Studying abroad has become more and more popular over the last years. Each year, the EU based programme ERASMUS+ enables thousands of undergraduates and postgraduates to study at a foreign university and to properly experience a new culture. Included in the programme is a great support – both organizationally and financially. At the FH Kiel, the place to go for any issue concerning a stay abroad is the International Office. I spoke to Mrs Hahn, International Student Advisor, in order to talk about ERASMUS+, its various possibilities and chances and some things to keep in mind.
Every year, around 100 FH Kiel students face their personal adventure by swapping their familiar campus with some European city for a semester (or even two). This great demand is no surprise: Fachhochschule Kiel has partner universities in around 20 European countries – therefore, students are spoilt for choice. According to the International Office, the partnerships change every now and then – depending on the level of mutual demand. Recently added: An agreement between the faculty of Social Work and Health and the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences in Mikkeli, Finland and an agreement between FH Graubünden (Switzerland) and the department of Civil Engineering.
But what are the most popular countries for a semester abroad? According to Mrs Hahn, the students’ favourite destination (all faculties) has been Norway in recent years. One of the reasons for this is certainly the Media cooperation with Volda in which students are being offered the Double Degree if they stay for a length of two semesters. Norway is followed by Spain on the second rank and the United Kingdom on rank 3. When being asked about her personal recommendation, a smile flits over Mrs Hahn’s face. “From my experience, many students underestimate the eastern part of Europe,” she says. “They don’t even take these countries into consideration, even though the majority of them has never even visited them. And from what I’ve learned, there are a few hidden treasures for sure.” Plus, many eastern European countries have cheaper costs of living than Germany does for instance. This makes travelling much more affordable as well, which is also a big advantage for ERASMUS+ students. And, let’s be honest, the location itself is in fact less important than the company you have. Getting to know new people from a bunch of different cultures and backgrounds, travelling the country together and sharing your personal adventure can be understood as THE main thing that make your time abroad memorable…
So, if I haven’t convinced you to consider an ERASMUS+ semester for yourself to this point, let me clarify a few questions that might be concerning you. Many students worry about the crediting of their ECTS. Without question, for many it’s no option to exceed the standard study period, if only for financial reasons. “Usually, the crediting is not a problem,” Mrs Hahn explains. “30 ECTS are the regular achievement of one semester. The easiest is when students replace optional modules (Wahlmodule), but regular courses can also be substituted if discussed in advance”. The agreement with the international coordinator of your faculty is mandatory anyhow. Therefore, questions or problems will be talked about and solved in advance. Particularly easy is the crediting for students of the Economy Department – they profit from a general crediting when going abroad in the fifth semester.
Another question that many indecisive students might have, is the financing of a semester abroad. Firstly, ERASMUS+ offers so-called partial scholarships. That means, that students are being paid a specific amount of money that is thought to cover the additional expenses that are usually incurred abroad. The amount of money depends on the classification of the host country, because all European countries are divided into different groups that indicate the amount of the cost of living. This means, that a person who goes to Sweden receives a higher sum than someone who goes to Slovakia, simply because they incur higher costs. Which country is classified in what way, can be looked up on the website of the International Office.
Additional to this support, you should check whether you would receive “Auslands-BAföG”. The requirements for this kind of support are slightly different than for Germany and usually the amount is a little higher than at home. Everyone who gets BAföG on a regular base, is eligible for Auslands-BAföG as well. Though, be aware that you should not wait too long to apply for it – its processing can take some time.
In general, when it comes to studying abroad, planning is everything. Before choosing a favourite university because of a preference for a specific country or city, interested students should check the offered courses at first – after all, they must take those classes half a year. Therefore, the course programme should match one’s personal interests and focus of study. Secondly, students should be beware of the costs that are approaching. Apply for scholarships early, search for advice from former outgoings, and maybe save a little money beforehand. Often, foreign students like to travel the host country a lot, so it’s not a bad idea to be prepared. When you are certain about the course programme and the financing, don’t hesitate to apply. The due date for both applications for the winter term 2020/21 as well as the summer term 2021 is 1 March 2020. Keep that in mind because after that, there will only be left overs. The application website can be reached via the homepage of the International Office.
One last thing that I would like to mention is a much less-known alternative to the usual semester abroad. ERASMUS+ does not only support the study exchange programme of international students, it also offers the support of students who would like to do internships abroad. Participants even get a little more money than those who go to a university. This programme works free from deadlines, since internships can take place at any time of the year. The only requirement is to look for a company yourself and organize an internship that has a minimum duration of 2 months. It is easy like that, and a great chance for sure!
Whatever question you might have, Mrs Hahn and her colleagues from the International Office are happy to help. Check out their website on https://www.fh-kiel.de/index.php?id=9535 and drop by!