Coursework and Program Components

"As one of the foremost schools for cross-cultural education in the world, [SIT’s] record is one trail-blazing effort after another, a whole series of initiatives that have transformed both the world, and the way education about the world is shaped."

—US Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

SIT Study Abroad programs are small, theme-based, and utilize an experiential, interdisciplinary curriculum. Classroom instruction and field study are incorporated into each course. Program components form a logical progression whereby students advance from a structured learning environment to a more independent one.

Semester programs offer either 16 or 17 credits,  and summer programs offer between 6 and 9 credits.

Students attend a briefing at the United Nations in Geneva

Each SIT program is composed of several of the following components. Program-specific components are listed on individual program web pages.

  • Interdisciplinary Seminars.
    Thematic seminars merge student experience with academic theory to examine critical issues from multiple perspectives. Students learn from SIT faculty as well as guest lecturers from local universities, research institutes, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community and professional associations. Field-based activities and assignments complement readings, discussions, and research papers, allowing students to engage in a variety of study methods.
  • Educational Excursions/Site Visits.
    Excursions outside the classroom are an integral part of each program. Excursions can include half-day or daylong site visits to government agencies, NGOs, or professional associations. They can include longer stays, such as visiting a rural village, ecosystem, or neighboring country. Excursions provide comparative perspectives on important program themes and offer new settings in which to engage in fieldwork, practice language skills, and make contacts for the Independent Study Project. Intensive learning—through seminars, workshops, and group discussions—continues during periods of excursion.
  • Intensive Language Study.
    Programs typically offer language study at the intermediate and advanced levels and/or beginning instruction in a less commonly taught language spoken by the local community. Language courses incorporate formal classroom instruction, discussion, and field exercises designed to enhance student engagement while improving oral and written competence. Select programs are taught entirely or partly in the target language.
  • Research Methods and Ethics.
    Students learn appropriate methodologies that prepare them to undertake fieldwork on topics connected to the program’s theme and specific cultural context. Students develop research skills and approaches including cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; contact and resource cultivation; observation and interviewing skills; gathering, organizing, and presenting findings; and maintaining a field journal. Students also examine the ethics and impact of their research on local communities and are required to follow the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy, which serves as an approval process and guide for ethical field study practices.
  • Independent Study Project (ISP).
    Typically conducted during the last month of the semester, the ISP allows students to pursue original field-based research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The academic director advises each student on developing a project plan. Students also identify an ISP advisor who works with the student on the design, implementation, and evaluation of the student’s research project. Final projects generally include a 20- to 40-page paper and presentation to peers, academic staff, and interested members of the host community.
  • Case Studies.
    Case studies offer opportunities for in-depth investigation and study through independent research and field visits. Students observe people and practices related to their chosen subject matter. Projects may include interviews with community members or local agencies, written questionnaire surveys, and thematic and quantitative content analyses. Students may design oral presentations of research findings.
  • Community Volunteer Experience.
    On some SIT programs, students may have the opportunity to pursue community volunteer experiences that allow them to take more active roles in the issues they are studying. Some students may choose to incorporate a guided practicum experience into their Independent Study Project.

Host family in Madagascar

  • Homestays.
    Most programs include at least one homestay experience, offering students the chance to gain a close view of the local culture and to experience the daily rhythm of life in the host country. Homestays provide further context and perspectives on issues being studied, as well as opportunities to improve language skills and deepen cultural understanding. SIT designs homestays to reflect the full diversity of the community, partnering with families who represent a variety of occupational, economic, and educational levels. Many programs offer homestays in both urban and rural areas to give students contrasting views of life in different social or ethnic contexts. Learn more about the homestay experience.

    When not in homestays, students stay in appropriate lodgings that may include guest houses, educational institutions, camping, or small hotels.
  • Orientation, Program Evaluation Period, and Reentry Preparation
    All programs include a thorough orientation that incorporates health and safety information and tools for cross-cultural adaptation. Programs conclude with a guided reflection and discussion period that examines the impact of the experience. Through this reentry preparation, students are encouraged to consider how they can incorporate their experience in the future. During this time, students also have the opportunity to provide feedback on their program.