Are you uncertain about doing study away? Or are your bags already packed? In either case, you probably crave an idea of what it’s really like to do this. We’ve pulled together tons of tips, tricks, and student stories to give you an idea of what to expect on a study away experience – along with some advice for handling the unexpected! 

Student Stories

My Study Abroad Path: Daniel Lam, Duke in France

A Year in Paris and a Summer in Haiti Inspire Senior Thesis and Plans for a PhD
By Daniel Lam

I studied abroad during a year marked with several major moments in French history, including two violent attacks in the capital and one in Bataclan. I still remember my host dad reminding me that during hard times like this, though some people want to make religion or immigration the culprit, it is important to consider rights from wrongs and to stand together instead of to blame and divide.

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Spring in Berlin: Junior Zoey Zou talks about her classes, host family, and friends

Spring in Berlin: Junior Zoey Zou talks about her classes, host family, and friends

I am a Chinese national, and I went to high school in Singapore. I knew coming into Duke that I wanted to study abroad somewhere; I wanted to learn a new language. Duke in Berlin allowed beginners and, compared to other programs, that was unique.

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Smashing Watermelons, Smashing Politics: Joshua Curtis

Smashing Watermelons, Smashing Politics
By Joshua Curtis

When I was still in the States, the two most common responses I got after telling people about my upcoming trip to Morocco were 1) that I would love the food or 2) that I would need to be careful not to talk about anything political lest someone find out that I am American or Jewish or both and somehow try to kill me. I excitedly received the first response, while rolling my eyes at the second. I was still surprised to find out just how vastly unbalanced the aforementioned view of Morocco is.

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Duke in Costa Rica Meets First Female Chief Justice of the Supreme Couret

Meeting Costa Rica's First Female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

The Duke in Costa Rica students visited the Supreme Court of Costa Rica for a talk on violence and gender issues related to health. During the visit, they had the opportunity to meet Costa Rica’s first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Zarela Villanueva Monge.

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Duke in Silicon Valley: Week 2 Recap

Week 2 Recap from Duke in Silicon Valley

Week 2 Woohooo! We had the privilege of starting class with Dr. J (Dr. Jeremy Petranka) this week. I say privilege because several of us have already started calling Dr. J the best professor we have ever had.

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Breakfast on the Farm: Rachel Freedman

Breakfast on the Farm
By Rachel Freedman 

I spent my Christmas break working on a farm to pay for my stay in the south of France. The first thing we did on the farm each morning was to throw stale baguettes into the pastures. Alpacas, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks—they all went crazy for those baguettes.

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Gaining Fluency in a Second Foreign Language: Anna Mukamal

Gaining Fluency in a Second Foreign Language
By Anna Mukamal

Aix-en-Provence is the ideal locale for six weeks of immersing yourself in French culture and living with a host family. French is my second foreign language (I’m an English and Spanish double major) and this intensive course has been exactly what I need—the highlight of my experience has been gaining confidence in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing French!

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Duke in Berlin Hosts Pop-Up Photography Exhibition

Duke in Berlin students in Chris Sims’ Documentary Photography course hosted a pop-up art exhibition of their work. The exhibition will travel back to Duke with the students and will be on view in October at the Center for Documentary Studies.

Duke in Berlin, Summer 2016

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How Much “Pura Vida” Can I Fit in My Suitcase? Spencer Flynn

Costa Ricans live by a mantra: “Pura vida” or pure life. I think this photo of La Catarata La Paz (the waterfall of peace) near the beautiful Parque Nacional Volcán Poás captures the emotion behind that expression.

As a Duke student I pride myself on my work ethic, on my efficiency, on my ability to handle stress and busyness. And those are all great things. 

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Surprise, You’re Being Live Streamed! Samuel Slack

That time I spoke useful Chinese for two continuous hours to an audience of 30 … no, wait, I mean 5,000.

Four weeks into my summer classes in Beijing, my teacher came to me with an intriguing opportunity: a Beijing-based study abroad company wanted to host an information session for Chinese students intending on applying to American universities, and they hoped the participation of several current American college students would make this session particularly special. 

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A Spanish Excursion: Brandon Dalla Rosa

The time I spent studying abroad in Spain includes some of the best memories that I have made to this day. 

One notable example of these is when we were visiting Asturias and a couple of us saw a mountain in the distance which looked fun to climb. We then proceeded to run to the mountain and climb through what seemed like miles of prickly plants in order to reach one of the most incredible views I have ever seen. Of course, we also almost missed lunch, but small details. 

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A Summer of Becoming Madrileñas: Mathilde Ooi

In the short six weeks with Duke in Spain, I know that I have made some of the best memories I will have throughout Duke. From cities to grand cathedrals, Mallorcan beaches, the Picos de Europa mountain range, and not to mention the best gazpacho I will ever taste prepared by my host family, I experienced Spain like I have never experienced any country. 

Nevertheless, the highlight of my experience was the moment my rooommate and I became part of our homestay’s family. We weren’t just visiting students anymore, we had a home in Madrid, we felt like madrileñas. 

