Taking the challenge for an experience of a lifetime!

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Author: Ana Alibegova

If we make a mini research to find out why young people do or don’t apply for an exchange program, we can easily understand that most of them have complaints regarding lack of information about possibilities for study aboard. Most of them are willing to take the challenge and for an internship or a Master program abroad; the ones that already have experience confirm it has been and experience of a lifetime. Here are some of their stories:

Katya from Moldova (24): The greatest time and the most amazing experience

As a student at the Faculty of Foreign Languages (German-English Department, Translation) I applied for a DAAD scholarship (German Academic Exchange Service) two times and for accepted both times. I received the first scholarship and went to Germany for a whole month as a participant in an intensive summer course for German language. I studied at the University Heinrich Heine in Dusseldorf, Germany. The second time, I was rewarded with a study scholarship for two semesters at the University of Ruhr in Bochum, Germany. It was a DAAD scholarship for foreign students who want to obtain a Masters Degree in Germany. The time I spent abroad in Germany was the GREATEST and the most AMAZING experience of my life! During this time I learned many interesting facts about Germany, its culture, traditions and people who live there. I loved everything there! I’ve met wonderful people from all over the world who will remain my friends forever. I would say German people are gentile, polite and cool 😉

I had the privilege to experience German university education with German and foreign students. I’ve learned useful and important things which I now apply in my professional activities. The opportunities which the DAAD scholarships granted me are priceless.
In my opinion, educational institutions in my country inform students about available exchange programs, and if the students wish to apply for one they can easily do so. The only issue is that there are not many programs and scholarships available for the students from Moldova.

Sergi from Ukraine ( 24 ): Useful experience in my preferred field

In order to complete my Master degree, I had to apply for an internship abroad – it was an internship in Biomedical Engineering in Germany which equals to a looooot of useful experiences in a field I love. I am currently doing my Master in Germany, and if I have a chance I would gladly undertake a PhD in Switzerland.

Regarding how informed young people in my country are, I would say: if young people in Ukraine want to find information on scholarships they will find it, but personally, I believe that the youngsters are insecure and don’t believe that they will be granted with the scholarship. However, I’m still convinced that we lack European programmes in the higher educational system in Ukraine and most of the cooperation is based on personal connections among particular universities or faculties.

Bilyana from Bulgaria (26):  Lost in the huge sea of information

I´ve never applied for a scholarship, study abroad program or an internship in a foreign country. I have always wanted to try yet, I never had enough information regarding various available opportunities. There is plenty of information about scholarships on the internet but personally, I am not sure how to select the information relevant to my interests. I feel lost in this huge sea of information. I don´t think that the youth from my country can easily find information regarding programs abroad. Most big universities in Bulgaria have informed students about the exchange program ERASMUS but I am not sure how detailed this information is and how helpful the advisory board, for these scholarships, is.

I still managed to spend a year in Spain as an Erasmus exchange student. I enjoyed my time there. I improved my Spanish greatly and passed the exam which gave me the right to teach Spanish as a foreign language. During my stay in Spain, I received a grant for teaching English at the university I enrolled in. In the future, If I have a study/ work abroad opportunity through a scholarship, I would like to go to the US or England. I would love to do a PhD and at the same time work or get a scholarship to be able to pay for my studies. If this doesn´t work, I may just look for a job there as a Spanish/ English teacher/translator/interpreter.

Johannes from Germany (22):  A great fun!

I went to France for a challenge and because I wanted to experience what university life in less technical and more open universities is like, i.e. a university where I choose my lessons, not my company. It was a great experience, although in the beginning I was overwhelmed by the complexity and felt helpless, because my knowledge of French was very basic. My marks in France weren’t that good, but I learned a lot about organizing myself, meeting new people and the cultural differences between German, French and Spanish people. This was a great deal of fun!

I will finish my undergraduate studies in October and I want to apply for a graduate scholarship abroad. Right now I’m thinking about China?, but I’ll need to see if that is a good idea. The German scholarship program DAAD offers this opportunity so, I assume it is well organized.

In my university it is difficult to locate information, because the professors don’t tell inform us about the opportunities; the only way to find out about the programs is to go to the university homepage, to attend the informational events or to be told about it from fellow students.

Olena from Ukraine (27): I learned much more than I did during 5 years at home

I started applying for different scholarships since 2005. I often got refused, but I was granted a scholarship 4 times. I was selected for attendance in Holland two time: The Hague academy of international law for a summer course and a five month postgraduate course in Business law at the Asser Institute (MATRA scholarship). I received a scholarship in Sweden – a two-year Master program in Maritime law at Lund University granted by the Swedish institute (Visby program) and I was selected to participate in Austria – at the European forum Alpbach with a full scholarship.

I know very few people from my university who applied to a program. Some of my friends still do not understand how it is possible to study abroad, have your expenses covered and travel plenty. When I am asking why they don’t apply I usually get the following reply – ‘It takes time to find something, and we don’t know where to find it. When you find it, then you have to apply, to fill out applications, to pass TOEFL and so on….’ So, I guess, those who truly want to find a program and go abroad will find one for sure. I spent more than 2, 5 years abroad, mostly in Holland and in Sweden. I can say that it has changed my life. I got a second master degree and I learned quite a lot, since in Europe the approach to higher education is slightly different. During the 2.5 years abroad I learned much more than in I did during 5 years in Ukraine. I met well-known professors, lawyers, and judges while I also had an opportunity to visit international organizations and courts. I met people from many different countries and I travelled a lot since it is so easy to do so once you are in Europe and you’re not required to apply for a visa per trip. It was definitely worth it!

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