Stays abroad for students of English:
general information

Do I need to go abroad?

If you are planning to become a teacher, you will have to go abroad to a country where English is the official language or the main language spoken for at least three months (twelve weeks) before registering to submit your Master thesis.

Nonetheless, it is strongly recommended that all students of English complement their studies with a stay abroad in an English-speaking country, where possible for a year. You will profit from this period on many different levels – an improvement in your language skills is only one of the benefits.

From experience we can say that such a stay abroad makes a major difference in the development of a wide-ranging and sophisticated understanding of the language, culture and society in the country visited, as well as contributing to subsequent academic success to an extent that cannot be overestimated.

What can I do?

Please check the official criteria for an officially-recognised stay abroad for further information. You may choose to work or study – it’s up to you.

Periods of study can involve one of Oldenburg's partner universities or an independent application as a "Free Mover". Advanced language courses are also acceptable as long as they are at an advanced (C1+ level).

Any job or internship needs to be 'relevant for your course of studies'. This can be interpreted fairly broadly, so your time abroad does not have to involve working in a school or with young people, though these are obviously popular options!

You may take part in an organised programme such as the PAD's Assistant Teacher Programme (there are also companies which arrange interships abroad) or you can find a placement yourself. Apart from at a school or kindergarten, you can work in business, in tourism, as a volunteer with organizations like the National Trust in Britain, as a volunteer with faith-based organisiations, with elderly people or people with disabilities, or at a summer camp or holiday programme for teenagers, or...

(For jobs working with *animals* such as wildlife work in South Africa, you need to ensure sufficient contact to native speakers of English or at the very least, non-German speaking coordinators.)

Some further exclusions and limitations are discussed in the frequently asked questions section.

Where can I go?

The obvious options include the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Other less obvious but equally acceptable destinations are Singapore, Malta, Caribbean countries with English as an official language, English-speaking islands in the South Pacific (avoid former French colonies) and a number of countries in Africa including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

This list of countries is fairly complete as a starting point.

Countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Argentina, Japan and so on are NOT classified as English-speaking and time in these countries will not count towards the compulsory stay abroad, even if you studied in English.

However:

  • You can get credit for individual courses completed in English at non-Anglophone universities, though the stay abroad itself does not count.
  • Students who are not planning to become teachers can take advantage of English-language opportunities beyond the Anglophone world - the university has a number of interesting exchange partnerships that it is worth considering.

When should I go?

If you're planning to be a teacher, you need to have completed your stay abroad before submitting your M.Ed. thesis. This seems a long way away when you first start studying, but it can take time to find a suitable opportunity or to apply for exchange and teaching programmes.

It is important to note that students are usually 'beurlaubt' during their stay abroad, and thus do not lose any time completing the degree. According to the Prüfungsordnung, 'der studienrelevante Auslandsaufenthalt ist kein Bestandteil der Regelstudienzeit.'

Generally speaking, the most convenient point for a period spent studying abroad in an English-speaking country is either the middle semesters of the bachelor degree (semester four, the summer between semesters four and five, or semester five in particular) or the time immediately after the completion of the first degree.

Given the early application deadlines for most exchange programms, semester five is the best option for commencing a period of study abroad - due to overlapping semesters it is rarely practical to start university in the summer semester in other countries, although this can work in years when the Oldenburg semester finishes in late January, and is a good option for Australia and South Africa due to the different academic year in the southern hemisphere!  A seventh bachelor semester or a first MEd Gym/WiPäd semester can also be a good opportunity, particularly if you do not receive BAföG - it is possible to complete many of the required MEd courses in Anglistik in one semester.

If you are planning to become a teacher in primary or lower secondary schools (M.Ed. Grund-, Haupt- und Realschule), it is strongly recommended that you complete this stay abroad during or immediately after the bachelor degree. The timing of the Praxissemester (February-June) and the scheduling of compulsory modules makes spending time abroad during the masters programme extremely difficult. If you intend to study abroad, there are also very few master modules for which you can gain credit. 

Students studying for the degrees M.Ed. (Gym) and M.Ed (WiPäd) generally have enough time to complete their stay abroad during their course of studies; however, if you receive BAFöG and wish to study abroad, then you should also try to go during your first degree if at all possible.

Sonderpädagogik students may find it easier to complete their stay abroad during their master's degree due to course scheduling in that subject. However, if you receive BAFöG and wish to study abroad, then you should also try to go during your first degree if at all possible.

When and how should I prepare?

See here for points to consider for general planning purposes, and here for some of the everyday challenges in going abroad that it is also worth keeping in mind.

Thorough planning (gathering general information about a country and university and translating transcripts; obtaining references; and completing application forms) should commence at least a year in advance, for example after the second semester in Oldenburg. As a general rule, you should start preparing in late September/October of the year before you plan to head abroad - the general planning guidelines are a good place to start.

While the departmental study abroad advisors and advisors in the ISO and Career Service are happy to help you with more complex questions, you should make sure you read the general background information about the stay abroad BEFORE coming to see an advisor. Answers to questions like "I have to go abroad – what can I do?" can be found on this website!

How can I pay for my time abroad?

It is true that going abroad can be an expensive undertaking and presents a financial challenge for many students.  However, there are a number of sources of financial support which can lower the costs.

Once you have decided whether you want to spend your time abroad in Europe or outside Europe, and whether you want to study, volunteer, do an internship, or something else entirely, you can consider the different options for financing your stay. Which one is right for you depends on where you want to go and what you want to do, as well as what you are eligible for.

Follow this link for information about funding for both studying and work placements abroad.

How do I get credit for my time abroad?

See here for an explanation of the credit transfer procedure for returning students.

I've been abroad before - will it count?

Generally speaking, the stay abroad needs to be completed during your studies – either during the BA or MEd degree, or between the two. There are more details in the official criteria.

  • Time spent as an au pair or at high school in an English-speaking country *before* you started university does not count.
  • However, if you attended university/college or similar in an English-speaking country before coming to Oldenburg, then it may be recognised – you will need to ask one of the advisors directly. A completed degree from a country where English is the official or dominant language will obviously count.
  • Similarly, if you previously spent an extended period of time living in an English-speaking country (at least three years) at an age where you were able to have extensive contact with a range of English speakers (ie. not as a baby!), then it may be recognised – you will need to ask one of the advisors.

What if I can't go abroad?

Generally speaking, you need to complete the stay abroad to graduate as a teacher in Lower Saxony. However, if there are good reasons (family responsibilities, health etc) why you cannot go abroad for twelve weeks, then it is possible to apply for special consideration - see here for further information.