Choosing a Program

What is Off-Campus Study?

Each year, Grinnell students are accepted into a wide range of off-campus study programs both abroad and elsewhere in the United States. They study abroad throughout the world: Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and various locations in the U.S. Participation is open to all qualified students and possibilities for study exist in virtually all subject areas.

Off-Campus Study is an opportunity to broaden your liberal arts education and enhance your major, concentration or other areas of academic interest. Although Grinnell recognizes that living and studying in a new and challenging environment is a valuable learning experience, the college believes the opportunity will be even more enriching if closely integrated with your coursework on campus. During the application process, you will notice that great emphasis is placed on selecting an appropriate program compatible with your academic goals. You will be working together with your academic advisers and the OCS Office to choose a program that complements and enhances your Grinnell education.

Featured Programs
The programs featured in the OCS Resource Area and on the website have been carefully selected and represent some of the best opportunities available in off-campus study today. From the broad academic and geographical range of options, most students should be able to identify a program well suited to their academic goals

OCS programs offer you the opportunity to enhance your major, concentration, or other areas of academic interest while broadening your liberal arts education by learning about another part of the world. On some programs, the courses are linked by a common theme, such as women's studies, environmental studies or global development studies. On others, coursework may be closely connected to a particular major such as biology or economics. Some programs, however, are not particularly specialized and offer a range of courses in the liberal arts. OCS programs may be organized by American educational institutions, universities in the host country or a combination of both in a cooperative arrangement. Formats vary from traditional classroom-based instruction to field work, independent study and internship.

Assessing the Importance of Off-Campus Study

You may already have a good idea about where and what you would like to study off campus. However, if you are just beginning to explore the possibilities, you should reflect seriously on what you are planning to do. At this point in your life and education, you are likely to be at the optimal point in your capacity to learn by living and studying in a new and challenging environment. Since an optimal point occurs by definition only once in a lifetime, and off-campus study may hold valuable personal, academic, and professional benefits, the careful choice of an appropriate program may well be one of the most important decisions you will make during your college career.

Core Academic Rationale for Off-Campus Study

Grinnell requires that you select a program compatible with your academic goals, as set out in your four-year plan and off-campus study essay. It is largely up to you to define your goals together with your academic adviser. Since your program choice is linked to your objectives, you should begin by thinking about your purpose in studying off campus, i.e., your core academic rationale. Most students choose to link off-campus study to their major or concentration while others may wish to enhance their understanding of other subjects studied on campus. The link you choose should provide a sense of academic direction for studying off campus.

Additional Objectives for Off-Campus Study

In addition to the core academic rationale described above, your choice of program may be partly determined by additional objectives. For example, you may wish to broaden your liberal arts education by studying a language or taking courses not offered at Grinnell. You may also have broader educational goals connected to the experience of living in another culture. The possibility of community service, fieldwork or an internship might be an important consideration. Such additional objectives are important to consider along with your core academic rationale and should be of help in guiding you towards a program that is right for you.


Your Academic Adviser

Since your program choice should be connected to your academic interests and four-year plan, you should start by talking with your academic adviser. Your adviser can help you decide whether studying off campus would be beneficial and may have suggestions about subjects you may wish to deepen and enhance. Advisers want to know which programs attract you and may also offer suggestions. If you have not declared, you should also seek advice from a professor within your intended major department about program choice and the best semester to participate.

Campus Program Advisers

A Program Adviser is assigned to every off-campus study program featured by Grinnell College. These advisers are very familiar with the programs they represent and can provide you with detailed program information as well as answering any questions you may have. A list of Program Advisers is provided in the back of the OCS Handbook.

Directors of Off-Campus Study

Richard Bright and Jonathan Larson are available to help you choose a program.

For an appointment, send a message to [bright] or [larsonj] giving a range of times when you would be free from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m and 1:30 to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments are scheduled on the half-hour. Be sure to mention the program(s) you want to discuss and subject areas that interest you.

OCS Program Representatives

Most of the programs are offered in cooperation with other colleges and universities whose representatives are always pleased to answer questions by phone and email. In addition, a number of program representatives come to campus and hold program information meetings during the fall semester. The OCS Office will send you a regularly updated schedule of these meetings, and you are also welcome to talk with program representatives by getting in touch with the program; contact information is available on the OCS website.

Peer Advisers

Every semester, large numbers of Grinnell students return from studying off campus. Talking with returned students is essential to making an intelligent decision. You will find a list of past OCS students in the back of the OCS Handbook and also in the Student Directory on the OCS website. You may wish to contact OCS programs directly to obtain contact information for recent non-Grinnell participants.

