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Study Abroad

Each year several psychology majors and minors participate in Study Abroad programs. Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to experience a different culture and to take advantage of the resources of another educational institution. If you plan to study abroad, here are some things to keep in mind:

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You should meet with Dr. Sara Broaders, Director of Undergraduate Studies, or with Dr. Ben Gorvine to discuss your plans for studying abroad. Either of them can sign your NU Study Abroad application to indicate department approval of your plans. They can also talk with you about psychology courses you might take abroad. Discussing your plans ahead of time will increase the likelihood that you and the department will agree on how courses you take abroad fit into the requirements for the psychology major or minor. To make an appointment, contact the Undergraduate Program Assistant in the psychology department office (Swift Hall 102, phone 847-491-5190) or email


Official department permission to count study abroad courses toward the psychology major or minor cannot be given until you have returned to NU. Be sure to save course syllabi and papers. In order to receive credit toward the major or minor, you will also need to complete the Weinberg College Petition for Credit from Study Abroad. Either Dr. Sara Broaders or Dr. Ben Gorvine can sign this form.

We will give credit for most classes that are offered in a psychology department. They should not duplicate or substantially overlap with courses that students have already taken. We do not give credit for classes that are predominantly Freudian or that are not "psychology" courses (e.g. computer programming for psychology research). If a class maps onto one of our offerings, that is the course a student will likely receive credit for. Other courses will be assigned a Special Topics course number. Review of the courses for credit is done when the student is back at NU and the study abroad transcript has posted to the student's Northwestern transcript. We do not accept Statistics, Research Methods, or upper-level research courses taken abroad. 

With department permission, students studying abroad for less than a full year can count a maximum of 2 credits toward a psychology major or minor. (Additional psychology courses beyond those counted toward the major or minor can generally count as WCAS electives.) Students studying abroad for the whole academic year can count up to 4 credits earned abroad toward the requirements for the psychology major or up to 3 credits toward the psychology minor.


If you are a psychology major who will be abroad for all of your junior year, then you should complete PSYCH 201-Statistical Methods and PSYCH 205-Research Methods before you go, and you should at least get started on your Column A and Column B requirements. This preparation will make it much easier for you to complete your major requirements when you return.


Many institutions abroad offer excellent psychology courses on topics different from those taught at NU. Taking a course that interests you and that is not taught at NU is often an excellent idea. Keep in mind, however, that although such courses can often count as 300-level courses for the major, they are much less likely to count toward your Column A (social/personality/clinical) or Column B (cognitive/neuroscience) requirements. Courses taken abroad may not count toward the upper-level research requirement. Be sure to talk with Dr. Broaders or Dr. Gorvine about whether you should take courses to fulfill specific requirements.

Many psychology students who go abroad for just one quarter will be in fine shape on the major or minor even if they do not take psychology courses abroad. They may focus their work abroad on language study, on courses relevant for a second major or minor, or on longer term goals. Progress on the major/minor is an important issue to discuss when you meet with an adviser about your Study Abroad application.


Many psychology students become involved in PSYCH 399-Independent Study or 397-Advanced Supervised Research during their junior year. If you are not at Northwestern during your junior year, you will miss out on some opportunities to take part in these hands-on research activities. What you gain through study abroad may more than make up for what you miss – but you should be aware of the fact that this is one drawback.

Students sometimes ask if they can earn PSYCH 399 credit for research completed abroad. The answer is almost always no. A better option may be to build on your work abroad as part of a project done after you return to Northwestern. See the Study Abroad Office webpage on doing research abroad for more information.


AN IMPORTANT NOTE FOR STUDENTS CONSIDERING BOTH AN HONORS THESIS AND STUDY ABROAD:  For students who believe they might wish to pursue Departmental Honors in Psychology and complete an Honors Thesis their senior year, it is important that they complete any Study Abroad their junior year. Preparing an Honors Thesis is an intensive, year-long project that requires close mentorship from a supervising faculty member. The Honors Program is designed to help students complete this project through a series of milestones, which includes attending the Honors Seminar in the fall quarter where you will finalize your plans for the research you will conduct and begin to draft your thesis. Therefore, barring extraordinary circumstances, it is not possible to miss the Honors Seminar while studying abroad your senior year and still pursue Departmental Honors.