It is very important that you work with your university to ensure that you remain enrolled, and that you are following the necessary credit transfer procedures before you depart for your time abroad. Different universities have different procedures for recognizing students who are abroad. You need to work closely with your institution's International Programs/Study Abroad Office and/or Registrar to make sure you are following the correct procedures to avoid problems with transferring your credit back or reentering your home university!
At some universities, you may pay an administrative fee to your International Programs Office. In return, they may provide various orientation and advising services. Sometimes, similar fees are used to register students for study abroad credit so that they remain enrolled while they are abroad. Other universities may treat your time abroad like a temporary transfer to a different institution and require you to reapply for admission upon your return.
Most institutions have a pre-approval process for classes/credits which involves filling out a form with the classes you are taking abroad. The form normally asks for the signatures of certain faculty stating that specific courses will count for certain course equivalents and a certain number of credits. Only the faculty of your university can determine how many credits your courses abroad count for, and what classes they can count for. You need to consult the study abroad office on your campus to find out exactly who needs to approve credit transfer. But, the following are commonly-used guidelines for credit transfer. (Remember, only your university can have the final say.)
Your advisors/department chair/registrar will need to see course descriptions to tell you what type of credit or course equivalent a certain course may count for. You may acquire most course descriptions from the ISA website. Make sure to save course syllabi and any major written assignments or exams you take abroad. These materials may help you if you encounter any questions about course content when you seek to get credit upon return to the U.S.
Some U.S. universities count all courses earned abroad as pass/fail credit. Others convert the grade you earned abroad to the A-B-C-D-F grading scale. Depending on your institution, these grades may or may not be included in your overall GPA. It is important to note, however, that even if your grades do transfer back to your U.S. university as pass/fail, the grades you earn abroad may still follow you in the future. Graduate and professional schools, as well as some employers, most notably the Federal Government, will often ask for transcripts from all institutions attended for all work completed.
As you near the end of your time abroad, you may have to think about registering for classes for your next term at your U.S. university, depending on your institution's registration dates and deadlines. Either have a friend or family member mail a course catalogue to you abroad, or use your university's internet course information and registration system. At any rate, it is important to keep track of your university's deadlines for registration while you are away.