Studying abroad: financing, scholarships, recognition & more

A young student stands in front of a university building abroad

The new semester is just around the corner and hundreds of thousands of students are about to start their studies… In germany, there were around 509 applicants in the 2018/19 academic year.000 freshmen and sophomores in their first semester of higher education. 20 years earlier it was only just under 272.000. But not all german high school graduates decide to study at a german university or university of applied sciences. Many young people move to study in z. B. To the netherlands, to austria, to hungary or to the united states of america. Reasons to study abroad are many.

In this article, you will learn when it makes sense to study abroad, what options you have, what requirements you need to meet and what you should look for when choosing where to study. This is mainly about the full study abroad, not a semester abroad.

Why study abroad?

There are good reasons to choose to study abroad. Many prospective students are unable to study their desired subject due to a high numerus clausus (NC) in germany. About half of all study places in germany are limited by an NC. Especially in subjects such as medicine, psychology, law, business administration or architecture, there are often more applicants than study places, which is why the subjects have particularly high ncs. Especially in popular (student) cities like munster, hamburg, munich or cologne, you have poor chances of getting a place at university without an A average or long waiting semesters. The so-called NC barrier can be circumvented abroad under certain circumstances. In many countries, such as austria or poland, there is no NC. You should note, however, that in these countries, difficult entrance tests often make it difficult to get into the program – but more on that later.

But not only the non-existing NC and shorter waiting periods due to waiting semesters attract students to study abroad. The quality of teaching at some foreign universities and universities of applied sciences is significantly higher than in germany. In addition, the teaching is often less theoretical and more practice-oriented. Especially the netherlands and hungary are known for their practice-oriented study programs.

Modern methods also attract many prospective students to study abroad. Especially in countries like finland, sweden or england you will have a much closer relationship to your professors and lecturers than in germany. In these countries, instead of large mass lectures, there are more often smaller tutorials where you discuss different issues with your lecturer in a small group.

Another reason to decide to study abroad is to gain experience abroad. International companies in particular attach great importance to stays abroad lasting several months. In addition, you will benefit from recognized international degrees if you apply to internationally active companies or firms abroad after graduation.

Where and how can I study abroad?

If you are sure that you want to spend your studies, or part of your studies, abroad, you have the following options:

  • Full study: here you decide for a complete study in another country. You are enrolled for the entire duration of your studies (usually three years for a bachelor's degree) at a foreign university or university of applied sciences. The study program is either in english (international study programs) or in the local language.
  • Study abroad in german: in some countries (e.G. B. In bulgaria, hungary or poland) there are study programs that are offered in german language. In hungary, for example, you can study business administration, medicine, law or electrical engineering completely in german. The bucharest university of economics in romania also offers business studies in german.
  • Semester abroad: if you don't want to study abroad for a whole semester, a semester abroad is a good option. Here you leave your german university or university of applied sciences for one semester and continue your studies at a foreign university. Many german universities have exchange programs with foreign partner universities, which makes it much easier to organize your stay abroad. If your university does not have a partnership with the university of your choice abroad, you can apply there as a so-called freemover. But beware: the bureaucratic effort here is very large and it can quickly lead to complications and difficulties in the recognition of achievements. A semester abroad is particularly easy and uncomplicated with erasmus. If you want to learn more about the support possibilities through erasmus, you should read this article here.

In principle, all countries are open to you, provided that you have a university entrance qualification from school. However, you must bear in mind that different countries have different restrictions on admission to universities. In some countries there are entrance tests and in others you have to write a letter of motivation for your application.

The choice of the country should also be well considered. Especially in non-western countries, the cultural environment is different and you have to get used to it. It is therefore advisable to inform yourself extensively about the customs, traditions and study culture of the host country. In addition, ask yourself the question: in what way will studying in this country help me?? Personally? Professional? Preferably both.

Requirements and admission restrictions for studying abroad

If you want to study abroad, you should inform yourself beforehand in detail about the respective admission requirements of the university. It is not enough to find out the admission criteria of the country – often individual universities and colleges have their own regulations according to which they select their applicants.

