You can use the International Office of the Student Council as your first point of contact for all questions regarding your semester abroad. Or even if you just want to talk to someone about it and you are not sure yet if you want to do it at all. Get in touch as early as possible, just contact email@example.com.
Internship abroad or semester abroad?
It’s up to you what exactly you do abroad. Both, semester abroad and internships entitle you to up to two “breaksemester”. These must be applied for individually. (Be careful if the semesters are not congruent with ours, because you cannot take exams in Kaiserslautern during the vacation semester!)
Which of the two you choose is of course your free decision. A study visit will give you an impression of studying in other countries, an internship will give you an impression of working in other countries. In both cases you will have the opportunity to get to know the country and its people in very different ways. In a semester abroad you will meet a variety of international fellow students, and in an internship abroad you will have a greater variance in the age of your colleagues and they will also be more local.
When deciding on the length of your stay, you should keep in mind that you will also need time to settle in. The more different the destination country is compared to Germany, the more time you should plan for this. Three months can be rather short.
I would like to go abroad, but I don’t know where yet.
Which country has fascinated you on vacation, in a movie or in stories told by others? Wherever you go, you have to feel comfortable there (climate, food, mentality, …), so start with the countries you like. Also talk to others who have been abroad about their experiences.
In this case you can contact the departement of international affairs. On the homepage you can find out which universities in your preferred country (or with your preferred language) would come into question. In addition, the department has an information page with a collection of residence possibilities and a general information page.
In case of an internship, it would be a good idea to ask the department head of your (planned) specialization which companies he/she could recommend.
For internships AIESEC is also interesting. Through AIESEC you can do internships around the world as well as a variety of further education opportunities in Kaiserslautern.
Additionally, you should think about the following questions:
Which languages do I know and at which universities is this used as a language of instruction? (see also the paragraph on language)
Which universities/companies are there in my desired country?
Can I meet the requirements (language skills, etc) that are demanded?
What funding opportunities are there?
There are many different scholarships. Find out early on about the conditions that the individual funders have for you, such as preparatory courses or a minimum amount of work done abroad, so that you can tackle these in good time.
If you want to stay within the EU, for example, a stay at a partner university through the ERASMUS program would be a good option. Exchange agreements are concluded between departments. If there is no agreement for computer science with your university of choice, ask if there is one from other departments. If they have free capacities, you may be able to use them. You can also contact the respective university directly.
In addition, ERASMUS also has a program to promote internships. (via http://www.eu-servicepoint.de/ )
Advantages: In the ERASMUS program you don’t have to pay tuition fees, plus it’s less effort organizationally.
Disadvantages: No free choice between universities (although sometimes a cooperation with the university of your choice can be arranged; if the university of your choice does not yet have a German university in its program, you should definitely ask).
For non-ERASMUS universities, you can also apply for a PROMOS scholarship, but the university of your choice would have to agree to this. In general it is a good choice for universities outside of europe.
DAAD scholarship programs
The DAAD offers several scholarships for students who want to study abroad, but also for internships abroad.
Even if you do not currently receive BAFöG, it may still be worthwhile to apply for Abroad-BAFöG, as the calculation is slightly different for this. Since the application for BAFöG abroad is much more time-consuming than the “normal” application, you should check before applying whether there is a chance of funding at all.
All those who receive BAFöG in Germany should in any case also receive BAFöG abroad.
Who can advise me on the semester abroad?
There are several people who serve as contacts for study abroad:
The Erasmus coordinator of the department: Currently also the student advisor Dr. Schürmann. If you have any questions, just send him an email that you would like a consultation for your Erasmus stay, Dr. Schürmann is the #1 contact person for questions and problems regarding your studies.
The International Office of the Student Council: Currently staffed by Fabian Scherer and Christian König (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The international representative of the department, who is responsible for signing new agreements with other universities: Currently Professor Grimm
In general, you can just ask a professor if he/she has any tips, since profs get to know many different universities during their careers.
AIESEC Kaiserslautern (for internships)
Many professors also have contacts to universities and companies abroad, even if there is no official agreement.
You can also use local offers, for example the events of the ISGS or the IntClub. There you will not only have the chance to meet people from your target country, but you will also learn first-hand about common problems you may have as a foreigner in a new country.
Do I need a language course?
Whether you need a language course (usually English) depends first on the university and/or exchange program you choose. Many universities require a minimum grade in the Abitur, a minimum length of language study, or a language certificate (for example, TOEFL or Cambridge Test) – again, often with certain minimum grades.
Regardless of the official requirements, it is certainly worthwhile to brush up on your language skills.
Test: Try to find all information relevant to your studies in English. It is not better elsewhere. Also, locals are often much more open-minded when they see you engaging with their culture and making an effort to fit in. In most cases, you will be dealing mainly with other Erasmus students, where a passable English will suffice.
