UMaine students must apply to UMaine for an education abroad. Approval is granted based on (a) good academic performance of 2.5 CGPA or better; (b) good disciplinary record; and (c) applying to an approved education abroad program. UMaine carefully reviews all direct exchange and recommended programs for academic rigor, staffing levels, advising and logistical support and health and safety protocols. For more on health and safety, look over our Health & Safety page.
UMaine students can use UMaine financial aid to fund their education abroad program, though some aid can only be used for certain programs. We recommend that students consult their financial aid office and outside scholarships for a full guarantee of what will and won’t transfer. More information on costs can be found on our Finances and Financial Aid page. Students can apply for additional education abroad scholarships and loans.
Students who complete and education abroad do not fall behind academically. All UMaine approved programs guarantee transfer credit. Students complete a pre-departure process to obtain their department’s approval of each course abroad. Upon completion of the education abroad program and receipt of the final transcript, the UMaine Office of International Programs posts the transfer credits. The process is very seamless. Find more information on AbroadOffice regarding transfer credits.
Students in all majors can participate in an education abroad program, but they should start planning from the first semester and work closely with their academic advisor to identify the best semester/summer term to spend abroad and what classes to take while on their program.
Internships abroad are becoming more popular. Students can complete an internship for 1-3 credits concurrently with other classes during a semester or a summer. UMaine also offers stand-alone summer internships for many majors.
For more information regarding your questions, check out our FAQ page.
The Education Abroad Office keeps track of and stays up-to-date on the latest with the COVID-19 virus. Please look over out COVID-19 page for when we get the latest information pertaining to study abroad and traveling to foreign countries.
Students should take into the consideration the possibility of needing to quarantine while in their host country. Each student should look into the protocols for their host country to calculate a possible budget for quarantine costs which should include: quarantine housing, food, and testing.
Culture Shock and Adjustment
Being able to adjust to the new environment and culture is perhaps one of the most important facets of a student’s experience abroad. “Culture shock” is the term given to the collection of feelings that sometimes arise when travelers are overwhelmed by cultural differences. The symptoms can include feeling lonely, homesick, overwhelmed, fearful, angry, confused or judgmental. The onset, severity, and length of time with which culture shock will affect any one student will vary. Keep in mind that culture shock is a common and a natural part of the education abroad experience. When students first arrive at the host country, they usually feel happy and excited. Everything is new and interesting, and they want to explore it all. This is the “honeymoon” stage when students fall in love with the host country and nothing could possibly get in the way of a fabulous experience. A few days, weeks, or months later, the students start feeling somewhat disillusioned and while things in the environment have remained the same, they now regard everything negatively. This is the next stage of culture shock and the time when some students are apt to feel that they have made a mistake and would like to return home. Fortunately, with effort, time, and support from family and friends, this stage usually passes and the students achieve a state of balance or equilibrium with the host culture and environment. The students are finally able to discern cultural differences and feel less like interlopers in the new culture. The anger and disappointment fade as the students realize that they can function effectively outside the home culture.
We hope you will not become distressed and alarmed if your son or daughter starts complaining about their education abroad program. In all likelihood, the student is going through the second stage of culture shock. Empathize but urge the student to keep their chin up and soldier on. Remind him or her of all the things that can be gained from this experience. Applaud the student’s efforts to become immersed in the host culture. Offer encouragement to interact with fellow students or the host family, participate in local or university activities, and learn from mistakes. In a few weeks, the student is likely to look back at these seemingly dark days and be incredulous that he or she even considered returning home! Thanks to you, the student did not have to miss out on this great experience! However, if you feel that your student’s symptoms of culture shock are particularly severe, please contact the education abroad advisor so that we can direct the student to appropriate support services at the host institution; we can also notify our contacts abroad if necessary.
Staying in Touch
Work out a mutually acceptable system regarding how to stay in touch. While some families have gotten used to daily calls while the children are stateside, frequent calls to and from abroad may result in high phone bills and can make it difficult for students to adjust abroad. Many families use video-conferencing software such as Skype. Often, however, time zone differences make it exceedingly difficult to schedule conversations conveniently for both parties. E-mail may be a preferable form of communication, but you may receive spontaneous messages that vent frustration as your student confronts a new culture: take these “with a grain of salt.” Above all, remember that part of the education abroad experience is learning how to maneuver through another system, so don’t panic when the student panics. And don’t try to supply all the answers to your student’s myriad questions. There are professionals on-site who are experienced in assisting American students in navigating their way through their education abroad experience. Encourage them to tap into that expertise.
Stay in touch – but not too often! The acculturation process will be slow if the student spends too much time talking on the phone or emailing folks back home. Temper your email updates and phone calls to no more than once a week. Instead, encourage your student to spend more time exploring the city, making new friends, and learning the ways of the host country. Don’t let their real experience become a virtual education abroad.
Visiting your son or daughter abroad can result in a memorable bonding experience. However, it is important to ensure that they don’t skip classes to be tour guides for parents. Find out the vacation schedule before locking in flights and hotels.
“I left who I thought I was, and came back who I am.”
~Nicole Hemingway, Semester at Sea, Summer 2011
The student who returns home is not the student you sent abroad. He or she might dress differently, like new foods, speak differently, express new political perspectives, or even speak disparagingly of the U.S. This is not unusual. Do expect some changes and be patient. This transition can be a positive experience, but it can have its moments of drama. Read up on reverse culture shock so that you understand the adjustments they need to go through when they return. And be sure to be proud of their exceptional accomplishments. Encourage them to share their experience by becoming mentors to other students interested in an education abroad. Adapting to another culture, making new friends, studying in a new system and returning to their previous lives are powerful achievements. And congratulate yourselves that you trusted them enough to let them have this unique and life-changing experience!
Program Safety Assessment During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Prior to the pandemic, most education abroad programs relied on the travel advisory level system run by the US Department of State. UMaine policy states that the university will not endorse travel to countries assessed as levels 3 and 4, which indicate the need for “extreme caution” and “do not travel” respectively. However, given that so many countries have stayed at levels 3 and 4 throughout the pandemic and are so labeled due to Covid as opposed to violence (such as terrorism, civil unrest, or crime), we have set up an exception process through which level 3 and 4 destinations can be approved by the university.
The UMaine education abroad offices primarily consider how much on-site support students can expect when participating in their programs, such as online options for classes, the responsiveness of on-site staff, the relationship of the host university/provider with UMaine, housing and quarantine support, and preventative measures for managing the spread of Covid on site. We are also being watchful for any “dealbreaker” scenarios that would warrant cancellation or evacuation from the program, such as the infrastructural collapse of the healthcare system or unavailability of local medical care, in-country travel restrictions which prevent students from flying home, border closures, unavailability of flights, housing, or other necessary support.
When we submit programs for exceptions, it is then reviewed by Risk Management and the Provost’s office for approval. Because of this process and the ever-changing nature of the pandemic across the globe, we cannot guarantee that all programs will be approved for an exception.
Student and Parent Responsibility
It is important to state that just because UMaine approves a program, this does not mean that it is free of risk. It is the responsibility of each student and their family to decide if going abroad is right for them during this time. Travel and world events are more stressful than before the pandemic and students need to be on top of their pre-departure preparations to be successful. We want to normalize that if students and their families decide it is best for the student to withdraw, this is completely fine and we encourage students to use their judgment. Students and parents with concerns should consult with the Education Abroad Advisor.