Year Abroad General Information
The German Department has four programmes which involve a compulsory year abroad: BA International, BComm International (German), World Languages and European Studies. In each of these programmes the third year is spent at one of our official partner universities in either Germany or Austria. Click here to see which universities are available for students of which programme. In their second year, students of these programmes must complete a 5 credit assessed preparatory Year Abroad module as part of their second year study programme. The College Calendar or our departmental handbook, published online each September, will give you full information about which modules you must complete.
When preparing for your year abroad, you will liaise closely both with the departmental coordinator for your programme (click here), and with the International Office. Both the German Department and the International Education Office can provide you with information on the exchange universities in the form of brochures etc, and the International Office can help you with questions concerning application, the ERASMUS grant, general financial questions concerning the year abroad, and much more. The departmental coordinator will have visited many of the partner universities and will have more detailed insights into matching your profile with a suitable partner university. They may also be able to put you in touch with students who have spent third year at each partner university.
You will be asked for your preference of host university. However, there is no guarantee that you will be given your first choice. The methods used in selecting who goes to which university differs from programme to programme and from department to department. However, the vast majority of students who study abroad in their third year benefit from the experience, no matter where they spend the year, as long as they embark on this journey (both metaphorical and literal) with an open mind and a good attitude.
Parents and Guardians
Your son or daughter is about to embark on a unique journey – a year studying at an exchange university in a foreign country. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, both on an personal as well as an academic level. (See section: Why do a Year Abroad?)
All our partner universities have been thoroughly evaluated to ensure that sufficient support for our students is available on-site. At UCC the German department has personal contacts with all our partner universities and any problems that arise can usually be dealt with quickly. For a full list of our partner universities, please see the section on this website entitled Our partner universities and UCC Coordinators.
Most of our students embrace the Year Abroad experience with open arms, and some understandably are anxious about it. There may be challenges, particularly in the early days getting settled in, however this is an opportunity to learn and have new positive experiences in a supported environment. The Year Abroad is an integral part of the curriculum, and while we check and verify academic standards, the workload is perhaps not as fulsome as at home – this gives students the opportunity to work on the language and to become immersed in the culture. Please support and encourage your son or daughter as they make their way through the challenges and experience the many triumphs that a year abroad ultimately brings.
Our own experience of being abroad combined with years of dealing with students before, during and after the Year Abroad have shown us that the benefits of the year abroad far outweigh any perceived challenges. We have found that students who engage with us and the support offered abroad can overcome their anxiety or lack of confidence, and go on to thoroughly enjoy and be hugely enriched by the experience. The Year Abroad is also a very attractive and sought after dimension for prospective employers.
There is a great deal of support offered at all our exchange universities for incoming students, and there will be many other Erasmus students in precisely the same situation. If your child is experiencing fears associated with the year abroad, please check our sections on this website entitled Are you Anxious about the Year Abroad? and Preparing for the Year Abroad, which provide practical tips and ways to overcome fears, deal with day to day challenges, as well as advice regarding the planning and preparation for the trip. If your son or daughter is preoccupied with the desire to go to a specific university, we are of the view that the location does not fundamentally affect the year abroad experience. Each student has individual preferences, but the essential infrastructure of support, access to courses, etc., is in place at all our exchange universities. There is plenty of time for addressing issues in advance, should they arise, in the time between the allocation of places (usually in November/December) and the actual departure date (usually in early September). Please encourage your son or daughter to embrace the year abroad with an open mind and a positive attitude.
If your child has health issues, please be reassured: The health system in Germany and Austria is excellent. For information on health insurance while abroad, please see information from UCC International Education office: http://www.ucc.ie/en/international/erasmus-out/preparing/insurance/
The Erasmus grant will be approximately between €1,300 - €1,800 per student (varies per country and for period spent abroad). Students thinking of participating in the Erasmus programme should weigh up the cost factor against the inestimable value of living and studying in a European university in terms of their personal and academic development, and enhanced job prospects.
- Link to UCC Education Office Information guide for outgoing UCC students 2014-2015 http://www.ucc.ie/en/international/erasmus-out/preparing/information/
The BComm International offers the opportunity for students on their year abroad to do one semester of study at an exchange university and a 20-week (minimum) work placement at a company of their choice. Students may organise their own placements in consultation with Dr. Claire O’Reilly. Unfortunately this option is not available to students of BA International or World Languages.
Why do a Year Abroad?
