Self-organised semester abroad: Advice for free mover students

Wegweiser mit Flugzeug_photo by pixaby

If you have not found a suitable university for your semester abroad among the partner universities of the University of Erfurt, you can study as a so called free mover student for one or two semesters at a university of your choice.

The organisation is sometimes challenging. You have to research study opportunities and admission requirements, apply to the foreign university and clarify the question of financing. In the following, we would like to give you some advice for this.

1. Search for a university and programme

First look for a university that offers a suitable study programme to complement your studies in Erfurt. Placement agencies can also help you find a place to study.

There are many agencies that specialise in arranging study places for free movers, especially in English-speaking countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada). In some cases, using a placement agency may make sense. However, you should be aware that you are a client of the placement agency and should examine the offer critically. Most placement agencies only represent a certain selection of universities and only place students at these universities. As a rule, the agencies receive a commission from the foreign universities for each study place they arrange. The agency's service is usually free of charge for students.

However, you do not have to use a placement agency to organise a study stay abroad as a free mover. You can also contact your chosen university abroad directly.

You could proceed as follows:

  1. First clarify basic questions such as destination country, timing and duration.
  2. Find out about the higher education system in your target country, e.g. with the help of the DAAD's country information.
  3. Identify universities at which you would like to study. Decision criteria should include the range of courses offered, size, location and tuition fees.
  4. Pay particular attention to the teaching periods, which are often very different from and overlap with the lecture times in Germany.

2. Getting in touch

Once you have identified some universities abroad where you would like to study as a free mover, contact them directly. It is best to contact the International Office of the university abroad with your request or search for information for incoming students.

Many universities abroad do accept applications from free movers. However, there are also universities that only accept exchange students from their own partner universities and do not admit free movers.

Advice for contacting a university:

  • Write to the potential host university in the language of the country or language of instruction.
  •  Briefly introduce yourself and write what you are studying.
  • Ask about study opportunities for "non-degree seeking students" or "visiting students", as the term "free mover" is not used in all countries.
  • Name the degree programme or the department of the potential host university you are interested in.

3. Application

If the host university allows an application, it will provide you with the application information. Also use the information on the university's websites.

Find out about:

  • admission requirements
  • application deadline
  • documents to be submitted

The following documents are often required:

  • application form from the host university
  • Transcript of Records (overview of your previous academic achievements - you can also have this printed out in English at the Department of Academic Affairs)
  • proof of language skills
  • letter of motivation
  • letter of recommendation
  • proof of insurance cover
  • proof of financial means (e.g. for applications to the USA)

Please note: The application deadlines listed on the University of Erfurt's website do not apply to free mover applications to universities of your choice. In this case, the host university sets the deadlines!

4. Recognition

Even if you organise your studies abroad as a free mover, you can apply for recognition of credits earned abroad and apply for leave of absence during your stay abroad. Before you start your studies abroad, discuss your study plans with the representative of the study programme for which you would like to have courses recognised, as well as with the responsible examination board. As soon as you have decided which courses you will attend abroad, you should conclude a Learning Agreement.

Link to the Learning Agreement with universities in Erasmus programme countries (The form can also be used if the free mover stay is not financed by the Erasmus programme).

Link to the Learning Agreement with universities in other countries

After your return, you can apply for recognition. To do this, submit the Transcript of Records together with the Application for Recognition form to the relevant examination board.

5. Financial matters

When studying abroad as a free mover, unlike when participating in an exchange programme, tuition fees at the foreign host university are not waived.

Funding possibilities for tuition fees exist via Auslands-BAföG, the DAAD annual scholarships and the study scholarships of the Fulbright Commission (only for the USA). You can find more information on our website about funding opportunities.


Manuela Linde
International Relations and ERASMUS Institutional Coordinator; Outgoing Student Advisor
(International Office)
Verwaltungsgebäude / Raum 0.35
Office hours
for students: until further notice only by appointment