There are plenty of things to consider if you wish to spend a semester or two abroad. Seeing the big picture may prove difficult, so never hesitate to make use of either the international office at university or private counsellors. Every university has a series of exchange programmes with similar educational institutions, allowing you to study for free in a number of cities. In turn, it does require very careful planning for up to 1.5 years prior to your intended stay, and sometimes a certain grade point average is a prerequisite to be considered for one of the free studentships.
Perhaps your university is already host to an exchange student, researcher or instructor from your country or university of choice. This may work to your advantage, as they may be able to assist you with information about procedures and bureaucracy of the country in question.
Another option is collaborating with an organization such as EDU-Denmark, which will put you in touch with universities abroad and help you with scholarships for your semester abroad.
Spending time abroad is a great experience both culturally and personally,” says Lise Michaela Lodahl, Marketing Coordinator with EDU. She has incorporated two international visits into her own studies at RUC. She is convinced that employers consider international stays a bonus when browsing the resumes of recently graduated applicants. “It is easy to say that students will getter a better apprehension of globalization and learn the importance of understanding other cultures, yet while we do have some excellent engineering programmes at home, Denmark IS a small country, and instruction is handled differently in other countries,” Lise Michaela Lodahl explains when asked to account for the benefits of a stay abroad.
”Once you have spent a semester or two abroad, your ability to communicate with international partners in a future job situation will be immensely improved.”
Lise is accustomed to giving presentations to students and is familiar with students of engineering, who are usually very practical when it comes to spending time abroad. “They are looking for guaranteed benefits of their time abroad, and obviously that is impossible,” Lise says, and emphasizes the importance of finding out WHY you want to go. “The guidance we provide at EDU is free of charge because we are funded by the universities we collaborate with. Many of these are very generous in terms of scholarships, which means, that you need to master the art of writing an exceptional cover letter. To boil it down, your incentive to stay abroad needs to be crystal clear.” Lise Michaela Lodahl’s best tip for engineering students is keeping in mind that a stay abroad gives you the opportunity to gain a broader understanding of new cultures and improving your English. “These are two qualities that your future employers will value,” she states.
If you wish to work abroad once you have graduated, there are many opportunities to do so in our neighbouring countries of Germany and Great Britain depending on your chosen academic direction. Previously, Norway was host to many a Danish engineer. However, the oil and off-shore industry suffers globally thus resulting in Sweden being the largest taker of Scandinavian engineers. Morten Thiessen, Chairman of Ansattes Råd, IDA, estimates that approximately one engineer is employed every week in Sweden. If you are looking to find employment in the construction and contracting businesses, many companies have offices and projects in Asia, the Middle East and the USA. This is also true of the food- and medico industries. A stay abroad may give you a head start when companies screen new applicants.
- Providers:: Universities and private operators such as EDU-Denmark, EF-Denmark, Kilroy etc. all offer language courses and stays abroad. You need to find out which of these best cover your area or country of interest. Browse their websites and attend some fairs attended by some of the providers. By doing your research, you might just eliminate future surprises.
- Content: Consider how many semesters you intend to spend abroad. One or two or perhaps “just” 10 ECTS points worth at summer school? Maybe you are better off taking a language course to upgrade your German, English, French, Italian or Spanish skills? If you decide to work or do an internship while you are abroad, you need to not only look in to the rules of the country or the place of education, but also whether your credit is transferable. If not, your studies at home will be delayed. Ask yourself why you want to study abroad. What is more important, enhancing your educational CV or the cultural experience?
- Making a selection: Although the American continent and Asia are popular destinations, you may want to consider the European nations. Eastern Europe and certain parts of Germany are far cheaper to stay in than Norway or Singapore. Jot down your expectations: Do I want beaches and beautiful scenery right outside my door? Do I want roommates or engineering colleagues? Do I want a private residence or do I want to live on campus? Can I receive visitors from Denmark and I will I be able to travel home for Christmas?
- Financing: There is a world of difference between travelling abroad via an exchange programme set up by your university with a studentship that might very well be free of charge, to making your own arrangements with a foreign university. Prices may vary greatly. You may pay for only your fare and insurance or you may end up paying as much as 170,000 DKK for only one semester. As an engineer, it is possible for you to select your own destination and receive a grant of up to 49,500 DKK from the Danish government.
- Scholarships: You can begin investigating the field for up to 1.5 years prior to your travels, and there are more than 20,000 scholarships to apply for. Most foundations require specific, personal applications before granting you funds. The International Office at your university is able to help you with information on which scholarships you can apply for, but keep in mind that the funds are in great demand. There are private providers and websites you can pay to help you focus your applications, but start out by defining where you want to go. This will automatically limit the number of scholarships available to you.
- Living Expenses:Check the UBS website for an overview of living expenses and wage levels in different countries. This will help you discern the cost of living and groceries in any particular country. Large cities are generally more expensive. You can find the list at ubs.com under Prices and Earnings. Other than finding out your travel- and living expenses, you need to find out how you are insured and whether you need money to travel around the country while you are abroad.
- Requirements: If your study board requires a pre-approval, make sure you get on in due time. Find out whether your chosen study requires a language test – and which one. Some English language universities approve the TOEFL-test, while others approve the IELTS-test. However, not all institutions list this as an admission requirement – especially not if you boast an impressive grade point average.
- Waiting: You may experience some waiting. Waiting to take a test, waiting to hear from scholarship foundations, waiting for official examination certificates from your university and so on. Make certain that you do not push your to-do list ahead of you, thus missing a deadline with your chosen university, a foundation or your own study administration.
SDU Study Abroad and others.