Recommended Programs for American Studies Major

University of East Anglia

A self-critical and historically grounded examination of the United States and its diverse people must be viewed from both a local and global context. Those of us who dedicate our education to the study our own culture can benefit especially from living and working in another place. Learning about our country from the outside offers whole new perspectives on the study of American culture. A study abroad experience provides American Studies students with a point of view they would be unable to gain without venturing outside the confines of our nation’s borders.

Many foreign universities have American Studies departments that offer students the ability to fulfill their major or general education requirements, while enjoying all the excitement of living abroad. You could take a course on American Musicals, and then catch a weekend show in London’s West End. Or study U.S. Presidential elections during a Finnish Presidential election year!

You can also fulfill American Studies elective requirements, take General Education classes, or explore general electives in subjects that interest you, or immerse yourself in language study and internships.


Freshman: New American Studies majors may be best served by spending their first year at Iowa completing foundation courses and determining which area of focus they would like to pursue.

Sophomores: Sophomore year is an excellent time to go abroad to complete General Education Program or American Studies major requirements.

Juniors: Junior year is probably the best time for the American Studies major to spend a semester or year abroad completing upper-level course work.

Seniors: Senior year can be another great time for a study abroad experience. Consider taking courses not offered by the University of Iowa that will enrich your understanding of American Studies. Consider taking advantage of an internship for credit while abroad; it is a wonderful way to help ease the transition into post-academic life.

General Education Program and Elective Courses

Many study abroad locations will offer coursework that will count towards the General Education Program requirements of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In addition to the language requirement, it is relatively common for students to complete the following Gen Eds abroad: Humanities, Social Sciences, Historical Perspectives, Foreign Civilization & Culture, and Fine Arts.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requires that all majors acquire either fourth-semester competency or the departmental equivalent in a foreign language. If you need to complete your foreign language requirement, you could consider studying abroad to immerse yourself in a language and complete this requirement in as little as one semester.

Taking elective courses abroad is exciting because you have the chance to explore a topic you could never study in the U.S. The Study Abroad office approves GEP courses, so please talk to your advisor.

American Studies Major and Requirements

The major normally consists of 36 s.h. of coursework or 12 courses. By the student’s second term in the major, the student and academic advisor should have agreed upon a plan of study for completing major requirements. There are three designated focus areas that American Studies students can choose from, or they are free to individually design their own interdisciplinary focus area in consultation with their academic advisor.

Requirements for all students pursuing the major are as follows:

Six courses in American Studies (18 s.h.):

  • Three required courses (may be taken abroad if approved in advance by an American Studies advisor)
    • 45:030 Sources in American Studies
    • 45:025 Diversity and American Identities
    • 45:090 Seminar in American Cultural Studies
  • Plus three additional American Studies courses.

Two courses in American History (6 s.h.)

Four courses in one focus area (12 s.h.)

Each focus area allows you to group courses in American Studies and other departments around a specific interdisciplinary theme, topic, or set of social issues. For a list of currently applicable courses for each focus area, contact your advisor.

In the “Ethnic Studies, Diversity and Differences” focus area, you consider how social difference along the lines of gender, race, sexuality, social class, region, national origins, and age, for example, shape institutions and cultural practices in the U.S. Emphasis is on the historic emergence of categories of social difference, and their interactions, especially as revealed in cultural practices and artifacts, geography and cityscapes, leisure, and popular expression.

In the “American Arts, Literature, and Popular Culture” focus area, you examine artistic creations to discover how they are shaped by cultural preconceptions, norms, and standards, and how in turn these expressive forms affect ongoing developments in cultural life. This concentration emphasizes skills in the formal analysis of artistic artifacts, historical inquiry, and cultural contextualization.

In the “American Society, Politics, and Everyday Life” focus area, you look at the dynamics of social change, the emergence and fate of political movements, and the forms and practice of everyday life in America. The area encompasses the tradition of revolution in America, the effects of technological and economic change, and the roles of the family, workplace, and community from the colonial era to the digital age.

