Stage 1: Exploring an Idea for an
International Field School

The International Services for Students (ISS) office works with faculty who wish to develop an International Field School. Developing an International Field School is a three stage process that generally begins at least 18 months before offering the program. Once you are ready, email to make an appointment with the Manager, International Mobility and ISS Director to discuss your idea.

Stage 1

What is International Services for Students?

ISS is the Student Services unit that operates SFU’s Study Abroad programs (Exchanges, Field Schools and Short-Term Summer Programs). Our Study Abroad team offers professional one-stop support for faculty and staff leading international and intercultural learning activities for students.

All International Field School participants are required to complete a mandatory ISS Canvas program, Field School 101. ISS can provide access to a sample version of the course to faculty considering running an International Field School in order to see the information and resources that International Field School participants receive. Please contact to request access. The course you will have access to will be a sample only, and some content in the course may change by the time your International Field School runs. You will receive access to the Canvas program that your students are in once your program is running.

Why Develop a Program through International Services for Students?

For programs that are run as International Field Schools through International Services for Students, we are pleased to support you and your program through all stages of developing and leading your program.

We view our support as a partnership with the hosting department/faculty: the department/faculty owns the program, the professor (Field School Director) is the academic and location expert, and we are here to support the general administration of the program.  

Support and services include:

  • Opportunity to apply for International Field School Development Trip Funding 
  • Expertise and support from study abroad staff to help you navigate a range of considerations from logistical, to pedagogical, to academic. 
  • Students participating in an Exchange or International Field School offered through SFU’s International Services for Students (ISS) may be eligible for different types of funding.
  • Administrative services, including:
    · Promotions - we work with you to create promotional materials and a website for your program, host Field Schools Info Sessions, and can assist with sending promotions to other BC/Canadian institutions if desired,
    · Applications - we host an application system, answer student queries, pre-screen all applications,
    issue acceptance notifications, and ensure students complete all required documents and have proof of travel insurance,
    · Pre-departure - we provide a pre-departure Canvas program and run a pre-departure session for students and provide them with materials, we register students in their classes and post program fees to their student accounts, register students with SFU's travel registry and Canadian consular registry, liaise with SFU Financial Aid for student bursaries and loans administration,
    · Program Financials - we hold a financial account for your program, maintain your program budget, can make advance payments to program vendors, issue you a travel advance for what you will need in field, and give you an expense claim kit to help manage receipts in the field,
    · Program Contracts - we help determine if contracts are needed for your program, and assist with the process,
    · First Aid Preparation - we pay for you to do a required first aid training course and give you a medical kit to take with you on field trips,
    · In-Field - we issue a formative mid-program student evaluation and support issues / emergencies as/if needed
    · Return - we issue a summative end-of-program student evaluation, file your expense claim for the program, reconcile your final program budget, issue partial refunds to students if applicable, and submit a final report to SCIA


What is an International Field School?

An International Field School:

  • Is a course or group of courses (normally between 9-12 units) taken in one term that includes an extended period of study away from an SFU campus and occurs outside of Canada,
  • is directed by an SFU instructor,
  • includes a combination of coursework and assignments focused on integrating academic studies with relevant in situ experiences, and
  • includes clearly articulated educational goals related to the course content, the field experience, and the development of intercultural competencies and global citizenship.

International Field Schools must adhere to all SFU policies. Policies of particular pertinence to International Field Schools include:

    · Human Rights Policy (GP 18)

    · University Policy on International Activities (GP 23)

    · Accessibility for Students with Disabilities Policy (GP 26)

    · Conflict of Interest (GP 37)

    · Student Conduct Policy (S 10.05)

    · Student Academic Integrity Policy

    · Sexual Violence and Misconduct Prevention, Education and Support (GP 44)

    · Business and Travel Expenses (AD 3.02)

Consider the below important information in thinking through your idea for an International Field School:

  • In order for participants to be eligible to apply for financial aid, International Field Schools are usually full-time programs. While full-time undergraduate enrollment is considered 9 units for bursaries and loans, 12 units is required for students receiving scholarships. We encourage you to consider this when designing your International Field School to help make the cost more accessible to students.
  • International Field Schools require a minimum of ten students in order to run, and your department/faculty may have higher requirements.
  • SFU does not operate International Field Schools to countries or regions for which Global Affairs Canada has issued a travel advisory of ‘Avoid all non-essential travel’ or ‘Avoid all travel’.

