Institute for Study Abroad

Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA)


The Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1988. Our primary goal is to provide quality study abroad opportunities, plus academic and personal support services, for qualified North American undergraduates seeking to earn academic credit through study abroad.

IFSA is organized to assist our students from the time they apply until after they return. Our staff in the U.S. prepare students for the academic and cultural changes that await them, and our offices around the world provide on-site support to help students make the most of their study abroad experiences.

IFSA currently operates programs in Argentina, Australia, Czech Republic, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, India, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Peru, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Wales.



IFSA Scholarships
IFSA Scholarships and Financial Aid

We believe that study abroad should be within reach of every student, so we offer a wide range of scholarships and funding opportunities for all our participants.

$500 - $2,500


Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Fáilte. The Gaelic word for welcome. I titled my review this for two reasons: the Gaelic language is beautiful and Scotland is welcoming. The first day I arrived in Scotland, I noticed how welcoming everyone was. My taxi driver from the airport to the hotel I would be staying at for IFSA orientation was a wonderful historian who introduced me to Scotland by telling me historical information about the places that we passed. We had a good laugh and I thought for the next four months I am going to love this place. When I arrived to the IFSA orientation, I was surprised that the staff knew my name. They introduced themselves and we had a bit of conversation. Again, I felt welcomed. I know this concept of feeling welcome is supposed to be the norm, however, it was my first time outside of the United States as a black woman. I was nervous about the experience and told IFSA-Butler. They assured me that I would be alright and that Scotland was a great choice and that they would help me to feel as welcome as possible. As I opened up and felt welcome by the Edinburgh community I had lots of fun.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
A part of my IFSA-Butler program was a homestay. My homestay was in Shap on the English side of the border between Scotland and England. My house mom took me and another student in the program to a local festival with "pagan" roots. It was interesting and unique to watch. There were costumes, drum-beating performances, and lots of stalls to shop from. The village was relatively small so it seemed about everyone was outside. It was a very beautiful experience that I was honored to have gotten the chance to be apart of.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

I could not be more grateful and lucky for the time IFSA gave me abroad. IFSA did an incredible job of helping me prepare during my application process and before I left the United States. The staff and website were helpful in making sure all of my application pieces were in on time and that I did and had everything I needed before entering a different country. Once I was in Australia my advisor Tamera became my go to. She was attentive, helpful and caring. She was always there to talk if there was an issue or just for a casual conversation.
IFSA did a great job of getting our program to bond. Right off the bat we were thrown into orientation, while exhausted of jet lag, it ended up being an amazing few days. Immediately, we got the Aussie experience, touring Sydney, seeing native animals and walking on gorgeous beaches. In this time I did everything with my IFSA Brisbane group and got to know them quickly. Throughout the semester IFSA and Tamera did an amazing job of organizing events, we did day trips, a weekend getaway and dinners. It was a great way to consistently see everyone and keep that special bond.
Another aspect of abroad that made my experience incredible experience living in the International House (IH). We had the option of IH or in an apartment. A few people I talked to during my application process spoke so highly of IH, so I went for it. IH was one of the best parts of my time abroad. It gave me a community with friendships, cultural growth, a support system and a new place to call home. Now when I look back on abroad, my greatest memories aren’t seeing world wonders, they are sitting in the IH dining hall, dancing at the IH ball or doing homework court yard.
Lastly, Australia, it is an amazing country. The people are welcoming and fun and I felt safe at all times. The landscape in incredible and the animals fascinating-- there is no lack of things to do or places to explore. I would love to go back some day and would encourage anyone who has the chance to spend some time down under they must.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would change my hesitation in the beginning to explore on my own. Over time I learned to embrace time and not other influence my experience.
Default avatar
Phyo Thuta
Yes, I recommend this program

