Funding for International Activities

Planning Student Research Abroad

This site is designed to give students information on planning for research abroad. The information included here refers specifically to independent graduate and dissertation-level research, rather than other academic activities abroad.

Applying for Funding

It's recommended that you begin your search for external funds at least a year in advance. The following is a step-by-step process for applying for a grant for student research abroad.

1. Contact the Sponsoring Agency

Contact the sponsoring agency to see that your proposed research project fits their guidelines. Most agencies are willing to give you an idea of the types of projects usually funded and tips for a successful proposal.

2. Obtain Application Materials and Information

The required application materials will usually include an application form, a proposal, a curriculum vitae or resume, and references. You may be asked for: Funding sources to which you have applied. Academic or professional honors and fellowships you have received. Publications or research to which you have contributed. Date you plan to complete your degree. Proof of language proficiency if the program or your specific research project requires a second language.

3. Acquire References

References should include in your letter of recommendation: How long and in what capacity the referee has known you. Your technical and scholarly qualifications for the proposed research. An evaluation of your long-term promise as a contributor to the research in your field. Your competence and stature in your own discipline, and any further information the referee deems appropriate. When asking professors for references, remember to allow them ample time to meet the stated deadline.

4. Prepare a Proposal

At this stage you've probably already developed the academic content of your proposal through internal processes, for example through your department's dissertation approval process. Writing your proposal should not entail additional work beyond molding your proposal to meet the agency's specifications and priorities.

In general, your proposal will be required to:

  • Detail the intellectual background, preparation, and skills that you bring to the project, especially your ability to undertake research in a foreign environment.
  • Describe the research you plan to undertake in as much detail as possible, including research sites, courses you will take if applicable, individuals with whom you will be collaborating, and a timetable for your activities.
  • Identify the research questions to be asked, including their broader, intellectual context.
  • Specify the proposition or hypotheses to be tested.
  • Detail the methods of finding, gathering, and analyzing the data you are drawing upon.
  • Explain the potential of your project for adding to the existing body of research in your particular field. If you are applying for a grant that is not specifically for research abroad, you may be asked to justify doing your research overseas.

Campus & Other Resources

Global Programs and Strategy Alliance

The GPS Alliance administers several scholarships and fellowships to support research abroad.

The GPS Alliance also administers the University's mandatory international health insurance policy and the process for applying to travel to a country on the U.S. State Department travel warning list.

Graduate Fellowship Office

The Graduate School Fellowships Office administers fellowships and provides details and applications on grants for graduate students at the University of Minnesota, including the student Fulbright program. Contact the Graduate School at 612-625-7579 or gsfellow@umn.edu Graduate School Funding Resources This funding resource is designed for the graduate students and postdocs at the University who want to locate funding information at a one-stop place. The focus of this introductory list is to compile such information throughout the university websites. The resources have been chosen based on their applicability to graduate students.

University Honors Program

The University Honors Program serves undergraduates and recent graduates from all colleges at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in applying for scholarships at the national and international level, including two graduate-level international grants—the Marshall Scholarships and the Rhodes Scholarships.

Learning Abroad Center

The Learning Abroad Center administers study abroad programs, some of which may accommodate graduate student participation. The Learning Abroad Centerstaff are is available to help students plan for study abroad, facilitate credit, and review funding resources, and provide information on mandatory international health insurance coverage.

Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA)

SPA is the University of Minnesota system-wide office authorized to submit research proposals and receive awards from external sources on behalf of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota. SPA is also the fiduciary for the U on grant-related matters. The SPA website has information on funding opportunities and strategic advice for research funding.

Grant Proposal Tips

Funding reference books available at the University of Minnesota libraries

  • Fellowships in international affairs: a guide to opportunities in the United States and abroad / Women in International Security. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994. TC Wilson Library Reference JX1293.U6 F39 1994 Non-Circulating
  • Financial Aid for Research, Study, Travel and Other Activities Abroad, Reference Service Press, 1990-91. LB2376 F67x
  • Financial Aid for Research and Creative Activities Abroad, 2006-2008, Reference Service Press. Available at OIP.
  • Foundation Grants to Individuals, Foundation Center LB2336 F596x
  • Free Money for Foreign Study: A Guide to more than 1000 Grants and Scholarships for Study Abroad, by Laurie Blum, Facts and File, 1991 Quarto LB2337.2 C371 1990
  • Free Money for Graduate School: A Directory of Private Grants, by Laurie Blum, H. Holt, 1990 LB2337.2 B58 1999
  • International Studies Funding and Resources Book: Education Interface Guide to Sources of Support for International Education, Ginny Gutierrez and Ward Morhouse, eds., Council on International and Public Affairs and Apex Press, 1990. Quarto LC1099.177x 1990
  • Money for International Exchange in the Arts: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for U.S. Nationals, Institute of International Education. NX 398.G85 1992
  • Peterson's Grants for Graduate Students, Peterson's Guides, 1995 Quarto LB2337.2.P46
  • The International Scholarship Book: A Complete Guide to Financial Aid for Study Abroad. LB2337.2 C364 1990

Preparing to Conduct Research Abroad

Pre-Departure Planning

Learning Abroad Center: The Learning Abroad Center's Resource Center has more than 500 titles in its travel library, including the most recent Lonely Planet guidebooks. They have an extensive library of information on travel, work, and study abroad, and information ranging from cultural differences to packing tips. LAC also sells travel products and rail passes.

