Studying abroad: All the information for a smooth stay abroad

Written by Kerstin Lakits, Jan 12, 2023

Studying abroad offers you many new opportunities. You can study different fields that are not available at Austrian universities. In some countries the admission procedures are not as difficult. You meet new people and cultures and can improve your language skills. However, studying abroad requires a lot of planning and organising, which prevents many students from going on this adventure. We have gathered all the necessary information for you so that you can study abroad. We will show you step by step what to do and what to keep in mind.

Advantages of studying abroad

Studying abroad has benefits for your personal, academic and professional life. Here are a few:

  • Foreign languages: You will learn a new language or improve one of your foreign languages since you use them on a daily basis.
  • Career boost: The new experiences can make it easier to start working in the future or bring career opportunities.
  • A highlight for your CV: Many employers appreciate studies abroad since it shows that you are open, committed and interested and have a broad horizon. This can be an advantage on other applicants.
  • Cultural and social skills: Since you get to know new people and cultures, you develop better comprehension, empathy and adaptability.
  • Networking: International contacts are always a plus in your personal and professional life.
  • Soft Skills: Since you are living by yourself in a foreign country, you strengthen your flexibility, adaptability, resilience and autonomy.
  • Internationality: Thanks to international agreements, many degrees are recognised in other countries.
  • Better study conditions: Sometimes the study conditions are better in other countries.
  • Fields of study: You have the opportunity to choose fields of studies that are not available in Austria.
  • Easier admission procedures: Sometimes the admission procedures abroad are different or easier.

How do I find the right university for me?

The first step for studying abroad is finding the right or fitting university. For this, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to study? If you have no idea what to study, you can read our article on finding the right study programme. There you will find great tips!
  • Which languages do I speak? In which countries are these languages spoken? Are my language skills sufficient to manage my everyday life and attend university? In which languages are the lectures?

This gives you a rough idea, where and what to study. With these ideas you can do your own research online. Look for universities in that country and look for study programmes that interest you. If you don’t get any good results, you can get help from the following agencies.

Agencies and counselling centres

The following counselling centres will help your search for the right university and study programme:

Application procedure: process & organisation

Studying abroad oftentimes requires intense and early preparations. The application process is different in every country and even varies from university to university. Get all the information regarding the application process, deadlines and required documents from the university’s webpage. Get everything done in time and reserve time for organising missing documents.


Keep deadlines in mind! Ask early on about deadlines for handing in your documents. In some countries, for example Great Britain, all application documents must be sent to a centralised office, whereas in the US it is important to hand in documents 12 months in advance. To keep track of all the deadlines, check out our timetable down below!

STUWO tip: Get yourself a pocket calendar or planner to write down all of your duties, deadlines and required documents! This way you’ll keep track and forget nothing!

Application documents

In most cases you need a CV, graduation certificates (A-levels, exams, etc.), a letter of motivation, a language certificate, proof of financial means and a letter of recommendation.

Your CV should contain the most important information about your formation, work experience, grade sheets and language skills. Your letter of motivation should clearly state why you are perfect for this university. An objective teacher, professor or employer should write your letter of recommendation. Normally you also have to hand in past school certificates and university degrees. Therefore, you should add a copy of your A-levels, bachelor’s degree or other.

Because of high tuition fees, living expenses and travel costs you need to prove that you dispose of sufficient financial means. You will find the necessary forms on the website of the university. For example, you must notarial certify the “Declaration and Certification of Finances” or “Affidavit of Financial Support”.

For studying abroad you need to be proficient in the country’s language, since you need it for your everyday life. Therefore, many universities require basic or advanced language skills (A2-B2). You can attend a language course with a certificate at the Language centre at the University of Vienna, at WIFI or in a private language school.

However, nowadays it is not necessary to speak the language perfectly, since many lectures are held in English. Most universities, especially in Canada and the US, require an English certificate (TOEFL or IELTS).

Other requirements

In addition to these application documents, you should also inform yourself about additional requirements.

