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Undergraduate Studies

Procedures for Getting Departmental Credit for Study Abroad Courses

If you are planning to study abroad, make sure you go through the following steps in order to obtain departmental approval for any courses you wish to count toward your minor/major in Spanish or Portuguese.

1. Make an appointment with the department advisor the semester before departure

During the semester prior to your study abroad term, you must make an appointment with the department advisor to discuss the courses you plan to take.  This appointment is required for all Spanish and Portuguese majors or minors who want department credit for courses taken abroad. If you fail to make this appointment, you run the very real risk of not having your courses be approved!  Make sure you take all your study abroad course descriptions with you to this appointment.  If you are going on a non-IU program, take all relevant information about the program with you as well. 

2. Get preliminary course approvals from the advisor/DUGS

During your appointment with the advisor, she will ask you to sign a departmental study abroad agreement form and discuss with you the courses you plan to take abroad.  Many study abroad courses have already been set up for permanent Spanish and Portuguese equivalence, and if you are planning to take such courses, they will not require additional departmental review or approval (as long as they fulfill the major/minor requirements you still need to take).  If your program is IU-sponsored, the Office of Overseas Study will have told you which of your courses  already have permanent equivalences.  If you are going on a non-IU program, you can look up transfer equivalence information for courses using the database on the Credit Transfer Service page of the Admissions web site (keep in mind that that there is a much higher chance that courses offered by non-IU programs will not have been previously equated).  If a course you wish to take (whether on an IU-sponsored program or a non-IU program) has not yet been set up for departmental equivalence, the advisor will show the course description to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (or the Director of the Portuguese program) for preliminary approval.  Preliminary approval means that the course topic and level has been deemed appropriate for credit but that not enough information is available about the course yet to grant it final approval.  If the DUGS (or Director of Portuguese) gives preliminary approval for your course, the advisor will tell you what you must do in order for final approval to be given when you complete the course.  This includes carefully saving all your course materials while abroad and bringing those materials back to the department for review when you return (see point 4 below).  In some cases, you will also be asked to consult with your study abroad program in advance to ensure that certain minimal work requirements can be met for a given course.

Note: It is not difficult to get preliminary approval for courses on most well-established study abroad programs, particularly for IU-sponsored programs, as long as the topics and levels are roughly comparable to those of departmental courses.  In some cases, however, the DUGS will determine that an equivalence should be sought from a different department; or that a course is too similar to one the student has already taken; or that a course does not demonstrate satisfactory academic quality.  Questions of academic quality are normally only an issue for non-IU programs that have not been carefully vetted yet.  Some reasons why academic quality may be deemed unsatisfactory include the following: the number of contact hours is insufficient; coursework requirements are too low; the course is taught in English (or too many readings/assignments are in English); the program is sponsored by an agency with unknown or questionable academic credentials; the course seems poorly designed and conceived; the academic qualification of the program’s instructors is not easy to ascertain; or the program focus seems overly “touristic” at the expense of academic rigor.

3. Stay in close email contact with the department academic advisor while you are abroad

Once you start your overseas study program, don’t be surprised if a course has been unexpectedly cancelled and/or new courses have become available.  If you end up having to enroll in a course or courses different from what you initially anticipated, you need to get additional preliminary approvals from IUB by sending back the new course description(s) by fax or email.  Whom you should send this request for new approval depends on the study abroad program you are enrolled in.  If you are on a non-IU program, email the Spanish & Portuguese advisor directly.  If you are on an IU-sponsored program, you should email the Office of Overseas Study.  Note: In general, students who stay in close touch with their departmental and OVST advisors while studying abroad and who are careful about saving course materials rarely encounter difficulties with final course approvals upon their return.

4. Bring back your course materials to the department upon your return (this step is required only for courses that were given preliminary approval)

If your study abroad courses were previously equated by the department (i.e., did not require departmental pre-approval), you don’t need to show any materials from these courses to the department when you return to Bloomington; as soon as IU processes your study abroad credits, the corresponding equivalences will automatically appear on your course records.  However, if you took courses which were not already equated (which were approved only on a preliminary basis), you must bring the materials from these courses to the department in order to get final approval.  Until you do this, your study abroad courses will appear on your course records as undistributed credit only.  You should submit these course materials to the department as soon as you get back, since any delays will jeopardize the assigning of departmental credit.  The materials you must show to the department are the following:

(A) A copy of the course syllabus (ideally, the syllabus should include the course description, the final grade breakdown, the number and scope of exams, the number and type of compositions, and a list of the required readings).
(B) All the written work you completed for the course (this includes graded, paper copies of compositions and exams, notes taken in class, along with other homework or projects completed).
(C) The texts used in the course (you don’t need to show published primary materials, such as novels, but bring back all course packets and other photocopied readings).

Note: You must be very careful about keeping and holding on to these course materials while abroad and while traveling!  Make sure your professor knows you need to get them back.  If you lose them, the department will have no basis for evaluating your coursework, and final approval may be denied due to the lack of evidence of work performed in the course.  As a precaution, we recommend that you photocopy the materials, particularly compositions and exams, and mail them home before you return.  Keep in mind, as well, that materials saved on portable electronic media can sometimes become corrupted during travel.