Studying as a Parent
You have children and are not sure whether it is possible to do an exchange semester? There are many good reasons for doing an exchange semester - discover a new country, gain intercultural experience, expand your personal and academic horizons. With a bit of extra organisational effort you can use the chance to make your stay abroad a special one for you and your children.
Early and careful planning is especially important for an exchange semester abroad with a child. For students without children accommodation, medical insurance and public transport may not be so important, but for parents it's very different. Childcare is a major issue. Does the foreign guest university offer support for studying parents? Is the partner going abroad, too, or will they be living separately for a while?
The HFU International Center and the Gender & Diversity Office are happy to answer your questions regarding your exchange semester. Further information can also be found here.
The right time for an exchange semester depends on the individual situation of the student, the choice of degree programme and the partner university, as well as personal family planning. In general you can do the exchange study semester abroad in the 6th semester, after the foundation studies are completed. If the child is still very young and needs constant care, the exchange semester can be very difficult. However childcare for children from the age of two is available at many HFU partner universities and in most of the guest countries.
Choice of University
The first step towards your exchange semester is to choose a suitable university abroad or a suitable guest country. Please note that the availability of childcare varies widely from country to country. State childcare in the Scandinavian countries is excellent as the combination of work/study and family is given a high priority in those countries. In the USA, Australia and Great Britain both private and state childcare can be very expensive.
Especially for exchange semesters with children, we recommmend applying to HFU partner universities. For partner universities within Europe it is easier to get additional financial support for your exchange semester.
When choosing a suitable guest university, check right away with the International Office or Family Office at each partner university. Clarify directly with them questions such as: Is there a contact person there and do they offer information and support facilities for students with children? Is there special childcare or accommodation for families or students with children? Do they offer financial assistance?
A basic prerequisite for an exchange semester abroad is that you can speak the language of the country or at least the language of instruction well. Most foreign universities require a language test as proof of proficiency. You should consider learning at least enough of the language to get by in daily life and helping your children to do the same - in daycare, kindergartens and schools they will be confronted with the foreign language and it may be difficult for them to adjust otherwise.
The application procedure is basically the same as for students without children. For a semester abroad at a partner university apply first to the HFU International Center for an exchange place. Following this, the application process at the partner university begins. Detailed information about the application process can be found here.
If you wish to study as a so-called freemover at a university with which HFU does not have a cooperation agreement, then you must apply directly to the guest university and organize the complete exchange semester yourself. It is important to check whether the foreign university is recognized in Germany. You can do this by checking the Anabin Databank. Further information about the freemover programme can be found here.
Students who wish to take their child or children with them on a study semester abroad often have to rely on financial support to do so. There are several scholarship awarding bodies who support student parents who wish to study abroad.
- HFU "Semester abroad with Kids" Scholarship: financial support for HFU students who wish to study abroad for a period of time with their child.
- Mawista: A scholarship programme which supplies funding of €500/month for up to 12 months to student parents for study abroad.
- Erasmus+: if you take part in the ERASMUS+ programme, additional funding is available for your child or children. For further details please contact the HFU Erasmus Coordinator.
- International BAföG: This is calculated independently of the domestic BAföG grant. The fixed supplement for childcare (§ 14 b BAföG) is also available for students studying on an International BAföG and varies according to the number of children. For the first child under 10 years old, a supplement of €113 is paid and for each further child, €85. For further information please contact the HFU BAföG coordinators.
An exchange semester with a child can be complicated to plan and needs to be done carefully. You have to consider travel documents, medical care, accommodation, childcare and much more. For this reason you should start your planning as early as possible. A checklist to make the planning, preparation and financing of your exchange semester with your child easier can be downloaded here.
Feedback reports from students who have done an exchange semester with a child can be found (in German) here.