Science International Exchange

Internationalizing your degree

Students in the Faculty of Science are encouraged to Go Abroad in a number of different ways: academic exchanges, internships, co-op jobs, summer programs, volunteer opportunities, and more. Through Waterloo Passport, you'll be able to explore the programs and destinations available to Waterloo Science students.

For more information about other international programs, such as internships and service learning (volunteer) programs, please contact the Global Learning Coordinators.

A photo of the mountains in Mallorca

A photo of the mountains in Mallorca

A photo of Cala Deia (beach) in Mallorca

A photo of Cala Deia (beach) in Mallorca

A photo of a student hiking in the mountains of Madeira

A photo of a student hiking in the mountains of Madeira

A photo of the mountains in Madeira

A photo of the mountains in Madeira

student on exchange in Venice

Student on exchange in Venice

A photo of a student hiking Monte Abantos in Madrid

A photo of a student hiking Monte Abantos in Madrid

A photo of a science student standing infront of tulips in the Netherlands

A photo of a science student standing infront of tulips in the Netherlands

Why go abroad?

Still in doubt about whether you should go abroad? Here are a few reasons to consider an international experience:

  • It's an amazing opportunity to be exposed to different cultures and promote multicultural competence!
  • You will meet people from other countries, participate in clubs and activities, improve your interpersonal skills and your confidence to interact with a variety of different people!
  • You'll have a chance to improve your language skills.
  • It can be your starting point to travel to different parts of the world.
  • You can study abroad for one or two terms and experience a new academic environment, take courses that are not offered at Waterloo, and use them towards your degree.

Information for going on exchange


  • Minimum overall average of 70% (some universities may require an average of 75% or higher)
  • Have at least an overall satisfactory standing for your program
  • Be an advocate for the academic integrity of the University of Waterloo
  • Be proficient in the language of instruction, if courses are not taught in English
  • You must be at least in your second year when you apply to go in your third year (completed four full academic terms at Waterloo).
    • Some summer programs may be more flexible.
  • An exchange term cannot be your last academic term.
  • The Faculty of Science has the final decision on whether to endorse a student, taking a student's entire academic record into account. The endorsement can be revoked if academic performance suggests a student is unlikely to be successful on exchange.


Tuition/Program fees


For international exchanges, you pay your normal tuition fees to Waterloo prior to departure, for a total of 2.5 units. There is no extra tuition charged to participate in an exchange program and the tuition does not change if you take a lighter course load at your host school.

While studying abroad, you're responsible for any extra studying costs (books, lab fees, etc.), travel expenses, passport and visa arrangements, accommodations, food and all other living expenses, including health care. Costs of living abroad may vary considerably depending on the destination. 

You can also take your OSAP with you! It is important to research application, travel, and living costs (which vary by country). To help you calculate how much an exchange might cost, please review the Waterloo Passport program pages. 

Study Abroad Programs

For study abroad programs, you pay fees at your host school. Some Waterloo programs offer a study abroad experience specific to a department or faculty.

Summer and Short-term programs

Summer and Short-term programs through the University of Waterloo vary in terms of who the fees are paid to. For some summer programs, you pay the program fee directly to the host school. For others, you pay your tuition fees to UWaterloo. You can find this information, as well as the program cost, on the program's summary page in Waterloo Passport.

Exchange Scholarships and Bursaries

There are a variety of scholarships and bursaries available for students who are going on exchange.

International experience awards – one application to be considered for them all!

FSF Education Travel Award – just for Science students!

Before you apply

  1. Attend a self-registered mandatory info session on LEARN. Check detailed available dates on Go Abroad web page.
  2. Research where you want to go on Waterloo Passport.
  3. Talk with your program advisor about your exchange plan and courses.
  4. Look at the courses you still need to graduate and upcoming co-operative terms (if applicable). Try to get most of your required courses out of the way before you go on exchange or have a plan of when you will take those courses when you return to Waterloo in accordance to your sequence.
  5. Check the term dates, duration, and language of instruction of the host schools to ensure they would be a good option for you.
  6. Check out the Global Experience Certificate (GEC).

For more information, please visit the Student Success Office Go Abroad website.

How do I apply?

Once you have done your research and spoken with the right people, you are ready to apply. Application instructions can be found through Waterloo Passport.

Two application rounds for exchange academic cycle occur one year in advance of the desired exchange term, which run based on school year (September - August). This includes exchange terms of fall, winter, spring and summer programs in spring:

Round 1 - October

Round 2 - February

Spots for all terms in an exchange academic cycle will be open for application in the 1st round. Only the remaining spots from 1st round will be available in 2nd round.

