will be different.

ACTION ITEMS: 

  • Once you’ve picked out a specific program to attend, do research on the visa requirements for those who hold a passport from your country.  Set a timeline for yourself to be sure you will have all the necessary documents and apply for a visa (if necessary) before the program begins.
  • Check with the International Center to determine what you will need to do to maintain your U.S. student visa while abroad.

During/Post Experience

You may find that you transition into your host institution or country more easily than your peers who have never studied or lived abroad before.  But there will likely be at least some things that will be difficult for you to become accustomed to. Remember the initial culture shock you may have experienced when you began your studies in the U.S.? Keep in mind that this will likely occur, possibly on a lesser or even greater scale, than it did for you previously.  Thankfully you have experienced this before and can remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is normal and temporary.  Once in your new location, try to employ some of the tactics or coping strategies you used upon your arrival in the U.S. to manage these feelings.  For example, seek out activities that fit your interests and make friends in classes, where you live, or through hobbies to build a sense of community.

Is there anything I should know to do while I’m abroad?

If you are studying on a semester-length program, it’s very important to be sure you maintain a full-time course schedule just as you would in the U.S.  Full-time status in another country likely will not be exactly the same as it is in the U.S. – you must maintain full-time status based on the requirements of the country in which you’re studying abroad. 

Depending on your status you are also likely required to file taxes in the U.S. If this will be necessary for you to do while abroad, you’ll want to be sure you have or can get the forms you’ll need.  And be sure to mail your tax returns with plenty of time to spare.

ACTION ITEM: 

  • Reflect on your previous transition to U.S. culture (or any other time you experienced living in a new and unfamiliar culture). Write down some things that you thought and felt during this time.  Then make a list of activities or behaviors that helped you through that transition so you can employ them in your new host country.
  • Make sure you know what requirements you must meet to maintain your visa in your host country as well as your U.S. visa.

Resources

  • Your IPE Advisor can direct you to resources regarding your specific home country and intended study abroad program/country
  • U-M International Center can help answer questions regarding your U.S. visa, I-20, and maintaining your status while abroad as well as support for filing U.S. taxes (although they are not a substitute for the Internal Revenue Service).
  • Global Engagement at U-M: International Students Abroad Page and Flyer
  • Some helpful information from the U.S. Government’s Department of Homeland Security: Can International Students Study Abroad?