Study Abroad

The School of International Service (SIS) Office of International Programs (OIP) organizes a variety of optional experiential learning programs abroad throughout the year for International Relations Online students. These programs are designed to provide SIS online students with access to a diverse portfolio of international opportunities—experiences that will complement their studies at SIS and help them broaden their international perspectives.

Opportunities include AU faculty-led summer programs, semester abroad, and select summer courses offered at partner institutions abroad. SIS OIP may also be able to provide resources for students to seek out summer internships abroad through AU Abroad, as well as through the connections of SIS faculty and alumni abroad. Program locations change to reflect student needs and interests.

The diverse portfolio of programs provides a chance for students from different backgrounds to explore opportunities that best fit their needs and schedules. Programs can range from six months abroad at a partner school to two to four weeks abroad during the summer. Pre-departure meetings are typically hosted in the early evening (EST) to work around students’ schedules.

Please note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, American University has temporarily suspended all spring and summer 2021 study abroad programs. SIS Abroad will offer several online/virtual opportunities that are similar to previous summer study abroad offerings and hopes to resume normal summer abroad options in 2022.

Summer 2021 Virtual Courses

The following are representative of the virtual courses offered to students while normal summer abroad operations were suspended:

This summer we are not offering practica abroadexplore our upcoming practica offerings online and on campus.

Why Study Abroad?

The goal of International Relations Online is to help students gain a global perspective so they can succeed in the field of international affairs. Study abroad opportunities help students apply the skills they gain from their courses and build intercultural competency by:

  • analyzing and interpreting conflicts that involve people of different cultures while experiencing them firsthand
  • gaining real-world experience with the concepts they learn in the classroom
  • collaborating with peers in groups acting as consultants for international organizations
  • networking with influential organizations, world leaders, and American University’s top faculty

“The South Africa summer study abroad was life-changing! We learned from leading scholars at UCT [University of Cape Town] discussing a variety of issues concerning South Africa, including foreign policy, inequality, education, HIV/AIDS, economic and political history, domestic politics, environment sustainability, and much more.”

Sichao Ni, International Relations Online Study Abroad Student, Cape Town, South Africa

Available Study Abroad Programs

Study abroad programs led by SIS faculty include an online component and an abroad component. The online component—which includes one to two meetings per week before and after the program—prepares students for their time abroad and facilitates further discussion after they return. The duration of time abroad varies by course, ranging from two to four weeks and averaging about two weeks. These options are available to all students in the Master of Arts in International Relations and Executive Master of International Service programs. Programs can be competitive—submitting an application does not guarantee admission.

Short-Term Summer Abroad Courses

During the summer, SIS offers a portfolio of short-term, experiential courses facilitated by SIS faculty and at SIS partner schools. These courses include lectures, discussions, workshops, and site visits. Courses change every year, based on student interest and faculty availability, but always cover a broad range of issues in IR. New summer courses abroad are typically announced in mid-November in the SIS OIP newsletter, with applications due in early February. Short-term summer abroad options include:

Course at SIS Partner School

Typically 2-4 weeks abroad

Students can earn 3 credits through a course offered by an SIS partner school. Students will receive a transcript and academic credit through the partner school. SIS OIP will manage the process of transferring these credits to AU.

SIS Faculty-Led Practicum Course

Typically 2-4 weeks abroad, with meetings in the U.S. prior to/post travel

This faculty-led program fulfills the SIS capstone requirement. Students spend the summer semester working in teams with clients abroad, drawing on their substantial research, as well as qualitative and quantitative skills, to prepare final oral and written analyses and recommendations. Practicums are designed to give second-year master’s students real-world experiences in project management and consulting, while preparing them for postgraduate careers. Credit is awarded by AU.

SIS Faculty-Led Seminar Course

Typically 2-4 weeks abroad, with meetings in the U.S. prior to/post travel

Unlike the practicum, this faculty-led seminar does not fulfill the SIS capstone requirement and does not include a client-based project. Depending on the course topic and location, students may visit local organizations, NGOs, government offices, and sites of cultural importance, and conduct research on the course topic. Credit is awarded by AU.

Semester Abroad Courses

While short-term opportunities fit the needs of many of our students, we also offer longer-term semester abroad opportunities. Examples of previous courses include:

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries, still recovering from a decade-long civil war and, more recently, an outbreak of Ebola. Students traveled there for two weeks to investigate how officials across levels—including the UN, international NGOs, and community-based organizations—partner to achieve shared development goals.

Practicum Experiences

During a summer practicum experience, students consult with an international client while producing original research that is relevant to the community, country, or broader region. Examples of previous summer practicum programs include:

Ketura, Israel
(3 credits)

This practicum focused on the three-year Arava/PWEG “Green Technologies in Cooperative Date Farming” project launched in 2017. The project engaged Palestinian and Israeli farming communities in joint cooperative and learning efforts as a peace- and confidence-building measure. The principal research task of the program was to assess the project at its midway point.

Copenhagen, Denmark
(3 credits)

During this course, students studied cyber conflict in the area; how cyber tactics are used for coercion; and to what extent the conflict spills over into the commercial space, creating new markets for malware and cybercrime. The course included a visit to NATO’s “northern flank” Scandinavian and Baltic countries and concluded with a student presentation on how government and corporate partners forecast the future of cyber conflict in the region.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia
(3 credits)

Students spent roughly two weeks in Indonesia conducting project design, monitoring, and evaluation tasks with local NGOs. The partner for the practicum was VIA, a nonprofit organization that specializes in cross-cultural understanding and transformative education programs in Asia and the United States. Local NGOs included organizations that work in public health, human rights, development, interfaith dialogue, and other areas.

New Providence,
Bahamas (3 credits)

Working virtually with the FOCUS program, a long-standing after-school program for historically underserved Bahamian youth, students developed relevant evaluation indicators, built an analytical plan, and began an evaluation of the program’s impact. They then presented their findings and future recommendations to foundation staff in person in the Bahamas, exercising intercultural competency skills as they engaged with our Bahamian partners.

International Internships

In structured international internship placements, students are directly supported by SIS faculty or connected through an AU Abroad Center. Faculty and staff select opportunities and organizations that are directly relevant to students’ academic and professional interests.

Graduate Global Program

The Graduate Global Program is a support system for students who want to conduct independent research, secure their own internships, and participate in other professional development activities such as conferences or workshops abroad. Academic advisors and the SIS Office of International Programs (OIP) can help students to:

  • connect with relevant faculty or institutions abroad
  • register their activities (regardless of whether they are credit- or non-credit-bearing)
  • acquire emergency international health insurance
  • find alternative funding sources

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for study abroad opportunities, International Relations Online students must:

  • Hold status as a graduate student at American University. Non-AU graduate students may only apply to select programs (see program-specific pages for eligibility).
  • Achieve and maintain good academic and university standing.
  • Submit an approved plan of study. As part of the application process, students should meet with their academic advisors to get approval for the courses they plan to take.

Each program will have additional eligibility requirements listed on its respective website. To learn more about study abroad opportunities, visit the Office of International Programs or contact them via e-mail.

You can also obtain more information about study abroad funding options.