How To Stay After Your Exchange

I´m sure that 99% of the students going on exchange asked themselves at one point or another this question – what if I stay here?

I would be lying if I say I didn´t spend a lot of time thinking about this dilemma, although is an easy question, we think about this as a very utopian situation. We see ourselves as only guests for one year and the idea of staying longer seems simply not right.

My exchange was as simple and fun as yours was. I had a normal host family, attended school as usual and had a good mixed of exchange students and local friends. However, a question started ticking my head from the moment I arrived in Germany. What if I stay longer?


This question was something I wanted, but I simply wasn´t sure about if is right or not. I started asking my family at home what they think about, asked my host family if they heard about a situation like this before and asked other exchange students if this idea stops being just an “if”.

The situation at home wasn´t better. As many American countries, Colombia is in a situation where higher education is extremely expensive and if you are not able to pay for this, you will have to have some luck at one point or another to succeed. By the other side, Germany sounded like paradise: Education was free, the social security services in Europe are great and Germany´s life is not as expensive as in United States, Australia or United Kingdom. Germany was like a small paradise where I only had to take a risk.

While I was doing my exchange, I started collecting information about universities, scholarships, recognition of my foreign (Colombian) high school degree and although it wasn´t an easy task, it was something I could do after school, weekends or with the help of my host family.

NOTE: Requirements are different from country to country. The first question you need to ask is if your high school is recognize by the educational system of your host country and if not, what possibilities there are.

Once I knew what universities were expecting from me, and how good my chances are, I started making this idea come true. For a Colombian student, who wants to study in Germany I had to complete a certain level of German, apply into a German university and be redirected to a German Studienkolleg, (a German course for foreign students who want to study in Germany) and pass the admission exam for the Studienkolleg.

In other to complete these goals, I started taking extra German classes, attended extra seminars about integration in Germany and spend my summer holidays not traveling around Spain or Italy, but studying grammar and improving my language skills.

At the end of my exchange year, I had the required level of German to apply to a German university, got an invitation to an admission exam for a Studienkolleg and had an idea where I wanted to study.

All I had left to do was going back home for a couple of months, apply for a student visa and get back on a plane to Europe. Sounds easy, however, it´s a process that takes time and desire.

Steps to get into a foreign university directly after your exchange

Level of language

Learn about the educational system in your host country

You should do all these things during your EXCHANGE YEAR

NOTE: Your host family plays a very important role; they can help you contacting the universities and different organizations.


Check what universities offer the course you are interested in


Check the international office website of these universities and call about information (they know better than anyone what you have to do)


Take into account admission deadlines


Translation of all your documents about your past education (ask first what exactly they need)


Unfortunately you have to return home and with your admission letter apply for a student visa ( Process takes from 1 – 3 months)


Present the admission exam for a preparation course

In matriculate direct as an student


Something went wrong? – No worries. You can do 1-2 year(s) of language/preparation courses

Apply again

What I wish I knew

The international offices at the universities are very friendly and usually speak English. Call instead of mailing! A call takes only a couple of minutes, while an email can be misunderstood and takes a couple of days to response.

Start doing language courses to improve your written skills and grammar in advance.

This process takes time and dedication. You have to commit 100% and work to make it happen.

Ask for help to your host family.

Make a list of goals and set exact dates to complete these goals.

Before you start

I have been being a counselor for many exchange students over the past years and in my opinion dedication and support is 99% of your success. A great support from your parents will keep you motivated; ask their opinion about your idea, explain why you think it´s a good idea and let them know how important is for you their support

You know yourself better than anyone does and a decision like this takes money and time. You have to be sure that this is what you want.

What happens next

I went to Germany 7 years ago and now I still think is the best decision I´ve ever had. I met so many different people, learn so much about myself and experience so many adventures that I can´t imagine how my life would be if I didn´t persist with my goal

I invite you to take this risk too and live the life you always wanted.

“An exchange won´t last forever, but at least you can make it longer if you want”

12799304_10153949779091499_1891852730273482240_nJuan Martinez is a Colombian who left his home country in 2009 at the age of 17 years old. Since then, he has been living in places like Germany, India and Singapore; something that inspired him to travel as many countries as possible with the idea of budget traveling and motivating people to go out and travel more. You can follow him on or on Facebook/Instagram

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