CSE offers Direct Exchanges to KTH in Sweden, ETH and EPFL in Switzerland, and Saarland in Germany. All offer courses in English. Based on the high quality of these schools and our history with these exchanges, it is relatively easy for CSE majors to plan courses that will fulfill degree requirements. This page contains basic info on these exchanges, plus advice for planning ahead, applying, and how coursework transfers back to UW.

Remember to also read the detailed pages on KTH, ETH, EPFL, and Saarland for specific info on each school, including academic and lifestyle details from former CSE exchange participants:

Very Basic CSE Exchange Info:

All of this info is discussed in much more detail below, but here are quick answers to common questions:

  • CSE exchanges are open only to CSE majors.
  • Students must be at least sophomore standing by credits by the start of winter quarter to apply.
  • No foreign language skill is required, though it may be useful.
  • It's possible to go on exchange for one semester or a full year.
  • CSE majors pay regular UW tuition while abroad, along with expenses like airfare and insurance.
  • Interested CSE students apply through the UW Study Abroad application portal\ in January. Students are selected based on their academic and personal preparation for an exchange.
  • CSE students must have completed at least one 300-level CSE course by the time they apply, and should plan on completing most/all 300-level CSE courses prior to their departure.
  • All/most of your exchange courses can fulfill CSE requirements, assuming you select courses carefully.

2020 Timeline for CSE Direct Exchanges in 2020-21:

  • Autumn: Research your options! Talk with an advisor and former participants
  • Autumn: Attend the CSE Exchange info session
  • Autumn: CSE Exchange Application opens (apply through UW Study Abroad)
  • January 15: Priority deadline to be considered for Study Abroad Scholarships
  • January 20: CSE Exchange Application due
  • Feb 12: Applicants notified of decisions via email
  • Feb 21: Selected students must commit to the exchange (including intended semester, if going abroad for one semester)
  • March 1: Participant info sent to UW Study Abroad office 

Before you go abroad

Learning about exchanges:

CSE majors interested in KTH, ETH, EPFL, or Saarland should speak to a CSE advisor and attend the autumn information session. It’s helpful to plan about a year in advance of your exchange – for example, you should talk with an advisor early in your junior year if you want to go abroad in your senior year.

The exchange info session covers the culture, academics, and logistics of an exchange. It’s an unstructured Q&A session with CSE faculty exchange coordinators, the CSE advisor exchange coordinator (Jenifer Hiigli), former exchange participants, and current visiting students from our partner schools. This session is your opportunity to ask questions, hear about others' experiences, and learn about the application process.

When to go:

Most students go abroad after they complete most/all required 300-level CSE courses. It’s also helpful to return to UW for at least a quarter after an exchange, to finish any requirements you can’t get abroad. People who begin CSE before their junior year have more flexibility, and find it easier to plan an exchange; people who start the CSE major as juniors may need to plan even more carefully.

Academic planning for an exchange:

With careful planning, you can complete CSE requirements abroad -- so an exchange shouldn’t delay graduation. Talk to an advisor about your remaining requirements, how many courses you might expect to take abroad, and whether exchange courses are likely to fit into your remaining requirements.

Students usually take advanced English-languge bachelors and masters courses abroad, comparable to 400-level CSE courses.  

The easiest credits to get from an exchange are towards CSE senior elective credits, though many classes can count as Core courses. CSE Advising can also provide info on prior course equivalencies.

It’s almost impossible to plan exactly which courses you will take abroad, so flexibility is important.

Differences between UW and European courses:

European courses are often different in style and structure than UW courses. Most consist of lectures and one big exam at the end of the semester -- possibly no projects, homework, or group work. This style can feel very independent, and it can be harder to gauge how well you’re doing.

This instructional style also puts lots of pressure on final exams. Although most CSE majors pass their exams, it is more common for students to fail exams at our partner schools. Most schools offer “re-exams” in case you need to retake an exam, but not always within the timeframe you plan to remain abroad.

There is often less interaction between teachers and professors abroad. And, since there is little/no group work, students may not work together as much as they do at UW.

Finally, most exchange courses are highly conceptual/theoretical. Even topics that require major projects at UW (compilers, OS) may be totally conceptual abroad -- no projects, and possibly no real coding. To make sure you have a well-rounded education, plan to take some project-oriented courses at UW.

Semesters vs. quarters:

Our partner schools run on semesters instead of quarters, and have different start and end dates for the year and for each term. One semester is roughly 1.5 quarters of coursework, but can be worth 2 full quarters if you take a heavy schedule abroad.

Students who go abroad for a full year avoid most scheduling issues. People who go for one semester may have more complications.

Students who go abroad for one semester often miss two UW quarters -- for example, they take Autumn semester abroad, have a break in February/March, and take Spring quarter at UW. Since one semester + one quarter is usually less than one full year of courses, this can cause complications with full-time enrollment for the year (required for financial aid and international students). It can also make it more difficult to complete a full year of coursework, possibly impacting your progress on requirements. If you do not want to spend a full year abroad, carefully consider whether one semester will work.

Expense of going abroad:

UW exchanges use the Home Tuition Program: UW students pay UW tuition while abroad, and no tuition at the visiting school. Financial aid and scholarships will apply normally to your tuition; consult a financial aid advisor with any questions.

Additional expenses include your flight, mandatory insurance, visa fees, and general living expenses. See each school's detailed page for housing and stipend info. Note that living expenses can be more expensive in major European cities. Remember to budget for travel within Europe, too: flights and train travel are relatively inexpensive, but worth saving some money for.

