Pursuing Academic Credit

During the gap semester, students have the option to earn up to 16-quarter hours (approx 10.6-semester credits) of college credit through Portland State University (PSU) and their partnership with the Gap Year Association (GYA). PSU is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities which is widely accepted throughout the country at both public universities and private institutions. PSU has been named one of the nation’s “most innovative” colleges for the last four years by U.S News & World Report in recognition of their leadership in finding new ways for students to succeed.

Portland State University offers a number of courses designed to allow students to earn academic credit for international study or volunteer experience. The courses do not require you to go to Portland, and there is no physical classroom. The course meets electronically by email, mail, phone or fax. Reading, journaling and paper-writing are an integral part of the curriculum. There is a high degree of latitude for you in determining what you would like to study within each course – you can focus on the aspects of the region or culture that are of most interest to you, and most of the 13 offered courses fit into the structure of the ARCC Gap Curriculum on any ARCC Gap Semester.

Portland State University Course Credit Options

ANTH 299: People and Places - How Location Affects Culture

In this 200-division course, students will better understand the ways local populations are impacted by their location – environmentally, historically, culturally, and/or economically. Students will explore how social divisions occur as well as how divisions can be positively addressed. Students will learn about how the local culture has evolved to its present state, and strive to understand what influences environmentally, historically, culturally, and/or economically have influenced it.

GEOG 299: Geography of Global Issues

This course introduces global perspectives, basic concepts and fundamental questions of geography. It focuses on how all locations on Earth are interconnected and explores how humanity uses the planet as varies from place-to-place, comparing and contrasting to the students’ home. Students will work to understand the growth and distribution of human populations; the complexities and varying systems of land use; geopolitics and colonialism; the geographic impact of selected issues such as gender issues, poverty, racism, religion, etc.

PHE 299: Healthcare Systems and the Affected

Students will be exposed to alternative healthcare systems and alternative healthcare practices. They will learn about the pros and cons of the host-country’s health and healthcare, and chart progressive ways to improve. Possible areas of focus might include, obesity, infant-mortality, domestic-violence, addiction issues, HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, nutrition, water sanitation, etc.

PHL 299: Introduction to Spiritual / Religious Studies and their Roles in Culture

This course engages students in meaningful work/volunteer experiences while helping them gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop the necessary skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. Students will study the spirituality of their region to understand a sense of local spiritual traditions and provide a level of insight into personal belief structures and how they structure daily life during their academic study abroad.

PSYCH 299: Culture and Its Influence on the Ways People Operate

Students will explore the psychological differences and similarities across cultural boundaries, and explore issues like “what is success across cultural lines” and “how does language determine worldview?” Students will challenge their own cultural norms and identify cultural biases in undertaking this course.

SOC 299: Self and Community - Culture, Cohort, Self

It offers the student an opportunity to reflect on the complex relationships within the host culture surrounding a particular event, the cohort of peer-students in which students form a relevant identity, and their own history. Students will have an option to write an ethnology based on living within a foreign culture for two months and use their cohort experience for a detailed study of social systems and self-growth.

ECON 299: Principles of Economics; International Economics

Students will enhance their understanding of global economics and gain a first-hand experience of the ways that international policy impacts local populations and seek an understanding for how the global supply chain works. Students will be asked to trace a particular commodity from production to purchase, with each step along the way understanding where the dollars have passed and what are the results from each step.

HIST 299: Colonization and Western Influences

In this study of colonialism and the history of Western influences, students will strive to understand the influences that colonialism has had on the host country. Students will explore the ways local cultures have been impacted by the influences of “westernized countries” that might include infrastructure (roads, trains, and transportation), language, gender roles, world-view, social justice issues, sanitation, food, politics, political influences, natural resource management, etc.

INTL 199: Globalization Awareness and Community Development

This course provides students with an opportunity to learn through work experience and volunteer service concurrent with assignments while on their academic study abroad program. It engages students in meaningful work/volunteer experiences while helping them gain an understanding of a particular issue of their choosing relevant to globalization and its impacts on local populations including international development initiatives.

INTL 299: Leadership Across Borders

This course creates an opportunity for students to assess and understand different models of leadership in modern societies. Students will explore varying models of leadership from a host culture perspective, compare them to the student’s home culture, and assess personal leadership strengths. Students will be expected to integrate information from participant observation, research, readings, and interviews to inform conclusions.

ESM 101: Environmental Sustainability

It offers the student an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and affords an opportunity to take advantage of appropriate technology, sustainability issues in the developing world, and to learn first hand about local issues of environmental sustainability observed through travel and service learning.

ESM 102: Global Perspectives

It offers the student an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and to learn first-hand about local issues of global citizenship observed through travel. It will provide an introduction to the richness of cultures in the world, drawing on perspectives from the locals themselves, and rooted in the humanities and social sciences. Students will explore the balance between political, economic, environmental, and cultural systems, to cultivate skills and attitudes in support of global citizenship.

ESM 199: Climate Change and Its Impacts

It offers the student an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and affords an opportunity to learn first-hand about how climate change affects local ecosystems and the people that depend on them. Through travel and service-learning, the course will equip students with an awareness about global impacts of climate change; students will be able to identify specific impacts local to their travels that result from rising CO2 emissions; and students will research how multiple issues of climate change can compound for great effect.

*Full course descriptions available at

Tuition & Fees:

The PSU tuition cost is a flat fee of  $1,700 which must be paid to ARCC prior to being registered for courses with PSU as a “non-PSU student.” The tuition will be collected by ARCC who will then submit this payment to the Gap Year Association for processing. ARCC and GYA must submit a complete list of students to be enrolled by February 1st (for spring semester students) or September 1st (for fall semester students). Enrolling after that date will incur a late fee of $300. It is possible to use 529 funds to pay for the college credit fee and the ARCC tuition. To do this, we recommend you contact your fund management company to confirm eligibility.


Students will submit their journals and coursework to the course Instructor-of-Record by June 20th (for spring semester students) or January 20th (for fall semester students). Grades are then submitted to PSU and the student receives an official PSU transcript. Instructors of Record are vetted by Portland State University for academic integrity and quality. Each grading instructor holds an advanced degree in relevant subject matter to grade for lower-level courses.

Transferring credit:

To ensure that PSU travel/study abroad credit will successfully transfer and not interfere with a deferral plan, we encourage students to contact their college or university’s admissions office directly. For additional resources and suggestions, visit

Next Steps:

If you are interested in earning college credit on your gap year, please contact ARCC’s in-office College Credit Liaison Emily Rosser at or at 415-332-5075 x 265. Emily will provide additional information and step-by-step instructions on how to register with Portland State University.