When I was on a study abroad program with IFSA at the University of Sydney, I got a chance to join Orbit, a K-Pop focused dance crew, and SoulXPress, a Hip-Hop society.
Orbit Dance Crew produces dance videos where we cover-dance choreographies of famous K-Pop songs as well as participates in dance competitions. I joined Orbit in August, and we started practicing together soon after. Our practice location was around the ground area at the International Convention Center (ICC Sydney), and we used the glass wall of a building there as our mirror for rehearsing the choreographies. It was in public, and we were not the only group practicing in such a way. In fact, a lot of different groups such as skaters and football skill-freestylers would also come there to either practice or showcase their works. That was a very unique experience as a dancer for me because I had to build courage to practice dancing in public, which was new to me. Nevertheless, with the help of my fellow lovely Orbit members, I was able to bring my confidence up and danced along well. We entered a dance competition in Sydney in November and won the second place. I really enjoyed my time with Orbit.
SoulXPress always holds dance classes in various sub-genres of Hip-Hop in a dance studio at the University of Sydney every week. It was also very affordable for SoulXPress members to take these classes, and the dance teachers were amazing. I was able to shape up and improve my dance skills a lot better from those dance classes. SoulXPress also occasionally holds dance battles together with other dance societies from nearby universities, and those give a chance to show our skills to a wider audience while being able to learn from other dancers at the same time.
In conclusion, there are a lot of opportunities for dancers studying in Sydney. With all the helpful peer-dancers around, I am sure that every dancer will enjoy their times in Sydney.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I went camping with the Myanmar Cultural Society from the University of Sydney at the Basin campground in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park. It was my first time camping and sleeping in nature while listening to the ocean waves with wallabies (who also snatched our food) outside my tent! It was a very unique, exciting and relaxing experience during my journey in Sydney.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience studying abroad in New Zealand at the University of Auckland through IFSA was truly incredible. As a dancer and dance major, this program was filled with invaluable opportunities. Working with IFSA staff and UoA's internship coordinator, I was able to secure an internship with Dance and Arts Therapy New Zealand. This was one of the highlights of my time abroad and offered hands-on professional experience in a field of great interest to me. In addition, I was able to choreograph and perform on stage with the university's dance studies students. This experience led to tremendous growth as an artist, dancer, and choreographer. But beyond my academic experiences, the on-site IFSA staff were so supportive and strived to have everyone's experience be the best it could be. The IFSA sponsored trips allowed for opportunities to travel, explore, and learn while being immersed in the host culture and surrounded by New Zealand's breathtaking beauty.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Traveling to Australia was a dream of mine that IFSA made possible. It was quite intimidating to travel across the world by myself, but having the support of IFSA kept me on track and made me feel safe and secure. IFSA not only helped me make new friends, but also helped me transition into Australian life. If you are thinking about going abroad, you should! IFSA allowed me to make some of the best memories of my life, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity they provided. IFSA also planned so many fun activities for us such as seeing a show in the Sydney Opera House, seeing the beautiful Figure 8 Pools, hiking the Blue Mountains, going to a zoo where we had the opportunity to pet wildlife, and so many more exciting adventures. I loved this program so much!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When I was abroad, I was able to try new, exciting things and really go outside my comfort zone. I was able to skydive, bungee jump, go in a hot air balloon, scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, learn to surf, and my personal favorite, pet a koala. These are some of my favorite memories, and I highly encourage anyone interested in traveling to Australia to do it!!


Displaying 1 - 9 of 40

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I loved the idea of attending a university that focused solely on teacher training. In the United States, and at my school specifically, there is a core curriculum, so it is not possible to take classes that are solely focused on your major. All of my courses in Northern Ireland were about taking the skills learned, and bringing them into the classroom as an educator. I also think that teaching in a country outside of your own and experiencing a different culture makes you a more well-rounded individual and teacher.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My school held information sessions to give an overview of the program options for education majors, as well as rundown of the programs themselves. Once we applied for, and were approved for our chosen program, the education department and study abroad office hosted a more in-depth info session where we were able to talk to and ask questions of the previous year's participants.

Prior to my arrival, IFSA had a pre-departure webinar series that we received via email to prepare us for our trip. We were also given an orientation by IFSA staff in Belfast, over the course of our first few days in Northern Ireland.

We were in charge of booking our own flights and filling out documentation for our visas. It is super important to start both of these tasks as soon as possible, because for booking flights you definitely want to research for the best deal (student travel organizations are not always cheapest). Depending on the type of visa required, you may have a lot of questions as I did, and visas take a long time to process once submitted, so it is important to get started as soon as you receive instructions so that your provider is able to assist you in this process.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Research, research, research! Most people do not know much of the history of the country/city that they are about to enter. In my case, many people I spoke to did not know that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are separate countries. I myself did not know the implications of the separation between the two countries, and how the effects of conflict in Northern Ireland trickled down into their current government, education systems, and culture. While I learned so much while I was abroad, I wish I had done my own background research before my arrival, as it would have made me feel more comfortable engaging in discussion with the people I would meet.

To anyone that is thinking of going overseas, I would say definitely do it, because it is such an incredible opportunity that you may never get again after leaving college. Even if you do not do a lot of traveling to other countries outside of your host country, take the opportunity to explore and immerse yourself in the area you are in. Talk to people who have gone to your chosen location before, in order to get tips and tricks on residing in your host country, what to bring, the best ways to travel within the country, etc. Other students are your best resource, so use them!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Classes are scheduled a little bit differently than they are in the US, you may have a class two days in a row, and it is normal to have a class that is 2 or 3 hours, whereas in the US these would be considered "marathon" classes that you would be unlikely to have more than one of in a semester. Classes may also change times or rooms depending on the needs of the school, another thing that does not usually happen in the US without advance notice, so it's something to keep in mind when heading to class each day.

There is usually an hour in the middle of the day where no classes are scheduled so that everyone has time to grab lunch. Outside of reading, there will not be as many physical assignments to hand in throughout the semester, so take this time to go to the events Stranmillis puts on, or get involved in one of their clubs (keep in mind that the end of term papers do sneak up on you, so get started as soon as you can).

