Which GEO program type is right for you?
What do you want to spend most of your time doing abroad?
How independent do you consider yourself?
What kind of accommodation would you prefer abroad?
How comfortable are you travelling and living abroad?
What length of program would you prefer?
An exchange allows students to enroll directly at a foreign university for a semester or even longer. Usually, this means students have access to all of the courses the university offers (as long as students meet language and course prerequisites) and are treated like any one of their international students. Exchanges are typically low-cost compared to UO tuition, but lower cost also means fewer services and support. Exchange students may be the only UO student at their university, and they need to be very independent and able to seek out resources and ask for help when they need it. They also need to be flexible, as classes cannot always be arranged or guaranteed before arrival; registration often happens on-campus on arrival, and courses may need to be approved by the UO Registrar’s Office after-the-fact. Still, the flexibility and freedom in this program type makes this a great option for the independent student, allowing students to customize their experience and get deeply involved in the local culture and community however they wish. Housing is at the student’s discretion, and many students live in apartments or residence halls.
A faculty-led program is usually a few weeks long, but some may last an entire quarter or summer. Led by faculty from the UO or a partner university, these programs primarily consist of UO students and sometimes a few other students from partner universities around the US. The topics tend to be focused on one topic or discipline, allowing deeper specialization. These programs may travel to multiple sites or spend most of their time at one site with some brief excursions. The itinerary is set by the professor(s) and/or GEO, so there may be a little less freedom, but the benefit is building much closer bonds with fellow students and the professor(s), as all coursework and travel is done together, and they usually live in the same hostel and/or hotel. Building a strong relationship with a professor is vital for later professional networks, letters of recommendation and more. The preplanned itinerary and group atmosphere makes this a very supportive program type, ideal for students who may not have traveled extensively.
A GEO center program is a location with dedicated staff that work for GEO and the UO. Some programs may be a month long and some may be a full quarter or semester. Usually attended by UO students and other students from partner universities across the US, these centers offer a variety of language and/or culture classes or more specific topics depending on the time of year. Students may live in residence halls or homestays, have a set class schedule and the opportunity to engage in organized excursions and cultural events. These centers offer a strong “homebase” for students who want the flexibility to do their own travel, but want the security of knowing that there are GEO staff only a phone call away, and in some cases a dedicated facility for them to visit for coursework or assistance. This makes it a good fit for the student who wants a blend of independence and support.
These programs are focused on the acquisition of language skills, and are often very intensive! They may allow a student to bring back a significant number of language credits – even up to a year in a short time - but they also come with full daily immersion in language activities and learning, both in and outside the classroom. Students often engage in cultural activities and day trips to better understand the target culture and language they are studying, and homestays are a very common accommodation choice to encourage further language acquisition outside of class.
Some programs offered by GEO involve a research component in addition to classwork. This includes both Field Research and Lab Research options. If students are looking to build their research portfolio, possibly for future graduate school applications, a senior thesis or other professional opportunities, this may be a great way to get practical experience in research.
GEO has programs that offer both pure internships and internships blended with coursework. In all cases, these internships are unpaid and offer academic credit towards the student’s degree. Depending on the program, the internship placement may be pre-selected or students may be able to customize their experience to meet their own needs. These are an excellent way to build practical experience and add substantial skills to a student’s resume.
A limited number of programs offered by GEO involve service-learning opportunities, where students can earn credits through volunteering and assisting with local issues in addition to coursework abroad. The nature of the service is often set by the program offering it, and it’s recommended students consider the program as a whole in addition to the service component.