To be considered in the 1st round of nominations, applications are due October 31, 11:59 pm. Applications submitted after November 1 will be considered in the second round.

When applying for an exchange program, you are encouraged to list up to four program choices in one application, but your first choice will be prioritized.

After applying, a non-refundable fee will be required before your application can be considered.

Course Selection and Transfer Credit

Course selection

Once you know which school you will be going to, it is important to start selecting your courses and obtaining course equivalencies. You need to look into courses early and have them assessed before you leave for your exchange so that you know what transfer credits you can expect to receive when you get back to Waterloo.

Here are some tips for picking courses for an exchange term:

  • Create a course wish list based on program requirements and your personal interests.
  • Understand the credit system of the host institution to determine how many courses to take
  • Be flexible! Pick some top choices as well as some extra courses if any changes should occur.
  • Reach out to your program advisor with any questions you may have or if you're uncertain about what courses to take

Course equivalencies

*Make sure to include a thorough syllabus for the course as well as a description to aid in the assessment process.

Non-Science students*: Please connect with your home faculty Exchange Representative and use this form to send requests for possible Science course equivalencies.

Science students*: Please contact the following advisors directly. Make sure you keep all the email records and forward them to Science Exchange once they are completed.

Course code/subject Advisor name
BIOL Marcel Pinheiro
CHEM Steven Forsey
EARTH John Johnston
PHYS Richard Epp

Science Exchange

While away on exchange, you will be enrolled in the placeholder course SCI 395/396/397 Science Study Abroad Program, for the term of the exchange. Once we receive your official transcript from your host school, the placeholder course will be replaced on your transcript by the transfer credits.

Students need to obtain at least the passing grade of the host university, or equivalent, in order to transfer the credit back to the University of Waterloo. Refer back to the Waterloo Passport school profile for any exceptions or special notes for this rule.

The grades you achieve in your exchange courses are not calculated in your UWaterloo average and will only show up on your UWaterloo transcript as credit (CR). Science will not transfer failed courses. However, you may need to submit your exchange transcripts along with your UWaterloo transcript for further education applications.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How do I register in courses? The Global Learning Coordinators will provide you with more information about how to register in courses at the partner institution. This may be part of the partner application process after you are matched or may happen separately.
  • Can I make course changes after I arrive? Yes, if you need or want to make changes once you get to your exchange school, you will need those courses assessed. Follow the same process as above to get course assessments. It's recommended that you start looking at courses as soon as possible! Email us if any changes need to be made!
  • What is the difference between specific and generic course equivalents?  Most of the courses you will take on exchange will not be direct or specific matches to courses offered at UW. You receive general or generic credit matches for these courses. Specific or general course matches have the same credit value (0.5 units).
    • Specific Course Equivalents: These are courses that have content similar or close to a course offering at UW. The course will be transferred back to your record as a specific transfer credit (i.e. BIOL 130, EARTH 122 or CHEM 120). For specific course equivalencies, a course outline or syllabus will be required. A reminder to students that specific course equivalencies are not guaranteed on exchange, but can be approved when possible.
    • General Course Equivalents: These are courses that do not match courses or content offered at UW, but are relevant to your studies and in a discipline offered at UW. If you are eligible to take the course, it will be transferred back your record as a generic transfer credit (i.e. SCI 1XX, PHYS 2XX, MNS 3XX or MISC 1XX).
  • Can I take less than 5 courses while on exchange? Faculty of Science students are expected to enroll in the number of courses required to be considered full-time status at the host school but you can decide to do fewer than five courses on exchange if the Host institutions allows it. It is important to follow those guidelines as they are connected to the validity of your study visa. You can take fewer than 5 courses at the host institution but be aware that doing so may result in you receiving fewer than 2.5 UW transfer credits when you return. You will still pay for a 2.5 unit course load at UW.
  • How are courses transferred back toward my UW degree? Courses are transferred back to UW on a Pass/Fail basis (CR/NCR). As such, numerical grades will not appear on your UW transcript, and will not be included in the calculation of your overall UW averages. In other words, the averages you achieved before you go on an international exchange will remain the same once your transfer credits are applied to your transcript.

If you have any questions about course approvals, please contact the Science Exchange Advisor at

Important Resources

Going abroad involves a lot of preparation. Do you have a valid passport? Will you need a visa? How much will it cost to live in a different country? What other expenses will you have?

To answer these and lots of other questions, Waterloo International has some useful information:

Working abroad: learn more about international co-op.