Office of International Programs

International Students & Study Abroad

Every year Brown welcomes students and faculty from across the globe. About 17 percent of our students come from abroad, from over 100 countries around the world. Such diversity is critical to the University’s goal of preparing all students to function effectively in an increasingly connected global environment. Although they are already “studying abroad” while at Brown, many international students also seek additional education abroad opportunities through the OIP.  

Things to Consider

adapted from Study Abroad for International Students: A Guide for Education Abroad Professionals, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2014  

U.S. Visa an Immigration Status: Your U.S. visa and immigration status will determine obligations you have regarding any federal requirements while at Brown, and it also will help shape the advice given by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS).

Make sure to check your visa  and I-20 expiration date and passport expiration date, so that you can have them extended or reissued if necessary before leaving to study abroad! Please note that F-1/J-1 student  visa applications can only be made at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S.

U.S. Visa Type: Your visa type determines your primary purpose in the United States. An F-1 or J-1 student is required to enroll in a “full course of study” every semester to maintain status and may drop below full-time enrollment only in very specific situations after receiving approval from the OISSS.

Duration of the Program: Regulatory language for F-1/J-1 students indicates that the student should not be absent from the United States for more than five months. Additionally, students also need to maintain the full-time status registration requirement for institutions during required semesters. This impacts whether you can maintain your U.S. immigration status while participating in a study abroad program.

If you are studying abroad for a full year, it is likely your I-20/DS-2019 travel signature will have expired by the time you return to Brown. Contact Brown OISSS at [email protected] to request an updated I-20/DS-2019 be mailed to you before you re-enter the United States. 

Study Abroad Program Provider: Your program provider may impact your immigration status and ability to maintain a full course of study (are you studying at an accredited institution? are courses credit-bearing? how long is the program or courses?)

Destination and Documentation: Where you are studying and traveling may impact your need and/or ability to acquire a visa to study in that country. International students may have additional requirements for multi-country programs or for planned side trips, either as part of the program or for personal travel.  Be sure to check with your program provider to find out if program- or course-related field trips would take you out of the host country. Additionally, diplomatic relationships between your home country and the host country may affect (positively or negatively) your ability to visit that country and acquire the appropriate documentation. Make sure you have completed all the steps in the visa application process that applies to your home country. 

If you plan to work while you are abroad, be mindful of the work hours and regulations that come with your new host country’s student visa; work-related regulations for international students will differ from country to country. 

If you run into visa and passport related issues while you are abroad, the OISSS at Brown is limited in their ability to help you. While they are a great resource for entry/re-entry into the U.S., when you are abroad on your home country’s passport, it is between your home country’s diplomatic relations and your host institution to determine your ability to study, work and travel. Make sure you are aware of the Visa and Immigration Office and their contacts at your host institution (the equivalent of Brown’s OISSS) to help you while you are abroad. 

Planning Ahead: Advance planning is crucial. Many of the administrative processes take weeks and often build upon each other, so if the first step isn’t started early enough it may not be possible to complete the rest of the steps in time. Map out your courses and requirements for your concentration with your department/concentration advisor before and after you study abroad. 

Home Country Study Away: Brown students studying on nonimmigrant visas may seek permission to study at a two- or four-year institution in their home country and earn credit as part of their degree completion plans.  To receive transfer credit, the host institution and each course must be evaluated for transfer eligibility per Brown’s transfer credit guidelines. For more information contact Dean Asabe Poloma.

Culture Shock and Adjustment

International students often transition into their new host country and institution more smoothly, having experienced an initial culture shock when they begin their study in the U.S.. Nevertheless, cultural differences exist that students may sometimes find difficult to adjust to. It can help to talk to returned students (contact information available at the OIP) and peer advisors ahead of time to ask questions and to hear personal tips. 

Translating your hobbies and interests, such as music or sports, can help you find your community and to make local friends based on a shared interest. You will also find a community among visiting students at your host institution. 


Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSSOISSS serves as a resource to admitted international students, faculty and researchers and their families as well as academic departments, and other administrative offices on and off campus. OISSS provides advising services with respect to immigration and visa matters, work permission, orientation, cultural adjustment, and personal concerns.

Office of Global Engagement (OGE) supports Brown University ’s faculty and students by providing leadership, advocacy, and coordination for initiatives, projects, and activities centered on international and transnational research, education, and collaboration within specific schools, departments, centers, and/or across the institution. 

Global Brown Center for International Students (GBC) provides programming to support and engage Brown undergraduate and graduate international community, coordinate international orientations, advise international student organizations/groups, as well as assist with advocacy initiatives.

NAFSA/Association of International Educators DACA Resource Page: For International Student Advisers and Education Abroad Advisers.

Plan for Study Abroad as International Student in the U.S., US News and World Report

Can International Students in the United States Study Abroad? and May I participate in a study abroad program? from the US Department of Homeland Security. 

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