International Students

Grinnell College is fortunate to have a diverse student body from many parts of the world. International students may be able to provide you with valuable insights and information to help you in making a decision about where to study off campus. The International Students Office can provide names of students from specified countries.


Using the Grinnell College libraries While You Are Off Campus

If you  would like to make an appointment with a librarian in advance of your study abroad, please contact us via query[at]grinnell[dot]edu to set up an appointment, or contact a librarian directly



Using Databases to Find Articles

Go to the Libraries Subject Guides and choose the subject (or department) of your choice:


drop down subject guide


Or choose the A to Z Database list

Find the database you would like to search and click on “off-campus access.” You will then be prompted to add your username and network password.


visual image of a link to the agricola database


login screen image


Connecting to the Articles

By making use of the  “search for full text” links in the databases, you can find the full text of articles available through library databases and electronic journal subscriptions.

Full text available through database:


Full Text


Using the "search for full text link":


search for full text link


Linking directly to the full text:


linking directly


No Electronic Access?

IN PRINT ONLY: If the article is only available in our print holdings. Contact a librarian (see below) and we will arrange to have it scanned and sent to you.


print holdings

INTERLIBRARY LOAN: If an article isn’t available electronically or in print—make an interlibrary loan request.


No access?


Click on the Interlibrary Loan Link


Request ILL


Need Help?


External Links

Planning ahead is the key to a successful foreign experience. The sites listed below will help get you started and provide vital information for traveling abroad.

The Center for Global Education Study Abroad Student Handbook - How to Get There and Back. The Study Abroad Student Handbook provides resources and preparation tips for students considering study abroad.

Transitions Abroad is an online guide to practical information on affordable alternatives to mass tourism: living, working, studying, or vacationing alongside the people of the host country.

Important U.S. State Department publications providing vital information about everything from applying for a passport to tips on personal safety: Tips for Traveling Abroad and How To Have a Safe Trip.

Official State Department passport site: Applying For or Renewing a PassportForeign consular offices in the United States contains a complete and official listing of consulates and recognized consular officers.

CIA World Fact Book is produced annually by the Central Intelligence Agency for the use of US Government officials, and the style, format, coverage, and content are designed to meet their specific requirements. The World Fact Book contains rather specific information about the countries of the world.  

Interactive Currency Table provides a list of currency values relative to the base currency that you specify.

One very good site for learning about the area to which you will be traveling is the State Department Travel Advisories page. These bulletins include basic information on travel, crime, medical facilities, embassy and consulate locations and so forth.

The Office of American Services and Crisis Management (ACS) exists to serve Americans traveling abroad. ACS administers the Consular Information Program, which informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security. ACS supports the work of overseas embassies and consulates in providing emergency services to Americans in cases of arrest, death, crime, victimization, repatriation, medical evacuation, temporary financial assistance and welfare-and-whereabouts cases. ACS assists in non-emergency matters of birth, identity, passport, citizenship, registration, judicial assistance, and estates. ACS can facilitate the transfer of funds overseas to assist citizens in need, repatriate the remains of loved ones who have died overseas, assist with medical bills, assist victims of crime, and help citizens detained in foreign prisons. ACS also administers a repatriation loan program to bring home destitute Americans and provides a 24-hour Duty Officer Program and Crisis Response Teams which work on task forces convened to deal with natural or man-made disasters.

U.S. State Department "Background Notes" on countries throughout the world provide detailed information to supplement the Consular Information Sheets available on the State Department Travel Advisories page. Travelers are strongly encouraged to find out about health conditions in the country to which they will be traveling.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA hosts a CDC Traveler's Health Web Site with vaccination suggestions, health advisories, and much more. This is a must visit for all students going abroad.

Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad: The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs provides a wide range of health information for travelers, including contact information for travel insurance companies. While many study abroad sponsors will take care of most of your travel arrangements, some programs leave transportation to your country of choice up to you.

The following sites will help you learn more about where you're going and how to get there quickly and cheaply: STA Travel --Information on International Student ID Cards, Eurail passes, discount airfares, etc. Travel Guides are also a wonderful way to see where you'll be studying and get a head start on planning your off time. Here are links to some of the more popular guides. Rough GuideLonely PlanetThe International Booking Network offers a simple, advanced and secure booking service for Youth Hostels worldwide. You can plan your travels with guaranteed accommodation in safe, clean and comfortable hostels.