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Student Initiated Programs

Although we have a wide range of approved programs, we understand that our portfolio may not address the academic, financial, or career needs of all students. If you are interested in a study, internship, or research program that is not listed on our website, there are countless study abroad options available, allowing you to continue your enrollment at UNC while earning credit abroad. Programs must be offered through an accredited U.S. institution, third-party provider organization, or institution overseas.

You will also need to complete a UNC Study Abroad application prior to your departure, where you must detail your academic and other reasons for pursuing the program. Students participating in these programs remain enrolled at UNC during their time abroad, have access to services through SAO, and receive transfer credit for the coursework that they complete abroad.

This process is designed for students who wish to earn credit from their experience abroad. Please note the following if you do not plan to earn credit:

  • If you do not plan to earn credit to apply to your UNC degree program but you are using University resources/support, such as faculty/advisor involvement in planning or advising, university financial aid or scholarships (including donor or grant funds administered by the University), you are required to apply for an independent education abroad activity and register your travel with the Study Abroad Office.
  • If your international travel is not affiliated with the university, you are not required to register with the Study Abroad Office.

Searching for Programs Abroad

We encourage you to carefully research program options and consult the following resources as you look for programs. There are thousands of programs out there, so do your research to compare options. Below are a few resources to consult as you explore options.

The following search engines share reputable and reviewed programs:


  • Programs must be academic in nature and meet the academic rigor of UNC Chapel Hill
  • Summer programs: the program must offer a minimum of three credits
  • Semester programs: the program must offer a minimum of 12 credits

Application Process

To participate in a Student Initiated Program, you will be required to complete TWO applications prior to departure for your program

  • UNC Study Abroad Application: this application helps determine if a program is eligible for UNC credit, ensures continued enrollment at UNC, and allows you to receive support and services from UNC SAO
  • Program Application: You will apply directly with the program institution/organization. You must meet the application requirements of the host program. Deadlines will vary by program


Courses taken on a Student Initiated Program will be eligible for transfer credit that will come back as a UNC equivalent course, departmental elective, or general education/elective course with a specific study abroad grading basis. These hours may be applied as general elective, general education, or major/minor credit.

Payments, Financial Aid, and Scholarships

When participating on a Student Initiated Program, all costs for the program are paid directly to the program institution/organization.

You will be responsible for the following charges at UNC:

  • Application Fee: $50 – paid at time of application submission
  • Study Abroad Admin Fee: $1000 – charged to your UNC student account
  • GeoBlue Insurance: The Study Abroad Office will sign students up for the UNC-sponsored coverage through GeoBlue. Amount varies based on length of program – charged to your UNC student account

Financial Aid and scholarships can be used to fund participation in a Student Initiated Program.

Retroactive Participation and Fees

If you already participated in a program and wish to apply credit you earned on a program after completion, you must complete a retroactive application and pay the following amounts:

  • $50 application fee
  • $1,000 Study Abroad Administrative fee
  • $500 Retroactive Application fee

Financial aid is not available for retroactive requests.

For more information and how to apply, please see the Student Initiated Programs brochure page.