Frequently Asked Questions

About Us

What is Academic Year Abroad?

Founded in Paris in 1960 by Stetson Holmes, late Vice President of the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, the AYA Paris program (L’Année Universitaire à Paris) is based upon a convention with the Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and operates as an association à but non-lucratif selon la loi de 1901. AYA Madrid is based upon a convenio with the Universidad Carlos III and participates in the Curso de Estudios Hispánicos at Carlos III. Advanced AYA students attend the Universidad Complutense or the Universidad Autónoma as alumnos visitantes. Among the founding fathers of AYA were Marcel Moraud, who later formed COUP (now CUPA), and Hollins Abroad founder Stuart H.L. Degginger. The Paris office of AYA is located at the Columbia University study-abroad center, Reid Hall (4, rue de Chevreuse), in Montparnasse; the Madrid office is at the Facultad de Humanidades at Carlos III; the Siena office is in the city’s centro storico. The AYA home office is in Red Hook, NY.

Is AYA an accredited school?

AYA operates as a consortium with Bard College, the Catholic University, and Ripon College and, upon an individual basis, with numerous other universities and colleges (Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale, et al). Official accreditation is granted by the home institution by virtue of the consortial relationship. American colleges and universities are accredited by certain accrediting organizations like the Middle States Association. Overseas programs sponsored by colleges and universities are therefore typically described as accredited; often identical programs sponsored by organizations like AYA are not so described. Please note that the term “accredited” as it applies to certain other programs can be misleading: it is curiously true that some overseas programs sponsored by “accredited” institutions are not of the highest quality. Beware of courses (1) not offered at universities, (2) not based upon agreements with European universities, (3) not taught by regular university professors, (4) not taught in French, Italian, or Spanish, etc. AYA always strives to maintain the highest academic standards, and its programs are recommended by some of the best universities in the US.

Does AYA offer courses overseas in English?

Almost never. Since AYA students participate in direct registration programs, university courses are conducted in Paris, Madrid, and Siena in, respectively, French, Spanish, and Italian. Courses which European universities offer (usually in part) in English are rare exceptions. For example, courses at the Sorbonne in English or American literature might require readings in English; however, lectures are conducted, and papers and exams written, in French. In fields like Business Administration, required texts are often written in English, and European faculty members, having sometimes been trained at American or British universities, employ English in instruction.

Why are AYA fees relatively low? Does this mean that AYA does not offer as much as other premium programs?

AYA fees are low because of a modest operating budget: a small staff, minimal advertisement and marketing, and agreements with universities. AYA relies particularly upon word-of-mouth recommendations from former students. AYA programs, which are high in quality, are supported by fees which are kept to a practical minimum. Identical university- or privately-sponsored programs (often run by large staffs intent upon recruitment) often cost as much as $10,000.00 more per year. AYA places students in genuine university courses in Madrid, Paris, and Siena. Its home-stay arrangements, cultural activities, and professional supervision are second to none. AYA takes care to increase its fees only because of inflationary trends in Europe, or the weakness of the dollar relative to the euro.

Is it possible to use financial aid for overseas study?

Yes. Students who wish to study with AYA in Madrid, Paris, or Siena may do so by applying for grants and loans through their home institutions. This involves prior approval by the American or Canadian college or university of the course of study in which the student will be enrolled as well as the signing of a consortium agreement with AYA. AYA will be glad to provide course listings/descriptions for the fields in which an APPLICANT (not someone who is merely curious) might be interested. AYA requires official notification of the nature, amount, and award date of the grant or loan. (Note that an American college or university may not deny its students federally-funded financial aid for study overseas with AYA so long as the course of study is approved in advance for credit.)

How many credits are taken overseas?

Students typically take 15-18 hours of credit per term (or the equivalent of a full-time course of study at home).

How are final grades reported?

Generally speaking, European universities have no registrars (in the American sense) and issue no transcripts for regular courses (though some are considering adoption of the American system). However, courses taken at Paris IV are reported in AYA transcripts that contain the seal/signature of the Université de Paris-Sorbonne and have the back-up of relevés de notes. Carlos III provides a certificado (transcript) for courses taken at the Curso de Estudios Hispánicos. The Università degli Studi di Siena provides libretti di studio. The AYA transcript indicates course title, professor’s name, original grade, and suggested American grade equivalent. At the request of the student or the home institution, a translation of the transcript can be provided. Based as they are upon legal agreements with the European universities, AYA transcripts have been accepted as valid for forty-five years by very nearly all American and Canadian schools. Exceptionally, however, an American college or university requires additional documentation, which AYA can provide in the form of actasrelevés de notes, or grades sheets from the European universities.

Can I take graduate courses in Madrid or Paris?

Under exceptional circumstances the Director in Paris can arrange for qualified students to take courses intended for the licence or the maîtrise. In Madrid the Director can arrange for qualified students to take advanced courses (equivalent of graduate study) at Carlos III, the Autónoma, or the Complutense. In either case, the awarding of graduate credit is at the discretion of the home graduate school. In practice, some American graduate schools allow no transfer graduate credit; others accept upwards of two or three courses toward the masters.

Can I earn a French degree in Paris, an Italian degree in Siena, or a Spanish degree in Madrid, through AYA?

Not as a visiting student. Though AYA students take genuine university courses at the Sorbonne, the Institut Catholique, the Complutense, the Autónoma, Carlos III, and the Università degli Studi, they do so as visiting students. That is, they are not candidates for degrees from these institutions but intend to transfer degree credits to their home institutions. Credits earned in Paris, Madrid, or Siena are considered applicable to the American degree. If you want to earn a Spanish, French, or Italian degree, you must apply to the university itself (a somewhat complicated procedure): begin with the cultural officer at the appropriate Spanish, French, or Italian consulate.

Do I need a visa to study in France, Italy, or Spain? How do I get one?

Yes, ordinarily you will need to apply for a student visa to study in Madrid, Paris, or Siena. You must have a US or Canadian passport. In addition, you will need a provisional admission document from the Sorbonne, the Università degli Studi, or Carlos III, and an AYA attestation of financial responsibility to apply for the French student visa. An AYA certification of financial responsibility to apply for the Italian, French, or Spanish student visa is required as well. At times the consulate demands proof of a round-trip flight after an extended stay (see below). In short, AYA provides the necessary documents, but you yourself must apply for the visa.

Does AYA arrange for flights to Madrid, Paris, and Siena?

AYA itself does not arrange for flights; however, at the appropriate time it can recommend agencies that provide student fares to Madrid, Paris, or Siena. Typically, but not always, flights leave from the New York metropolitan area after students have made connecting flights from their respective home airports. The official beginning date of the program is always the date on which the fall- or spring-term group arrives in Madrid, Paris, or Siena. Students are cautioned to buy round-trip tickets for the purpose of obtaining the student visa.