For BComm International, BA International students and European Studies, the year abroad is a compulsory element of your degree. Arts students may decide to switch to the BA International programme in order to do a year abroad.
A year abroad will improve your German language skills. You will meet and become friends with people from many different countries and cultures while you are there, as well as surviving and thriving in a German –speaking environment. Our students come home from their year abroad more confident in themselves and in their language ability, they become much more independent and adaptable, they develop the ability to operate in a culture other than their own and communicate with people from these cultures, as well as an understanding of how other cultures work. All of these skills are much in demand on the job market, and they are skills which you will not develop as easily or quickly by staying in Ireland.
If you are thinking that you want to get out of college as quickly as possible and get a job – Your chances of getting a job are much higher having done a year abroad. Your whole life ahead of you will be full of responsibilities and commitments that will be very hard to get out of, once begun. Now is the time for exciting new experiences, travel, meeting people, and all that a year abroad entails.
By doing a year abroad you will considerably improve your chances of employment. Companies based in Ireland cannot find enough German speakers in Ireland and sometimes have to recruit from mainland Europe. There are ready-made jobs available in sales, marketing, tourism, call centres and computers/IT for graduates who speak German competently.
One German HR representative remarked to us recently: “We are not interested in where they spent their year abroad, but we are interested in what they achieved during that year.”
Arts students should consider this:
If you go into final year without a YA spent in the country of the language you study, you will be in classes with a majority of students who have done a YA. They will be very confident and very fluent. You may find it difficult to keep up and your chances of getting a good degree are reduced.
If you are anxious about doing a year abroad, consult our section on this. Don’t deny yourself this amazing opportunity because of this fear. Have faith in yourself and your ability to pull through the fears. Give yourself a chance. Everyone has it in them.
It is worth reading what others say about why you should do a year abroad:
St Andrews - Why do a year abroad? https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/studyabroad/outgoingstudents/
Studying Languages - Why do a year abroad? http://www.studyinglanguages.ac.uk/introduction-year-abroad
A note for students thinking about going into teaching: You will be much better equipped having done a full year abroad. The role of a teacher is not only to teach the material itself, in this case the language, but also to teach about the culture, and to demonstrate and impart a passion for the subject they teach. It is highly recommended that you experience the culture first-hand and speak the language in a living context for an extended period before you begin a teacher training course.
Students talk about their Erasmus experiences: Erasmus helped me grow up
Making your Decision about where to go
Making your decision about where to go – things to consider
When you are making your decision, remember that the location is secondary. Whether you have a good year depends entirely on what you yourself make of it. All of our exchange universities have been approved by us and offer excellent academic opportunities as well as a good selection of language courses. Many of these exchanges have been in place for many years.
When you are thinking about which university you should apply for, it is worth thinking about some of the following:
Does the university offer a sufficient range of courses in your second subject?
What are your plans for final year? Do you plan to specialize and are there courses you should be taking during your year abroad which would enhance your profile for final year?
What are my plans for after graduation? If you are planning to apply for postgraduate courses, check whether there are any prerequisites which may affect your choice of university and subjects for your year abroad.
Would I prefer a big city or smaller town? A bigger city may appear to be more fun with lots going on, but can sometimes be too ‘international’ and therefore provide less opportunity to speak and learn German. Smaller locations generally provide more opportunities to learn and integrate.
Would I feel better in a large university or a medium/small one?
Is the possibility of a part-time job important? (In some locations finding a part time job is very difficult)
Housing: Would I prefer private accommodation or a student residence?
Student residences generally cost less than private accommodation, but private accommodation affords better opportunity for integration and improving your German. In some cities it can be more difficult and take more time to find private accommodation. It is very important that you check this out before you make final decisions, and factor it in to your financial considerations. Some universities have a service for foreign students whereby German students going abroad make their room / apartment available for the use of a foreign student coming over for the same length of time (rental costs still apply). Each individual Studentenwerk can tell you whether they offer this.
If you are thinking about getting private accommodation, check this website: http://www.housinganywhere.com/, which was recommended to UCC by the International Office of the one of our exchange universities, but can be used for many cities in Germany and Austria.
“Students that go abroad can advertise their rooms for free, and incoming students can respond to these offers for free. Only students can post rooms on the website, by allowing only those people with a university e-mail address.”