Visa information: See the U.S. State Department website for information about obtaining a visa. If you are a F-1 or J-1 international student, consult with the International Student and Scholar Services office. You may need to contact the embassy of your destination country directly to determine which type of visa is appropriate for your purpose.

International health insurance and release and waiver: All students traveling abroad in connection with their University of Minnesota studies are required to receive international health insurance approved by the University’s Risk Management Office and must sign a release and waiver.

Immunizations and vaccinations: You may be traveling to a country where the risk of certain illnesses is greater than in the United States. For information about health precautions and medical preparation such as immunizations and vaccinations, contact the Boynton Health Service Travel Clinic.

Travel to countries on the U.S. State Department travel warning list: University policy requires students, and faculty/staff leading students, traveling to countries on the U.S. Department of State's travel warning list to seek special permission from the University's International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee.

Approval from foreign governments: You may need special approval for undertaking research in another country. Consult with that country's embassy or consulate on the requirements.

Human subjects approval: The University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews research projects that involve human or animal subjects to ensure that two broad standards are upheld. If you are using human subjects in your research you must apply for approval.

Cultural, Academic Adjustment, and Re-Entry

Allow time to adjust: After you arrive in your host country, it is important to allow yourself time to adjust. Things you take for granted here shopping for groceries, going to the bank, using the bus may have to be re-learned. You can lessen your culture shock and prepare for cultural differences by researching the country you will travel to.

Courses on intercultural communication: The Communications Studies department offers classes on intercultural communication and intercultural re-entry. COMM 3451 Intercultural Communication: Theory and Practice details theories and factors influencing intercultural communication, and helps you develop effective communication skills. COMM 3452 Communication and the Intercultural Reentry aids those returning home after studying and living abroad. Its focus is how to understand the impact of intercultural experience as the basis for social change.

Learn the language: Even if you have determined that you don't need a foreign language to accomplish your research, you may wish to learn some basic phrases. Having even simple communication skills will help you to become more involved with your host country culture and to be a more successful researcher. If you already know the language of the country you are traveling to, you may want to practice your language skills with a native speaker. The TandemPlus program arranges individual face-to-face partnerships as well as electronic exchanges.

Cultural Differences

Learn about the cultural differences and cultural rules: Different cultures have different values and norms of behavior. For example, there may be great differences in gender roles in your country of research. This is especially true in countries where women are less likely to be university or formally educated. The student/professor relationship may be more formal than in the United States, and you may be expected to dress or act accordingly. These are cultural phenomena, and need to be respected. You may not agree with the policies and norms, but you should plan to function in that context to accomplish your goals. These cultural differences will need to be factored into your research plan and timeline. Cultural rules for access to resources, people, and materials should also be taken into consideration. What constitutes good research strategy in the United States may not work well elsewhere.

How do things work?: Being abroad will entail learning to function in different bureaucracies, including other universities and academic departments, businesses, and government agencies. Secretaries and other "front line" workers can be good sources of information, as can co-workers, neighbors, and other Americans who have had experience in your country of research.

What to take: Don't take for granted that the same equipment available here will be available in your host country. Assess what you will need and what you can gain access to abroad. Consider whether your destination country has easy access to research or office supplies that you may need, and take supplies with you accordingly. Before you leave for your trip, contact your adviser and discuss expectations on keeping in contact about your research while you are abroad.

Meet people from the country you are visiting before you leave: Whether you expect great cultural differences or not, you may wish to talk to some people from the country you will be visiting before you leave to get some idea of what will be expected of you. There are people from more than 125 different countries on campus. International Student and Scholar Services sponsors Small World Coffee Hour during the academic year. This is a good place to meet students and scholars from around the world.

Protocols and Follow-Up

Even though you will have thoroughly prepared your research project before leaving the United States, once you enter your host country you will rely on the assistance of others to help you find, interpret, and analyze the information you need. Academic colleagues, librarians, local informants, and other workers in the bureaucracy will probably be of great assistance to you. Be sensitive that your priorities and timeline may not be theirs. As a researcher, you should be conscious of the time and financial burdens a request may place on an individual or organization.

Gift giving: Consider taking University of Minnesota memorabilia or other Minnesota "artifacts" along with you to give as gifts. While gift giving is culture specific and should be appropriate to the relationship, academic colleagues would most likely appreciate university insignia items that can be used or displayed in offices. The University Bookstore has a wide selection of gifts.Keep in mind that different cultures have different viewpoints, expectations, and etiquette related to gift-giving.

Business cards: Consider having business or name cards printed before you go. Have your host country address printed on the cards if possible. These are useful when making contacts with foreign colleagues.

Follow-up: Those who have helped you at the research stage may be interested in your results and conclusions. You may want to send them a progress report or a summary of your final results. If they have been particularly important to your research, mentioning their names in the introduction or acknowledgments to your thesis would be appropriate. Maintaining contacts with these associates will be a long-term investment for further research and follow-up.