The SFS study abroad model is unlike any other. Our programs are designed to complement your institution’s academics by offering your students an immersive international experience focused on real-world environmental and climate research, hands-on learning in the field, and community reciprocity. Students earn credit, learn practical skills and techniques in the field, and gain a global perspective that informs and challenges their opinions about the world around them.
We work with faculty and advisors across the U.S. to help connect your students with SFS programs around the world. Over the last four decades, almost 20,000 students have attended our programs, and in the last five years, more than 350 colleges and universities have sent students on SFS programs. We work with Ivy League universities and community colleges; public and private institutions; schools with over 50,000 undergraduates and schools with less than 200 students.
Download the latest version of our Advising Booklet, a comprehensive collection of resources to help you advise students on SFS programs.
We designed our interdisciplinary curriculum to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of local environmental, social, and economic issues. The SFS academic model is cross-cultural, rigorous, and research-intensive. Students confront and conquer academic challenges that they are rarely exposed to at their home school. Our interdisciplinary, experiential approach to education is designed to train students to learn by doing. Learn more about the SFS model.
Our Admissions team will help guide your students from the earliest stages of interest all the way to the moment they land-in country—advising them on the best program fit, answering questions about the experience and how to prepare, and ensuring that they arrive in-country ready for the program. Meet our Admissions team.
The safety of our students is our constant priority, and proactive risk management is integral to everything we do. SFS manages the entire timeline of each student’s experience. Through diligent medical screening, setting clear expectations regarding living and health preparations, and educating about environmental and cultural awareness, personal responsibility, and conduct, we provide students with the tools to succeed. Learn more about safety on SFS programs.
Each SFS Center has an ongoing strategic research plan which allows student work to expand beyond the scope of one-off projects. SFS research is influenced by our host communities and surrounding ecosystems, which are dealing with the impacts of climate change, pollution, deforestation, and many other environmental threats. We provide valuable data to community leaders, local environmental groups, and government agencies, allowing them to make informed and sustainable policy decisions. Learn more about our research.
From the earliest stages of program development, SFS exercises a series of quality-control measures to ensure we are consistently delivering study abroad programs of the highest quality. Our School of Record, the University of Minnesota, helps provide academic oversight and reviews program curricula and quality. Formal program reviews, a diverse Advisory Committee, and publicly available student evaluations offer a transparent assurance of quality. Learn more about SFS’ quality standards.
All SFS locations offer fall and spring semester programs. These are 102 days long each, except for Australia, which is 95 days. Students earn 16 (Australia and TCI) or 18 (all other semester programs) credits. All semester programs include three 4-credit courses focused on topics of ecology, natural resource management and conservation science, socioeconomics and environmental policy, and ethics. Students in Bhutan, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Kenya, Panama, Peru, and Tanzania take an additional 2-credit language and culture course. All programs culminate in a 4-credit Directed Research course including at least 100 hours of field work. Program activities take place six days per week with at least part of one day devoted to community engagement, and one day off per week. Semester applicants must have completed one college-level biology, ecology, or environmental studies/science course (or related coursework, as assessed by SFS), and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8. There are no language prerequisites.
All locations except Chile and Peru offer at least one summer session, with many offering two back-to-back sessions. Two 4-week sessions are offered in Australia, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Kenya, Tanzania, and TCI. One 4-week session is offered in Cambodia and Panama. Any Session I program can be paired with any Session II program to gain field experience in two countries and ecosystems. Each 4-week session is 4 semester-hour credits in environmental studies; combining two sessions offers 8 semester-hour credits. Summer sessions have no specific coursework prerequisites and can be especially appealing to students with an interest in the natural sciences but not pursuing it as a major. Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.6 for SFS summer programs.
Select locations offer a winter session that runs in January. Locations offering winter programs are: Chile, Costa Rica, Kenya, Panama, and the Turks & Caicos. Each 3-week session is 3 semester-hour credits in environmental studies. Winter sessions have no specific coursework prerequisites and can be especially appealing to students with an interest in the natural sciences but not pursuing it as a major. Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.6 for SFS winter programs.
SFS encourages participation by students from all majors. SFS has no application deadlines and accepts applications year-round, but early submissions are encouraged for acceptance into a student’s first-choice program. Before your students apply, encourage them to read the program components and relevant information. Being unlike everyone else also means we’re not a good fit for everyone.
Each year, SFS awards over $650,000 of need-based financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships. SFS works with students and their home schools to assist in obtaining financial aid. The SFS Financial Aid Application should be submitted along with the student’s program application. Students fill out one application to put themselves into consideration for all SFS financial aid. Learn more about SFS Financial Aid.
SFS participants are registered at and receive transcripts from the University of Minnesota, our School of Record. The only exceptions are students from SFS Affiliate schools that have selected to have direct credit transfer. Learn more about transcripts and credit.
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Our Institutional Relations Managers (IRMs) are your primary contact at SFS; they can visit your campus and help you learn more about advising your students on SFS programs.