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear going abroad was the length of time that I would be away. I had traveled for extended periods of time before, and I live at school when it is in session, but I had never been gone for an entire three months without seeing my family.

I was nervous that it would be really difficult for me. I would say that I overcame this by spending lots of time with the other students in my flat. We spent a lot of time exploring Belfast, which allowed us to feel much more comfortable where we were, and confident in our ability to navigate the city. If anything, I now wish I had spent more time exploring alone, as I am pretty independent and like to take time to decompress away from others.

What was the most rewarding part of your experience?

The most rewarding part of my experience was getting to teach at Dundonald Primary School every Wednesday. I had a wonderful class of eager students who had so many questions for me about the US, and answered so many of my questions about their country and customs. My cooperating teacher was happy to have me help out, and allowed me to jump in leading small groups and working with individual students right away.

This was my first time teaching solo, and for a full day, and my confidence in my ability to be a good teacher was boosted. I learned so much about the differences in their education system, and have so much respect for the teachers in Northern Ireland. Many schools do not have separate teachers for all of the specials; this was true for my school and my teacher was responsible for leading art, music and gym, even when those may not have been her favorite things to do.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Sian Munro

Job Title
Resident Director, New Zealand Programmes
Sian began her international education career 17 years ago at the University of Otago, welcoming new students while undertaking Masters’ research into the impact of international students on domestic students. A move to the UK for 2.5 years working for AIFS in London on gap year programmes, travel in the UK, Europe and a summer camp in the US followed, Sian returned to Otago in International Student Support before joining IFSA 7 years ago.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My time abroad was spent working and traveling with my closest friends. We learned so much about the world, ourselves and each other. I cherish the experiences we had even the not so great ones. Next year we are reuniting in Bali for another adventure!

One memorable trip was staying in Dubrovnik, renting a room in someone’s home. Our host recounted the siege of the centuries-old city from December 1991. Her family hid in a cupboard for days, which must have been terrifying. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, made all the more stunning because of the tenacity of the people to rebuild, attract visitors back and be warm and welcoming hosts.

When I returned to New Zealand after 2.5 years overseas, the Immigration Officer gave me back my passport and said, “welcome home”. It was lovely to be home with a newfound desire to explore my own backyard.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

In my role, I have become more aware of the unique place Aotearoa New Zealand has in the world, particularly when compared to a country as globally influential as the USA. I get to see my country through the eyes of students who are brand new to it and eager to dive into our culture and explore as many opportunities as possible.

While our organization has a vast geographical footprint, IFSA is an extremely collaborative workplace. IFSA colleagues share their knowledge of our field relating to best practice, research, and media reports. More significantly, opportunities and challenges facing our students and how we can most effectively connect with and support our students. As a result, I am constantly learning and growing as an international education professional committed to enriching the lives of our students while they are onsite, knowing it will have an enduring impact on them.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

We had a student who developed an interest in cycling after riding a few trails during their semester in New Zealand. When the student returned to the US, this interest became a passion and she joined a not-for-profit organization fundraising and cycling across the US to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. We were fortunate enough that she became an IFSA student ambassador once she returned to her home campus until she graduated.

A couple of years later, she returned to New Zealand and worked for us as a Student Services Coordinator for a year on a working holiday visa. We see and hear lots of great stories from alumni by being connected on social media, but this was a great example of a study abroad experience going full circle!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Having the privilege of knowing the amazing impact all our wonderful Resident Directors and onsite staff have on our students in Latin America, the UK, and Europe, Asia and Australasia, it’s a very difficult choice!

I would definitely select somewhere I have never been before and a location completely different from the small city of Dunedin I live in, where a quarter of the 130,000 population are students and the climate is temperate. This would mean going to a country like India or China with a large population and a completely different climate, language, culture and cuisine.

The IFSA programmes in Pune and Shanghai explore these locations in a contemporary context which would be of significant interest to me as a social anthropology graduate.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

There is a beautiful Māori proverb which says,

"He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata."

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

I have a fantastic team who enrich our programmes by fostering a strong sense of community and take an individual approach to our student’s learning abroad both inside and outside the classroom.

Our staff all have different topics we present on at orientation which we break up by enjoying outdoor activities in a beautiful open-air eco-sanctuary. I was at the hospital with a student and was not going to make it back in time for one of the briefings I am responsible for. Our team divvied up the briefing and familiarised themselves with their sections. I returned in time to see them do a fantastic job of presenting it!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

From my perspective IFSA’s success comes from having a clear Mission, Vision and Commitments to underpin all the work staff worldwide undertake; from advising students about our programme offerings, working with our academic partners and operators in the US and our 19 programme countries, assisting students through the application and pre-arrival process, orientation, onsite support and programme delivery in both the academic setting as well as extra-curricular activities. While the Mission, Vision and Commitments might not be explicit to every student, as an organisation we have infused them into our programmes in a deliberate and meaningful way.

Professional Associations