An exchange is often 6 months or 1 year of study at another university than your own. You will get credit for the courses you take there, which will be listed on the transcript of your original university. It is common to take courses at the university abroad instead of the selective courses your own university offers.
When do you have to start organizing your stay abroad?
6 to 12 months prior to the start of the exchange.
What do you need before you can go abroad?
Preferably a Bachelor degree diploma while studying towards your Masters degree. Because you will select the courses at the other university, they will most likely be in the same degree you follow (Masters level).
When will your stay abroad start?
At the start of the semester at the university where you will go to. This is either September or February.
An exchange is an easy way of getting to know another culture’s way of studying, learning and teaching. You’re still studying, just not at your regular university. You will see how students perform at another university, but you will also get a taste of the local culture. You will get a birds-eye view of the other country’s ideas and workings, and you’ll experience how people think and tackle problems in a way (possibly) different than in your own country.
For students wanting to go abroad to know another culture, but still have the certainty of their own study and university affiliation, the exchange is a popular option. The courses you will take abroad will count for credits at your regular university: the courses you’ve done at the other university are listed on your transcript. The disadvantage is that there has to be an agreement between your university and the university you want to go to. The creation of a new agreement, if there isn’t one, is a lengthy process and most likely will not be in place before you want to go abroad.
Going on exchange is relatively simple. You will need to go to the international office of your department and find out with which universities your university has an exchange agreement. Such agreement is necessary so that the courses you take and grades you receive will be listed on your transcript and count towards your degree. From this list you then choose a university you’d like to go. At the same time you also choose the department: it’s uncommon that a department different from your current one can be chosen.
After choosing the university you select the courses you want to take there and create your roster. Depending on the size of the university abroad, and how often a particular course is taught, all has to fit within the allotted time, which can limit your choice. You will need to get guidance from the international office: a roster filled with fun courses will not be counting towards your degree. After you created your roster you consult with the international office to get approval. Through this procedure you can choose courses that fit your field, but are not provided at your university, which expands your knowledge.
Financially there’s little difference. Of course, you need to pay for travel, housing and living expenses, but you won’t have to pay the other university’s tuition fees. So, why would the preparation take 6 to 12 months? You have to choose the university, the international office has to tell the other university you will study there and they have to arrange your arrival. You have to develop your own roster, with courses often provided only once a year or once a semester. The courses you definitely want to take will then determine your departure and the time you are abroad.
If you want to go on exchange to a university that has no agreement with your university, you first have to ask your university’s international office if you’re allowed to act as intermediate. You have to tell them all about that university and why you want to create an exchange agreement. Next, you have to contact the international office of the university abroad. You will have to explain what you plan to do, why you choose their university in particular, and why they should create an exchange agreement with your university. This is a lengthy process, not only because of the administration involved but also the many people involved in the final decision. After a lot of work it is even possible to receive a negative result, which brings you back to square one. It’s certainly easier if you’ve been to the university before, know where and who to contact, or you know people there willing to help you with the process.
A short overview of what you need to do:
- Consult with the international office. They can also help you with the complete process.
- Pick a country and university from the list the international office provides.
- Select the courses which you want to take, create a roster.
- Consult with the international office again to approve your choice.
- Find housing in the other country. Often the international office or the other university can help you with this. Some universities even provide housing as part of the exchange program.
- Go abroad, study hard and have a unique experience.
In case you want to go to a university which isn’t on the list of the international office, you have to act as intermediate between the two universities. This is explained in the last paragraph of ‘organisation’. If you’re choosing this pathway, you have to do much more yourself.
Exchange from a European country to a university outside Europe is only possible if your university has an agreement with that university (which you might be able to form). It is possible your university participates in an exchange network, for example, within Europe many universities participate in the Erasmus Student Network. Consult with your international office for the opportunities.