Study Abroad

The School of International Service (SIS) organizes a variety of optional experiential learning programs and internships abroad throughout the year. Available to International Relations Online students, these opportunities include AU faculty-led programs, courses offered at partner institutions abroad, and international internships. Program locations change to reflect student needs and interests.

The SIS study abroad program is designed to allow busy professionals to participate while continuing to work full time and keep their responsibilities at home. This is why pre- and post-departure meetings are held online in the evening (EST) and time abroad is kept intentionally brief.

Why Study Abroad?

The goal of International Relations Online is to help students gain a global perspective so they can succeed in the field of international affairs. Study abroad opportunities help students apply the skills they gain from their courses and build intercultural competency by: 

  • analyzing and interpreting conflicts that involve people of different cultures while experiencing them firsthand
  • gaining real-world experience with the concepts they learn in the classroom
  • collaborating with peers in groups acting as consultants for international organizations
  • networking with influential organizations, world leaders, and American University’s top faculty

“The South Africa summer study abroad was life-changing! We learned from leading scholars at UCT [University of Cape Town] discussing a variety of issues concerning South Africa, including foreign policy, inequality, education, HIV/AIDS, economic and political history, domestic politics, environment sustainability, and much more.”

Sichao Ni, International Relations Online Study Abroad Student, Cape Town, South Africa

Available Study Abroad Programs

Study abroad programs led by SIS faculty include an online component and an abroad component. The online component—which includes 1–2 meetings per week before and after the trip—prepares students for their time abroad and facilitates further discussion after they return. The duration of time abroad varies by course, ranging from one to four weeks and averaging about two weeks. These options are available to all students in the Master of Arts in International Relations and Executive Master of International Service programs.

Summer Abroad Courses

During the summer, SIS offers a series of short-term, experiential courses that include lectures, discussions, workshops, and site visits.

In 2018, courses will include:

Washington, D.C., and Mexico City, Mexico

Students will study the complex web of issues that unites and divides the U.S. and Mexican governments—including free trade, security, corruption, immigration, and environmental challenges. They will spend about two weeks in Washington, D.C., interviewing a variety of U.S. and Mexican officials involved with Mexico. They will then spend about one week interviewing in Mexico City to formulate an official policy recommendation for the U.S. government. 

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries, still recovering from a decade-long civil war and, more recently, an outbreak of Ebola. Students will travel there for two weeks to investigate how officials across levels—including the UN, international NGOs, and community-based organizations—partner to achieve shared development goals.

Practicum Experiences

During a summer practicum experience, students consult with an international client while producing original research that is relevant to the community, country, or broader region. Upcoming summer practicum programs include:

Ketura, Israel (3 credits)

In 2018, this practicum will focus on the three-year Arava/PWEG “Green Technologies in Cooperative Date Farming” project launched in 2017. The project seeks to engage Palestinian and Israeli farming communities in joint cooperative and learning efforts as a peace and confidence-building measure. The principal research task of the program will be to assess the project at its midway point.

Copenhagen, Denmark (3 credits)

During this course, students will study the cyber conflict in the area; how cyber tactics are used for coercion; and to what extent the conflict spills over into the commercial space, creating new markets for malware and cybercrime. The course includes a visit to NATO’s “northern flank” Scandinavian and Baltic countries and concludes with a student presentation on how government and corporate partners forecast the future of cyber conflict in the region.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia (3 credits)

Students will spend roughly two weeks in Indonesia conducting project design, monitoring, and evaluation tasks with local NGOs. The partner for the practicum will be VIA, a non-profit organization that specializes in cross-cultural understanding and transformative education programs in Asia and the United States. Local NGOs will likely include organizations that work in public health, human rights, development, interfaith dialogue, and other areas.

New Providence, Bahamas (3 credits)

Students will work virtually with the FOCUS program, a longstanding after-school program for historically underserved Bahamian youth. They will develop relevant evaluation indicators, build an analytical plan and begin an evaluation of the program’s impact. They will then present their findings and future recommendations to foundation staff in person in the Bahamas, exercising intercultural competency skills as they engage with our Bahamian partners.


International Internships

Because SIS has relationships with organizations all over the world, it offers direct connections to internship opportunities abroad. Students can participate in an international internship independently or in a more structured format.

In the structured internship placements, students are directly supported by SIS faculty or connected through an AU Abroad Center. Faculty and staff have selected opportunities and organizations that are directly relevant to students’ academic and professional interests.

Students wishing to work more independently can choose from a wider range of internships from approved organizations. Although SIS faculty members do not directly assist with these placements, they can advise students and share experiences of prior students working with these organizations. 

Graduate Global Program

The Graduate Global Program is a support system for students who want to conduct independent research, secure their own internships, and participate in other professional development activities such as conferences or workshops abroad. Academic advisors and the SIS Office of International Programs (OIP) can help students to:

  • connect with relevant faculty or institutions abroad
  • register their activities (regardless of whether they are credit- or non-credit-bearing)
  • acquire emergency international health insurance
  • find alternative funding sources

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for study abroad opportunities, International Relations Online students must:

  • Hold status as a graduate student at American University. Non-AU graduate students may only apply to select programs (see program specific pages for eligibility).
  • Achieve and maintain good academic and university standing.
  • Submit an approved plan of study. As part of the application process, students should meet with their academic advisors to get approval for the courses they plan to take.

Each program will have additional eligibility requirements listed on its respective website. To learn more about study abroad opportunities, visit the Office of International Programs or contact them via email.

You can also obtain more information about study abroad funding options.