Study Abroad FAQ's for First Year Students

For first year students, the initial steps towards studying abroad can be very overwhelming. For this reason, we recommend that you browse through these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) and get a sense of how/when/and why to start planning your time abroad. For any specific questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office by either contacting us or stopping by our office! We look forward to helping you make your study abroad aspirations a reality!


  • Tell your advisor you want to study abroad. Speaking to your advisor about your interest in studying abroad during your first year will help you to determine the best time for you to go abroad.
  • Attend a First Step Meeting. First step meetings are informational sessions that explain the basics of planning for studying abroad.
  • Consider taking General Education courses abroad. You can take General Education courses abroad and it may be easier to find a program that is a good fit if you save some of these courses for your time abroad.
  • Meet with a study abroad advisor to explore your optionsMake an appointment to meet with an advisor in PIC to discuss your interests and explore your options – it is NEVER too early to start planning!

When Can I Study Abroad?

Can I study abroad during my freshman year?

If you'd like to study abroad as soon as possible, it's important to reach out to Padnos International Center early on for advice and guidance. We recommend visiting with us the fall semester of your freshman year. However, the soonest you can participate in a study abroad program is the summer after your freshman year. Keep in mind, there are many time-sensitive activities you must fulfill in order to accomplish your goal of studying abroad, so the earlier you start planning with us, the better!

Can I study abroad more than once?

Yes- You are not limited to one study abroad experience! You can spend up to four semesters (maximum) abroad. Even your last 30 semester hours toward a baccalaureate degree can be taken abroad. 

I'm a Lakers Go Abroad (LGA) recipient. How/when can I use my LGA award?

You may use your LGA scholarship award toward any credit-bearing study abroad program (GVSU programs and External programs). Your scholarship must be used within four years after initial enrollment at GVSU. The funds will be applied to your GVSU financial aid award for the semester you will be abroad. 

What Classes Can I Take Abroad?

How do I know what classes I need to take?

If you have already declared your major/minor, you should be able to see your appointed academic advisor on MyBanner (MyBanner > Student > Student Records > Student Profile). You can also search for your general academic adviser on the University-wide Academic Advising page. We recommend that you schedule an appointment as soon as possible with one of these advisors so that they can help you lay out your future class schedule.

Independently, you can browse your general education/major/minor requirements on MyPath (My Banner > Student > Student Records > MyPath). Being aware of these requirements and when you will take each class in the future can really help when browsing study abroad programs.

When planning the sequence of courses you'll take during your freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years, you'll want to pinpoint the semester(s) that would work well for you to spend abroad. This can be done with careful planning and input from your academic adviser. So talk with them now about carving out a semester(s) to spend abroad and planning for specific classes to take abroad.

Are there any classes I should "save" for study abroad?

While it's possible to find most general education/major/minor requirements abroad, there are certainly some classes that work better for study abroad than others. 

General Education Requirements

  • You will automatically fulfill your Global Perspectives General Education requirement by taking at least 3 credits abroad and you can easily fulfill your General Education Issues requirements (6 credits) by studying abroad and completing a short reflection upon return. For this reason, we recommend delaying taking these courses until your study abroad program.

Major/Minor Course Requirements

  • You may take major/minor course requirements while abroad. There may be more flexibility with certain major/minors than others, but in general, major/minor elective courses are typically ideal to focus on while abroad. Thus, "saving" these electives for study abroad can be strategic and can give you more study abroad program options.

BA Cognate Requirements

  • All students earning a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)  degree are requires a third-semester proficiency in a foreign language. You may consider completing one or more of these courses abroad.

How Can I Start Preparing Now?

What can I do to prepare before picking a study abroad program?

Get your passport!

  • Do you have a valid passport? If you do have a passport, make sure you check the expiration date. US passports issued before the age of 16 are only valid for 5 years. 

Talk early with your academic adviser

  • Talk to your academic adviser to determine when you should study abroad and what degree requirements you should focus on while abroad. You should begin the study abroad planning process no about a year before physically departing for your study abroad destination. 

Get familiar with your general education/major/minor requirements

  • Explore your MyPath and meet with an academic adviser to start thinking about what classes you want to take abroad. Being familiar with your general education/major/minor requirements will help a lot when you start searching for a specific study abroad program!

Is there someone I can talk to about studying abroad?

Absolutely! The Padnos International Center is devoted to helping you through every step of your study abroad. To start familiarizing yourself with the study abroad process, we recommend...

Attending a First Step Meeting:

  • Study Abroad First Step Meetings are weekly informational sessions that go over all the basics of study abroad.
  • First Step Meetings are offered during the fall and winter semesters.every Wednesday 5PM-6PM via Zoom. Click here for a list of dates and the Zoom links. 

Scheduling a One-on-one advising appointment with a study abroad peer advisor:

  • You can schedule an online study abroad advising appointment to meet with a peer advisor for tailored one on one advice regarding your study abroad plans (all peer advisers have studied abroad, so feel free to ask them about their experiences and any concerns you might have regarding study abroad)