High school leaving certificate

To study abroad, you need to attest to your matriculation standards. In Austria, these are evident in the “Matura” and “Berufsreifeprüfung” (equivalent to A-levels). These types of proof are not recognised in every country. Therefore, ask about necessary admission certificates for the university of your choice. In the USA, you need to take the SAT. The Scholastic Assessment Test is a multiple-choice aptitude test that tests your linguistic, mathematic and writing skills.

Visa & study permits

EU citizens don’t need a visa for studying within the EU. You receive a residence permit for the duration of your studies. The requirements are:

  • Inscriptions at a university
  • Health insurance (e-card is sufficient proof)
  • Sufficient financial means

Attention: If you live in a European country for more than 3 months, you must register with local authorities. You will need your proof of matriculation, health insurance and financial means.

Different visa requirements apply to non-European countries. However, most countries offer student visas that allow you to live in the country for the duration of your studies. You must apply for a visa before your stay abroad!


You should get sufficient insurance coverage for a smooth stay abroad. This includes:

  • Health insurance abroad: Health insurance abroad covers potential medicinal care costs abroad. This insurance is a prerequisite for a student visa in many countries.
  • Travel cancellation insurance: There are different reasons for not going abroad or coming back early. In this case, this insurance covers a big part of your costs.
  • Flight cancellation insurance: This insurance is worth it, especially for very expensive flights.
  • Emergency and accident insurance: In cases of emergency or accidents, you don’t want to be liable for any damages. Since anything can happen at any time, you should pay for accident insurance.
  • Personal liability insurance: As a student, you benefit from your parent’s insurance in Austria. However, this insurance coverage does not extend to all costs abroad. Therefore, a separate personal liability insurance is important!

How can I finance studying abroad?

A mini job abroad is not only an opportunity to finance your studies, but also to experience something new and meet new people. In the EU, a mini job shouldn’t pose any problems; however, get informed about country-specific requirements and specifications. This applies even more to non-EU states.

If you are under the age of 24, you will receive a family allowance during your studies abroad as long as your parents’ main interest remains in Austria. You can find all the information on the family allowance in our article! Attention: If you study abroad, you cannot claim student allowance!

If you or your family don’t dispose of the necessary financial means for your studies, you should start looking for scholarships in due time. You can apply for a mobility scholarship for your studies abroad. After the first academic year, you must prove the work of 15 ECTS in English or German. For each semester, you must hand in proof of matriculation and starting with the first year, you must add proof of successful studying. You can apply for this scholarship at the competent scholarship organisation at your place of residence. However, bear in mind that this scholarship is paid afterward!

A student loan can also support you in financing your studies. This loan is paid in monthly deposits. You only start repaying the loan after graduation. The interest rates and conditions are usually better than with regular loans. In this article we explain student loans in detail!

You can find all types of student financing in Austria in our article!

A check list for time management

Here is a rough overview of planning your studies abroad:

  • Approx. 1.5 years in advance:

    • What kind of stay abroad do you envision?
    • Which university offers the degree you want to complete?
    • Which languages do you speak? Do you need a language course or certificate?
    • What does the application process look like?
    • Are there deadlines?
    • Is your high school leaving certificate recognised?
    • Get missing documents and get them translated!
  • Approx. 1 year in advance:

    • Plan financing
    • Apply for scholarship
    • Hand in application
    • Look for and book accommodation
    • Maybe assessment tests
    • Certify documents (notary)
    • Inform yourself about immigration and visa!
    • Apply for visa
  • 3 to 6 months in advance:

    • Dates and deadlines?
    • Do you need a work permit?
    • What type of insurance do you need?
    • Get an international student ID
    • Open a bank account abroad
    • Plan your travel: packing, luggage, moving company?
    • Set date for handing over keys
    • Any obligatory vaccination?
    • Is your passport valid?

Studying abroad comes with a lot of organisation. However, all this planning and organising will be worth it because you will meet new people, and see new places and cultures. These experiences will enrich your personal, academic and professional life. This article gives you a good overview!

If studying abroad is too much for you, a semester abroad might be the better alternative! Here is an article with all the information on a semester abroad!


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