What to Know about Studying Abroad

What to Know about Studying Abroad

Yonsei University, where Kenna is currently studying abroad now.

Hello everyone! It’s Kenna, one of Jacobs' blog’s in-house writers. I’ll be writing a column for the blog about my upcoming study abroad semester in South Korea. In this article, I’ll explain the basics of how studying abroad works at Jacobs University.

At Jacobs, students have the opportunity to study abroad during their fifth semester, or the autumn of their third and final year. There are a number of partnerships and host countries available to choose from including: Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Norway, Scotland, England, Italy, the United States, and Argentina. The full list of countries is subject to change each year but can be viewed here. The classes in these countries will typically be in English, but if not, there would be a language pre-requisite. You can decide if studying abroad is something you are interested in by attending the study abroad fair in the fall, watching the webinars with the study abroad office, and talking to recently returned exchange students.

The Application Requirements

To study abroad, you must first apply through the International Office by the end of your third semester, or the autumn of your second year. The deadline is usually around December 15th. You can apply to up to three universities, which you can rank by preference. Studying abroad has a pre-requisite GPA of 2.0 or better, although students with 2.33-2.67 are still encouraged to apply but cannot be guaranteed to be placed due to the host university’s requirements. Each university you decide to apply to requires a new application.

Beyond the GPA, each application requires a letter of motivation, a budget form, your transcript, a credit transfer form, and some additional basic information. The letter of motivation is about 5,000 characters and should detail why you want to study abroad and why you want to go to that specific country and university. The credit transfer form submitted with this application is preliminary, as you have no way of knowing for certain which classes you will be permitted to take in the autumn. However, it is still important to browse the host university’s course catalog to ensure you can get the mandatory 22.5 ECTS, or credits. Essentially, you convert the credits to ECTS and select a few classes that would fit the requirements for your fifth semester classes. The form must be signed by your academic advisor, your major’s coordinator, the Big Choices Modules coordinator, the Community Impact Project coordinator, and by registrar services. This is why it is especially important not to leave your application until the last minute! The budget form is to ensure you have enough funding to sustain yourself abroad, meaning you must list out various expenses (e.g. flights, housing, health insurance, etc.) and your intended source of funding (e.g. a scholarship, family support, savings). The templates for these documents can be found on CampusNet when you begin your application.

Funding Options

Students do not have to pay tuition to their host university; instead, you continue to pay tuition in the autumn to Jacobs. You do not pay for housing, the meal plan, or semester ticket at Jacobs though, and instead must pay for these things in your host country. When selecting your host university, do pay attention to whether or not they offer on-campus accommodations. My host university does have dormitories that you can apply to, and I was able to pay for my housing through my scholarship. However, other students I know who are going to other countries spent months searching for a place to live and ended up with rather expensive housing. This is definitely something to consider in terms of financial capabilities. You must continue paying for German health insurance in order to keep your residence permit, in addition to health insurance for your host country. Each country has different visa requirements and Jacobs cannot help you through that process. It may be easier to study abroad in Europe, as you already have an EU residence permit. Visas also typically include a fee. If you have logistical questions about housing, health insurance, or immigration, you can contact the international office at the host university itself (not Jacobs) and they can help you through the process.

There is a study abroad fund with a scholarship matrix that you can find on Moodle (a platform used for some classes and the study abroad information). Generally, the amount of funding available is dependent on what country you select, what your GPA is, and how much financial need you have. As a rule, if your GPA is lower than the recommended GPA, you will not be eligible for scholarships. The stipend can exclusively be used to cover the costs of travel, living, and language preparation expenses that are necessary during studying abroad. There are additional terms as well, such as completing the program and sending a transcript back to Jacobs. Depending on what nationality you are and your host university, you could apply for additional external scholarships. For example, German citizens going to American universities were eligible for the German-American Fulbright Program. There is much to consider when selecting your host university financially. For example, a flight might cost hundreds of Euro to go overseas but once you arrive in the country, food, housing, and transportation expenses might be significantly less expensive than other countries.

The Application Strategy

You might be wondering how likely it is to get your first-choice university. There are a select number of places each host university has open to exchange students. Each university also only allows students from certain majors to apply, as they may not have transferable classes. This affects how competitive each university is. For example, if a host university only allows two spots for Jacobs students and eight majors are allowed to apply, it will be quite competitive. However, if a host university allows four spots for Jacobs students and only two majors are allowed to apply, it will be much easier for you to get in. I ultimately decided to only apply to two universities, my first choice being more competitive and my second choice being relatively easy to get into. As there are so many documents required for each application, I felt it was better to focus all of my energy on the two universities I was truly compelled to go to, instead of applying to three just in case. Generally, everybody who applies gets to study abroad if they have the required GPA and most people I know got nominated to their first choice.

So, then what? Once you submit your applications, you may have to wait a few months while all of the applications are evaluated and scholarship money is allocated. I received my nomination for my first-choice university and was informed of the amount of my financial scholarship in mid-February, almost exactly two months later. Once you are nominated, you have to notify Jacobs of your acceptance of the nomination (intending you will go forward with the program) by a specified deadline.

Now, the role of Jacobs is significantly reduced, as you must now begin communicating with your host university. After accepting your nomination, you will receive the details of how to apply as an exchange student to your host university. The documents for this will vary. Mine included proof of funding via bank statements, a photo in certain dimensions for an ID, my passport, proof of health insurance in my host country, and more information. For non-native English speakers, this will also include a certification of your English proficiency. It is crucial to begin your application as early as possible and be aware of the time difference in the deadline! This is largely a formality if you fit all of Jacobs’ requirements, meaning you do not have to worry so much about if you will be accepted or not. When I was accepted, I was given all of the documents necessary to apply for my visa in my home country. I received it within two weeks. I would also double check with your university regarding any medical procedures in advance (e.g. vaccines, tests for diseases) that may be necessary to enter the country or university housing.

This process is definitely time-consuming, so be sure of your intentions and that this host university or country is the one you really want. Studying abroad a second time may not be for you – In fact, it is already a big step to come to Germany for university! Many students love to explore Germany in their fifth semester, as it is arguably the most relaxed. Though, if you are determined and excited to go abroad, don’t get too discouraged or overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead. Each portion of the preparation can only be done during a certain time frame, so just relax and follow the guidelines one step at a time. When I faced inevitable obstacles, I found it helpful to remind myself that many students went through this same process before me, so surely, I can figure it out, too. Plus, you can always ask the study abroad alumni in the year above you what their experiences were with your future host university.

Before you know it, your flights will be booked and you can start dreaming about your new (second!) home away from home. In the next installment of this column, I’ll give you a little look into my life here at Yonsei University, my classes, and what it’s like living in Seoul. Bis dann, or 다음에 봐요!

BY Kenna Rosalie Howorth (UK & USA) | CLASS OF 2023

What to Know about Studying Abroad