Preparing for your Year Abroad
German Soc info on YA universities This document contains city-specific Information on all Commerce and Arts exchange universities. Includes accommodation, health, choosing courses, getting there, and more. With thanks to Ivan G, Auditor of the German Society 2013-2014 for organising and putting together this document.
Susannah's Blog - full of excellent information and advice on getting a room, bureaucracy, banks, health insurance, phone, and much more
Preparation Strategies to ease your transition
At least one month ahead, make absolutely sure you have done everything you need and confirmed your Wohnheim room, your place on September language course, renewed passport if need be in plenty of time. Finding you do not have a valid passport for travel one week before you leave will not help you to have a peaceful and smooth transition.
Before you go, check out venues relevant to your personal interests, e.g. music – check out live music venues, opera house, concert schedules, festivals, dance venues/discos/clubs. Or Sport – check out Hochschulsport for your Uni.
Sign up for a buddy. The Buddy system is specifically designed to help new foreign students to settle in. They can collect your room key, show you around the university and campus, explain how things work, where everything is, help with opening bank accounts, sometimes even meet you at the airport. This is also a great way to get a direct line to what the Germans do, where is cool to go, parties, academic info etc.
Sign up for tandem. Tandem learning is an arrangement between two people who each want to learn/improve the language of the other. So you would pair up with a German speaker who wants to improve their English, and help each other out. Arrange your own meetings, do things you both want to do. Another great way to get a direct line to what the Germans do, where is cool to go, parties, academic info etc.
Before you leave home, check Google Maps: Locate your Wohnheim, registration, classrooms/campus, library, Mensa etc.
Check public transport options online and plan travel routes by bus/tram/metro/on foot to the places you need to go.
Before you leave home, check Street View for all the above. Also, say you arrive in your city by train – check the view from the front of the train station. Then it will not be so strange and unfamiliar when you arrive. Check Wohnheim, registration, classrooms/campus, library, Mensa. At least you will recognise buildings you are looking for and not get lost and disoriented – this can be very offputting, so avoid it.
Check Street View for every important location or event for the first two weeks so you can recognise where you need to go.
Plan every tiny step of arrival – book flight, how to get from plane to train, how to get from train station to hostel 1st night, how to get to Wohnheim to collect key, how to get to the correct office to register for Uni, how to get to the bank to open bank account, how to get to Sept language course classroom, etc.
Plan mini-conversations for each important event – open bank account, registration, opening conversation with fellow student in lecture/Wohnheim, conversation with lecturer etc. What will you need to say to them? What vocab will you need? What are they likely to ask you? Prepare vocab and things you or the other person might say.
Choose your courses together with someone who is going to same Uni – choose Einführung in…/Grundlagen… courses at Bachelor level. Avoid Masters level.
Get the emails of the other UCC students going to your Uni and stay in touch with them. Arrange for someone who is there before you to meet you from the train/plane, or for coffee, or for dinner first night. Why not travel together with them? Book the same flights etc.
Find a German student (now, when you are in 2nd year at UCC) from that Uni who is currently spending their Erasmus year at UCC.
Be pro-active. You have to create your own opportunities.
Practical Strategies for making friends
You might feel a bit silly doing some of these, but it gets easier, and if you stick with it you will get results (i.e. friends and people to spend time with) and you can laugh about it in a few months time…
Go to classes early. Be brave and start a conversation with the person sitting next to you in the lecture/seminar before the teacher/lecturer arrives. It might seem silly, but the no-brainer one is: “Hi, ich heiße …, ich bin neu hier. ” Find out their name, where they are from, what they are studying, or talk about the class you are both doing, the lecturer, the weather, the campus, the city, the Wohnheim, your hobbys, your weekend plans, ANYTHING AT ALL really, just to make contact.
Be patient. It might not work first time, but next class you will know each other’s faces and can say hello again, or sit next to them, the time after that you can suggest coffee, it goes from there and before you know it you have made a friend.
Don’t rely too much on the others from your home university. The habits made in the early stages are hard to break, and will not help you to learn German. Be prepared to say no to coffee/dinner with your Irish pals sometimes in favour of an activity that will force you to speak German. By the same token, if your Irish pal says no to an invitation in favour of a party invite from a German/Austrian, don’t take offence - admire them for their courage and determination.
Join a sports or hobby club. All universities have Hochschulsport – sign up for something new. Check for dates for registration. Go on weekends away with the group.