The following list provides examples of some access restrictions of particularly popular countries. The information provided is for guidance only. You will need to check with the specific college or university for exact admission requirements. By the way, the requirements for a semester abroad are usually much lower than for a full course of study.

  • Austria: austria is a particularly popular destination for german high school graduates who want to study abroad. For one thing, the cultural and language barrier is particularly low. On the other hand, there is no NC in austria. In addition, in-state colleges do not charge tuition. The other side of the coin, however, is the high cost of living and entrance tests that are not easy to pass. In addition, some universities have tough orientation periods. Only those who pass all exams at the end of the semester are allowed to continue studying the subject.
  • Great britain:great britain is known for the high quality of its teaching – and not only at the elite universities of oxford and cambridge. Similar to germany, most degree programs in the UK have restricted admissions. Individual universities set their own required grade point average in this process. In some cases, grades in certain subjects are also weighted more heavily. In addition, you will need to submit a letter of application or motivation to many UK universities.
  • Spain: if you wish to study in spain, you will be subject to the same university admission requirements as spaniards. Most courses of study in spain are restricted by a local NC. In addition, applicants from abroad must prove their knowledge of spanish by submitting a certificate o. A. Prove. If nothing official is available, some universities offer internal spanish language exams.
  • USA: if you decide to study in the USA, some precautions have to be taken in advance, as the requirements for admission are sometimes higher and more complex than in other countries. In the USA, individual universities decide autonomously on their admission criteria. In addition to the high school diploma, so-called letters of recommendation (dt.: letters of recommendation) must be submitted by applicants. In addition, many applicants must pass an entrance test (SAT). Many universities are requiring additional proof of funding due to high tuition rates.

Funding for study abroad

Tuition fees, living expenses, airline tickets – depending on your host country, you will have to put quite a bit of money on the table to finance your studies. Especially in eastern european countries, however, the cost of living is comparatively low, but studying there is sometimes associated with higher tuition fees. Especially those who want to study in the UK or the USA have to expect high costs. Fortunately, there are several ways you can finance your study abroad:

  • Bafog abroad: with bafog abroad, the allowances are much higher than with regular bafog. The chance of financial support from the bafog office is therefore much greater. However, this can only be applied for one year and is therefore more suitable for funding a semester abroad.
  • Education loan: with the help of a federal government education loan, you can get a loan customized to your needs. The education loan is limited in time and particularly low in interest. The possible credit volume is between 1.000 and 7.200 euros.
  • Student loan: many credit institutions also offer students a (relatively) inexpensive student loan. For example, the deutsche bank, santander or targo bank provide such loans at favorable interest rates. Before choosing a student loan, you should inform yourself in detail about the different conditions of the banks. These often only finance individual semesters abroad and not a full course of study.
  • Education funds: another way to finance your studies abroad are education funds (z. B. From the german education study support program). As a rule, repayment does not begin until after entry into professional life and is adjusted individually to the level of income. However, the application procedures are usually very demanding and are therefore only open to applicants with good to very good grades.
  • Scholarships: if you would like to apply for a scholarship abroad, you should inform yourself about the various possibilities on the website of the german academic exchange service (DAAD). The institution awards many different scholarships with different requirements. It is not uncommon for the universities themselves to award scholarships to international students. In addition to academic achievements, social and political commitment, voluntary work or sporting talent often count here. It is worthwhile to obtain information directly from the universities about scholarship opportunities.

What to do after graduation – recognition of achievements

The recognition of degrees and achievements obtained abroad is sometimes the most complicated part of studying abroad. Especially those who want to gain a foothold in highly regulated fields such as medicine or psychology should thoroughly inform themselves in advance about the recognition of the degree they are aiming for.

Less problematic is the recognition of achievements acquired in integrated degree programs. Even if you spend a semester abroad at a partner university of your home university, there will be little or no problems with recognition, as this is regulated by contract between the partner universities.

After full-time study abroad, it is usually the future employer who decides to what extent the degree obtained abroad will be recognized. However, the bologna reform and the introduction of the bachelor-master system have already ensured more uniformity, so that employers have fewer problems assessing the quality of the degree obtained abroad.

