International Study FAQs

Columbia Law School offers international study programs out of a firm belief in the value, to those students who elect to participate, of enriching an understanding of law, language, culture, and governance in a global context through enrollment in an overseas academic program at one of the world’s leading centers of legal scholarship.

Both outgoing and incoming students can find answers to their questions below.

Columbia Law School Students Planning International Study

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How is studying overseas different in an administrative context?

Columbia Law School offers students the opportunity to study abroad as students who are fully immersed in an educational program that is structured, administered, and taught within a different legal educational culture. We believe the value of this approach is self-evident, but you should nonetheless be aware of the potential costs.

While each overseas partner has been vetted as meeting Columbia’s own high academic standards, few schools anywhere outside the United States are able to draw on a similar depth of administrative resources. Students who study abroad should thus anticipate a rewarding intellectual experience, but also bureaucratic and cultural challenges that may surpass those typically found in a U.S. legal educational context. Students who have never studied or lived abroad are strongly encouraged, before submitting an application, to discuss these issues with the Office of International Programs.


Can transfer students study abroad? 

Transfer students may study abroad for one semester but are not eligible to apply for dual degree programs that entail spending the entire 3L year abroad.

After you are accepted to a study abroad program, you must petition the registrar’s office to go abroad for a semester. Send a brief email to the Office of Registration Services explaining which program you have been accepted to and why you wish to participate in the program. In most cases, these petitions are granted. The registrar’s office will usually recommend that you get in the necessary black letter courses during your time at Columbia and that you speak with the Office of Career Services or Social Justice Initiatives before going abroad.


How likely am I to be accepted into my program of choice? Is there a cap on students for the various programs?

Historically, most applicants have been able to participate in their first- or second-choice program. Many programs are limited to two or three nominees per year.

The Global Alliance programs are designed to accommodate a larger number of students. Oxford Global Alliance can take a maximum of five; Amsterdam Global Alliance can take eight; Paris Global Alliance can take 16. There is usually some movement on programs with waitlists. However, whether the list clears will ultimately depend on the number of applicants for a particular program in any given year.


Do I need to speak the language of the host country to study abroad?

Some programs require language fluency, e.g. for Paris I/Sorbonne you must speak French. For Buenos Aires, you must speak Spanish. In many places, you can do your studies fully in English, e.g. Amsterdam, ILF (Frankfurt), Luxembourg, Bucerius (Hamburg), CEU (Budapest), Beida (Peking), Hitotsubashi (Japan), ESADE (Barcelona), Sciences Po (Paris), etc.


Will studying abroad affect my public interest career trajectory?

Studying abroad has been very beneficial for many students who are considering a public interest career. It may, however, conflict with taking clinics, externships, or other courses—or doing pro bono—that public interest employers value. The timing of overseas study may also present scheduling conflicts with regard to public interest hiring calendars. Consult with Social Justice Initiatives to learn more.

Should I include a second program choice?

You should absolutely list a second choice if you have one; it will not hurt you in any way. We will always try to put you in your first choice placement, and we will waitlist you if you don’t get a spot. We ask students when selected for a program to let us know as soon as possible if they wish to take the spot or to withdraw their applications, both for administrative reasons and as a courtesy to any fellow students on the waitlist.


What is required for the personal statement?

The personal statement should describe your academic, professional, and/or personal interests and how you envision study abroad serving these. The statement should be double-spaced and no more than two pages long. Feel free to write a separate paragraph about your first, second, and third choices.


What is required for the faculty recommendation?

Once you submit the professor’s name in the recommendation section of the application, the person you have designated as your recommender will receive an email from the system asking them to check off either: a) “highly recommend,” b) “recommend,” c) “don’t know well enough to recommend,” or d) “don’t recommend.” 

The recommender is also directed to “feel free to make any additional comments regarding the student.” Most recommenders write a few lines there (e.g. about how they know and why they recommend you). It is particularly advisable that your recommender is willing to write a few lines for the more competitive programs.


Are recommendations subject to the same March 1 deadline as the rest of the application?

Prior to the end of the application period, you must include the name of a professor/recommender on the online application to be submitted. When they receive the email from our system, the professor must take the next step and submit the form they receive. If professors do not respond in a timely fashion, the Office of International Programs will follow up with reminders. While students will not be penalized for late submissions, you should request early to avoid delaying the decision-making process.


Which programs have co or prerequisites?

