Why SFS?

SFS is a Different kind of Study Abroad Program.

We’re in the business of training and empowering a generation of leaders. SFS study abroad programs help students develop practical skills through hands-on, experiential learning – while exploring incredible ecosystems, from the Amazon rainforest to the glaciers of Patagonia. If you’re looking to take your education out of the classroom and into mountains, temples, oceans – into the world – then you’ve come to the right place.

 
Watch the video to see what we’re all about:

Why Study Abroad with SFS?

Unforgettable Locations Around the World

Ever wondered what it’s like to drive through the African savanna alongside a herd of elephants? Have you dreamed of hiking in the Himalayas? Are you looking for something other than just a casual trip to Europe? When you study abroad with SFS, you’ll explore some of the most fascinating places in the world – becoming more than a tourist.

explore sfs programs

Hands-On Learning and Real-World Skills

Working under the direction of our experienced team of faculty mentors, you’ll learn real-world field techniques – like how to lay an underwater transect, how to identify rare plants species, or how to respectfully interview a community member. You’ll study actual environmental impacts firsthand and discuss real-world solutions. SFS programs bring together the experience of an internship, the critical thinking skills of a leadership training, and the personal growth of living and learning in another country.

An Interdisciplinary Curriculum

Environmental issues are inherently human issues, and studying complex topics like climate change exclusively through a hard science lens doesn’t give you the full picture. On our programs, you’ll take coursework in both the natural and social sciences, incorporating everything from ecology, natural resource management, and policy to culture, ethics, and social justice.

Learn More about our Academic Model

Like-Minded Peers, Lifelong Friends

On an SFS study abroad program, you’ll meet other students, staff, and community members who, like you, are passionate about the environment and the stewardship of our planet. You’ll form lifelong friendships and when you return home, you’ll join the ranks of our 19,000+ alums – a group of individuals working across many industries to make a real, positive impact on the world.

Meet the Students Currently in the Field

Dedicated Staff and Student Support

At SFS, we come to work every day because we care deeply about our world and want to share our excitement and wonder for the natural environment and different cultures with you, the students. Our professors are experienced field researchers, lecturers, and mentors, and our staff is here to support you – from the admissions process through the end of your program and beyond.

Meet our Team

Industry-Leading Safety Systems

SFS is provides comprehensive safety and risk management in all aspects of our programs while also maintaining the rugged and awe-inspiring nature of the SFS study abroad experience. Each program has a detailed risk assessment and management plan and staff who are certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR) and Sexual Assault First Responders. SFS Headquarters maintains a 24-hour emergency contact system and is in constant contact with the field.

Learn More about Safety

The Work

Hands-On Research in the Field

At SFS, you’re conducting research in the field – in incredible ecosystems and dynamic communities around the world. Whether you’re surveying the glaciers of Patagonia or laying underwater transects in the Caribbean, you’ll experience all the excitement and challenges of field data collection.

Learning Practical Skills

The work you do during your time abroad will prepare you for a future career in STEM fields, grad school, and beyond. From species identification and wildlife monitoring techniques to GIS and stakeholder interviews, the skills you learn at SFS are practical, transferable, and invaluable.

The Project

Experienced Research Mentors

Field research is complex and challenging – but with the mentorship of our experienced faculty members, you’ll have the tools and support you need to be successful. Each student works directly with a faculty member throughout the entirety of the research process from project design to final written report.

Your Piece of the Puzzle

Each SFS Center has an ongoing strategic research focus which allows our work to expand beyond the scope of one-off projects. Your project is a critical piece of this larger puzzle – you’ll design your research question within this framework, giving more context and value to your results.

The Impact

Building a Body of Knowledge

Building a comprehensive body of scientific knowledge is a key step toward a more sustainable future. You’re joining scientists around the world working to understand our environment and how it is changing, and in some of the regions where we operate, you’ll even collect baseline data – the first of its kind.

Giving Back to the Community

SFS research is influenced by our communities. Our neighbors share their stories, observations, and needs, and in return we provide valuable data to community leaders, local environmental groups, and government agencies, allowing them to make informed and sustainable policy decisions.


What are Students saying about SFS?

Said their goals were met by the program
Felt there were extensive opportunities for hands-on learning
Learned practical research, analytical, and communication skills
Improved their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities

SFS offered the unique opportunity to truly live in the rainforest! This is an incredibly intimate view of an ancient and endangered ecosystem which boasts incredible biodiversity. As a participant of this program, I was not a visitor to the rainforest, but actually living inside it.

- Guthrie, Brandeis University

Studying with SFS was a unique experience that I couldn’t have received from any other provider. I was lucky to collaborate with beyond-amazing instructors who inspire students to get involved and be the change that we want to see. They were supportive in making space for me to speak my truth and express my passion for social and environmental justice.

- Olivia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Traveling to Bhutan will never again be this easy and encompassing, and the weeks I spent here have transformed the way I look at most things in life. The faculty, staff, and all those I met and interacted with along this trip were kind and thoughtful.

- Brooke, University of Portland

“SFS has opened up the world for me; it has shown me another culture and way of life, a stunning country, and it has turned typical Western education on its head: you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn; you don’t need a library to study.”

- Marta, Muhlenberg College

There are infinite aspects of Kenya that I will never forget and will miss dearly. The wildlife, nature and overall surroundings were stunning. The spellbinding African stars are indescribably spectacular and are incomparable to anywhere else in the world that I have traveled to. I doubt I will ever be in a classroom with acacia trees with baboons swinging around in them right outside again.

