A semester abroad: Get all the important information!

Part 1 of our Study Abroad Series

Written by Sabine Klug, Dec 06, 2021

You’ve already started your studies and want to gain a new perspective on your field of study? You think a few months abroad would really benefit you? Well, then you should find out if there is an exchange program at your university that allows you to spend a semester or two abroad. During your semester abroad, you will attend your lectures at a foreign university. Nowadays it’s so common for universities to recommend or even require a semester abroad.

How to find the right university for you

You’ve decided to do a semester abroad? Then you “only” have to decide where to go or rather where you can go. Basically you have to find out which university is perfect for you. During your planning, it’s best to contact the international office at your university because they can give you important tips and provide information about partner universities all over the world. However, we recommend that you already have a vague idea of your destination beforehand. This way the employees of the international office can provide better help.

Erasmus+ or Freemover

Another option is the Erasmus+ programme. This renowned and popular exchange program allows you to study three to twelve months at another university in the EU. The international office at your university will tell you more about it. Of course, you can also do it all on your own and become a Freemover which means that you do everything yourself.

Here are all the important information centres:

Application, documents and more

A semester abroad needs a lot of preparation. Again, the international office of your university can give you tips on how to prepare properly. Most universities do accept online applications. You will need the following documents:

  • CV: Your CV should include the most important facts about your education, jobs and language skills.
  • Certificate: To support your CV, you have to provide all the important certificates. This includes your courses and grades so far; so, don’t forget your record sheet.
  • Language certificate: Research early on, which language certificate you need. Sometimes your graduation certificate is enough to prove your language skills, but sometimes you will need a language certificate from a renowned language institute.
  • Letter of recommendation: Many universities require a letter of recommendation from a neutral person. The letter can be written by your professor or employer. It should contain your skills, knowledge and personality traits, but should not exceed one page. Don’t overdo it! Anything that seems too much can be negative.
  • Prove of financial means: This could be a confirmation of a scholarship or a prove of income of your parents. Especially American universities usually demand a prove of income to ensure that you can pay for the expenses of your semester abroad. Many universities will send you specific documents for you to fill out and get approved of by a bank or notary.
  • Assessment tests: If you decide to go to the USA to study there, you will probably have to do a Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) to prove your ability to conduct your studies.

Application interview

You almost there! The application process is almost done and you’ve received an invitation for an application interview. Usually the application interview is the last station in the application process. Here the university can get to know you better. You can practice this situation beforehand with your friends or family. By practicing, you will gain confidence and remain calm during this stressful situation.

Pros and Cons of a Semester Abroad

Here is a pro and con list for you. It will provide a good overview and help you decide if a semester abroad is the right thing for you:

  • Improve language skills

  • Advantages for future jobs

  • International networking

  • New and important experiences

  • Independence and self confidence

  • Social competence (soft skills)

  • Advantages for your career

  • Intercultural friendships

  • International teamwork

  • Alternative for your dream studies (if they’re not available in your home country)

  • Access to amazing universities

  • Demanding situation: studying + foreign language

  • High expenses

  • A lot of organisational work

  • Challenges for your social network (friends, family)

  • A lot of long-time planning

  • Cultural differences

  • Homesickness

  • Maybe longer study duration (if lectures are not acknowledged at home university)


We are happy to help!