Registering For and Taking Classes Abroad

Elden Winkelman 3

Education Abroad can come with many challenges, including registering for and taking classes and this may seem overwhelming. But hopefully with a little bit of warning about what to expect it won’t be as stressful. I studied abroad for a year at a university that was founded in 1386 and sometimes it seemed like not much had changed since then. One of the biggest challenges I faced was finding which classes were available and how to register for them. Here are some things to keep in mind about universities abroad:

  • They may not list their available classes until very soon (1 month in my case) before the start of term. So don’t stress, keep in mind what general classes you need and try to find ones that fit.
  • The classes may not be as easy to find, especially if they descriptions are in another language that you are not completely comfortable with. For this reason I think it is best to start exploring the universities website early. Figure out how to navigate it and hopefully find where the courses will be listed once they are up. Then save the URL.
  • You also may not be able to pre-register for courses. Many of my classes were on a first come first serve basis. That meant that if too many people were in the class the professor would choose at random those that could stay. I highly suggest you plan to attend more classes than you need in the first few weeks. Dropping a class early won’t hurt you, not taking any at all will.
  • Finally in situation like this filling out an Academic Approval Form in advance may be difficult. Speak with your adviser about your program and see what their preference is.

Once you are enrolled in a class there is more to think about. I know, it’s a lot, bear with me – it will all make sense in the end. Taking a class in a foreign language may seem daunting, but you have both the Education Abroad office and an advisor at your host university to help you.

  • A class in a foreign language will be harder than in English, but often an intensive language course is offered pre-term. If you aren’t already required to take it I highly suggest it. These courses are offered to make you proficient enough in the language so that you can get around.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask every question ever, two or even three times. Be annoying and make sure you understand what will be happening. Also talk to your fellow students. If nothing else you won’t be alone in looking for the information you need.
  • Some programs offer classes in English, while they may not further your language skills they can absolutely help you understand the culture and community in which you are living.
  • Finally the grading system and testing system is most likely different. For me I had one final examination that determined my grade and that was all. This means you have more freedom when it comes to class attendance. But as always, missing a class means missing information and it may be harder to catch up if you already have trouble understanding your professor.

This post may make it seem like taking classes abroad is a difficult and intensive process and it can be. But do not forget that you have people to help you, so use them. Planning early is essential. Even if you can’t see or register early, knowing which places to go and who to ask about classes ahead of time can really help. Taking classes in Germany was a really wonderful experience for me. I learned a lot about the German language and about the culture without every hearing a word of English. I promise you can do the same in the language and country of your choice. If nothing else you have done something that only a few of your peers have. On a final note once you get through the boring logistical part you can relax and just learn. Don’t let the beginning of the process scare you away from the wonderful benefits Education Abroad offers.

Photo courtesy of Elden Winkelman.


Elden Winkelman is a senior at the University of Kentucky studying Foreign Language (German) & International Economics. Elden participated in a academic year-long Exchange program in Heidelberg, Germany in 2014-2015.