Students must also pay a UW Study Abroad fee to maintain to following benefits while abroad:

  • Concurrent enrollment;
  • Financial aid and scholarship eligibility;
  • Graded UW credit for coursework completed abroad;
  • Pre-registration privileges at the UW;
  • Continued deferment of school-related loans;
  • Satisfaction of residency graduation requirements

ETH and KTH offer stipends to visiting students, offsetting some of the costs. Scholarships and financial aid adjustsments may also be available.  


Applying for an exchange:

CSE majors apply through the department, with a brief statement of interest and a review of your academic record. You’ll apply in Winter for exchanges the following academic year. To be eligible, students must consistently meet CSE satisfactory progress policies.

We usually send several students per year to each school, about 1/2 of applicants.

If students are interested in more than one exchange, it is fine to apply to multiple and rank them. We do want essays to reflect why students are interested in individual locations, so there should be some tailoring in each essay to each location. Letters of recommendation are not required at this time.

Strong applicants are academically and personally prepared. Most selected students have a CSE GPA of 3.3 or higher, but higher grades usually make people more competitive. Personal preparation for an extended period abroad can include a history of responsible academic planning, language study, or advanced planning for the exchange. Your statement of interest should convey why you are excited about an exchange, how you have prepared, or any other relevant details.

We notify selected students by mid-February. Students must commit to the exchange by the end of February.

Confirming your exchange:

After being selected, there are lots of steps for preparing to live and study abroad. You’ll work with CSE, UW Study Abroad, your exchange host school, and possibly Financial Aid, UW housing, Veteran’s Affairs, or any other office that cares about your enrollment status. Keep track of your various requirements and deadlines. (This is all time-consuming, but worth it!)

First, email Jenifer to confirm that you will go on your exchange before the stated deadline.

After you confirm with CSE, we will send your exchange info to Study Abroad. Study Abroad will contact you about more steps for confirming your exchange with them.

CSE will also nominate you to your exchange school, and send an email introduction to you and our exchange coordinator at that school. Then you must formally apply to your host school. This is a formality, but is required!

Please see the page for your specific exchange school for more details on applying to your host school and confirming your exchange.


When you go abroad:

Choosing your courses:

Registration and academic details vary for our partner schools. See the specific exchange page for more details (KTH, ETH, EPFLSaarland).

Registration abroad happens much later than at UW – often after classes begin. Focus on the benefit of this late registration: you don’t have to finalize your classes until you have attended lectures and know what will be a great course for you. J

You should research courses, pick a full schedule, and keep a back-up class or two. A CSE advisor can tell you how courses have transferred previously, or you can check IPE’s exchange course database. Note! For various reasons, courses may transfer differently for different students.

General credit info:

Our exchange partners use ECTS credits, a standardized European credit system. A standard schedule is 24-30 ECTS credits per semester. Some quick conversions:

1 ECTS credit = .75 UW credits (fractional credit totals are rounded up)
 48 ECTS = 36 UW credits: the minimum to be full-time for a year abroad
 60 ECTS = 45 UW credits: a more typical year of credits at UW

If you go abroad for one semester, you must plan your credits carefully to ensure you are full-time for the year (especially if you receive financial aid or other benefits requiring full-time enrollment). Ex: If you take one semester abroad and one quarter at UW, your semester abroad needs to be worth a full two quarters at UW (32 ECTS =24 UW).

If you’re worried about a course or your grades abroad, talk with a CSE advisor before dropping a class.

The credit evaluation process:

Credits are officially evaluated after you finish your exchange. You are responsible for contacting Study Abroad and CSE to start the process. For CSE, this can begin as soon as you have finished classes. For Study Abroad, you will start their process once your official transcripts from abroad are sent.

To start CSE’s process, email Jen. You will fill out a simple spreadsheet with basic course info, and email any course documentation. Jen will send your course info to faculty for evaluation. This may take a week or two.

To start Study Abroad's process, your final transcripts must be sent from your exchange school. Study Abroad will convert your grades and credits, and link you to an online Exchange Credit Evaluation form. Jen will fill this out for you based on the equivalencies we haev determined, and Study Abroad will put the credit on your transcript.

If you take non-CSE classes abroad, you must contact the appropriate UW department for their evaluation (Math, German, etc), and that department will also need to fill out Study Abroad's form.

What CSE credit you will get:

If we evaluated a course recently and it hasn’t changed, we usually award the same credit we gave previously. 

When CSE faculty evaluate exchange credit, they award one of the following:

  • Credit for a specific CSE class (ex: CSE 401): This appears on your transcript as a normal CSE class with a grade, and fulfills requirements the same way that the UW class does. We only give credit for a specific CSE class if the course matches ours well in content and rigor.
  • CSE 490, general CSE credit: This is graded and usually applies toward your CSE Senior Elective credits. CSE 490 is somewhat easier to award than credit for a specific CSE class, since 490 credit does not need to match a specific course.
  • CSE 399, ungraded credit: This counts toward general credits to graduate, not CSE requirements. We award this credit if a class is not comparable to an upper-division CSE class, for ex: something introductory or an ungraded seminar. CSE 399 credit is easy to award – it just needs to be a class that is clearly a CS subject.
    *Note that we also give CSE 399 credit if a student does not want to count a class toward CSE requirements.