Get to know the people in your Wohnheim. Introduce yourself. Go to the common kitchen/living area when you hear someone is there, and strike up a conversation. But do not take risks with your personal safety.
Go to all the freshers events. (“Erstsemestler” = fresher) and be bold about talking to people.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. People sense when you are desperate.
Accept all invitations to coffee, lunch, dinner, parties, concerts etc. for the first couple of months and make extra efforts to talk to new people.
- Push boundaries talking to people. Strike up conversations before/after class with the person sitting next to you. Invite them for coffee. Say hello next time you see them. Be pro-active. You have to create your own opportunities.
Financing your Year Abroad
The ERASMUS grant will be approximately between €1,300 - €1,800 per student (varies per country and for period spent abroad). Students thinking of participating in the ERASMUS programme should weigh up the cost factor against the inestimable value of living and studying in a European university in terms of their personal and academic development.
Link to UCC International Office Year Abroad booklet 2014-2015 - see page 11 for cost of living:
Are you anxious about the Year Abroad?
Overcoming your Fears
What specifically are you afraid of? Be very specific and write down what these fears are. Then devise practical strategies to overcome each one.
Talk to a final year who has gone through this – how did they deal with it?
You are probably thinking only about the awful things about being abroad. But the YA might be a wonderful experience.
What is the Worst Case Scenario?
- You won’t like your housemates – Find friends elsewhere – classes, activities, part-time job
- You won’t understand lectures – This takes time and happens to everyone. Be patient.
- No one will understand you - This also takes time. Be patient.
- You won’t make friends – You have to make an effort and take small risks in talking to people. It will ultimately pay off.
- You are not close to your UCC classmates going to that university – You may not know them well now, but you might find they are actually really nice people and can be solid, reliable friends if you give them a chance.
- You might miss your family and friends – For the first while maybe, but there are plenty of very nice people at the university where you will be.
- You might miss all the fun going on without you at UCC – there is plenty of fun to be had at German & Austrian universities too, and lots of things that you can’t do at all in Ireland, as well as many more that you can do much more easily and cheaply abroad.
- You won’t get your job back when you come home – Is the job at the corner shop/at the till in Super-Valu really worth staying home for?
- You want to get out of college as quickly as possible and get a job – Your chances of getting a job are much higher having done a year abroad. Your whole life ahead of you will be full of responsibilities and commitments that will be very hard to get out of, once begun. Now is the time for exciting new experiences, travel, meeting people, and all that a YA entails.
Arts students should consider this:
If you go into final year without a YA spent in the country of the language you study, you will be in classes with a majority of students who have done a YA. They will be very confident and very fluent. You will find it difficult to keep up and your chances of getting a good degree are reduced. All of this might be even more difficult than actually doing the YA. Also: Can you really stand over a degree in a language without having spent a year in the country of that language?
People who have done a YA almost never fail final year language exams. People who have not done a YA sometimes do.
Don’t deny yourself this amazing opportunity because of this fear. Have faith in yourself and your ability to pull through the fears. Give yourself a chance. Everyone has it in them.
If you can get through the 1st week, you can get through another week, and another, and another. It only gets easier.
Check out our section on Testimonials from UCC students.
Tips for making the most of your Year Abroad
Some Thoughts on the Year Abroad…
- You only get out of the year what you put into it. You must make an effort to work on your German for it to improve, and you are responsible for your progression. This will require a personal commitment.
- There will administrative tasks and many things to do at the beginning – be prepared for this, but also be patient. After a few weeks of settling in you will feel more relaxed and comfortable in your new environment. Inform yourself as much as you can before you go as to which courses are on offer, when you need to sign up for them, how and when they will be assessed, whether you can get a Teilnahmeschein, etc.
- Make the effort to meet German students and talk German to everyone – be firm about this, Germans love to practise their English. Keep in mind that you have paid a lot of money and made sacrifices to study in Germany/Austria. Be resolute about insisting on speaking German. You will not be considered rude, but merely a straight-talker by the Germans, and you will know who wishes to just meet you to speak English and who would like to be your friend.
- Social and study habits formed at the beginning are likely to continue throughout the year - form the right habits from the beginning. It may be more comfortable at the start to stick with your Irish pals but this will do nothing for your linguistic skills, or bring into contact with native speakers. Go out on a limb and make a big effort to meet people and cultivate friendships with German-speakers right from the start. It may help to start a hobby or join a club. Avoid working in the Irish pub. Having German/Austrian friends can be a big help in keeping up to date on developments in courses, also forming project groups, as well as giving you an inside track on the social scene. Remember your priority is to learn German.
