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Learn how an exchange, short-term program, or internship can be an opportunity for you to step outside of your comfort zone, expand your world view, and support the development of your intercultural competence and other transferable skills.
Step by step, here's what you should know as you research and prepare for your term(s) abroad.
Spend one or two terms exploring a different country and culture, and gain credits toward your degree at one of Waterloo's partner schools. You pay your tuition to Waterloo while experiencing world-class teaching, training and facilities abroad.
Study abroad while paying fees at your host school. Some Waterloo programs offer a study abroad experience specific to a department or faculty. Talk to your academic advisor about the possibility of receiving transfer credits.
Looking for an alternative to a term or year abroad? These shorter programs will give you a taste of study and travel that complement your degree.
Shape your career path and gain relevant, hands-on experience in a different country. Some internship opportunities qualify for a work term credit. Discuss these options with your Co-operative Education advisor. Please note, not all instructions on the application steps page apply to internships. Please contact a Global Learning Coordinator for more guidance.
As you research Waterloo Passport for opportunities to go abroad, we recommend that you pay attention to the following topics to make an informed choice.
It is expected that you study at your host school for the entire duration of their term, including exams. Term dates vary abroad and sometimes overlap with Waterloo’s. If your terms overlap, you will need to take a term off or arrange a shortened work term. Some schools offer early/alternative assessments that will allow you to return to Waterloo early and write a proctored exam in Waterloo.
Going on exchange is an academic experience, so it is important to make sure you can take the courses you need. Consider planning to take more electives during your exchange term to make choosing courses easier. Research the course offerings at your host school to find out what they offer and when, and what language they are taught in. Use this year’s online course descriptions as a guide, but please note that changes may need to be made as programs and courses evolve.
Course loads vary abroad, so you will also need to find out what a full time course load at your host school is and what the credit weights are for the courses you want to take. You will find links to course calendars on the program pages in Waterloo Passport for the host schools you’re interested in, and your faculty exchange representative and academic advisor can help you determine equivalencies. Course availability is never a guarantee, so make sure you choose some alternatives in case your first choices are not available to you.
Each host school is given a colour to assist you in making choices that will increase your chances of getting matched. The colour assigned to a host school is based on last year's demand. However, each year demand for schools shift. Use these colours (green, yellow, and red) as a guide and remember that there are no guarantees.
Ultra-competitive - less than 50% of students who selected this school as their first choice in the first round were matched. No spots remained for students who selected this as their second, third, or fourth choice.
Very competitive - between 50% and 100% of students who selected this school as the first choice in the first round were matched. No spots remained for students who selected this as their second, third, or fourth choice.
Competitive - 100% of students who selected this school as their first choice in the first round were matched. Some spots were available for students who selected this as their second, third, or fourth choice.
Undergraduate students should aim to apply during their second year for departure in their 3A or 3B term. Students who plan to go on exchange during their fourth year of studies must consult with their academic advisor and their global learning coordinator to discuss the possibility of delaying their graduation. You should also review your faculty's requirements:
Host school requirements
While researching, focus on schools for which you meet the requirements. You should pay close attention to minimum overall average and language requirements. Some exchange programs also require you to be in a specific program of study at Waterloo. Check the requirements section of the program pages on Waterloo Passport for the schools you are interested in to see if you are eligible.
When researching the cost of living in a region or city, consider rent, food, transportation and entertainment costs. Check the costs section of the program pages on Waterloo Passport for the schools you are interested in to learn about the cost of living at each school.
There are ways to make spending a term abroad more affordable. Check out our suggestions for how to pay for it below.
At many host schools, you will have the option to live off campus or in university-managed accommodation. Your host school will often send you information about accommodation options when it is time to apply, but you can still look into your options ahead of time. Consider how far you will be from campus, the costs, whether or not it is furnished, and whether or not it includes a meal plan. Do not assume the type of housing you want will be available everywhere.
A key part of your planning should be centered on your personal wellness. Think about what you will need to be as successful abroad as you are at home. At Waterloo, there is a culture of promoting wellness, both physical and mental, that takes into consideration the environment around you. Internationally, the support for this type of programming will look different.