What Makes an International Field School Great?

When thinking about International Field School development, what moves an experience from good to great? There are many factors that will be specific to a particular International Field School, but there are six general elements worth highlighting:

These elements will be referenced throughout the stages of International Field School Development, as a resource for you.

Below are some recommendations on things to consider in International Field School design pertaining to program content and teaching approaches as well as student experience, access and sustainability.

  • Start with strong, clear academic content.
    Why is it important to teach this course abroad? Make sure the learning objectives and the site itself are closely integrated. Make sure all short-term programs are connected to an academic course and are at least as rigorous as those taught on the home campus.
  • Consider incorporating experiential teaching approaches into program delivery design.
    Know how to incorporate and integrate the unique features of the site abroad to ensure students make connections and have authentic learning experiences.
  • Consider integration with the local host community abroad.
    The potential for intercultural learning is greatest in programs where there is some contact with the host community. International Field School design that incorporates opportunities to meet and learn with other students from the host country or engage and interact directly with those in the host community provide important perspectives and experiences.
  • Leverage international partners and develop co-teaching or guest lecture opportunities.
    Professors and academic experts from host country institutions provide unique perspectives. Beyond discipline specific learning, students can benefit from experiencing different teaching and learning approaches.
  • Include ongoing reflection for both individual students and the group as a whole.
    Students should be encouraged to take part in guided reflection practices to help them process and understand their experiences. The group should regularly engage in structured discussion. These should be reflections on both content and cultural components of the student experience.
  • Think about International Field School design as a pre, during and post travel experience.
    It is important to design an International Field School experience that prepares students adequately for what will be an intensive international learning experience.  Pre-readings, intercultural training, discussion of comparative and global issues related to the region are all important to International Field School design.  In the same way, what students do on return in terms of dissemination and sharing their experiences are also critical and can also significantly assist in attracting students for future International Field school offerings.
  • Build an International Field School program that is sustainable and accessible.
    The time and investment involved to develop and implement an International Field School is substantial so it is important to think about how the timing, length, cost and academic recognition make an offering accessible to students and sustainable in the long term during the development stage.



Dirkx, J., Janka Millar, K., Berquist, B., & Vizvary, G. (2014b). Graduate student learning

abroad: An emerging trend? International Higher Education, 77, 14-15.

Donnelly-Smith, L. (2009). Global learning through short-term study abroad. Peer Review, 11(4), 12.

Mills, L., Deviney, D. & Ball, B. (2010). Short-term study abroad programs: A diversity of options. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, (6:2).

International Field School Roles and Responsibilities

See the International Field School Roles and Responsibilities chart for an outline of roles and responsibilities for each partner/unit involved in International Field School development, administration and ongoing evaluation.

The International Field School Development process begins at least 18 months in advance of when you plan to offer the International Field School.

Connect with Former and Current Field School Directors

We encourage you to connect with faculty who have developed and/or run International Field Schools. While ISS will provide you support throughout the International Field School development process, faculty who have developed and run International Field Schools will be able to offer a different perspective, having gone through the process and facilitated programs themselves.

The faculty members below all have experience developing and/or facilitating International Field Schools and would be happy for you to contact them with questions about their experiences:

Dr. Alessandra Capperdoni

Prague Humanities Field School 2018

Dr. Dimitris Krallis

Greece Hellenic Studies Field School

Dr. Hugo Cardoso

Portugal Archaeology Field School 2018

“The field school provides me with the unique opportunity to watch students grow as archaeologists and individuals, and taking them to unfamiliar territory, immersed in a different professional and local culture for 5 weeks, results in an exciting test of their abilities and values. The archaeological excavation of human remains is one of the most didactic ways to confront our own mortality and one of the most rewarding means to connect to our own cultural and biological heritage and that of others.” - Dr. Hugo Cardoso