You have the option of making your own study abroad arrangements or participating in an existing exchange program, such as the EU’s Erasmus+ program or a bilateral exchange program with a partner university. The advantage of participating in an exchange program is that many organizational and administrative matters have already been clarified. This reduces the work involved in preparing to go abroad and often means that comprehensive information, contact persons and a better support network is available. There is usually special financial support available for exchange program participants. However, with an exchange program, you are more limited in your choice of country and institution. This could mean that you are unable to fully achieve the objectives of your semester abroad, and may lead to more competition for a study place and financial support.
We have created a summary of the most significant routes abroad:
Established exchange programs are always only in place with particular higher education institutions, and are therefore limited to certain countries. This might mean that the higher education institution or country which is best-suited to you and your interests is not available through an exchange program. Maybe you think your chances of getting a place on an exchange program are too low. Or maybe there are other reasons why you don’t want to go abroad through an exchange program.
In such cases, you can make your own arrangements and apply for a study place at virtually any higher education institution abroad. This can be done as an alternative to, or in addition to, applying for a spot on an exchange program. With the Internet and a variety of other sources available nowadays, it has never been so easy to arrange your own period of study abroad. The search function on the German Academic Exchange Service’s website (DAAD) can help you to find suitable options.
Please note that courses completed as part of a Summer School cannot be recognized. Our experience has shown that the level of Summer School courses, even at renowned universities, is too low.
You should make sure that you give yourself enough time to organize your period of study abroad (up to eighteen months), especially as this involves a lot of research and, in some cases, long application periods (even for scholarships). The credit recognition process is often more complex for students who make their own study abroad arrangements than for students who participate in an established exchange program. Take advantage of the advice and support provided by the International Office.
If you, like many other students, can’t afford to pay for your semester(s) abroad and tuition, or would rather spend your money on other things, you can apply to numerous funding organizations for financial support. You might even be eligible to receive BAföG for studying abroad (Auslands-BAföG). Further information is available on the International Office’s website.
Interning or working part-time during the semester break has a lot of advantages: you can complement the theoretical knowledge learned at university with practical insights into a job, explore employment options that suit you, concretize your career ambitions and motivations, and make early contact with potential future employers while studying. Not to mention that you can earn some extra money. All of these advantages can be combined with spending time abroad.
You can plan your own period of work abroad and apply for an internship at virtually any company or organization in the world. The local Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK), the department responsible for the worldwide network of German Chambers of Commerce at the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) (address: Abt. Auslandshandelskammern, Adenauerallee 148, 53113 Bonn), or the local authorities in twin cities or communities, for example, can support you with this.
Showing initiative is helpful if you contact one of the many, and in some cases, sector-specific, employment agencies. These agencies can help you to find an internship or vacation work, and/
The following list of information sources and employment agencies is neither comprehensive nor representative. But it does give you an idea of the range of advisory services available and shows you the different routes that you could take:
At the University of Mannheim, you can attend language courses through the Studium Generale program, take part in appropriate courses available at the School of Humanities, or use the multimedia language courses in the Media Center. Finding a tandem conversation partner through the International Office is an excellent way to develop your foreign language skills. External institutions, such as German adult education centers (Volkshochschulen), private vocational schools, and international cultural institutions also provide language courses.
In addition, or alternatively, you can attend a language course abroad and gain experience of living in a foreign country while learning the language. Language courses abroad are particularly suitable for the first semester of your program when it is too early to spend a semester studying or working abroad. Usually, learning a language in the country where it is spoken is much more intense, and most importantly, you also gain an insight into the culture of that country. It’s a good way to prepare for a subsequent internship or period of study abroad. Or, even if you are “only” doing the course for personal reasons, it still looks great on your CV.
The German Academic Exchange Service provides comprehensive information on courses in specific countries, languages or regions on its website. You can find leaflets and posters about commercial language course providers in the International Office. The European Students’ Forum, AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l'Europe), provides details on the Summer Universities that take place each year across Europe on its website, http://www.aegee-mannheim.de.
Agreements with partner higher education institutions abroad often enable participants of exchange programs to attend language courses free of charge or at a reduced price before they go abroad for a semester. For more exotic languages, students have the option of completing an intensive language course in the relevant country before their semester abroad begins. In some cases, the costs of these courses are factored into a scholarship. In certain circumstances, financial support is available for language courses in a range of countries. For further information, and details on how to apply, please contact the International Office.