If you are registered with AccessAbility Services, make sure you look into what accommodations will be available abroad. The global learning team can help you identify these resources as needed, and you can work with AccessAbility Services to make a plan before you go.
Even if you are not registered with AccessAbility Services, consider any conditions you regularly manage at home that could require attention while you are abroad, like repeating prescriptions, regular counselling/medical appointments, and access to physically accessible spaces.
You should also consider how you might manage an unexpected change to your wellness while you are away. This includes an unexpected illness or injury, physical or mental.
No matter what, you should think about who your support is, both in country and at home, to help you maintain your wellness while you are away.
It is recommended that you go abroad during third year, because any later may delay your graduation. For one, course availability cannot be guaranteed at the host school. If you are not able to get the courses you need, you may have to stay an extra term at Waterloo.
Even if you get all the courses you need, it can take months for your transcript to arrive from your host school and your transfer credits to be added to your Waterloo record. Going abroad in your final winter term will not allow for spring (June) convocation, even though you will probably be finished your exchange by then.
We do our best to match students to one of their four choices, but there are no guarantees as spots are limited at each of our partner schools. Keep in mind:
In the first and second rounds, we go through all students' first choices, and try to match students to their first choice. Many schools (especially red and yellow) will fill before we get to second, third, and fourth choices. This means it’s important to think carefully about the order that you apply for schools.
I am interested in going to a red (ultra-competitive) school. What should I know?
Remember less than 50% of students who selected red schools as their first choice in first round were matched to this school. This means that:
I am interested in going to a yellow (very competitive) school. What should I know?
Remember between 50% and 100% of students who selected yellow schools as their first choice in first round were matched to this school. This means that:
I am interested in going to a green (competitive) school. What should I know?
Select green schools as a first choice for the greatest likelihood of being matched. They also make excellent second, third and fourth choices.
How does the study abroad team determine who gets matched with a partner school?
We allocate exchange spots at each school to students in Waterloo's six faculties based on:
Students who apply only to ultra competitive (red schools) or very competitive (yellow schools) risk not getting matched, even with a high GPA.
How many schools can I pick?
You can select up to four schools in order of priority, but it's not required. We suggest that you only select schools you are interested in actually attending. If you don't want to go - don't select the school.
What happens if I don't get matched with any of my choices?
If we can’t match you to any of your four choices, you'll be notified, and within a few weeks, given the opportunity to determine if any of the schools which still have spots available are of interest.
Can I get on a waitlist to be matched with a school I originally wanted?
No - we do not use waitlists.
It's hard to predict how COVID-19 will affect mobility programs for the 2022-2023 academic year. Travel will only be allowed if both the Government of Canada and the University of Waterloo travel restrictions are lifted, and your host school agrees to host the exchange.
Your exchange may be cancelled by Waterloo if conditions globally, at your host institution, or in your host country are not safe. If your exchange is cancelled, we'll be sure to notify you and let you know what your options are, including issuing you a refund for your application fee.
We encourage you to approach planning for an exchange with optimism, but keep in mind the realities of the global pandemic.
To be considered in the matching process for winter/spring 2023, you must attend a mandatory information session. Please note:
We hope to see you at an upcoming session.
Continuous online sessions
*12 to 1 p.m. mandatory info session, 1- 1:30 we will be joined by an inbound University of Leeds student to chat about their home school, attendance for the last 30 minutes is not mandatory.
**last opportunity to apply for a winter/spring 2023 exchange.
Check back here in September 2022 for a list of first round info session dates for summer/fall 2023, winter/spring 2024.
Check Waterloo Passport for a listing of all available opportunities around the world, including our exchange school spotlight RWTH Aachen University! Start by researching term dates, course availability, eligibility requirements, and the average cost of living at the host schools you're interested in. You should also check the likelihood of being matched with the host schools you apply to. If you are a graduate student, you should verify in Waterloo Passport that the program you are interested in is open to graduate students.
Exchange School Spotlight: Lingnan University
Lingnan University is located in Hong Kong SAR. It's a leading Asian liberal arts university that strives to be a global leader in quality education and impactful research for a better world. They adopt a whole-person approach to education and aim to develop students who are creative and critical thinkers. Undergraduate and graduate Waterloo students from the Faculty of Arts are eligible to apply. Learn more about Lingnan University on Waterloo Passport.