  • Pre or Corequisite: Amsterdam Global Alliance in International Criminal Law - L6269: International Law (or L6183: The U.S. and the International Legal System). Note: International Law may be taken in Amsterdam but for no additional credit. For students submitting applications during February 2021 and afterward, International Law will be a pre-requisite for the Amsterdam Global Alliance but may still be taken as a co-requisite for students in the Amsterdam semester exchange.
  • Prerequisites: Paris Global Alliance in Global Business Law and Governance - L6231: Corporations; L6269: International Law (or L6183: The U.S. and the International Legal System). These courses may be taken any time before the Paris semester.
  • Prerequisites: Oxford Global Alliance in Law and Finance - L6231: Corporations; L6423: Securities Regulation; L6232: Corporate Finance; L6202: Advanced Corporate Law: Mergers and Acquisitions (usually offered during the spring semester and sometimes not available in the fall; applicants should ideally plan to take L6202 in spring of the 2L year). The courses may be taken any time before the Oxford semester.
    • We cannot guarantee any particular course will be offered during the fall of the 3L year, so students should ideally aim to take three to four of these courses by the end of the 2L year. Remember that Corporations is generally a pre- or corequisite for the other prerequisites.
  • Dual Degree Programs have no prerequisites, but students must fulfill all J.D. degree requirements to participate in these or any other study abroad programs.


How should I show on the application that I have taken or are currently taking a prerequisite class?

The application asks if you have taken each pre or corequisite. Mark “Yes” on the question only if you have either completed a course or are currently enrolled in the course. If you are planning to take the course in a future semester, mark “No” so we can use that information to remind you to take missing courses in the future. 

Will I continue to pay Columbia tuition and fees during study abroad?

Yes. Columbia students who participate in study abroad programs will continue to pay Columbia tuition, as well as Health Service and (except as waived) Health Insurance fees. Most other campus-based fees, including Student Activity and University Facilities fees, are waived during study abroad. Your Columbia tuition also pays for administrative services provided by the Office of International Programs in support of individual study abroad students and the management of over two dozen institutional partnerships. 

All students who participate in study abroad programs will continue to be charged for the Health and Related Services Fee by Columbia Health. The fee pays for a range of Columbia Health support services for students studying abroad, including telephone access to mental health counseling and sexual violence response services; and administrative assistance with medical care arrangements, evacuation, and repatriation as necessary. 


How is financial aid affected by study abroad?

Students in a one-term or one-year study abroad program are charged the same tuition and have the same student budget as if they were studying at Columbia, so their financial aid is not affected.

There is no adjustment to the institutional aid amount (grant or loan) for students participating in a one-term or a one-year study-abroad program. Students who need additional borrowing from credit-based loan programs to cover higher living costs should write to the Financial Aid Office to request a Budget Adjustment Request form. Every effort will be made to accommodate reasonable requests that are documented.

Please see the Finances and Financial Aid for Columbia Law School J.D. Students Participating in Study Abroad Programs form for more information on this topic. All students are required to read and sign this form before participating in study abroad programs.


What other costs will I be responsible for?

You are responsible for the cost of living while abroad, including travel to and from the foreign country, housing expenses, food, utilities, entertainment, printing costs, and residency permits. Visit the Office of International Programs to see samples of the costs of living at various foreign institutions.

Can the Columbia Health Insurance fees be waived during study abroad?

You may request a waiver of the otherwise obligatory Columbia Health Insurance fees by presenting proof of adequate alternative coverage for the entire year (even if only studying abroad for a semester) to the Columbia University Insurance and Immunization Compliance Office. Waivers are generally not granted for just one semester. Regardless of whether a waiver is granted, University policy requires that all students continue to be responsible for paying Health and Related Services fees while abroad.

Participants in Columbia Health Insurance plans will need to pay out of pocket for medical services, including routine medical and specialist visits, and submit receipts along with an itemized bill to Aetna Student Health for reimbursement. If you are enrolled in a non-Columbia plan, you will likely be required to report medical emergencies and medical expenses incurred internationally to your health insurance plan, with follow-up claim submissions submitted promptly as appropriate.

In all cases, prepare yourself by reviewing reporting requirements and reimbursement provisions of your particular health insurance plan before you travel. 

In addition to any other coverage you may have, some partner schools (e.g. Amsterdam, Paris 1, and Sciences Po) may require proof of certain specifically-defined international coverage or supplementary insurance. See each individual program page for details.

How do I apply for a student visa/residence permit?

All participants must meet the host country’s student visa requirements and should hold a passport valid for six months after initial travel. The specific application procedures vary by country and nationality.

Non-U.S. citizens should check current visa requirements and allow for extra time; in some cases, the visa process applicable to them may take longer than for U.S. citizens.

Start your visa application process immediately after receiving your official acceptance letter, as visa appointments may be required and slots fill up quickly. Putting off the task of scheduling an appointment could prevent you from receiving a visa in time to enroll in classes abroad. If you are not able to study abroad, and you have not made timely arrangements to enroll at Columbia, you may have to take a leave of absence.


How do I get a health insurance certificate/card if required for my visa?