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Solidifying My Interests in Policy, History, and Culture: Alicia Pak

Here you can behold the beauty of Montmorency Falls—a natural wonder located just outside Quebec City, the provincial capital. The Montmorency and St. Lawrence rivers shaped Quebec’s trade and economy, serving as waterway transport for wood, one of Canada’s natural resources. 

Through Duke in Montreal, I spent part of July in Quebec City studying economic and cultural development of the region and meeting with such figures as the Minister of International Relations and the U.S. Consul General.

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Midnight Cruise: A New Perspective on the Familiar—Noah Burrell

Studying abroad in St. Petersburg was an unforgettable experience. The classes themselves were interesting and informative, but the city itself became a teacher of incomparable value. 

Each day of exploration led to new discoveries and adventures. St. Petersburg, a city that is in every way a union of European and Russian culture, invites you to look at both worlds from which it draws influence with a different perspective. 

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How I Got to Know the People on the Duke in Greece Program: Kayla Speidel

This picture was taken on the port of Folegandros, from the bathroom window of my boat cabin. Twenty-six people and I lived on this boat for a week, traveling nearly every day to a new island. 

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Las Hogueras: Festival of San Juan

Las Hogueras: Festival of San Juan
By Sam Sadler

How incredible is this statue made entirely of paper and wood? During our last week in Alicante, these gigantic hogueras (Spanish for “bonfires”) appeared in the streets almost overnight, blocking major roadways and decorating the city. After a tense competition to name the best statue, firemen proceed to systematically ignite each hoguera, and the entire city rushes to watch beautiful sculptures turn to mute ashes. 

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A Typical Day Attending the Oldest University in Europe: Sarah Perrin

Pictured here is the beautiful Piazza Maggiore, which I was lucky enough to walk through each day on my way to class. After passing through the Piazza, we would make our way through narrow streets lined with vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables and people gracefully tipping down their first espresso of the day. And right before entering classes, we made a pit stop in an inconspicuous little cafe, grabbing a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino to go. 

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A Bird’s Eye View of San Jose: Anna Balas

One of the highlights of my time in Costa Rica was receiving a bird’s eye view of the city of San Jose. This picture highlights the differences between my view of Costa Rica and the view out the window of my dorm at Duke.

At the beginning of the trip, I attempted to minimize the cultural differences in Costa Rica. Through my interactions with my host family, I became aware of the less obvious differences which shape culture and sense of belonging. Music, art, and food are obvious parts of culture, but so are interactions between families, moral viewpoints, and social classes. 

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Words That Don’t Translate: Flâner (French)—Brittany Wong

Pictured is a family rowing along the Lac Inférieur in Bois de Boulogne, one of the best of more than 400 parks and gardens throughout Paris. Although there are countless monuments and museums to see, I think one of the best aspects of the city is the abundance of green spaces. Originally a royal hunting ground before reinvention under Napoleon III in the 1850s, Bois de Boulogne remains one of Parisians’ favorite spots for a bucolic retreat without having to leave the limits of the metro system.

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Host Mom, New Friend: Madison Mastrangelo

Une partie de mon cœur reste à Paris. Part of my heart stays in Paris.

Through Duke in Paris, I spent an incredible six weeks living like a Parisian and improving my French. I never imagined that Paris would become similar to another home or that I would find my niche in the city. After my trip, I could navigate the metro easily, communicate in French without hesitation, and describe some of my favorite spots and “hidden gems” in Paris.

One of the highlights of Duke in Paris was the opportunity to live with a host family. 

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Daily Experiences in Costa Rica Make for a Unique Lifestyle: Harry Liu

Studying abroad in Costa Rica gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in an entirely new culture. The Ticos, what the Costa Ricans refer to themselves as, live by the motto "Pura Vida,” or Pure Life. Staying with a Tico family for a month allowed me to experience and live out the Pura Vida lifestyle.

The photograph was taken during one of my visits to a fería, or local market. The first thing I did with my host family was visit a nearby fería. Going to the market is truly a social experience. 

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Au Revoir, Montréal: Erin Butrico

Au Revoir, Montréal
By Erin Butrico

I was always the nervous type. I relied on my twin for everything. I used to stand behind her when I was scared. I liked to eat the same food and stick to the same routine. Even though I’m 20 years old now, and I’ve lived without my family for two years at Duke, I was still very nervous when my mom left me for this program. It was the first time that I was living in a city. I had never met these girls before. My French was mediocre. I felt very alone. 

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Absentee Voting

Hi everyone!!!

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Tarela Osuobeni: Duke in China, Summer 2014

Why did you decide to do the Duke in China program?

I wanted to expedite my Mandarin language study in order to achieve proficiency. My global advisor explained that Duke in China was the best way to do so. Within my political science major, I became interested in learning about China’s global standing in the world but felt I wanted to see the nation for myself.

How did going abroad improve your language skills and/or influence your ideas about Chinese culture?

