If you are studying at university, you’ll most likely think about going abroad at one point in your studies. Since I amcurrently in the application process, I know how exhausting the organization of a semester abroad can be. That is the reason why I want to give you a quick and easy overview of everything you need to know to plan and apply for your semester abroad. Ideally, you start planning one year in advance, so you have enough time to get everything sorted out.

Choose a country

The first step is to choose a country you want to live in for the duration of the semester. Theoretically, you could live in every country in the world. However, as you probably know living in a country is different than traveling. For studying in a foreign country there are certain things you should pay attention to when you are planning on living there.

  1. Language: A very important aspect of your decision is the language that is spoken in the country. We would recommend choosing a destination, where you can understand and speak the language for the most part. Otherwise, it will get hard to learn the content of the lectures and you will have problems communicating with your fellow students. Most students from Germany choose either an English-speaking or Spanish-speaking country, based on their knowledge of the language. The good thing is there are many options for these two types of countries. (Tip: If you know you want to study abroad, it might be helpful to freshen up your skills by taking a class for the language.)
  2. Costs: Another big factor for choosing a country are the costs that are connected to that. The living costs and tuition fees vary a lot between certain countries and continents. Whereas Asia is rather cheap, Australia is very expensive. Depending on your budget, scholarships, and support you get, you have to decide which country fits your conditions.
  3. Preferences: Since you do also want to have fun and make great experiences, you’ll probably have some preferences about which country you want to visit. In the end you’ll have to find a way to combine these three points and find a perfect fit for you.

Choose a university

After you have decided which country you want to study, it is important to find the right university for you. That is the place where you’ll spend most of your time. The courses and units at the university abroad should fit your main, so that you can take into account the credits you make during your semester abroad. Because why would you want to “waste” those hours of studying that you took for passing the test? In addition to that, these universities are most likely to have units that you are interested in to extend your knowledge. For example, if you are enrolled in an engineering course, it would be beneficial to visit a university of technology or some kind of science specialized university.

The application process

After you have sorted out the general conditions for your semester abroad, you need to apply for that the universities you have chosen. Basically, you have three options to plan your semester abroad and apply for your selected university.

Option 1: University

Every university has international partnerships with different universities. So, the first and easiest option is to always inform yourself about the opportunities you have at your school. Oftentimes, you don’t have to pay the tuition fee, if you do an exchange with your uni. Furthermore, the application process is very easy and structured. The relevant office can also give you the contact of students that already have been to your selected country. They can help you with your application and planning, which makes the whole process a lot easier.

Unfortunately, oftentimes there are not enough places for every student to do a semester abroad. The students will be selected due to specific criteria. That is the reason why you might not be able to go abroad with this option.

Option 2: Agencies & Institutions

Of course, there are a lot more opportunities to plan and apply for a semester abroad. The second option is looking for agencies that support a semester abroad in your country. You’ll most likely find many agencies and institutions that want to help you find your perfect university and help you with the application process. The advantage is, that they often offer scholarships for specific universities. This could help you financially to get your living and study costs covered. In addition to that, they have a huge knowledge of the universities and courses and therefore they can help you with your questions.

If you are from Germany: We were looking for a semester abroad from Germany to Australia and found the following support institutions. GOstralia is an agency that supports German free movers to get a spot at an Australian or a New Zealand university. Another support center is the Heinemann Ranke Institut, who also helps you as a german free mover.

Option 3: Direct application

The last option you have is to apply directly to the university itself. You can find the application form at the homepage of the respective school. The disadvantage is, that nobody really can help you with the application documents and course finding. However, if you do a little bit of research you will find all the important information.

Application preparation

Before you are sending in your application, you have to make sure you have all the necessary documents. This includes copies of your passport, certificates, language test, etc. The requirements often vary between university, that’s why it’s important to inform yourself early about that. If you don’t have the essential qualifications, you want to get them in advance. This could mean taking an English class or writing a necessary test. In addition to that, some universities want authenticated copies.


Additionally to saving money beforehand, a scholarship could help you to cover all your expenses. Since there are many different scholarships available, the chances you’ll get some kind of support are very high. Do your research and you’ll be most likely to find a matching institution.

I hope this helped you to plan and organize the application of your semester abroad. Now you’ll just have to wait until you get accepted!

If you would rather go traveling during your studies, than taking a semester abroad, here‘s how I managed to travel for 4 months during our time at university.

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