Students on the Columbia plan should call the customer service line at Aetna Student Health at 800-859-8471. They will ask for some basic information, like insurance ID number, date of birth, address, and reason to get a certificate (e.g. visa eligibility). Certificates can be faxed or mailed at no cost in seven to 10 business days. 

Students not on the Columbia Plan must check with their own insurance plan whether or not they meet a foreign school or government’s criteria for coverage while abroad.


Can I participate in two different semester abroad programs over two semesters at Columbia Law School?

No. You can only receive credit for two semesters abroad if you are participating in one of our dual degree programs that entails spending both semesters of the 3L year in London, Paris, or Frankfurt.


Can I participate in the D.C. externship if I am studying abroad for a semester?

Yes. You may apply and are allowed to participate if accepted. Make sure to satisfy all degree requirements, as always.

Can I sublet my Columbia housing when I go abroad?
You are permitted to sublet your Columbia housing if you are on a Columbia-approved program and are not in your final semester at Columbia—i.e. if you are a 3L abroad during the fall semester or are a 2L away for either semester. You will need to fill out sublet forms and get a signature from the law school’s housing liaison in Student Services

We have many international exchange students who come to Columbia Law School, particularly in the fall. They are eager to find convenient and reasonably-priced housing, and we are happy to put you in touch. Each year, many incoming exchange students sublet Columbia housing from Columbia Law School students going abroad for the semester.

Exception: In some cases, graduating students in Law School housing (not Columbia University Housing) may sublet in the Spring semester if they are committed to staying in their units in order to study for the bar exam study after graduation.

If I study abroad in my final semester before graduation, may I sublet/retain my unit?
No. Students in their final semester must vacate their Columbia housing unit completely. Students must provide 30 days’ notice of their plan and will only be responsible for the rent until the day they move out and return keys. Students going abroad in the spring must vacate their apartments by December 31 to avoid paying a fee for the following semester.

If I go abroad in the spring, can I return to Law School housing to study for the state bar? 
Unfortunately, 3L students are not permitted to retain their apartments in the spring to return for state bar examination housing. Oxford Global Alliance students whose program ends in March may choose to retain or give up their housing and may apply to stay in the housing for bar study, but are not permitted to sublet while abroad.

Will I have access to emergency assistance?

The University has retained International SOS (ISOS) to provide worldwide travel emergency medical assistance to include medical and evacuation coverage for faculty, staff, and students while abroad on Columbia-related travel. ISOS can also be contacted to help you find convenient and appropriate care in close proximity to your location. 


What mental health support services are available?

In order to better support the mental health needs of Columbia University affiliates abroad, the University offers two additional services from ISOS: Enhanced Emotional Support and LiveChat.

  • Enhanced Emotional Support allows Columbia travelers up to five free counseling sessions (per trip) with a certified mental health practitioner while abroad. These sessions can take place via phone, Skype, or—where available—in person, at your choosing. Access to this offering is available 24/7 by calling the ISOS dedicated scholastic line at +1 215-942-8478. For students who have provided consent, continuity of care with Counseling and Psychological Service (CPS) will be coordinated for when the student returns to campus.
  • LiveChat allows Columbia affiliates who have downloaded the ISOS Assistance app (available on Apple, Android, and Windows platforms) to “chat” 24/7 in real-time with an ISOS representative regarding any health, safety, or security issues that may arise. As LiveChat can be used via a Wi-Fi signal, it incurs no data/roaming charges.

What disability accommodations are available?

Columbia Law School does not offer its own courses of study overseas but rather places students within standing academic programs managed by its partner schools. International standards for both the qualification of disability and associated accommodations may vary according to the partner school or city/country. Some programs may lack many of the standard disability accommodations that are found at Columbia and throughout the United States. Students are urged to consult the Office of International Programs about the conditions at specific schools and the possibility of requesting reasonable accommodations (e.g. physical accessibility and extended time on exams) for documented disabilities. It is important that students who require such accommodations contact the foreign institution several months prior to traveling abroad.

Why does LawNet show only 10 credits for my semester abroad?

Until we have your final schedule, students in semester abroad programs will be registered for 10 points in LawNet as a placeholder. The true number of credits you will receive for the semester may be more or less than this. Once we have students’ course information, we will determine the equivalent number of Law School credits and update LawNet accordingly.


How many credits can I earn abroad?

Generally, students take the equivalent of 11-13 credits abroad. The maximum number of CLS credits that may be transferred in a semester is the equivalent of 13. Acceptance of credit from a course taken at a foreign school is subject to a determination that it meets Columbia Law School's requirements.

Occasionally, students take the equivalent of nine or 10 credits abroad and meet their minimum credit requirement with supervised research with a Columbia professor or journal work while abroad. 

