For students looking for greater independence and flexibility in their travel abroad experience, independent study may be the best option. This will require a greater degree of diligence on the student’s part because he or she will need to be driven to do research and seek out opportunities outside OU’s established programs. Students should still make an appointment with the study abroad advisor for their region of interest, but they will have greater flexibility in being able to travel and explore. In contrast, many of OU’s programs are more structured and activities are scheduled for you in advance, including weekend events. Even if you choose not to do one of OU’s traditional programs, you can possibly still apply GEF and other study abroad scholarships, such as the airfare scholarship, to your independent study experience. It is also wise to look for scholarships within your particular program or through the institution you plan to study with abroad. You will need to pay for insurance to cover any potential healthcare needs abroad. Even if you are studying independently, you will have access to the director of risk management and all of OU’s other safety resources abroad.
If you are interested in independent study, it’s a good idea to talk to others who have done a similar program and research potential travel warnings and safety concerns. You should also register with the State Department and make sure the nearest consulate knows where you are and how to reach you. OU offers pre-departure orientations where students who’ve completed one of the five traditional program types are invited to attend and talk to students who are about to travel abroad. Even if you are doing an independent study program, it may still be helpful to attend one of these sessions to get an idea of steps you need to take before traveling abroad. Yet another reason why talking to other students who’ve been abroad and done similar programs to the one you’re interested in is that when you present your proposal for independent study to the study abroad office, it may be easier to get approval if you know of someone who’s done the program or been to the region.
One concern students who do independent study may have is how their credits will transfer to their OU transcript. Student who choose to pursue independent study will need to negotiate their credits, so they’re advised to talk to professors in their department about what courses they can receive credit for abroad. Knowing other students who have done a program similar to yours and having a faculty member on your side before you leave the states can ease the haggling process when it comes to getting credits transferred.