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.


6201 Corporate Drive
Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46278
United States


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


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No, I don't recommend this program

I would recommend studying abroad in India for anyone who thinks their future academic work relates to it. It's a very different society, and definitely challenging in a lot of ways. While the program should have been supportive and understanding, they were actually the source of all my problems. I would describe the staff as unforgiving, unsupportive, and unaccommodating. You don't get any sick days. If you're sick, you have to suck it up and go to class, which starts at 8 and goes until 6 pm. You are treated like a child. The academics are a joke. No one cares. You have packed days where they try to prevent you from seeing India. You are trapped in a horrible classroom, squirreled away from all the other students and people your age. A few of the teachers are incredibly kind. The Hindi teacher they have is abusive and cruel. The resident staff is the opposite of understanding, especially if you're brown. If you can pass as India, expect a double standard at every turn. God. What a waste of time, energy, and money. I wish I had just lived in India off of grant money!!

What would you improve about this program?
I would cancel this program. Literally just don't go. It's not worth it!
Response from Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA)

Dear Ananya,
We are deeply disappointed to hear about your experience. We are committed to receiving and acting upon student feedback to ensure the highest quality programming for our students. It is our understanding that you have already shared your feedback with our team, including our CEO, who were recently in Pune; they are already working on modifications based on what you shared. If you have additional thoughts you would like to share, please reach out to us using the contact information on our website to continue the conversation. We take all student feedback very seriously and use it to improve aspects of our programs for future students.

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Yes, I recommend this program

While I was abroad I participated in an internship course at University of Sydney. My internship was in an ecology research lab on campus that worked with wallabies,
ringtail possums, and bush rats. It was a very relaxed setting and I really enjoyed helping different PhD or Honors students with their projects and field work excursions. I worked around 10 hours a week and I am really glad I was able to participate in this unique global work experience. The internship opportunity was what drew me to IFSA and I am really glad I chose to study abroad with them. There are many different internship placements for students and some of friends studying business were able to intern at various companies in Sydney. No matter what you are studying, there is an internship or research position available for you.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I went skydiving with some friends! I never thought it would be something I would actually do but we had so much fun. Australia has so many fun activities and it made my trip even more memorable!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I absolutely loved my semester abroad at Stranmillis University College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Even though it was a year ago I still talk about it every day and talk to the people from my program every day. I loved the city of Belfast, it had lots to do including shopping, food, markets, pubs, a museum all only about a 30 minute walk from the campus. I always felt very safe and the city has great, simple transportation including taxis and buses. I am an Elementary Education major so loved the opportunity to be a student at a primarily education major college and learn about education from a different perspective. IFSA and Stranmillis staff were so kind, welcoming and helpful. IFSA staff was always available for any type of query and they organized cultural immersion excursions for us. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to go abroad with IFSA to Belfast. I learned and grew so much as a person as a result of this experience.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't just spend the semester with other Americans or people from your home university. It is so amazing to have the opportunity to get to know international students from all over the world or local students from the university you go to. There is so much to learn from them and you can build life long international connections.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Studying in Edinburgh with IFSA was the best decision I've ever made. I absolutely loved living in this beautiful city - every single street looks like it came straight out of a storybook. I woke up every morning simply happy that I chose to study in such a unique and amazing place.

Not only was Edinburgh incredible, but I also loved living in Scotland as a whole. Some of my favorite memories was listening to live Celtic music in pubs and learning how to Ceilidh dance with amazing friends that I had met!

One of the best parts of studying abroad with IFSA was how well organized it was and the trips included in the program. IFSA gave us the perfect amount of assistance. There was never a moment when I was unsure what was going on, and even if there was, I knew the IFSA staff was there to answer any questions I had. As for the trips, we went on three weekend adventures - to the Argyll Forest where we kayaked and rock scrambled, on a homestay weekend where we stayed with a Scottish host family, and lastly, to the Isle of Skye where we hiked to the Old Man of Storr.

I really hope to go back to Edinburgh one day - truly became my home away from home! I would choose this program all over again in a heartbeat!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Do something new every chance that you get - seriously a once in a lifetime experience!
Me at the Alqueva Dam in Portugal
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an incredible year abroad in Leeds. I study Mechanical Engineering, and the program and classes available at the university were really great and filled all of the requirements that I needed. The social scene is really exciting there too! The city center is super close to the uni and the city is full of university students, so you always feel like you are around people your age and that there's always somewhere to go to every night. I'm also really glad I chose to go abroad with IFSA. They were super helpful with sorting out visa forms and housing and classes before I left, and were super useful while I was over. They even called me when I was sick to make sure I knew how to see a doctor! Overall, the university was beautiful and very prestigious, and IFSA as support and staff were incredible as well. If I were to go abroad again, I would definitely use IFSA again.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I were to do the same program all over again, I would try and live in housing with other international students. I found it kind of difficult to settle in and figure everything out on my own, even though it was helpful in improving my sense of independence. I know that if I were to have lived with other people that were in the same situation that I was, it would have been an easier transition.


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Alumni Interviews

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

Adrianna C. Perry

Adrianna is junior at Providence College studying Elementary and Special Education. She believes that experiencing teaching/education systems in other countries is the best way to become a well-rounded educator, and hopes to live in a country outside of the U.S.A upon graduation for undergrad.

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

The Forum on Education Abroad Logo
Institute of International Education Logo