Do Community Colleges Have Study Abroad Programs?

Absolutely! Studying abroad is not just for four-year bachelor’s degree university students. More and more community college students now travel abroad to study and do short courses to strengthen their resumes and experience new cultures and people. In this guide, we will show you how you can plan and go abroad to study. We will take you through every aspect of the study programs so that you can experience this great opportunity.

Key Takeaways

Absolutely! Studying abroad is not just for four-year bachelor’s degree university students. More and more community college students now travel abroad to study and do short courses to strengthen their resumes and experience new cultures and people. In this guide, we will show you how you can plan and go abroad to study. We will take you through every aspect of the study programs so that you can experience this great opportunity.

Can you study abroad at community college? Yes, with globalization on the rise, more employers are now seeking diverse candidates with global experience to fill their company ranks. To meet this requirement community colleges also offer study abroad programs so that students can gain international experience and return home to complete their degree program.

This guide will take you through all the processes of studying abroad so get your passport ready and let’s get planning!

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Do community colleges have study abroad programs?

Yes, they do! One of the key roles a community college plays in any community is to fill the gap between job supply and demand. And in order to do this, they constantly study the requirements of the positions employers are seeking.

Because of this, the course and programs offered at community colleges are constantly evolving to meet these requirements, and now preparing students for an increasingly global community is a key goal for most community colleges.

This is why there are study abroad programs being offered and you should also seriously consider going for one to increase your chances of employment in a world that is quickly becoming a global village. 

But which program to choose and how to go about it is a big decision and we are here to help.

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Who can apply for the study abroad programs?

First things first, you need to see if you meet the basic requirements to qualify for a study abroad program. 

These requirements vary from college to college but generally speaking the following three conditions are required by most colleges:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old
  2. You must have a minimum GPA, usually around 2.5 (some colleges will even allow you to apply with a lower GPA.
  3. You must have completed at least 12 credits from your original associate’s degree program

Although you can go abroad no matter what your major is, a 2021 report by focusing specifically on US students who opt for study abroad programs revealed that students with the following majors are most interested.

Table for Percentage of Students on Study Abroad Programs
Table for Percentage of Students on Study Abroad Programs

A more interesting find was that based on gender, which showed that more women chose to go for study abroad programs - 70.9%

What is the duration of these programs?

These programs are very flexible and vary from a week to a whole semester depending on the program itself. 

Some students prefer a quick short course that lasts between a few days to a week while others, who are interested in more intensive courses like language or general education, will have to plan for a whole semester abroad.

In the 1960s and 70s more students preferred to go for a whole year to study abroad but these days the popularity of these long study programs has declined. The number of students who travel abroad for shorter courses however has tripled.

According to Transitions Abroad programs that are 6 weeks or more can be “enormously successful in producing important academic, inter- and intra-personal, career, and intercultural development outcomes.”

International Students
Photo by Flickr Images Library

What exactly are the full benefits of studying abroad?

Well, besides the great benefits of studying at a community college itself, there are many great reasons why students chose to go for a study abroad program.

Don’t take our word for it, let’s hear it directly from the students - The Transitions Abroad survey of students who were in study abroad programs also showed the following statistics:

  • 97 percent said studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity
  • 96 percent reported increased self-confidence
  • 89 percent said that it enabled them to tolerate ambiguity
  • 95 percent stated that it has had a lasting impact on their worldview
  • 98 percent of respondents said that study abroad helped them to better understand their own cultural values and biases
  • 82 percent replied that study abroad contributed to their developing a more sophisticated way of looking at the world
  • 87 percent of respondents said that study abroad influenced subsequent educational experiences
  • 63 percent said that it influenced their decision to expand or change academic majors
  • 64 percent reported that it influenced their decision to attend graduate school
  • Nearly half of all respondents have engaged in international work or volunteerism since studying abroad.

Types of study abroad programs

There are various courses and programs offered that are usually tailor-made for the purpose you can still broadly fit study abroad programs into three basic types:

1. Short-term Faculty-led Study Abroad

Short-term faculty-led study abroad programs are by far the most popular of these programs. Usually, a faculty member organizes and leads a group of students on a short term study program abroad. This is done with the collaboration of other colleges or universities globally.

Students who are enrolled in the specific class or subject are offered to travel with their professor(s) for a short course ranging from a few days to 3 weeks.

2. Study Abroad through a Third-Party Study Abroad Provider

There are a few well known study abroad program providers like USAC, CIS Abroad, and AIFS. These professional organizations have pre-packaged programs and arrangements with international universities.