In the "The Politics of Nature: Environment, Sustainability, and Landscape" focus area, you explore how Americans (from pre-Columbian times to the present) have shaped and regarded the natural environment.  Topics might include the perception of “wilderness” in early America; the relationship of Native-American peoples to the land; the impact of industrialization and urban growth on the environment; the emergence of a cult of nature (from early environmental writing and landscape painting to the founding of national parks and rise of outdoor recreation); the treatment and representation of animals (from working animals and domesticated pets to museum displays and theme park attractions); the mass production, distribution, and consumption of food; and the growing movement for “sustainability” in agriculture, architecture, urban planning, and individual lifestyles.

In the "Sport and Popular Amusements" focus area, you examine the various sports, recreational activities, and popular amusements enjoyed in the United States from the from the colonial and early American period to the present.  Topics might include world’s fairs and expositions; circuses and amusement parks; the movies; vacations; and the popularization of professional, spectator sports. Particular attention will be paid to the relationship between work and play; the role of technology and the media; the commercialization of sport; and the politics of gender, race, class, sexuality, and disability.

You may alternatively design your own interdisciplinary focus area in consultation with your American Studies advisor. An individually-designed focus area may concentrate on an interdisciplinary topic, theme, group of people, or time period.

Honors students may also receive credit toward the major for preparation of a senior honor’s thesis in American Studies.

At least 24 semester hours of the major must be earned at the University of Iowa, unless special approval for an exception is granted in writing in advance of study abroad by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the American Studies Department.

Please see the American Studies website for more information.

  • The American Studies department allows its students to transfer credit earned abroad toward the six hours of required American History.
  • In general, the Department accepts 12 credits transferred from abroad, but if you would like to study abroad longer than a semester, the department may be open to accepting more credit on a case-by-case basis.
  • The three required courses (45:020 Sources in American Studies, 45:025 Diversity and American Identities, 45:090 Seminar in American Cultural Studies) may be taken abroad with prior approval.
  • It is important to remember when planning your course of study that American Studies is an interdisciplinary major and that courses taken overseas in one of the focus areas must have American content. For example, you may choose to take a music class that focuses on Jazz or Blues and examines its position as an American art form.

  • If you would like to study in a non-English speaking nation, there are many programs that offer pre-sessional language classes that can widen study abroad opportunities even further. See the Recommended Programs section for further details on these and other opportunities.
  • Planning ahead is the key to a successful experience!

Programs in the UK

UK Exchange, Hull University

Hull pioneered American Studies in Britain. The subject has been taught there for 45 years and, by virtue of being so well-established, they’ve built up one of the finest collections of American resources in any British university. New courses in film, media, race, history and literature are introduced every year.

University of Wales, Swansea

American Studies at Swansea is a broad-based inter-disciplinary degree which is among the most challenging choices for students interested in the liberal arts and social sciences. The Department is one of the leading centers for American Studies in the UK and offers a wide range of courses in American literature, history and politics and popular culture.

University of East Anglia

The American Studies program at University of East Anglia is an interdisciplinary course, enabling students to study American history and literature as well as politics and film if they so wish. The program invites students wishing to study abroad for a semester or year to engage with diverse forms of cultural expression: photography; politics; popular culture; classic texts; bestsellers; movies.

Kings College, London

The American Studies department at Kings College is one of the leading centers in Britain for the study of the culture, society and the arts of the United States. The Departments research strengths encompass a wide range of literature, history, and cultural studies, including gender, critical race, and queer studies, as well as modern poetry, visual culture and photography.


Programs on the Continent

Nijmegen Exchange at Radboud University The Netherlands

Radboud University Nijmegen is one of the leading academic communities in the Netherlands. Established in 1923 and situated in the oldest city of The Netherlands, it has nine faculties and enrolls over 17.500 students in 107 study programs. Instruction in English is available.

ISEP Finland – University of Tampere

Some 15,000 students are currently pursuing degrees at the University of Tampere. Tampere, the home city of the University is the third biggest city in Finland. There are also activities in smaller towns of Hämeenlinna, Pori, Seinäjoki, Valkeakoski and Virrat. Approximately one million people live in the area over which the influence of the University extends. Instruction in English is available.

ISEP Finland – University of Helsinki

The oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available. Around 38,000 students (including 5,500 post-graduate students) are currently enrolled in the degree programs of the university. Instruction in English is available.

University of Dortmund Exchange

Take a semester or year abroad in Germany’s metropolitan heartland! The University of Dortmund exchange offers UI students a unique blend of courses that combine language and culture courses with academic work in their major and minor subjects. Please note: proficiency in German is required for this program.