Academic Advice for Your Time Abroad

As a visiting student, you will experience an academic system with distinct expectations and requirements. Equip yourself to navigate the educational differences of your host country by paying close attention to instructions, reading course materials carefully and asking clarifying questions. A few important characteristics of your host country’s academic system are:


The syllabus

The syllabus establishes the course framework. Typically a syllabus will list the professor’s name, office address, phone number and hours. Most professors are willing to meet outside office hours by appointment. We encourage you to contact your professor if you have any questions or concerns about course material or your academic progress.


Taking notes

While not a requirement, note-taking is an excellent habit to get into. Lecture material may be included on exams and often provides resources that will aid you in your studies. No need to write down every word a professor says, but be sure to cover the main points of a lecture in your notes for future reference.



Class attendance is extremely important and is usually required unless a professor states otherwise. Not attending class may result in a lower grade or no credit for the course. If you are unwell and are unable to attend a specific class session, you should contact the professor before class and let him or her know. Most professors are understanding in these cases.



On campus bookstores generally carry all books for all courses, but they may not be the most economical way to purchase textbooks, which can cost $200-$400 per semester. Our tips:

  • Buy used

A great option, especially if you don't mind reading a previous students' notes in the margins.

  • Rent

If offered at your campus bookstore, textbook rental allows you to rent the books you need and then return them at the end of the term, potentially saving you up to 50 percent of new textbook fees. The key is remembering to return your books by the deadline so you don't incur late fees.

  • Order online

Popular online vendors for discounted textbooks include and Be sure to purchase the precise edition outlined in your syllabus or risk the chance of your book differing slightly from the professor's.


Class Participation

In the West, ​not only are students encouraged to participate in classroom discussions, but they are expected to do so. Participating in discussions and group work indicates you are thinking critically about the coursework, which may help you clarify your thoughts and earn higher marks in the course overall. Exams alone rarely determine a grade, so ask questions and get involved if you're aiming for an 'A'.


Learn more about the rewards and challenges of participating in class discussions and group work abroad from SAF scholars.