- Ellie, Franklin University (Switzerland)

Getting to go on all-day safaris to world- famous parks almost every week was awesome, but even better were the connections I made with people, which I wasn’t expecting. We got to become a part of the community during our stay there; saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do! I also stay in touch with the group I went with; I had never met any of them before boarding the plane, but our incredible shared experiences brought us so close.

- Katie, Colorado State University

I decided that I needed to go to TCI because I loved diving and being in the water so much; and let me tell you it was the best decision I have ever made. The staff are all amazing people who are genuine and want to help you succeed. I loved being able to be out in the field almost every day. The locals are so nice and I really recommend getting to know them. The field station itself truly became home.

- Nicole, Siena College

My semester in Panama was awesome! It was so cool to have the ocean, rainforest, and archipelago as a whole as our classroom. All of the professors and staff at SFS are amazing and passionate people who truly make the program as special as it is.

- Bronya, Colby College

The friendships, multicultural experiences, field research techniques, and self-understanding I gained during this program made it definitely worthwhile. And the food at the SFS center is amazing. I eat a plant-based diet, and there were always plenty of yummy options at the center.

- Yuxi, Wellesley College

This semester has flown by quicker than expected and I am honestly quite sad to return to the states. I am going to miss the constant field work and classroom time spent outside of the actual classroom. I love being able to learn about the ecosystem and then be able to spend time in it. A full circle.

- Luke, North Carolina State University

What should you expect on an sfs program?

More than just Biology Majors

You may have heard from a friend or advisor that SFS is “the environmental study abroad program.” They’re not wrong – we talk about plants a lot, and we nerd out over sloths and baby elephants. But our programs aren’t limited to biology or environmental science majors. Are you curious about other cultures and passionate about the natural world? Do you want to explore new places and make new friends? Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone and try something different? If your answer to those questions is “yes,” then you’re already starting to sound like an SFS student – and we didn’t even ask you about your major!

Immersion in a Community and Surrounding Ecosystems

On many study abroad programs, you might live on a college campus, or travel across a country, stopping briefly at many different destinations. SFS programs are a little bit of both. Living at an SFS center allows you to settle into a “home base” and experience a campus-esque lifestyle, while our frequent excursions let you get out and explore everything the surrounding area has to offer. This combined program model allows you to immerse yourself in a community and a specific ecosystem in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

A Rigourous Program Schedule

SFS operates on a 6-day weekly program schedule (Monday-Saturday) with Sundays free to explore or relax. Our programs are rigorous and pack a lot of action into a short period of time, likely in a very different way from what you’re used to on your home campus. Between field excursions, campus activities, classes, and community engagement projects, you’ll never be bored. If you’re looking to maximize the amount of learning and experiences you can get out of your time abroad, our programs could be the right fit for you.

Semester Programs

  • The primary function is to teach undergraduate students about local environmental issues based on a challenging, problem-based, interdisciplinary curriculum. The teaching at SFS should be high-quality, innovative, and experiential. You are not only teaching in your discipline, but you are teaching students about the process of scientific inquiry and research.
  • You are also doing research. SFS instructors design research projects that are linked to the Center or program’s Strategic Research Plan. These projects should be designed in a way that undergraduate students, under your guidance, can conduct the research in an ethical and rigorous manner.
  • The third core function is service—to actively foster good community relations, lead community outreach projects with students, and engage in residential life on campus. The relative emphasis on each area is perhaps different from university positions, and your engagement in each area may vary over the course of your tenure at SFS.

Summer Programs

  • The primary function is to teach undergraduate students about local environmental issues based on a challenging, problem-based, interdisciplinary curriculum. The teaching at SFS should be high-quality, innovative, and experiential. You are not only teaching in your discipline, but you are teaching students about the process of scientific inquiry and research.
  • You are also doing research. SFS instructors design research projects that are linked to the Center or program’s Strategic Research Plan. These projects should be designed in a way that undergraduate students, under your guidance, can conduct the research in an ethical and rigorous manner.
  • The third core function is service—to actively foster good community relations, lead community outreach projects with students, and engage in residential life on campus. The relative emphasis on each area is perhaps different from university positions, and your engagement in each area may vary over the course of your tenure at SFS.

Studying Abroad is an Investment in your Future

The Oxford Dictionary defines an investment as “an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.” That’s exactly what studying abroad is – a long-term investment in your future self; and with a decision as important as that, you can’t sell yourself short. SFS does not offer cut-rate study abroad programs. We’re not willing to provide you with anything less than an exceptional, one-of-a-kind experience – and we’re committed to making our programs accessible to students through our need-based financial aid packages and other external scholarship resources.

Learn More about Program Costs and Financial Aid

Why Study Abroad with SFS?

Apply an Environmental Perspective to Any Job

On our programs, we train you in much more than environmental research techniques. You’ll be asked to consider complex problems, think critically about them, and incorporate different perspectives to come up with a creative solution. You’ll learn how to build things with your hands and live as part of a community. You’ll become confident in new and unfamiliar situations. These are invaluable skills to have, no matter what your career path looks like. After studying abroad with SFS, you’ll come away with a vast set of new abilities and experiences that you’ll find yourself using time and time again.

View SFS Alumni on LinkedIn

Join the Global SFS Family

Since 1980, we have explored the world with more than 19,000 students who have gone on to accomplish incredible things. SFS alumni have careers in the private sector, nonprofits, government, academia, and international environmental organizations. From Golden Globe-nominated filmmaker to field biologist, from third grade teacher to policy advisor for the Nature Conservancy – we’re proud to call these people part of the SFS family.

Read Their Stories