Going your own way: studying abroad without taking part in an exchange programme
Studying abroad as a free mover means that you do not take advantage of any exchange programmes offered by FAU, choosing instead to apply directly to a foreign university yourself. It is worth considering an exchange as a free mover if none of the exchanges offered at FAU are suitable for you.
Organising time abroad as a free mover can be rather challenging. You have to look into possible degree programmes and requirements for admission yourself, as well as applying independently to the foreign university and clarifying financing.
When studying abroad as a free mover, you are not exempt from tuition fees at the foreign host university, as is the case if you take part in an exchange programme organised by FAU.
A step by step guide to organising your own studies abroad
1. Initial considerations
Basically the same questions arise when arranging to study abroad as a free mover as when studying abroad as part of an exchange programme. The information on preparing and planning for your time abroad available on our website gives you an overview of everything you need to bear in mind. Take advantage of the experience of other FAU students who have already spent time abroad as a free mover.
Even if you are organising your time abroad as a free mover, you can have course achievements obtained abroad accredited or apply to have your time abroad recognised as a semester of leave. Discuss your plans with the person responsible for accreditation in your subject in order to clarify what you need to bear in mind when choosing courses to take at your host university.
You may be eligible to have tuition fees incurred for a free mover exchange in certain countries financed with a grant from the German government for spending time abroad (Auslands BAföG), a one-year scholarship from DAAD or a scholarship from the Fullbright Commission (USA only).
2. Free mover with or without an agency?
There are a number of agencies which have specialised in arranging study trips abroad for free movers, in particular to English-speaking countries (Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, USA). These agencies help you choose a suitable host university and assist you in drawing up the documents you need when applying to the foreign university. In some cases it may make sense to use the services of an agency. You should be aware, however, that you are a customer of the agency, and you should check the offer they make you very carefully.
Most agencies only represent a certain selection of universities and only arrange places at these universities.
Generally the agencies receive commission from the foreign university for each place they arrange. The agencies usually provide their services to students free of charge.
You do not have to use an agency to study abroad as a free mover. You can also contact the university you are interested in directly.
Agencies can be easily found online, all you need to do is search for terms such as “free mover USA” or “studying in Australia”. It is also possible to meet agencies during information events run by the Office for International Affairs and the faculties.
3. Researching possible courses
If you are planning to study abroad independently as a free mover, you can choose to study any number of courses at universities throughout the world. First things first: you need to get an idea of which foreign universities offer a degree programme which is suitable for you.
You should take a systematic approach:
- Decide on the basic parameters (destination, date and length of stay abroad).
- Find out about the university system in the destination you have chosen e.g. using the country information provided by DAAD (look at the additional links given as well), information from the Central Office for Foreign Education (Anabin) and the World Education Services.
- Identify universities where you would like to study (courses on offer, level of expertise, size, location, tuition fees). An initial overview of universities throughout the world can be found in the databases “Universities Worldwide” and “World Wide Colleges and Universities”. You can also search in databases of universities for specific countries. Here it is often possible to refine your search to certain criteria or search directly for degree programmes.
- Draw up a list of the universities where you would like to study and list them in order of preference.
- Now work through your list and contact the universities you are interested in directly to find out if and how you can apply to study there as a free mover.
4. Contacting the host university
A lot of universities abroad accept applications from free movers. However, there are also universities which only accept exchange students from their own partner universities, not free movers.
You need to check directly with the university in question whether you can apply as a free mover.
It is also possible that universities only accept applications from free movers for certain degree programmes. It is to be expected that free movers cannot be accepted in degree programmes such as medicine for which strict admission requirements and capacity restrictions apply in Germany as well.
You should contact the universities directly as soon as you have identified several universities abroad where you would like to study as a free mover. You should contact the international office at the foreign university with your request.
Tips for making contact:
- Write to the university in the teaching language or the language of the country
- Give a brief introduction to yourself (name, degree programme at FAU)
- Ask for exchange possibilities for “non-degree seeking students” or “visiting students”, as the term free mover is not used in all countries.
- Make your request as specific as possible (degree programme or department you are interested in at the host university)
5. Applying to the host university
If it is possible to apply to study at the university as a free mover, you will obtain all the information you need for applying from the host university directly. Information is usually available on the university’s website, or is sent to you by the international office.
Be sure to find out about:
- Admission requirements
- Application deadlines
- Documents to be submitted
Depending on the destination and the university, different documents are required. You are often expected to submit the following:
- The application form from the host university
- Transcript of Records (overview of examination achievements obtained so far)
- Proof of language proficiency
- Letter of motivation
- Letter of recommendation
- Proof of insurance coverage
- Proof of financing (e.g. for USA)
6. Support from FAU
The Central Office for International Affairs and the contacts in your faculty will be happy to assist you in preparing to study abroad as a free mover. Financial support for free movers is available, for example, via DAAD-PROMOS scholarships from the faculties.
When applying to study abroad as a free mover it is often helpful to include a letter of permission from your home university. The Central Office for International Affairs is happy to provide you with a letter of permission upon request.
Please contact Team Mobility at the Central Office for International Affairs, depending on your destination.