You will get to travel with a group of American students from different colleges and universities which will add to the experience. These programs, however, do charge a bit so make sure you visit the websites and contact them for details.

One thing to keep in mind is to ensure that your service provider issues you a transcript with a U.S. college or university as the school of record. This will greatly simplify any transfer of credit back at your university. 

If you select a provider that issues foreign transcripts you may or may not get credit for it back home.

3. Exchange Programs

These are special arrangements that colleges and universities have with other colleges and universities overseas. 

The simple way an exchange program works is that participating colleges and universities exchange students between themselves for a period that may be a semester or a whole year.

international students celeberating cultural event
Photo by Flickr Image Library

Where can I go for my study program?

In the end, your limitation is dependent on the choices offered by your community college,... unless you plan to take a third-party program, in which case the whole world will open up to you.

According to a 2020 Open Doors report,  by the Institute of International Education, the top five destinations that community college students chose to study abroad were Spain, Italy, the UK, France, and Japan. This does not mean that you shouldn’t consider other great destinations like the Philippines or Germany, etc.

Generally speaking, community colleges offer programs throughout the world, however, they have a very strong presence in Western Europe, East Asia, and Latin America. 

You should also consider destinations that are less frequented by other community college students like England, New Zealand, and Australia all of which have great programs to offer.

Another point I would like to make is that a lot of students don’t pick non-English speaking countries because they think they will have difficulty with the language of instructions. 

Most programs and courses that are available for international students in colleges with study abroad programs are in fact, offered in the English language. Part of the fun, however, is picking up a bit of the local language and experiencing a different culture.

Where you want to go for your study abroad program may also depend on your personal interests. If experiencing Japanese culture is a big priority then you can focus on that. 

If you don’t have a subject that directly links to your major you can always go for a language class based on your destination. Languages look great on your resume in an increasingly globalized workplace.

Are study abroad programs expensive?

Education at community colleges is very affordable to start with. 

You have to keep in mind that these programs are always a package deal, mixing academics with some extracurricular activities. All of this impacts the price tag. The cost of each program varies very much with shorter courses obviously costing much less than year-long programs.

Related: Payment plans at community colleges

This way you can choose a program that you or your parents can afford to pay for. The average cost of a study abroad program is between $1,800 to $2,200. But before you panic, we have some good news for you. There are ways you can offset this price tag and here are some:


There are some great scholarships that are available for community college students to study abroad. Now while these are obviously competitive, they are attainable. The Gilman and Boren scholarships are just a few of the available scholarships, but there are more out there.

The best way is to see your Academic Advisor who will be able to guide you with options available to you. Community colleges recognize the great benefits of study abroad programs but also realize the financial constraints their student bodies normally have.

Because of this realization, most community colleges offer their own internal opportunities besides the private scholarships that we mentioned earlier.

Here are some other scholarships for students at community colleges:


If you can’t qualify for any of the above options you can still raise funds on your own if you have the determination. Many students save for a year before they apply to a program. If you are determined you can ask for help from family and close friends.

Also because people love to contribute to a good cause you can set up a GoFundMe page. In reality, however, you will meet your target by a combination of all of these things.

Federal financial aid

Alternatively, the U.S. federal financial aid you receive to pay for your community college studies can also be used for your study abroad courses or programs! 

Once you exhaust opportunities for grants, scholarships, and donations, you still have students loans to fall back on. Just keep in mind not to over-stretch yourself. If you are having difficulty with the funds go for a shorter program to a closer destination but don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience international studies.

How can I enroll in a study abroad program?

Usually, your community college website will have a page dedicated to study abroad programs. If it doesn’t you need to get in touch with your academic advisor who will guide you to the right person. Most of the time it is the academic advisor himself at a community college who is managing these international courses.

Some states also have educational boards that help students with furnishing more information and services. California community college with study abroad programs all come under CCIE.

CCIE (California Colleges for International Education)  “works to provide community college students the opportunity to study abroad, improve foreign language acquisition and fluency, and provide colleges an opportunity to internationalize the curricula, bring international students to our campuses.”

Final Word

Study abroad programs are a great way to strengthen your resumes. In an increasingly globalized workplace, employers are preferring candidates with exposure to international markets and cultures.

If you are not already at a community college use our in-depth guide to help you. Alternatively, you can directly browse for courses that interest you on the Unmudl site. 

You can use your community college as a gateway to international studies as an affordable opportunity that you might not have later in life. So put on your traveling pants and signup for a study abroad program!

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