Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

1.  Is study abroad a graduation requirement at SUA? And if so, why?

Yes. SUA does require its students to study abroad. SUA’s mission is to “foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life.”  To become a global citizen, one should gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a internationally interdependent and culturally diverse world. By studying abroad, we believe that students not only witness another culture, but they also experience the culture by adopting a new way of life. Students will encounter people from all walks of life with whom they are able to make a connection. Many SUA students comment they have gained a deeper cultural understanding and personal independence by living and studying in another country. Moreover, they agree they continue to reap the benefits of study abroad by encouraging cultural understanding in their own communities. We recognize that this enlightening experience is becoming an increasingly precious asset for students as we encourage them to become credible and sensitive members of today's expanding global community. As we look ahead, we reaffirm our commitment to the principles and values of SUA that guide this mission statement. 

2.  What kind of objectives does SUA set for students to achieve through study abroad?

Our general goals and objectives for study abroad are as follows;

  • Achieve competence in a foreign language by immersing in the life of the host country.
  • Sharpen students’ interpersonal and communication skills through interacting with people from backgrounds different than their own.
  • Equip students with new skills, broader perspectives, and an appreciation of cultural differences.
  • Foster a sense of global awareness by exploring the role students can play in the global community.
  • Experience the increasing interdependence of the U.S. and other countries with an international dimension and a global perspective.

SUA’s goal is to provide students with the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, experiences and attitudes necessary to prepare them for the global society of the 21st century. We truly believe that study abroad is one of the most effective ways to accomplish these goals.

3.  Are there any requirements students must meet before going on study abroad?

Yes. Please see “eligibility” page.

4.  How do students choose where to study?

Study Abroad occurs in a country in which the student’s language of study at SUA is the principal language spoken.  Currently, SUA offers programs in Chinese, French, Japanese and Spanish. 
5.  How many locations does SUA offer for study abroad?

Currently, we have over 20 towns and cities in 9 countries. The locations may change over time as we continue to monitor the quality of each study abroad program we oversee. For detail, please see “International Map” page.

6.  What kind of study abroad programs does SUA currently have?

SUA’s study abroad programs are centered on 2 major pillars: provider programs and SUA-administered programs. Currently SUA, in accordance with the university’s academic standards and guidelines, has approved more than 25 programs from 8 providers for SUA students. In addition to these sites, SUA has also established its own programs via direct relationships/agreements with host universities. Either through providers or SUA’s partner schools, each program may either be (co-)sponsored by a foreign university, another American college or university, or an independent organization. These program sponsors relieve the student of bureaucratic red tape by handling housing, registration arrangements, and securing the smooth transfer of credit back to SUA. While we feel proud of working with our associated vendors and foreign schools, the SAII Office and Study Abroad Faculty Committee will review them annually, based upon students’ program evaluations.

7.  Can students participate in a program that is not approved by SUA?

No. Students must select a program within our approved programs. We believe that our approved programs are arguably the best offered in the realm of study abroad. These programs have met our rigid qualifications and high expectations. We make sure that our students will experience the same quality of education and student services while abroad as they have at SUA. The SAII Office and Study Abroad Faculty Committee will continue to monitor each of the approved programs by reviewing them annually based upon students’ evaluations. 

8.  Where do students live during study abroad?

Where a student lives while abroad depends on the program. There are three basic types of housing arrangements: homestay, dormitory, and off-campus housing.

9.  Can students get any administrative help while preparing for study abroad?

Absolutely! A study abroad experience can be the most enriching academic and personal experience of your life.  However, the experience itself is merely the culmination of an involved and extensive process that could start as early as the beginning of a sophomore year at SUA. During the application process, the SAII office will help students with every step of the process and function as a resource for them. 

10.  What is the overall students’ experience during their study abroad? 

SUA student feedback is great and very positive. Of course, people experience different things – some good, some bad at times. But their overall experiences are so positive that administrators can clearly see their personal growth. Study abroad provides students with an opportunity to discover who they are and develop their personal capabilities. For example, many students often comment that studying abroad is about learning about oneself. “What are my limits?” “What can I overcome?” “How far can I stretch myself?” “How independent am I?” Being away from the “comfort zone” of home and North America allows students to explore and develop confidence in their own unique individuality. Study abroad allows students to find out who they are and what they believe in.

In addition, students agree that by studying abroad they have become more confident and assertive when facing new situations, and can "analyze" a social situation more quickly than before (i.e., figure out what is going on and react appropriately). They have a greater sense of responsibility for other people and a greater appreciation for what they have. Students are more aware of opportunities in life that are open to them, and more determined to develop fully their skills and talents, especially those recently gained through overseas living.

How effective study abroad can be reveals itself most clearly when students meet new people abroad. Getting to know new classmates, “roomies” and host family gives students a unique perspective on the host culture. Students discover the differences and, more importantly, the many similarities – humanity - between their worlds. Students often comment that studying abroad gave them the opportunity to reflect on their lives in the U.S. and learn new respect for all that the country represents and offers them. At the same time, they find that the American way is not always the best way for them; there are many ways to view the world. Study abroad is sure to be an eye-opener for them.