The VKB offers inexpensive courses for the most common languages, otherwise it is also worth looking at the Volkshochschule. Once you have a basic knowledge, the internet offers many opportunities to use the language (YouTube, Facebook, …).
When is the best time to go abroad?
Unfortunately, the best time does not exist.
In the compulsory modules, the whole thing might be rather critical, because the lecturers want to build on the basics later (this could also cause problems with the recognition). In addition, such a stay requires some time of preparation.
It is easier in the elective modules. Supplementary lectures should be able to be replaced reasonably well, as well as the general basics and possibly the minor subject. If you want to use the lectures in your master’s degree, the specialization is also a good option.
Of course, you can also write your thesis abroad if you find a professor in Kaiserslautern who will help supervise it.
If you take a semester off, of course, you don’t have to worry about that and can do whatever you feel like. Keep in mind, however, that scholarships (such as ERASMUS) are often contingent on you having measurable accomplishments.
What about the move?
As with the other items, you should start planning early enough.
Probably the easiest move is by car. However, if you don’t own one or don’t want to take your own with you, you’ll have to resort to other options.
Luggage: For short-haul flights (which includes pretty much everything in Europe), luggage is usually limited to 15-20kg + hand luggage. My tip: Large, light things in the suitcase, small, heavy things in the hand luggage, because this is usually not weighed, but only checked for its size. It can be worthwhile to register a second piece of luggage, or to pay a few euros more and get more free luggage on a slightly better airline. For long-haul flights, the limit is usually higher, in the range of 30-50kg .
No matter what kind of flight it is: Find out beforehand what and how much you are allowed to take with you. (This also applies to things that are subject to customs duties).
Train luggage: If you are traveling by train, your luggage allowance is limited by how much you can carry.
Luggage shipping: If you already have an address abroad (or your employer or a university institution provides their own address), you can also send a large package (e.g. a suitcase) ahead. For example, DHL and Hermes offer international shipping. This may be cheaper than sending additional luggage on a flight. If you don’t have an address yet, friends or relatives can of course send your things.
Visitors: In the beginning you can have visitors bring you things, in the end they can take your things back. For a few days, most people don’t need that much luggage.
Buy/Sell locally: Some things like furniture, pots, etc. are difficult to transport. It is best to buy such things locally and sell or give them away again at the end. Shared apartments are often already well equipped, so it’s better to look for an apartment first before you buy such things. It’s also better to think about which things you can do without early on, because that makes packing easier in the end.
Looking for accommodation: Most universities have dormitories, sometimes even “catered” (breakfast, dinner, cleaning), or university-owned accommodation. These are usually cheaper than other offers, so it is worth applying. The application deadlines are often very long. Accordingly, you should look here very early, even before you have finally decided on this university.
If you can’t/won’t stay in university accommodation, you can also look for accommodation in this way. In the UK, for example, there is a portal called Gumtree, where you can find offers and requests for all kinds of things – including apartments (the whole thing is free, so if you don’t find anything, you can just post an ad with some information about yourself). There should be similar sites in other countries as well. It is best to ask your university or your employer for help, they will surely be able to help you. Financially, WGs are, as in Germany, cheaper. In addition, you will meet nice people there and it is easier to make contacts (this is exactly why dormitories are worthwhile!).
You can also spend a few weeks in a youth hostel (depending on the place, not necessarily more expensive than your own apartment) and look for a place to stay with the help of locals. They know where you can find good and cheap accommodation, or they have friends who are looking for new flatmates.
Looking for an apartment locally also has the advantage that both you and your roommates/landlords can get to know each other beforehand.
What else should I consider?
Start planning early enough. 1 year lead time is almost always needed, as you often have to wait for information, and because of application deadlines, etc.
Insurance: It is best to clarify several months before the start of your stay abroad whether you are insured abroad. If this is not the case, you should extend your insurance coverage in any case, for example by a supplementary insurance (here you should contact your health insurance; some have cooperations with private providers. This can be cheaper). Also clarify which benefits are included in your insurance.
In addition to health insurance, you should also clarify liability and accident insurance.
Check whether one or more semesters of leave are worthwhile. Without a vacation semester, the time abroad counts towards your deadlines. During a vacation semester it is not possible to take exams at the TU Kaiserslautern. Exams at the host university are of course possible.
Find out whether you can bring in the study and examination achievements (in the case of a study stay) into your studies. The best contact persons for this are the chairperson of the examination board and the lecturer of your specialization (or mentor, in the Master’s program). Status 2020: Bachelor Dr. Schürmann, Master Prof. Hinze.
Find out whether you need a visa for the duration of your stay in the country of your choice. You should take care of the visa as early as possible!
Visa applications also have the unpleasant property of taking longer than you would think. In addition, scholarships are often linked to conditions (e.g. preparatory courses), which you must complete in good time before applying.