We recommend undergraduate students connect with their faculty exchange representative and graduate students connect with their graduate supervisor before starting the application process.
|Information you need||Who can help|
General exchange program related questions
Information about the host schools that you can't find on Waterloo Passport
|Global learning coordinators|
Exchange program advice specific to students in your faculty
Information about the course matching process
Faculty exchange representatives:
Information about course sequencing and requisites
How going abroad might impact your graduation
|Co-op work term requirements (if applicable)||Co-op student advisor|
Other resources that can help you decide on a program and destination
If you are a graduate student, complete a change of enrolment status/withdrawal form and have it signed by your supervisor before you apply in Waterloo Passport.
Undergraduate and graduate students
Submit your online application through Waterloo Passport before November 1 at 3:59 p.m. EST to be considered in the first round of matching for summer/fall 2022 and winter/spring 2023 programs. Once first round students have been matched, second round will open January 13 to 27, 2022. After that, continuous round will open March 10 to July 27, 2022.
|Go abroad during||Application round||Open|
First - Your best chance of getting your first choice
|Oct 1 - Nov 1, 2021|
||Second - Only schools with spots left after first round will be available||Jan 13 - 27, 2022|
Continuous - Only schools with spots left after second round will be available.
|Mar 10 - Jul 27, 2022|
When applying for an exchange program, you are encouraged to list up to four schools in one application. After you’ve submitted your application, pay your $150 non-refundable application fee immediately. Your application fee must be paid by November 1 (or January 27 in second round) in order for your application to be considered and endorsed by your faculty. For students in continuous round, your application will not be considered until you pay the application fee.
While you wait, research how you can make the most of this experience. Join the Go Abroad Waterloo Facebook group to connect with other students. Also, discover how earning a Global Experience Certificate (GEC) can showcase your efforts towards internationalizing your degree. Read why Regan, Hanhui and Su Jin are pursuing the certificate and what their unique GEC plans entail:
The appropriate contact in your faculty will review your application to assess if you're academically fit for exchange. You must be endorsed by your faculty before the global learning team can match you to a host school. No action on your part is required, but you can check the status of your application by logging into Waterloo Passport and clicking the my application tab.
|Round||Matches released||Decisions due|
|First||November 30, 2021||January 10, 2022|
|Second||February 15, 2022||March 2, 2022|
|Continuous||Bi-weekly on Thursdays starting March 10, 2022||The week after|
Being "matched" does not mean you've been accepted by the host school, but it does mean that we've held a spot for you at that school. Please note, we can’t guarantee that you'll be matched with your first choice, but we do our best to accommodate as many student requests as possible.
You will want to select your courses and initiate the approval process well before you leave. This will ensure that you know what transfer credits to expect when you get back. Your course choices may change throughout the application process, so make sure you keep your advisor(s) or supervisor informed.
Once you are matched with a host school, you can submit your course equivalency requests to your faculty exchange representative, academic advisor, supervisor, or graduate coordinator.
Remember, we cannot guarantee course availability abroad, so it’s important that you’re flexible when selecting courses for any program. The process for getting your courses pre-approved for transfer credits depends on which faculty you are in.
The application deadline for each host school is different, but you can expect to receive instructions from your global learning coordinator three to six months before you leave.
Carefully read your offer of admission and complete any tasks the host school requires of you. For example, some schools will ask you to formally accept their offer.
After you’ve been admitted, you can start finalizing your travel arrangements and find a place to live. We suggest that you book your flight after you've received your acceptance from the host school. This is when you’ll also need to apply for your study permit or visa, if required.
You can complete this mandatory course at any time before you go, just make sure you get it done before your assigned deadline! To be registered in the course, complete the pre-departure travel form and wait to receive further instructions from the Safety Abroad team. Please note: completing this course will be one of a series of actions you will be required to finish. The remaining steps will be outlined for you in an email from the Safety Abroad team; follow their instructions carefully.
You're ready to go abroad! Have a great term!
