Coursework and Program Components
"As one of the foremost schools for cross-cultural education in the world, [SIT’s] record is one trail-blazing effort after another, a whole series of initiatives that have transformed both the world, and the way education about the world is shaped."
US Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
SIT Study Abroad programs are small, theme-based, and utilize an experiential, interdisciplinary curriculum. Classroom instruction and field study are incorporated into each course. Program components form a logical progression whereby students advance from a structured learning environment to a more independent one.
Semester programs offer 16–17 credits, academic year programs offer 32 credits, and summer programs offer 6–9 credits.
Each SIT Study Abroad program comprises several of the following academic components. Program-specific components are listed on individual program web pages.
- Interdisciplinary Seminars.
Thematic seminars merge student experience with academic theory to examine critical issues from multiple perspectives. Benefiting from SIT’s strong in-country networks, students learn from SIT faculty as well as guest lecturers from local universities, research institutes, NGOs, and community and professional associations. Field-based activities and assignments complement readings, discussions, and research papers, allowing students to engage in a variety of study methods.
- Educational Excursions/Site Visits.
Excursions outside the classroom are an integral part of each program. Excursions can include half-day or daylong site visits to government agencies, NGOs, or professional associations. They can include longer stays, such as visiting a rural village, ecosystem, or neighboring country. Excursions provide comparative perspectives on important program themes and offer new settings in which to engage in fieldwork, practice language skills, and make contacts for practicum placements and in-depth research projects. Intensive learning—through seminars, workshops, and group discussions—continues during periods of excursion.
- Intensive Language Study.
Programs typically offer language study at the intermediate and advanced levels and/or beginning instruction in a less commonly taught language spoken by the local community. Courses incorporate formal classroom instruction, discussion, and field exercises designed to enhance student engagement while improving oral and written competence. Select programs are taught all or in part in the target language.
- Research Methods and Ethics.
Students learn appropriate methodologies that prepare them to undertake fieldwork on topics connected to the program theme. Students develop research skills and approaches including: cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; contact and resource cultivation; observation and interviewing skills; gathering, organizing, and presenting findings; and maintaining a field journal. Students also examine the ethics and impact of their research on local communities and are required to follow the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy, which serves as an approval process and guide for ethical field study practices.
- Independent Study Project (ISP).
Typically conducted during the last month of the semester, the ISP allows students to pursue original research on selected subjects requiring deep investigation and analysis. The academic director advises each student on developing a project plan. Students interact with scholars and other mentors both in the host country and at their home colleges and universities through a collaborative process that stimulates inquiry-based learning. Final projects generally include a 20- to 40-page paper and presentation to peers, academic staff, and interested members of the host community. In addition to the typical research paper, projects can take the form of oral histories, case studies, or artistic presentations. SIT encourages students to consider how their ISPs might positively affect host communities.
- Case Studies.
Case Studies offer opportunities for in-depth investigation and study through independent research and field visits. Students observe people and practices related to their chosen subject matter. Projects may include interviews with community members or local agencies, written questionnaire surveys, and thematic and quantitative content analyses. Field visits may be made to NGOs, farms, factories, hospitals, or public spaces. These firsthand experiences, in turn, inform group discussions and individual learning. Students may design oral presentations of research findings. Recent case studies have included: Shanty Towns, Social and Territorial Housing Issues in the City of Buenos Aires and The Political Economy of Winemaking in South Africa.
- Practicum/Community Project.
Practicum placements and community service projects offer students the opportunity to work with a local entrepreneur, small business, nonprofit, or NGO as a core component of the program. In addition to granting students the opportunity to critically examine a topic, community, or situation in a field study context, the experience can provide a new setting in which to further language skills and cultural immersion while giving back to the host community.
Most programs include at least one homestay experience. Homestays offer students the chance to gain a close view of the local culture and to experience the daily rhythm of life as a member of a host family. Homestays provide further context and perspectives on issues being studied, as well as opportunities to improve language skills and deepen cultural understanding. Learn more about the homestay experience.
When not in homestays, students stay in appropriate lodgings that may include guest houses, educational institutions, camping, or small hotels.
- Orientation, program evaluation, and re-entry.
All programs include a thorough orientation that incorporates health and safety information and tools for cross-cultural adaptation. Programs conclude with a program evaluation and re-entry preparation whereby students provide feedback on their study abroad experience and reflect on how to take the experience with them back to the United States and into the future.
- How to Choose a Program
- View SIT Study Abroad Undergraduate Research / ISP Collection
- View the 2013 Overview Brochure (PDF, 1MB)
- View the 2013 Semester Catalog (PDF, 4MB)
- View the 2013 Summer Catalog (PDF, 1MB)
- View Our Photo Galleries on Flickr
- Academic Resources/Library
- Track Your Application Online
- US State Department "Students Abroad"
- SIT Study Abroad Gear