II. International Programs

D. Student-Initiated Study Abroad

Under the student-initiated study abroad program a student may spend one semester away from the Law School studying law in a foreign university law school or law department (hereafter the “foreign law school” or “host law school”), for which the student will receive, upon satisfactory completion, up to 15 credits (up to 12 transfer credits for coursework completed at the foreign law school and one to three graded credits for a research paper written as part of the study abroad experience under the supervision of an eligible Virginia law professor) and one residency semester toward the J.D. degree.

NOTE: Study abroad programs offered through U.S. law schools at foreign universities do not qualify under the provisions of this policy.

The program is administered by the Law School’s International Relations Committee, which must approve all applications. The purpose of student-initiated study abroad is to enable a student to obtain an academic and research experience not otherwise available at the Law School. Given the Law School’s diverse array of academic and research opportunities, students will bear a heavy burden to demonstrate that study abroad is truly justified. Each student participating in student-initiated study abroad will be required to complete a substantial research paper on a topic of scholarly interest to the student, approved by a Law School faculty member who has agreed to supervise the student’s project (“Law School faculty advisor”), and related to the course of study undertaken by the student at the host law school. The topic of the paper must be included in the student’s proposal to the International Relations Committee. The host law school must be one that offers the first degree in law within that country, although graduate-level courses may be more appropriate for the second- and third-year Law School students eligible for the program. The host law school and the academic coursework pursued must be of sufficiently high quality to make the granting of credit from the Law School appropriate.

It is the student’s responsibility to contact and obtain admission to and the approval of the host law school as well as to locate and enlist the support of a faculty advisor at the host law school (“foreign faculty advisor”). Student contact with foreign law schools should be coordinated through the Law School’s faculty International Relations Committee. If the plan requires study in a foreign language, the student must demonstrate proficiency in that language. Students engaged in student-initiated study abroad will continue to pay full tuition and fees to the University of Virginia for the semester in which they are engaged in student-initiated study abroad. The Law School will customarily provide some financial assistance to the student to partially offset the tuition charged by the host institution, but international student tuition is highly variable among foreign universities and each case will require independent financial review by the International Relations Committee. No such financial assistance will be provided without the approval of the International Relations Committee, so students are advised to consult with the committee early in the process. Students are encouraged to discuss other financial concerns with the Law School financial aid office.


A student in good academic standing may study abroad in their fourth or fifth semester of law school. Applications for student-initiated study abroad to be undertaken in the spring must be submitted to the chair of the International Relations Committee by Nov. 1. Applications for projects to be undertaken in the fall must be submitted by April 1. Planning for a student-initiated study abroad semester must commence much earlier, however, because several necessary steps — such as applying to an appropriate foreign law school, writing a research and foreign coursework proposal, and obtaining both Law School and foreign faculty advisors — are time-consuming.

NOTE: Transfer students awarded two residency semesters at entrance are not eligible for student-initiated study abroad.

The application for student-initiated study abroad should include:

a. A description of the host law school (including its national and international reputation), its grading system, academic calendar and a description of a full course load for a semester.

b. A proposed course of study, including the name and detailed description of each course to be taken (along with the name and qualifications of the instructor, when available), the number of hours per week and the number of weeks the course meets, the course type (e.g. lecture, seminar), and the evaluation method (e.g. written or oral examination, paper).

c. A letter of acceptance and approval of the proposed course of study from the host law school.

d. A written description of the research proposal that identifies the research topic on which the student and both the Law School and foreign faculty advisors have agreed, indicating the sources and methodology through which the student plans to research the topic, and demonstrating the usefulness of the foreign study for the type of research indicated. A proposal to examine a series of general questions about a topic without indicating a thesis or plan that shows how the research relates to the topic will not be acceptable. The student should explore the structure of the research proposal with both the Law School and foreign faculty advisors before submitting the application. The length of this research proposal is usually five to 15 double-spaced typed pages. The main justification for a student-initiated study abroad program is the opportunity for the student to do unusual types of research and to expand their intellectual base in a chosen area of law or policy. Thus the research paper ought to be one that cannot practically be researched in Charlottesville.

