…and why it’s worth the effort!
When it comes to spending a semester abroad, everyone screams HERE at the beginning! But as soon as the planning starts and you have to deal with all the paperwork and run from one office to the next, the number of candidates becomes smaller and smaller. Moreover, you hear voices all around saying that they have no money for a semester abroad! Most of it is nonsense because there are so many opportunities that make a semester abroad possible. It´s a lot of organization – YES, but you shouldn’t let that stop you. Because studying abroad is a unique experience and the semester on the other side of the world is looking good in your curriculum vitae!
Planning the semester abroad:
- The first information’s you will get on the website of your university. Here the partner universities are listed and you will also find the requirements and the office hours of the International Office.
- As a next step, you should appear at the International Office to get rid of all your questions. Which semester is suitable to go abroad? Which partner universities are possible? Can you also choose another university? What documents do you need? What are the requirements?
- Find out about financial support opportunities. A semester abroad can cost a lot of money. Tuition fees in other countries can be very high. If you choose a partner university, the tuition fees are usually dropped. If you receive Bafög, you are entitled to foreign Bafög, which also pays the tuition fees. Other than that you can also apply for a scholarship. (You can also work up to 20 hours a week while studying to earn more money)
- Once you have all the information you need, you can submit your application including a letter of motivation as well as your chosen locations and universities.
- A certain language level is required for a semester abroad. If your university course is not sufficient, you will need to take a TOEFL or ILS test, for which you must register.
- Abroad you may usually take fewer courses than at your home university (because of some regulations). If you still want to complete your studies within the regular study period, you should consider whether you can already choose some courses before you leave, or you should be prepared to attend more courses after your return than your fellow students.
- Once you have been accepted by your university abroad, you can start selecting the courses you want to take from the course schedule. Put together a selection of courses and send them to your university to confirm which courses will be credited to you afterward.
- Apply for a visa – book a flight! Here you can get support from the International Office. You must also discuss with your sponsor whether you have to pay in advance or not.
- Fixed costs: In addition to your international insurance you also need to pay your regular health insurance to stay enrolled. If you have a confirmation from the International Office it is possible that you don’t have to pay the fee for your university at home. You should also consider subletting your apartment and reduce your other fixed costs to a minimum.
- Attend information events. Here you can usually get all the necessary information and tips on foreign insurance, bank accounts, etc. You will also meet like-minded people.
- If you find out about foreign insurance, please note that some universities or the embassy of the country require a certain foreign insurance due to your student visa!
- Accommodation: During a semester abroad it makes sense to arrange accommodation in another country already from Germany. You have the possibility to live on campus (which can often be very expensive) or to find a host family or shared flat. You can ask the International Office to give you the contact of former foreign students or you can check the Facebook groups.
- The semesters abroad often start offset from your own. Therefore, it is possible that your examination dates in Germany may conflict with your semester start abroad. Try to find an alternative as soon as possible. Can you take another exam? And what happens if you have failed an exam but you are already abroad?
- Ask your friends at the university to stay in touch with you and keep you up to date on everything new – so you won’t have any nasty surprises when you come back.
- Equipment: Before you leave, take care of a working laptop and other necessary equipment.
Arrived at your new university:
Once you have arrived at your new university abroad, you will usually be welcomed together with the other international students and everything will be shown to you in detail. Here are the most important things I learned during my semester abroad:
- You should create a clever timetable so you don´t have to go to university every day. So you have enough time for self-study, work and of course free time to get to know the new country.
- It is sometimes required that you buy certain books, as they are not available in the library. It´s worth it buying the books used by former students. For this, there is either, a store or at least a Facebook group.
- A new campus can be big, confusing and different from the university at home. That’s why you should always come to classes a little early. So you don’t run late into a room with 600 people looking at you.
- Find friends! Because of the different courses, you will probably never be on the same course with the same people. Therefore it is worthwhile to find “friends” in every course. And besides the help you get in the university, it is also nice to have friends with whom you can spend your free time.
- To meet other like-minded people, it can be interesting to join a student fraternity. The diverse groups are introduced at the beginning of the semester. If you find something that appeals to you, it may be worth a try.
- Even if it is tempting to just travel and celebrate – the university should also come first abroad! In a semester abroad you usually learn more than your entire university time!
- A must when you are abroad – a University Sweater. Everyone wears it and who hasn’t always wanted to own a University Sweater, like in the American movies?
- Due to the high tuition fees abroad, the universities also offer students more. We had free food almost every day. One week of pizza then another week of healthy food. You should take this offer – it saves your money.
- My greatest learning during the whole time – lecturers abroad are more relaxed. While in Germany we always write formal E-Mails, in Australia we connected on WhatsApp and addressed anyone by their first name!