15 Ways to Tailor Your Custom Program

ISA’s Custom Programs division is celebrating its 15th year in service to U.S. universities for their faculty-led and partnerships study abroad programming. Join us for this series of 15 things as you imagine, develop, and implement your own custom programs abroad.

1. Focus your cultural activities and local tours on your curriculum.

Photo: ISA Custom Program student Daniel Budke.

For your architecture studio in Paris, visit the Château de Chenonceau with an experienced guide who can speak to its innovation through the Renaissance through the Age of Enlightenment.

2. Contract a local instructor to teach a custom course.

You can provide the course syllabus, or we can work with you to determine the content.

3. Add a group or individual service-learning component.

Photo: ISA staff Mouhsine Boukharsa.

ISA-ELAP students serving in the Boukachmir school in Morocco.

4. Include guest lecturers for a unique and engaging opportunity.

Photo: ISA staff Ghadeer Ussaleh.

If you don’t have specific contacts in your program site, ISA can typically reach out on behalf of your program. Here, ISA Amman and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students meet with President Sadeq of Al-Ahliyya Amman University in Jordan.

5. Visit local organizations and businesses to bolster your course.

Photo: ISA staff Guillermo Caceres.

University of Pittsburgh students met with El secretario de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable de la Nación in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

6. Enroll in a local institution for a history or culture course.

For the culture nerds in the audience, check out these course titles:

7. Include a survival language course.

ISA can contract a local language instructor to teach a lesson plan geared to surviving at the local market or finding the right bus; it can be non-credit bearing and as few or many hours of instruction as you’d like to fit in to your itinerary.

8. Customize your housing options.

Photo: ISA student Tony Pritchard.

In some sites, you can include a short-term homestay experience even if your itinerary is otherwise travel-heavy and based in hotels.

9. Introduce culture and gastronomy by taking part in a family dinner with locals.

Top Photo: ISA student Hannah Byers Straus. Bottom Photo: ISA staff Melissa Stone.

10. Combine an excursion with a rural experience for a comparison to city life abroad.

Photo: nz_willowherb

Visit an organic chocolate farm, a vineyard, or a farm.

11. Travel by train instead of a chartered bus, or opt out when your site is walkable.

Photo: ISA student Kristina Pantoja.

Don’t worry, this probably won’t be you.

12. Coordinate your pre-departure information sessions; ISA can join in-person or virtually.

ISA Custom Program Online Orientation.

13. Send students on a photo scavenger hunt and include points of interest to your program.

Photo: Judy van der Velden.

14. Examine your impact on the local economy by speaking with representatives from your housing accommodations.

Costa Rica Ministry of Sustainable Tourism.

You don’t have to be in the rainforest to take a personal look at sustainable tourism; ISA books with sustainable hotels whenever possible, so think about asking to include an explanation of their programs in yours.

15. Send a faculty leader for the duration, for a short section of the program, or tailor an existing program and enroll your students in local courses.

Custom programs are just that – you can lead a program abroad, no sabbatical needed!


Melissa Stone is a Program Manager for ISA Custom Programs. Melissa works with programs in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, and Jordan.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.