The Office of International Programs Prepares Students for the World Beyond Rensselaer

Study Abroad

During The Arch, all students will spend a fall or spring semester of their junior year participating in an off-campus Individual Learning Experience (ILE), which could take the form of an internship or co-op, international or national opportunity (i.e., study abroad or study at another U.S. institution), or research, civic engagement, or self-designed experience.

The Office of International Programs (OIP) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute supports, develops, and promotes international academic opportunities for undergraduate students, including semester and short-term study abroad and exchange programs and other international experiences. The office currently oversees approximately 25 direct exchange programs, as well as additional semester abroad opportunities through Rensselaer’s affiliation with Global E3, a consortium of universities from around the world that collaborate on exchanges for students in computer science and engineering.  “The exchange of students between Rensselaer and our partner institutions allows participants to experience a different culture and educational system while making progress toward their Rensselaer degree and other educational goals,” said Karen Dvorak, Program Manager of International Programs.

The Arch provides additional opportunities for study abroad, particularly for students who may otherwise not be able to fit this experience into their undergraduate program. “Since the inception of The Arch, we have had students participate in a variety of international experiences during their semester away, including traditional exchange and study abroad semesters, short-term academic programs, research at partner universities, faculty-led study abroad, and internships that are embedded in a study abroad program,” Dvorak said. Examples of fall 2019 Arch semester away international experiences include study at the Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Nanzan University; direct exchanges at several partner schools, including Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), the University of Sussex (UK), and Swansea University (UK); research at affiliated partner institutions, including the Technical University of Dresden as part of the Research Experience Program; study at Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) as part of the Global E3 exchange; and study at universities in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the UK.

Study abroad and exchange programs allow students to explore academic options that may not be available to them at Rensselaer, while complementing their chosen fields of study. “Our students return from abroad with increased global awareness. Perhaps most importantly, they return to Rensselaer with greater independence, adaptability, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills,” said Dvorak.

Many campus partners contribute to the success of the undergraduate study abroad and exchange programs. In particular, the Registrar’s Office is instrumental to the success of the program through their efforts to facilitate the smooth transfer of credits for students who are returning from abroad. The Registrar’s Office also works with the OIP to maintain a list of study abroad course equivalencies. Faculty and academic staff at Rensselaer provide academic oversight of the program, advise students, and evaluate study abroad courses. Many other offices offer their expertise to the program by participating in the welcome orientation that takes place each semester for arriving exchange students.

As part of the Office of Undergraduate Education, the OIP is working closely with the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education and Student Life partners at Rensselaer to identify and develop additional semester away international opportunities for the Arch. “We encourage students who are considering an international experience for the Arch semester away to attend one of our information sessions or to contact the OIP for additional information. Our goal is to help each student identify an international experience for the Arch semester away that meets their academic and personal interests. We look forward to providing support and guidance to students as they explore the many international program opportunities that are available to them,” said Dvorak.

To learn more about the Office of International Programs, visit

Photo credit: Madeline Brannon, a bioinformatics and molecular biology major, spent the 2019 fall semester on study abroad in Italy for her Arch semester away. The photo was taken during a side trip she took to London.