Recognition becomes more difficult for the following regulated professions:

  • Law: the classical law degree in germany ends with the second state examination. As a rule, eight semesters of study and two legal examinations (first and second state examinations) must be passed. In addition, there are now several bachelor's and master's degree programs in law. The bachelor's and master's programs, which usually lead to the bachelor of laws (LL. B.) or. Master of laws (LL. M.) are also offered at numerous universities abroad. With a degree in these courses you cannot become a lawyer or notary public, but you can get jobs in various companies and auditing firms. These employers often recognize foreign degrees. However, if you want to work as a lawyer, prosecutor, judge or notary in germany, there is no way around a classical law degree including a state examination. However, there is the possibility to do a semester abroad or an internship abroad.
  • Teaching profession: if you want to work as a teacher in germany later on, but you want to complete your entire studies abroad, you will face some complications. If you want to be a civil servant after graduation, you must complete a teaching degree program in germany with the second state examination (referendariatsprufung). Since education in germany is a state matter, the individual teacher training programs in different states differ greatly from one another. Likewise, the recognition criteria for foreign courses of study may vary.
    The following applies across the board: only those who have passed their second state examination may be employed as civil servants. However, those who do not wish to become civil servants can also work as employed teachers without a state examination and with a degree obtained abroad. Here, too, the requirements are set in the individual federal states.
  • Medicine: many german students study medicine abroad. Countries such as hungary, romania and bulgaria have already adapted to medical students from germany and offer medical degree programs in german.
    If you have completed your medical studies abroad but would like to work in germany, you must apply for a license to practice medicine in germany. On the one hand, the recognition procedure is subject to costs, and on the other hand, it is not uncommon (especially with degrees from non-EU countries) for a further examination to be taken, since many courses of study abroad do not meet the german standard. Therefore, you should inform yourself in advance whether the medical studies abroad meet the german standards and how high the chances of recognition are.
  • Psychology: german students also like to circumvent the high NC of psychology studies by studying abroad. Many universities abroad decide by lottery or aptitude test on the allocation of the coveted study places. Those aiming for a job in business are often well advised to study abroad. There, too, it is up to the respective employers whether they recognize the degree or not. Due to the experience gained abroad and intercultural skills, psychologists with experience abroad are usually in high demand.
    However, if you want to work clinically and want to train as a psychological psychotherapist, you should inform yourself thoroughly in advance. Here, the recognition of foreign degrees can be associated with some complications. Further training to become a psychological psychotherapist is offered by specialized further training institutes, which in turn are approved by the state examination offices of the federal states. In order to participate in continuing education, a bachelor's and master's degree is usually required. Graduates must have studied clinical psychology in both their bachelor's and master's degree programs. This is how it can z. B. It may happen that a master's degree from a foreign university is accepted, but the bachelor's degree is not recognized due to the missing subject, and thus further training as a psychotherapist is not possible.

Conclusion: advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad

There are many reasons for studying abroad, but also some reasons against it. First things first: if you decide to study abroad for your entire bachelor's or master's degree, you will gain experience for life. You will not only learn a foreign language, but also get to know a new culture at the same time. This develops intercultural skills that will benefit you later in your professional life. You will also develop personally away from 'old' friends and family, and quickly learn to stand on your own two feet. In addition, you will make many new friends abroad and thus build up an international network of contacts. Last but not least, studying abroad always goes down well with potential employers. It shows that you are independent and not afraid of new experiences.

However, you should not forget that studying abroad involves a great deal of organizational effort. While a semester abroad is relatively easy to organize (at best via erasmus), several things have to be taken into account when studying full time: will my achievements there be recognized later in germany? What are the registration restrictions? Will my german abitur be recognized? Do I have to take a language test? You must clarify these and other questions before your enrollment. Especially for highly regulated professions such as teacher, notary or doctor, there may be problems with getting your study abroad program recognized. In addition, you must realize that in other countries, you often face higher tuition costs. In addition, you should not forget the high cost of living in some countries, z. B. In the USA, in australia or in england, do not underestimate.

In summary, studying abroad is a great way to get to know a foreign country in all its facets and to strengthen one's own personality. And once the organizational work is done, you may soon be saying bon voyage, see you soon, or buen viaje!