As a general rule, Columbia Law School does not give credit towards the J.D. for clinics, field placements, and other experiential learning programs undertaken as part of a study abroad program. Courses taken abroad may not be counted toward Kent or Stone honors. Students who are abroad for a semester are only eligible for honors if they have registered for at least 15 graded credits from the Law School during that academic year.

Paris and Amsterdam Alliance participants get 12 CLS credits. Oxford participants get nine CLS credits for a fixed schedule and must also write a 2-3 credit supervised research paper with a Columbia professor. London LL.M. participants get 18 CLS credits for the year and require a three-credit supervised research paper to reach 21 CLS credits. Sciences Po Dual Degree participants get 21 CLS credits for the year.

Note: Paris 1 and Frankfurt (ILF) Dual Degree program participants will receive 20 credits for the year’s study. Potential participants should speak to the OIP about how to obtain the one additional credit required.


How are international credits converted to Law School credits? 

The Law School awards J.D. credit for overseas study in a manner that is consistent with the ABA’s Standard 310 (“Determination of Credit Hours for Coursework”). Given the variation in credit-related policies among different national educational systems, OIP must make credit transfer determinations on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, we usually require about 14-15 hours of classroom time, each supported by approximately two hours of out-of-classroom work for each one credit applied toward the J.D. 

All courses taken for credit abroad must be pre-approved by OIP. Students are responsible for sending the following information to [email protected] as soon as the partner school’s course registration or add/drop permits: 

  • A list of courses for which you intend to register
  • The number of foreign credits awarded by the partner school for each course
  • The number of classroom minutes per class session for each course
  • The number of class sessions during the term for each course
  • A calculation for each class of the number of class sessions per term multiplied by the number of minutes per class session and a calculation of total classroom minutes

All proposed subsequent course changes must be reported immediately to OIP for approval.

You may need to add courses or write an additional supervised research paper with a Columbia Law professor if you cannot otherwise receive approval to transfer sufficient credits towards the J.D.

Note: It is possible that your proposed course selection may not be approved by OIP, so you must allow sufficient time to make any necessary changes. No credit will be given for courses that are not eligible for approval (e.g. language study) or that are offered outside the partner school’s faculty of law (e.g. in the business school). 


Can I receive credit for language courses abroad?

No. Non-law classes taken abroad do not count toward the J.D. degree.


Is class attendance mandatory at foreign schools?

The policy depends on the school. In some places, attendance is mandatory to receive credit from the foreign school. For example, at some Paris schools, more than two absences may lead to failing the course. No foreign credit would mean no Columbia credit. You are expected to attend classes, follow the partner school’s rules, and represent Columbia Law School well while abroad.


Will study abroad grades appear on my Law School transcript?

You will receive transcripts with grades from the partner law school. The grades earned abroad will not be listed on your Columbia transcripts; the Columbia transcript will only indicate the number of credits earned under an international study abroad program.

However, Columbia will only award—and the Columbia transcript will only reflect—credit for approved courses that you pass with the equivalent of a grade of C or above. Students are generally not permitted to take classes abroad on a pass/fail basis.


Can I fulfill my pro bono requirement abroad? 

Yes. It is possible with prior approval from SJI to do pro bono work abroad or remotely. Make sure to get this approval before starting a project.


Can I fulfill my experiential requirement abroad?

No, your six experiential credits must be fulfilled while you are at Columbia. 


Can I continue to work on a journal while abroad?

Journals set their own policies regarding whether students can spend a semester or year away from Columbia. Many journals allow students to spend a semester or year abroad and work remotely and/or get credit while abroad, but it is always best to check with them. The Columbia Law Review allows a limited number of members to study abroad.


What kind of evaluations of my study abroad program am I required to submit?

You must submit course and program evaluations. Course evaluations should be about one-half to one page for each class and include specific things covered in the courses as well as give feedback on your impressions of the courses and professors overall. Final program evaluations should be as detailed as possible—the more feedback, the better. Dual degree program participants must submit midterm and final program evaluations. 


Do I have to have graduated or to have completed my degree requirements in order to take the state bar examination?

The rules vary by state, so you should check with the Office of Registration Services and with your specific state’s bar association (about specific time frames for other requirements, such as the pro bono hours and MPRE test). In some states, including New York, J.D. students can generally sit for the bar as long as degree requirements have been successfully completed, even if they have not yet been conferred their degree. 


Do I need to have my overseas law school fill out the Law School certificate after I pass the state bar exam? How do I do that?

After you pass your state bar examination, you will need to have each law school that you have attended, including foreign law schools, confirm this by filling out an original “Form Law School Certificate.” You should identify a contact person to whom you can send this. If you need help finding the contact person, please let OIP know. (Each study abroad partner school must identify a responsible contact person for Columbia students participating in the program there.)