By pursuing a higher education, students have already empowered themselves to go farther in life than otherwise possible. By studying abroad, they can proactively up the investment in their future. With the world getting smaller every day, entering the work force with international experience already on their resume can be a huge plus. Employers take into account past experiences when hiring personnel. By citing that students have lived and studied in another country, they have already made themselves standout, as less than 5% of U.S. students currently study overseas. Adding a second or third language (which is often the case with SUA students) to the list of accomplishments allows students to set the bar high above the competition. A student says, “I feel that being abroad helped clarify my goals and values. I want to be able to use my skills in future work and can articulate what those are to a prospective employer.”  Study abroad doesn't just show that they are globally minded; it demonstrates that as an individual they are eager to learn, try new things, and overcome barriers to achieve goals. Not only will employers be more apt to look their way, but when they do students are statistically more likely to acquire a higher salary than the individual who lacks global flavor in their history.

One student comments: “Study abroad is not just a fun means of earning college credit and expanding students’ horizons; by studying abroad we are proclaiming our vested interest in a successful future.”
11.  Can I get more comments from study abroad participants?

Sure! The greatest success of our study abroad program is evident in the words of our students.  Please see Study Abroad Experiences.

Academic Questions:

1.  How do students determine which semester to study abroad?

In order to achieve an equitable balance between the number of students who will study abroad during the fall or spring semester of their junior year, students in either of the following two categories will travel in the fall semester of their junior year:

  • Those currently at the 300-level or above in the target language.
  • Those with the highest grades at the 201-level of the target language.

All other students will travel abroad during the spring semester of their junior year, provided that they have satisfied the requirement of successfully completing at least the 202-level in the target language. 

Individual students may appeal the semester to which they have been assigned by filling out the petition form which is available at the SAII Office and submitting it along with all pertinent information needed to present their case before the designated deadline. The SAII committee will consider all such completed petitions.

2.  What kind of courses do students take during study abroad?

It depends on the program. Essentially, there are three types of classes you can find in our study abroad programs: language acquisition courses, content (subject) courses for international students and university courses for locals. 

Students studying abroad must choose their courses based on the results of the Pre-Study Abroad Language Proficiency Tests they take at SUA. The Intermediate-Mid level as a test result is the determining factor whether or not the student can take regular university courses offered for local students. In other words, only students who have scored at Intermediate-Mid level or above will be approved to take university courses while abroad as valid units to complete the study abroad requirements. The students placed at Intermediate-Low or below will not be approved to take any regular university level for locals, but instead must enroll in language courses and/or content courses designed for international students.

3.  How many courses does SUA require students to take at school overseas?

While studying abroad, students are required to earn a minimum of 12 and maximum of 16 credits in the target language per semester. Furthermore, individual abroad programs will have their own respective policies concerning minimum and maximum number of credits. In order to successfully complete their study abroad requirement, students must be able to fulfill both the SUA academic guidelines for Academic Load as well as the ones from the individual study abroad program.

Registering for an overload is not recommended, nor will credit be granted for anything above what is considered a full course load.  However, an overload can be requested and approved in consultation with your language instructor, advisor and study abroad office. Please note that full time does not necessarily mean just 4 courses. Some students enroll in 3-5 courses abroad, and a few students enroll in 6 or 7 depending on the structure of education in the host country.

Students should also keep in mind that they will not receive credit for every course they enroll in (e.g. Ceramics, Photography, Tai Chi or Dance), even if the courses are offered in the target language. No credits for courses instructed in languages other than the target language will be transferred back to SUA.  Individual courses taken abroad cannot be transferred for fulfillment of SUA graduation requirements. As long as you complete the required number of credits abroad (12 to 16) with the appropriate courses approved by SUA, you are given SUA’s credit for Study Abroad, but not for particular coursework in particular concentrations.

4.  How does the course selection work?

Prior to departure, it is mandatory for students to consult about their choices with a member of the Study Abroad Committee who teaches their target language. Such a consultation will guarantee the selection of courses that reflect the students’ interests, SUA’s academic requirements, and the educational goals of the abroad host university unique to each site.

The consultation and approval process will ensure that students enroll in courses which will yield at least the 12 transferable credits necessary to fulfill their academic requirements for Study Abroad. Ultimately, however, each student is responsible for the courses chosen and must be careful not to mistakenly register for a course for which SUA cannot grant credit.

It is strongly advised that students retain all syllabi, reading lists and copies of any submitted work (including all papers and exams) as a record of their academic performance abroad. These may be necessary for evaluating whether or not the course credit can be counted at SUA.

