Study abroad can be a great experience, but it requires you to exchange one semester of Wesleyan education for one semester of being abroad. A semester abroad comprises (a) the coursework you will do on your study-abroad program plus (b) the overall experience of being in another country. The coursework you will do on your study-abroad program is unlikely to be the main benefit of the semester, compared to what you could have learned in the courses you would have taken in a semester at Wesleyan. Any losses on the coursework front may, however, be offset by benefits of having the overall experience of living in another country -- depending on what you make of that experience. Adding up the costs and benefits of studying abroad, there's a case to be made that, if you can acquire experience living in the country you are thinking of studying abroad in without using up a semester at one of the country's top liberal arts colleges, it might make more sense for you to do all of your coursework at Wesleyan, and acquire your foreign experience some other way.
For some students, of course, the most (or even only) feasible way to get experience abroad may be to go on an academic study-abroad program. For those students, study abroad may well be a good course of action. It bears remembering, however, that a study abroad experience has costs (as a general rule -- though not in every case -- quality of course offerings) as well as benefits (as a general rule -- though not in every case -- the experience abroad). Going on a study abroad program for an entire year, from this perspective, is especially worth thinking twice about. For many students, the costs of losing a second semester at Wesleyan may exceed the benefits of the additional time abroad. Also, if you spend two semesters abroad, you may have trouble completing the Government major (let alone a double major).
You should discuss with your faculty advisor which, if any, study abroad program is right for you, and which of the courses it offers are most appropriate to your interests.
The place to start is Wesleyan's Office of International Studies. This office has a helpful staff and a well-organized website with resources for the various steps in the process: making the initial study-abroad decision, deciding which program to go on, applying, and so on. The forms you need are on this website.
To get credit for study abroad courses, either toward the major or toward graduation, requires pre-approval (before the end of the study-abroad program's pre-registration period) either from your faculty advisor (if you are a Government major) or from the Department chair (if you are not a Government major but are planning to take a political science course).
If you are a second-semester sophomore who plans to declare a Government major, please declare the major before seeking departmental approval for specific courses offered by a study-abroad program. Declaring the major gets you assigned a major advisor. It is your major advisor who approves your courses.
If you are a Government major, your major advisor has authority to decide which of your study-abroad courses will be pre-approved to count toward the major and toward graduation. If you are not a Government major, but need to get approval for a political science course, the chair of the Government Department has this authority. Please give your advisor (or the chair, if you are not a major) as much information as possible about the courses you want to get credit for. A written course description is a bare minimum; a syllabus is preferred.
A critical passage on the website of the Office of International Studies summarizes the role of your major advisor in the study abroad application and course approval process:
Students must have the approval of their faculty advisor for all courses they take abroad. The advisor must indicate which courses, if any, may be counted toward the major for which s/he is an advisor. Students with more than one major must obtain approval for courses that will receive credit in each major from each respective major advisor. The faculty advisor(s) may specify a minimum grade and/or other conditions for counting a course toward the major. If, after arriving on site, a student wishes to take a course that has not been pre-approved by his/her faculty advisor, s/he must seek written approval for this course from the faculty advisor as early as possible, and no later than the end of the program’s registration period. If it is impossible to do so because of the means of communication available on site, the student may request approval for the course from the faculty advisor before the end of the drop/add period of the first semester in which the student returns to campus, but should be aware that such approval is by no means guaranteed.
In addition to helping to monitor and enforce the study-abroad regulations implemented through the Office of International Studies, the Government Department has its own study abroad regulations, which appear on the Office of International Studies Department Study Abroad Regulations website but which are reproduced here for convenience.
Up to 2 courses abroad may count toward the major. Majors on full-year programs may count a third course with the approval of their major advisor. No credit toward the major will be approved for internships, introductory courses, or certain School for International Training courses. No credit toward graduation will be approved for internships. A student seeking major credit must give the pre-approving faculty member a course title and written course description before the first day on which the course meets, either in person before departing (preferable) or by email from abroad (if the title and course description are unavailable before departure).
To get credit for study abroad courses, either toward the major or toward graduation, requires pre-approval (before the end of the study-abroad program's pre-registration period) either from your faculty advisor (if you are a Government major) or from the Department chair (if you are not a Government major).
Recall that one of the Department's Requirements for the Government Major is that students may count toward the major no more than two credits earned in courses taken away from Wesleyan, whether in a study abroad program or in another US institution, except in the case of a full year of study abroad, in which the faculty advisor may, at his or her discretion, authorize credit toward the major and toward graduation for a third course.
The Department will not authorize course credit during study abroad for internships or introductory courses. We don't have the resources to supervise internships, and it's a waste of potential synergy with the experience of living abroad to take a general introductory course when you could be taking a specialized course that would allow you to engage more intensively with the society in which you are living.
Independent study projects may be included among the two courses that may be counted toward the Government major (up to three if you study abroad for a whole year). Your advisor may choose to give tentative approval for an independent study project, subject to a review of your written work after you return.
Approved by the Department of Government, February 24, 2004