Academics While Abroad

A CWRU student holds a falcon during her study abroad in Morocco

There are important academic considerations for students studying abroad to keep in mind: the grading system and teaching style of the overseas institution could be very different from the one they are used to, their credits will transfer back via a conversion that will not necessarily match what Case Western Reserve University would award for the same course, their grades will also convert from an international to a U.S. grading scale, and they can update their course approval form and seek academic assistance while abroad. 

Grading Systems and Teaching Styles

Just as social cultures are different abroad, so are academic ones. Students frequently find that their grades abroad--especially in Europe and the UK--are based entirely on a few major assignments vs. a combination of many. This means students typically have less graded homework but more independent studying to do in order to receive good grades on the few heavily weighted assignments they do have: usually, cramming and all-nighters do not work abroad. Additionally, a few programs use a discussion-based learning style or are not dissimilar from the U.S. at all. Students should talk with their study abroad advisor about the academic differences they may encounter at their institution abroad.

Converting Credits and Grades

Credits from abroad undergo a conversion before they are transferred to Case Western Reserve and that the overseas course may transfer back as more or less credits than its CWRU equivalent. For example, if an overseas course is 5 ECTS, it will transfer back to Case Western Reserve as 2.5 U.S. credits, regardless of how many credits the corresponding course at CWRU is. Similarly, grades from abroad--even if on a 0-100 scale or an A-F scale--will convert to their U.S. equivalent. Students must get the U.S. equivalent of a C or better (not a C-) in order to pass the class and have it transfer back to CWRU. The courses are then transfer credit and do not affect the student's CWRU GPA: a C or better awards credit as approved by the Course Approval Form. A C- or lower receives no credit. The exact conversions for credits and grades from abroad can be found on the study abroad program application page under the Academics tab. It is the student's responsibility to refer to this page for information and to make sure they understand.

Updating the Course Approval Form

Sometimes a student's intended course registration changes once abroad: a course time conflict occurs, a class is no longer offered because a faculty member gets ill or goes on sabbatical, or a similar but more interesting elective comes across a student's radar and they choose to change their study abroad plan. Should that happen, students will still use the same course approval form they submitted prior to departure to gain the appropriate academic representative's approval for the new course. Students must email their study abroad advisor and ask them to revise their online course approval form so that the student can re-send it out to the academic representative(s) for new approvals and then resubmit the updated form online. 

Academic Assistance While Abroad

If a student finds that they are struggling academically or otherwise while abroad, we strongly suggest reaching out to their study abroad advisor immediately, before the concern becomes even greater. Their study abroad advisor can help them find and expedite in-country assistance and can provide suggestions and facts regarding course grade and credit transfers that may help alleviate some of their stress.

Requesting Transcripts While Abroad

The Office of Education Abroad strongly recommends that students request a few official copies of their transcript directly from the overseas institution as soon as possible. Study abroad students will need these for any graduate or professional school applications they complete later on in life.