Money can be tight when you’re a student, but that doesn't mean you should give up on your dream to study what you love in a location you’ve dreamed of. There are many ways to finance your program abroad so it becomes an affordable experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Students participating in an exchange are registered as full-time students at Waterloo. So if you are currently eligible to receive OSAP, you can still receive OSAP for your exchange term(s) abroad. Please refer to the OSAP website for more information. Have more questions about OSAP while abroad? Contact the Student Awards & Financial Aid Office.
Each year the University of Waterloo distributes awards to support undergraduate students participating in international experiences! Look for award opportunities, like International Experience Awards, administered through the Student Awards & Financial Aid Office.
Graduate students can also access the following funding opportunities through the Graduate Studies Office.
Don’t forget about any faculty-specific scholarships. Just ask your Faculty Exchange Representative for more information.
Tuition: If you’re participating in an exchange program, you are required to pay all compulsory incidental fees and your tuition fees will be assessed at the University of Waterloo for the respective term abroad. You will be charged for 2.5 units whether you take three, four or five courses abroad. No matter where you end up travelling, it’s your responsibility to pay your tuition fees by the applicable term deadline to avoid late fees. The process for paying your tuition fees remains the same as it would for any other academic term at Waterloo. If you’re participating in a study abroad program, your tuition fees will be assessed at the host school for the respective program. Remember to carefully review all the payment details listed by the host.
Living expenses: Whether you calculate expenses by term, or on a monthly basis, you will need to pay for housing, food, books/supplies, and airfare. Most host schools provide an overview of approximate costs, which can be found on Waterloo Passport, or directly on the host's website. We would recommend that you research these costs and make a travel budget. Don’t forget to factor in the difference between your host country currency and the Canadian dollar when calculating!
When you complete your application in Waterloo Passport, you confirm that you agree to the following statement: "I will complete the international travel safety and security requirements as outlined by Waterloo International prior to my departure. This includes but is not limited to completion of Pre-Departure Orientation and assessment in LEARN, registration with the University's security provider, and registration with the government of the country of the passport you are travelling on."
Once you are matched with your host school, start your safety requirements; complete the pre-departure travel form and wait for your next steps from the Safety Abroad team.
You’ve done it! After preparing, planning and dreaming, you're abroad. You might feel excited, nervous, or both. Keep in touch with the global learning team while you’re away. We’re ready to help if you have questions or concerns about cross-cultural conflicts, safety, program issues, course changes, and extending or shortening your stay. Here are some common answers to questions we get from students who go abroad.
If you need to make changes to the courses that were pre-approved by your faculty, contact your faculty exchange representative as soon as possible to have the new course(s) approved. Please note: While on exchange you are bound by the host university's policies and procedures regarding course changes.
Loving your new school, your studies, and your life abroad? Want to make the experience last longer? You may want to extend your stay for another term. Before talking to the host school, you should contact your global learning coordinator to find out if it’s possible. If we approve your request, your coordinator will contact the host school on your behalf to make the necessary arrangements.
If for any reason you feel that you need to return home early, you should contact the global learning coordinator immediately to discuss your situation and options.
Review Waterloo International's who to contact in an emergency webpage ahead of time for a complete list of emergency contacts.
Being back in Canada after learning so much about another country and yourself might take some getting used to. Sometimes re-entry into your old life can even feel a bit like reverse culture shock. After all, you’ve changed! Waterloo is here to help your re-entry run smoothly.
Here are some things you might want to consider now that you're back.
Coming home after being abroad isn’t necessarily the end of your international experience. Your experience abroad is a gift you can share with others. There are lots of opportunities for you to get involved with the international community at Waterloo.
If you participated in an exchange, your transfer credits will be assessed once we receive your official transcript from your host university. This process may take 2-6 months following the end of your term abroad. Your faculty exchange representative will establish your transfer credits (based on your pre-approved courses). The approved credits will be added to your Waterloo record (Quest) with the designation credit, but without any numerical grade.
Email a Global Learning Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out what a great experience study abroad can be from Waterloo students who've done it!
On September 24, returned exchange students, Subhan, Katelyn, Dorothy and Connor, shared what it's really like to live and learn in Europe, Asia and Australia. If you missed the live chat, watch the recording!
South Campus Hall, second floor
University of Waterloo
519-888-4567 ext. 84410
Request an authorized leave from studies for immigration purposes.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Office of Indigenous Relations.