5.  What will happen if a student fails to meet SUA’s requirements while studying abroad?  

Students will run the risk of not being in good standing academically if they fail to complete at least 12 credits either by not enrolling in the appropriate number of courses or by receiving a grade of F or NP for a graded course, or a grade of D for a Pass/Non Pass course.  This failure could result in the loss of their scholarships or other financial support. In addition, taking fewer than the required minimum number of credits will, in most cases, lead to that student not graduating at the end of the fourth year of study.

Students who fail to complete at least 12 credits must take a language class(es) in the same language upon return to SUA to make up the number of credits not completed. The language class(es) taken before Study Abroad will not be counted to make up the required 12 credits.

Financial Questions: 

1.  How does SUA finance a student’s Study Abroad?

The costs of Study Abroad and International Internships have been built into the tuition structure at SUA. The SUA’s total fees (tuition, room/board & insurance) will cover study abroad program fees including tuition, room and board, airfare, application, visa, insurance, medical fees and all other related and miscellaneous costs. Differences in the program fees and livings costs will not affect the total tuition because students participating in Study Abroad, regardless of the type of the program (SUA-administered or approved provider programs), will be treated as SUA students under SUA’s supervision, thus earning academic credits from SUA. In order to ensure that the quality of education abroad is equal to that of SUA, the SAII Office and Study Abroad Committee will meet to review all the approved programs every year.

2.  Does SUA pay airline tickets for study abroad?

Yes. SUA is responsible for the payment of students’ airfare. SUA will only pay for the airfare equivalent to the flight routes between Los Angeles International Airport and the student’s study abroad destination, from the program’s starting date until the ending date. Thus, it is each student’s responsibility to pay for the costs of any travel outside the realm of study abroad. Based upon the information on each program’s arrival and departure dates, SUA will determine the “standard” airfare for each destination. This standard fare is subject to change at any time prior to program start dates.

Students must note that they are responsible for any and all additional expenses incurred by deviating from the original designated arrival and departure dates and/or pick-up schedule.  There are three ways to purchase airline tickets: through SUA’s affiliated traveling agency,  programs’ travel agencies for group flights, or individual vendors.

Health/Safety Questions:

1.  How does SUA monitor students health and safety?

Student safety is SUA’s first priority. SUA carefully considers the safety of the locations where we send students. As students evaluate their study abroad plans, we encourage them to consider matters related to health and safety through meetings and orientations. We take precautions to ensure the security and well-being of students while studying abroad and also stay informed about events in each of the countries where we have students. SUA works with the providers and foreign institutions with extensive experience to continually improve their programs and make them safe for our students. 

Every program is managed by at least one resident director who speaks the local language fluently and who has lived or studied in the local city. Every program is also hosted by a local university, where program administrators support the resident directors as well as directly assist the SAII office in case of an emergency. And in times of crisis, our providers and partner schools will work with the host university on any necessary actions. 

At each location, upon arrival, students have an on-site orientation during which they are provided with an introduction to daily life at their specific site, which includes information on dining, public transportation, academic expectations, independent traveling and surrounding attractions. The orientation sessions also emphasize what precautions to take on site and the importance of good decision making when it comes to personal health and safety.

In addition, the SAII Office carefully monitors public announcements and travel warnings issued by the US Department of State.

2.  Do students have a health and medical insurance while study abroad?

Yes. To help ensure that students remain healthy while abroad, SUA requires all students to have “accidental, health, medical evacuation and repatriation of remains” insurance coverage.  Part of our insurance includes membership in International SOS, a leading travel and medical assistance company. SOS services include emergency evacuation, security advice, medical assistance (such as prescription advice or referrals to English-speaking doctors) and medical payment guarantee. Students receive an International SOS card for a 24-hour emergency contact service that will assist students wherever they are.

In addition, all of our students receive wallet-size emergency cards with telephone numbers for contacting the director of the SAII Office at SUA. 
It should be noted that students take full responsibility for knowledge of and understanding any limitations in his/her insurance policy that pertains to travel abroad. The student must agree that SUA discourages students from operating motor vehicles abroad and recommends that any student planning to operate a motor vehicle obtain liability and collision insurance in the applicable foreign countries.

SUA also recommends that students insure their property from loss or theft.  However it is the student’s responsibility to pay the cost of any personal insurance purchased.  Often, students take their laptops to their study abroad sites.

3. How does SUA support LGBTQ+ students with their study abroad?

Soka University maintains a strong commitment to diversity and the inclusion of all LGBTQ+ individuals. We understand that legal and social attitudes towards sexuality and gender vary significantly throughout the world. Our goal is to help our students select a study abroad program that fosters a safe global education and living environment regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

SUA students have access to LGBTQ+ social attitudes, laws, and resources as described by each program provider via our student portal. In addition, we recommend that students research the regional laws and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals carefully on their own in order to avoid discrimination or prosecution. Once outside of the United States, the laws here no longer apply. It is therefore important to be educated on the laws of your host country as you will be required to follow the laws set forth there. Your personal safety is our utmost concern. 

General Resources: