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.
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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 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
“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
“SFS provided me with an educational and personal experience that was even better than I had anticipated. I didn’t expect to leave with such a sense of accomplishment in the research we did, the impact we had on the community, and the vast amount of knowledge I gained and applied throughout the semester.”
– Sam, University of Massachusetts
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
Make a positive impact on the world
Reading headlines about climate change and other environmental and social issues can be anxiety-inducing. We know that simply learning about the problem is not enough – that’s why at SFS we like to get out there and do something about it. From community reforestation projects in the rainforest to environmental education programs for local children, SFS service projects allow us to give back to our host communities while making positive contributions toward addressing some of our world’s biggest issues.
All SFS programs are fully accredited by the University of Minnesota, our School of Record. Many courses often fulfill requirements for biology, environmental science/studies, natural resource management, and other majors, as well as internships, research or field study projects, and capstone experiences. SFS offers both semester and summer study abroad options.
Learn more about earning credit
Access, inclusion, and diversity
SFS works to cultivate inclusive communities and to support every student, including those who identify as a racial or ethnic minority, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, first-generation college students, and students from all underrepresented groups or underserved communities. We continue to develop strategies to support all students throughout their study abroad experience.
Learn more about access, inclusion, and diversity
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
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 rigorous 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.
16-18 semester-hour credits
4-5 courses, fixed curriculum
Same courses offered during fall and spring semesters
Offered at all SFS locations
Academic prerequisite: one college-level course in biology, ecology, or environmental science/studies with a grade of C or better
Includes a month-long research project designed and conducted alongside a faculty mentor
*Varies by location, check out the program page for more details.
4 or 8 weeks (each session is 4 weeks long)
4 or 8 semester-hour credits
One course per session, fixed curriculum
Different courses offered between Summer I and Summer II sessions
Offered at all SFS locations except Chile and Peru
Academic prerequisite: none
No extended research project; may include shorter-term research experiences
Any Session I course can be paired with any Session II course (8 credits total) with a $1,000 discount on your second session
Explore our semester and summer study abroad programs
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.
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.