- You will encounter cultural differences. Stay open as to the reasons why things happen or why people act/react a certain way. Remember that your judgement of it is very much influenced by your expectations and the way things function your own culture. Be open to other explanations. Adapt your expectations and keep an open mind!
- You are representing yourself, UCC and Ireland. People often form an impression of an entire population based on one encounter with one person or group of people. Bear this in mind in your dealings with people.
- Avoid setting up a job at home for the Easter/Summer break. Get a job there or go travelling. Remember: there are two approx 14 week semesters. If you come home for the whole Easter break and immediately at the start of the summer break, you will have spent 7 months in the country, not one year. Remember your priority is to learn German, not English.
- We have seen several students lift their grades from almost-fail in second year to First Class Hons across the board for language in final year. You all have the potential to achieve this.
- This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, make the most of it.
Make the most of your YA – how to improve your language
Your German will not improve simply by osmosis, you have to work at it. You will need to seek out the right opportunities and expose yourself to as much language as you can.
We have seen students struggle to pass their second year language module, then return after their year abroad with almost perfect German and get First Class honours in their final year language exams. Most people are academically capable of this leap. However, it does require a special attitude of openness, a willingness to take constructive criticism and learn from it, and a willingness to stick your neck out and grab all the opportunities with both hands.
You must make an effort to work on your German for it to improve, and you are responsible for your progression. This will require a personal commitment. Here are some web tips on how to make the most of this unique opportunity…
Requirements for the Year Abroad
See UCC Marks and Standards for Commerce International Third Year Abroad: http://www.ucc.ie/admin/registrar/marksandstandards/2015COMMERCE.pdf
This document is updated annually in summer so please check for the most up-to-date version for the year you will be abroad.
See UCC Marks and Standards for BA International Third Year Abroad: http://www.ucc.ie/admin/registrar/marksandstandards/2015CACSSS.pdf
This document is updated annually in summer so please check for the most up-to-date version for the year you will be abroad.
Tandem requirements for Commerce students only
For academic requirements for BA International Year Abroad please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Partner Universities and UCC Coordinators
Coordinator for the BA International Year Abroad is Ms Ditte Bellettre, email@example.com
Coordinator for the World Languages Year Abroad is Ms Christine Bremer, firstname.lastname@example.org
UCC International Office representative is Clare Murphy email@example.com
BA International and World Languages students may go to the following universities:
BComm International students may go to:
- Nürnberg / Erlangen
- Wirtschaftsuniversität Vienna
- Klagenfurt Click here for Uni Klagenfurt information video
European Studies students may go to:
Year Abroad Links
Studying in Germany, Austria, Switzerland
Susannah's Blog - choc-full of excellent information and advice on getting a room, bureaucracy, banks, health insurance, phone, and much more.
Vocalproject excellent resource with practical information and tips on travel, accommodation, emergencies, socialising, working in Germany, as well as specialist topics.
JustLanded Useful practical tips for organising your year abroad.
DAAD listings for internships
Information on Universities and study opportunities in Germany.
Everything on the German education System, statistics, insititutes, short descriptions of courses of study available in Germany and info on their locations
Accommodation in Germany - links to the Homepages of all Studentenwerke
US website on study abroad opportunities all over the world, incl summer courses, year abroad, volunteer work, language programmes.
incl study programmes, scholarships & funding, practical information. English version here
includes a good section on studying in Germany
Information on German schools abroad, German language programmes, Youth Exchange, Media, study in Germany, foreign academics in Germany and much more
List of organizations of Foreign cultural Work
Website with the 1000 best known German companies for those who wish to do an internship/traineeship or are writing a thesis with a company. Listed by sector, location, subject area or work area.
a website dedicated to Third Year Abroad, includes information on study as well as working and much more.
http://www.goethe.de/lrn/prj/wnd/deindex.htm?wt_sc=mwnd - getting started in Germany, living in Germany, learning German, Bureaucracy, Where to find help if needed, FAQs and a glossary.
Language Courses in Germany
- Goethe Institute listings
- IIK Düsseldorf
- DAAD listings
- DAAD Scholarships for language courses
- Humboldt Institut courses
- Carl Duisburg Gesellschaft courses
- Actilingua (Vienna)
- Learning Events (Austria)