Study Abroad in Anthropology

Since anthropology is the cross-cultural study of human difference, study abroad fits extremely well into the discipline's requirements. Many anthropology students engage in study abroad programs, and find these programs provide an important channel for their degrees, and their future interests. However, before studying abroad, there are some important requirements you should keep in mind. These requirements appear below.

The Anthropology Department's Study Abroad Advisor is Susan Johnston. You will need to get in touch with her if you want to:

  1. talk to someone before you go abroad (highly recommended);
  2. transfer credit from a course taken in another country;
  3. transfer credit from a course taken at another university in the U.S.

In order to receive transfer credit, you will need to submit the proper form (Course Approval, Transfer of Credit, etc.), filled out, along with a reading list or syllabus and any major papers and/or assignments from the course in question. It is recommended that you read the points below to see whether it is appropriate for you to seek credit from the Anthropology Department.

  • Before choosing a program, you need to think about what your goals are in studying abroad. Do you need course credit, and if so, does it have to be specific courses and/or in specific departments? Or can you afford to think of study abroad as an experience that is independent of any credit you might get? The answer will have a significant effect on the programs you should choose.
  • If you need credit, and especially if you need it as specific courses and/or from specific departments, then you should stick to more traditional classroom programs that have anthropology departments. The easiest credits to transfer are those which are clearly defined courses from actual anthropology departments, regardless of the country or institution.
  • By contrast, while programs which focus on hands-on experience (e.g. SIT) may be very useful and meaningful, they aren't the best ones if you need specific credit. They sometimes have little academic content (i.e. you don't do a lot of reading, if any), and so aren't comparable to more traditional classroom courses. Course credit depends on more than simply the amount of hours you spend on a project. It also depends on how comparable the content was to a GW course. If, on the other hand, credit for specific courses is not as important, then these “experiential learning” programs can provide a good learning experience.
  • In order to get credit from the Anthropology Department, courses must have an anthropological focus. This is determined by the content of the course, primarily derived from the readings and the focus of lecture topics. An anthropological focus may not be indicated by the course title; a course entitled “Human Rights and Ethics” could derive its focus from anthropology, history, political science, policy development, philosophy, or international affairs. Just because the title sounds like one listed in anthropology doesn't mean it's an anthropology course.
  • Keep copies of readings, syllabus, and major papers. This is the only way to demonstrate the course content, which can't be determined from the course title or a three-sentence course description. Readings in a syllabus or works cited in a research paper are the best ways to determine the focus of the work. Thus your ability to provide these things may determine whether or not you can get credit.
  • Documentation for courses must include the actual syllabus and reading list from any course(s) taken, not the "representative" or "typical" syllabus frequently posted on websites as part of the promotional materials for the program. This means that you may have to produce the paper copy of the syllabus you used while taking the course, so don't throw it away.
  • If credit is important, talk to someone before you go abroad about possible courses and whether they might get credit. While many faculty (including anthropology faculty) won't approve courses before you take them, they will describe what qualifies for credit in their discipline. This is definitely true for anthropology.

The Anthropology faculty has instituted guidelines for treating credit transfer requests from courses taken abroad in general, and from unconventional study programs specifically.

Anthropological Content. No Anthropology credit will be granted to any course that does not show evidence (through student work, assigned readings, topics of instruction, and approach to the subject matter) of having primarily anthropological content. This means that courses on specific societies (e.g. Contemporary Japanese Society), subgroups (e.g. Urban Youth in Brazil) or other topics (e.g. Political Culture in South Africa) that are approached from other disciplinary perspectives will not be granted Anthropology credit, regardless of how they are designated by the institution offering them.

Unconventional Learning. Students in unconventional learning programs (SIT, CIEE, etc.) must supply a list of lecture topics, copies of all their assignments, and a full reading list for review by the Anthropology Study Abroad Advisor in order to be considered for credit. Credit will be granted based on an evaluation of the equivalence of that work to comparable work at GW, entirely apart from the credit value that the study program assigns to the course.

Independent Study Credit. Generally, no more than 3 credits total will be granted to any student for any combination of a field study seminar and independent study project regardless of the credit equivalence given by the program. Credit will be granted after an evaluation of the actual work done and may thus result in less than 3 credits. Students must present all work done for review by the Anthropology Study Abroad Advisor in order to be considered for credit.

Course Credit Equivalencies. Generally speaking, credit for courses taken in unconventional study programs will be designated as Anth 2099, the general number for anthropology courses not otherwise specified. The exception is when there is a direct correspondence to a GW aspects of culture or prehistory course (Anth 3700s and 3800s). Direct equivalence will not be granted to field seminars and independent study projects (or similar) for Anth 3531 (Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology) or Anth 3501 (Anthropology of Development), and generally not other courses in the 3400s, 3500s, or 3600s. Under no conditions will credit for Anth 100110021003, or 1004 be granted for unconventional study courses.

These policies are those of the Anthropology Department faculty. They of course do not prevent students from obtaining credit from other departments or from the Columbian College as general credits on the basis of the applicable criteria.