As this is going to be a semester abroad in an English-speaking country and because I am incidentally just in the mood for it, I’ll write this part in English (effective 24 February 2011).
I have already been preparing my time abroad since about December 2009 when I first went to an information event of the English Department of my university. However, it soon showed that I would not manage to organise everything necessary until the following winter term (i.e. 2010/11), so I decided to collect further information in order to plan my semester in the UK for my 7th semester in autumn/winter 2011/12 (this point in my study also turned out to be an even better choice than the 5th semester).
Of course the first thing I went for was to check the partner universities in the Erasmus scheme of the English Deparment. However, I found out that there wasn’t such a large choice available apart from a 2-term place at the University of Kent, which turned out to be a fiercly contested place of study. Therefore I also considered other options, as I could/can count on similar support by the Max-Weber Programme for basically any other university in the UK. I spent a lot of days and nights searching through university rankings and checking university websites: during this time I discovered that not every British college accepts European “free movers”/study abroad students who want to come for 1,2 or 3 terms in order to study there outside a regular under- or postgraduate degree. This soon, along with other conditions on the part of these colleges, due to the quality and number of offered courses and geographical considerations, reduced the number of possible universities. Step by step my current choice emerged from this research and the University of Sussex took first place in my personal ranking.
Certainly, I also considered additional financial support apart from the assistance of the MWP. Very early on, I gathered information about the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) and its various scholarships. The perfect one for me seemed to be the „Semesterstipendium“, so I began to collect the large amount of necessary documents for the application. During the summer holidays I wrote an extensive study plan in order to show my motivation and academic qualification. Moreover, I drew up a list of all my previous grades and wrote down my CV in the required form. As the new semester started, I had nearly finished with all this work but had to put to it a rest for a while due to the huge amount of work at college. Additionally, I had been planning to send my applications to British universities prior to the DAAD application so as to be able to include a possible firm offer in order to make a good impression. All these well-planned ideas were then thrown into disarray by the sudden news that I received in early December: the Semesterstipendium had been cancelled short-datedly – and 2 weeks after the deadline for a “Jahresstipendium” had passed!
Current situation (February 2011)
This led to my having to shorten my planned stay abroad from 2 terms (October – March/April) to one term/one semester as I cannot afford a longer time in the UK. Although I was shocked and disappointed at first (my study abroad adviser had told me that I would have stood a great chance of getting the scholarship), I told myself to be optimistic: I can still rely on the financial support by the MWP and this alone makes it possible for me to still pursue my plans of studying abroad. Moreover, I received the above-mentioned Erasmus place in Kent, which I accepted provisionally, as I will still be very close to my limit financially with this 2-term place of study. Therefore I decided to await the outcome of my applications to Sussex, Exeter and so on. Especially Sussex (as I have already described in“Universities of Interest”) offers me a kind of compromise of “1,5” terms as I could add 3 weeks of study in the “September Programme” to the regular autumn term.
Of course everything still seems very far away with no firm offers having arrived and nothing yet decided. Nevertheless I have specific plans of what I’d like to do during the time abroad: I want to focus on British literature, especially of the 19th century. Depending on the courses available at each university, I would also like to discover aspects I have not studied much or at all yet, e.g. 20th century poetry, American Music and Society or Shakespeare on Film. However, the emphasis will remain on literature. Apart from this academic part, I also want to join some “societies” of the Student Unions and get involved in social life. For the weekends, I have planned to make a lot of tours around the country: apart from cities like London, which immediately spring to mind, I would for example also like to see the “Eden Project” and I will definitely try to see all Tolkien-related spots in the vicinity. Additionally, I am hoping that some fellow students will be in the UK at the same time so that I can visit some of them at their places of study or schools (in the case of teaching assistents).
As can be seen from my long text, I have already come quite a long way until now. Still, there is at least an equally long way to go yet until I can declare my mission a success. This blog is designed to keep anyone interested up to date about this second part of the process. Plus, I have realized that it is indeed even helpful for myself to reflect upon what I have reached so far and what is yet to come.