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Who says you can’t eat your way through Italy and get course credit for it?

Tara Nagar and Isabella Turchetta are computer science majors at Duke who both chose to spend this semester studying abroad at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad provider in Perugia, Italy.

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My Semester in Dublin, Ireland, as a Mechanical Engineering Student: David Talpalar

…what I could never have imagined was the relationships that I would make with the locals…”

My semester at University College Dublin (UCD) was unforgettable. I knew when I decided to come to Dublin that I would be in a bustling city with great character. But what I could never have imagined was the relationships that I would make with the locals, the welcoming environment that I would be a part of, and the life in Ireland beyond simply the Dublin city centre.  

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Duke in Montreal

1. Explain why you decided to do Duke in Montreal.

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Discovering Cultural Differences in Food Science and Food Policy at CES Maastricht

I think that this proximity to their food is what inspires Europeans to be more vocal about their food systems and preferences.”

Read the full interview with Quinn:

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VIS Student Maja Islam Reflects on a Semester at Duke

VIS Student Reflects on a Semester at Duke
By Maja Islam

I can honestly say that the year that I spent at Duke University was not even close to what I imagined it would be – it was actually beyond anything I expected. What I am sure I will always remember are the wonderful people that I had gotten to meet, and the friendships that I have made with people from all over the world. 


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Learn More

How To Choose a Study Away Program

When it comes to choosing a study away program, the array of options can be overwhelming. It might seem easier to follow friends’ recommendations, but study away is really about your own path. What are you looking for? What are your academic and personal goals? Here’s a list to get you started with evaluating your needs:


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The Domestic Difference

At GEO we believe you can have a global experience anywhere in the world, including right here in the U.S. The Duke Global Education Office administers a growing number of domestic study away programs in iconic US places such as: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Alaska, and Silicon Valley. 

What makes GEO domestic programs unique? 

1.     Pre-Professional Focus

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Study Away Myth Busters

Before you draw conclusions about study abroad/away, there are a few key misperceptions floating around that you’ll want to research for yourself.

Myth #1: I will not receive major, minor, or certificate credit or fulfill any of my graduation requirements on my study away program.

When you study on Duke-In programs you earn Duke credit or a combination of Duke credit and transfer credit. Duke courses taken abroad fulfill the same requirements as on-campus courses.

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Health, Safety & Security

Health & Wellness Topics You Probably Forgot About

Health & Wellness Topics You Probably Forgot About

This checklist will help you think about your health-related needs and take care of what needs attention before you depart. Things like what to pack, what to do if your routine medical visits falls during your time away, glasses and contacts, prescription medications, and immunizations, to name a few.

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Driving While Abroad

Driving While Abroad

While we strongly recommend that you not drive while abroad, should you choose to do so, you may need a special driving permit, a road permit, or both to drive in certain countries. An international driver’s permit, available from your local automobile association, should be recognized by many countries and may, with your driver’s license, suffice for driving.

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Laptop and Smartphone Security

Do You Know the Most Common Site of Laptop and Smartphone Theft?

It is easy to carry a laptop or smartphone around; but, unfortunately, it is just as easy for thieves to steal one. In the seconds it takes you to turn around to greet a friend in a coffee shop, a thief can pick up and make off with your valuables. Bottom line: You need to guard your laptop and phone as closely as you guard your wallet.

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Safety & Security While Traveling

Smart Things You Can Do To Avoid Unsafe Situations

Just like in the United States, it is important that you are vigilant and take commonsense precautions to safeguard yourself while on your study away program. Indeed, it may be even more important to be vigilant while studying abroad, as you may not know all of the nuances of your host country’s local laws and cultural norms. There are proactive steps you can take to help make sure you have a safe trip abroad.

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Minimize the Risks of Sexual Misconduct

Things You Can Do to Minimize the Risks of Sexual Misconduct 

Sexual assault and rape are prevalent globally, and no one is immune. While female-identifying students are statistically more susceptible, students of any gender identity should exercise caution and awareness. Sexual assault can happen at any time or place. It is important to remember that sexual violence is never your fault.

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Sexual Misconduct on Study Away

Sexual Misconduct on Study Away

Duke University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a living and learning community that is free from harassment, violence, and discrimination. Familiarize yourself with Duke’s sexual misconduct policies and the options for reporting, both confidential and non-confidential.

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World Situation FAQ

The safety and security of Duke students studying abroad is the first priority for Duke University and the Global Education Office for Undergraduates (GEO). Thus, using information and analysis from sources including the U.S. Department of State, Duke’s international security and evacuation partner, International SOS, our on-site program contacts, and various domestic and international news agencies, we are constantly monitoring and assessing the security conditions in and around our study abroad sites.

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Ask a Duke Student

Want to ask someone who’s done this before? Students on the Global Ed Student Committee have done various Study Away Programs, both Duke-In and Duke-Approved. They volunteer to be a resource for prospective students, answering questions and providing authentic peer-to-peer advice.