Direct Enrollment in a university abroad allows you to enroll directly in a foreign university as an exchange student, rather than going through a third-party program provider. With this study abroad option your classes will be conducted in the language of the region and your classmates will be regular university students. While your status as a student will not be dissimilar from your experience at your home institution, the cultural differences and nuances you’ll face at an institution abroad will further enhance your learning experience.

There are many benefits to direct enrollment as a study abroad option. Because of the nature of an exchange program system, you’ll be more independent and more deeply engrossed in the local culture. If you choose to study in a location that has a different language than English, this means your opportunities to kick your language skills up to the next level will be amplified.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits is cost. You’ll likely save on costs such as tuition and fees for this option tend to be lower, and in many cases tuition abroad is less expensive than universities in the United States.

For students who are comfortable with going abroad, directly enrolling in a local institution can provide a welcome change from their normal university setting. Because of the increase in responsibility this study abroad option places on the student, however, direct enrollment is best suited for students who are proactive and confident in their abilities to navigate life overseas. Though this option does involve additional work, it also comes with many benefits including:

  • It's cheaper -- In fact, tuition abroad tends to be less expensive than at universities in the United States.
  • You'll have more independence -- As a directly enrolled student you will be the captain of your own experience abroad. While it will be up to you to navigate cultural nuances, form connection and find housing, this is a great program-style students who want to be fully integrated into local culture and live like a local.
  • Immersion opportunities -- Since you will be considered a local student, you can choose your courses from a diverse selection offered by the host university. This will allow you to be fully immersed in your institution and form authentic connections with your local classmates. Since there is less structure, you’ll be able to immerse yourself outside the classroom as well as you build a life in your new destination.

If you are pondering the option of directly enrolling in an institution abroad, there are a few considerations you’ll need to take into account as you make your decision, as this option does come with less support for students. Have a think about the items below before committing to an exchange program.

  • Your language skills – if the local language is something other than English, you’ll need to take an honest assessment of your language skills to determine if you can speak, write and understand the local language proficiently to succeed in your classes abroad. In some classes limited courses in English are offered at universities where the local language is different.
  • Class credit – You might find that credit to your home university is not guaranteed to transfer, or it might be more difficult to coordinate. Check with your university advisor to determine transfer credits before you go abroad so that there won’t be any surprises down the line.
  • Less support -- You will have less support as a directly enrolled students than those who go abroad through third party programs. Third party programs will provide assistance for logistical arrangements, such as travel, visas, housing, etc, as well as academic and social guidance.

From purchasing flights to getting a visa to signing up for classes, you'll be responsible for organizing everything on your own if you're doing direct enrollment. For full details on everything you'll need to do in order to prepare, read the complete guide to preparing for a study abroad trip without a program provider.

Many international offices within universities outside of the United States do provide hands-on support for their international students. This is a factor to consider when selecting your university if you're seeking a balance of support, but a high level of independence in your study abroad experience.

Getting a Student Visa

In order to study abroad in another country you’ll need to obtain a student visa. This process varies from country to country. Find out your host country’s visa requirements via the embassy or consulate website for that country. Begin this process early as it can be time-consuming.


Housing isn't usually guaranteed when you enroll directly, so you'll need to budget for that as well as do the leg work to find your own place to live. Dorms, homestays, and shared off-campus apartments are common options for direct enroll students.

Booking a Flight

Start monitoring prices of flights to your host country early so you can get a sense of how much to budget for this expense. Be sure to check a variety of websites to find the best price. In some cases, it may be more strategic to book a ticket that is more expensive initially but will allow you to book open end round trip or change your return date without a large change fee.

Enrolling in Classes

Since you’ll be directly enrolling, you’ll also need to enroll in classes on your own. Ask your host institution abroad for a class list before you depart. Review this list with your academic advisor to select courses that will meet the requirements for your degree and transfer.


As a directly enrolled student you likely won’t be getting a packing list, but determining what to bring with you doesn’t have to be difficult. The first rule of them when packing to study abroad is less is more – pack light and bring only what you can carry. You won’t need much for a semester abroad; unless you are going to a remote location, most cities abroad will have all the necessities such as toiletries. Research the weather of your destination and be sure to bring clothing that is suitable for the season you’ll be studying abroad. Dress styles also vary by country, so be sure the clothing you bring will be appropriate in your new host country/city.

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