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Building Your Study Abroad Program: A Guide for University Professors

Few people realize how much effort goes into building a study abroad program. From planning the logistics to recruiting prospective students, it’s a long process. And whether you’re a foreign language professor, a team coach, or anything in between, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

Luckily, Acanela Expeditions is here to make this process a smooth one. Here’s everything you’ll need to do — and everything we’ll need to do — to ensure your program’s success.



 1. Choosing the focus and destination

When developing your study abroad program, you’ll need to determine the academic focus before choosing your destination and dates. You don’t need to develop a full syllabus quite yet, but you should have a good idea of the courses you’ll teach and the aims you’d like to accomplish.

Once you have determined the scope of your academic focus, you can pick a destination and date accordingly.

Ideally, you should be familiar with the social, economic, political, and cultural environment of your chosen destination. It’s also a good idea to verify that there are no major travel advisories or warnings for the country (or countries) you wish to visit. You can visit the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website to check if your destination of choice has any specific alerts. This site also provides information on security, health and safety issues, travel best practices, and more.

Although you may concentrate your entire study abroad program in one location, some professors enjoy traveling to multiple locations throughout their program. This allows students to immerse themselves (and learn from) more than one culture.

Finally, you’ll need to decide on the number of credits you will offer, since the program length should correspond with the number of credit hours that you will be offering. 

 2. Building your proposal

Next, we’ll work together to build a proposal that you’ll eventually present to your study abroad department.

The Acanela team will communicate with you — addressing your concerns, asking about your program aims, and finding ways to support your coursework — to come up with a strong itinerary. In this itinerary, we’ll outline logistical details, local lodging, on-site travel arrangements, and meals and activities for the students.

 3. Pricing your study abroad program

You’ll need to consider the number of participants you’d like to accommodate and the price at which you can offer the program. The program should not be cost-prohibitive, and what’s more, your participants should not be expected to spend excessive time on buses, trains, or planes to get from place to place.

When you’re arranging lodging, you’ll need to consider if you want to offer Wi-Fi access in the rooms, if bathrooms are shared or private, or if students will be staying in hotels or student residences. You’ll need to think about the major details (like whether or not you’ll need us to find classroom space) and the minor details (like whether you’ll require your students to purchase an international phone plan).



 4. Designing your syllabus and supporting your program aims

You’ll need to design your course(s) to appeal to your students and perhaps to highlight current events and contemporary culture in your chosen destination.

You should customize your program to give students an opportunity to make deeper connections and dig below the surface. You might wish to build in a field trip that will further illuminate your classwork and lectures. Consider taking experiential trips to a local’s home or meeting with a local artisan to help students immerse themselves in that specific culture. You can even require pre- and/or post-program coursework to build upon the lessons that your students will learn in country.



5. Presenting your proposal

Once your details are in place, you can present the proposal to your study abroad department. The department will likely make a few adjustments to the program, which the Acanela team will incorporate into the next version of the itinerary.

After the final itinerary has been reviewed and approved, the Acanela team will issue a contract and partnership agreement that both parties will sign. The team will then create a landing page with the itinerary details, which you can share with your prospective students.



6. Promoting the program

You’ll probably generate the most buzz if you promote your program across multiple channels: the study abroad website, the program search directory, your department’s social media pages, and more. You should also announce the program in your classes and explain your excitement, course aims, and basic itinerary. (You can also ask colleagues outside your department to spread the word!)

Finally, you can even request the university newspaper to assign a reporter to write about your program.

7. Getting ready to go

Once the students sign up for the program, each student will receive a log-in, which can be implemented on your school website or on our Acanela website, depending on your program. Your students can pay for their study abroad experience with their scholarships or personal funds, and they can even organize a fundraiser to subsidize the program costs.

The faculty member’s costs for the trip are built into the student cost for the study abroad program.

 8. Embarking on your adventure

Once the pre-trip preparation and final payments have been issued for the trip, it’s time to go! And with the Acanela team’s help, you’ll continue to receive support throughout the trip.

Once your study abroad program has ended, we will work with you on a post-trip evaluation to capture feedback about the trip, including what went well and how we can improve as we develop future programs.


The Acanela team can help you customize your study abroad program to enhance your students’ coursework, cultural understanding, and awareness of global issues. We know how to implement innovative, academic-based programs that meet the needs of today’s university students, and we’d love to help you plan the perfect study abroad program.

We’ve worked with everyone from university-based culinary schools to collegiate basketball teams, MBA programs, and even high school classes, and we’d love to work with you next!

Contact us — expeditions@acanela.com — to begin planning your program!