e. A signed letter from a full-time resident Law School faculty member confirming that he or she has discussed the project and the foreign coursework with the student, will supervise the coursework and research project and will grade the research paper (see section I.F).

f. A signed letter from a full-time resident faculty member of the host law school indicating that he or she has committed to serving as the student’s foreign faculty advisor, including a statement from the faculty member in support of the student’s course of study and research project. A simple statement of support will not be sufficient; the foreign faculty advisor must provide an endorsement specific to the student’s course of study and provide some explanation of why he or she supports the student’s particular research project. The foreign faculty advisor need not commit to grading the research paper; it will be graded for credit by the Law School faculty advisor. The student must also provide the foreign faculty advisor’s curriculum vitae.

g. A Law School transcript and a current resume. If the plan anticipates study in a foreign language, the student must demonstrate proficiency in that language.

h. A signed acknowledgement confirming the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of all program requirements, application requirements and procedures, and financial obligations and procedures.

Student-initiated study abroad applications are submitted to the International Relations Committee for review. The International Relations Committee may disapprove the application, approve it as submitted or request changes that would make the proposal acceptable. The committee will state in its approval how many credit hours (not to exceed 12) the committee will award for successful completion of the foreign coursework component of the student-initiated study abroad plan. The burden remains on the student to persuade the committee that the coursework is sufficiently rigorous and that it will enable the student to fulfill educational objectives that cannot be achieved at the Law School.

The International Relations Committee attaches conditions to its approval of the student’s application. Conditions include but are not limited to the following:

a. No student will be awarded more than 15 credit hours for successful completion of the student-initiated study abroad. Up to three of those hours will be allocated to the proposed substantive research paper and will be graded by the Law School faculty advisor. Up to 12 credits will be allocated to the student’s foreign coursework.

NOTE: For incidental study, students may earn up to six semester credits at a foreign university under the provision for Law Courses at Foreign Universities (see section II.C).

b. Steady progress must be made on the research paper during the student-initiated study abroad semester. Specifically, the student and the Law School faculty advisor should agree to a schedule for completion of a detailed outline of the paper, a first draft and subsequent drafts. Having agreed to such a schedule, the student will be expected to adhere to it. The final version of the paper must be submitted to the Law School faculty advisor no later than 14 days before the grading deadline for the semester in which the student-initiated study abroad is undertaken.

c. When the student submits the research paper to the Law School faculty advisor, the student will also submit to the Law School faculty advisor (with a copy to the chair of the International Relations Committee) a written summary of their experience in the student-initiated study abroad program.

d. As soon as it is available, the student shall forward to the chair of the International Relations Committee a copy of the grade report for their foreign coursework, with any additional explanation of the foreign law school’s grading system that the chair deems necessary to evaluate the adequacy of the student’s performance for Law School credit. D, F, NC and U grades (or their equivalents) awarded in a student-initiated study abroad program earn exclusion points in the same manner as grades earned at Virginia Law (see section I.J.2.C).

e. Periodic communications between the student and the Law School faculty advisor are required throughout the student-initiated study abroad semester to assist the student in making satisfactory progress toward completion of their academic coursework and research project. The responsibility for communication rests with the student, who should report to their Law School faculty advisor at least twice a month.

f. The student will be responsible for complying with all requirements and procedures for foreign student travel imposed by the University’s International Studies Office, with proof of compliance transmitted to the Student Records Office before the student departs.

NOTE: University policy restricts University-affiliated student travel to (or continued presence in) locations for which the U.S. State Department has issued a Travel Warning. Such warnings can be issued unexpectedly, and students should choose their destination and prepare accordingly.


Academic Policies (continued)