In today’s post, I will explain some of the main differences between being an exchange student and being a freemover (or free mover).
The freemover definition
Mobile students are usually divided into two groups: Freemovers are students who travel entirely on their own initiative, while exchange students use exchange programmes at a department, faculty, institution, or national level (such as Erasmus, Nordplus or Fulbright). Source wikipedia
Now that you know the fundamental difference, here are the main practical ones.
The international office welcomes the exchange students and helps them to find accommodation, and follow them during their stay.
As a freemover, you will receive the same help that the usual local student. Don’t count too much on it.
As a freemover, you have to be a bit more prepared compared to an exchange student. For example, it will be essential to know the basics of the country’s’ national language in order to be more independent for day to day life.
N°2 Money, money, money
Exchange students usually benefit from an existing partnership between the Universities and they can keep their student status from their home during their trip abroad. They also receive grants or scholarships more easily.
Freemovers will have the same financial status as “outstate” students, neaning non local students, plus the non domestic/national student. They will have to look for specific scholarships in their home country and their host country to fund their experience abroad.
N°3 Social Life
Welcoming International students is always a challenge for a University and its students. And with networks like Erasmus, exchange students are often invited to a lot of activities and parties. Not to mention that exchange students often move in groups and stay together in similar places. So their time abroad will be a completely different experience from the one of freemovers, in regard of this aspect. Of course freemovers are welcome to join international student clubs, mostly existing and run by local student life. I encouraged also to join other student clubs to get a perfect immersion and maybe friends for life.
Freemover: Degree or non-Degree student
As a Freemover you have two options (same as an exchange student in that case):
- Join a programme and seek a full degree abroad
- Follow some particular classes with the possibility to transfer credits when you come back
More and more university are opened to non-degree students or visiting students or auditors, the name change from a university to another.
Going abroad as a Non-Degree student
Why going through all the trouble to go abroad if it’s not to get a degree at the end? Well, it depends on what you are looking for.
You may already have a degree in your field but wishes to learn more in a specific area. You don’t need to take all the classes, just a few ones. So if the university allows you, it may be cheaper and you will have time for a part-time job or/and enjoy more the new country you are in. It’s less engaging too, it can be only for a semester or even a trimester, depending on what you are looking for and also it will be a nice line addition to your CV, of course.
Just as always, check that you can transfer the credits back home if you want to pursue later in the same field.
Freemover is a game changer for career
International student experience is a real plus for your career. It’s more than just a cultural immersion and meeting new people. It’s about taking 100% care of yourself, show a real an true autonomy in all sides of life : human relationships, paperwork, work focus, day to day decisions, financial choices. It’s about making your own path, without activating your physical roots when a problem occurs.
And studing in another country without the support your home institution, as a freemover, means you are on your own. You have to find contacts, push doors, communicate in uncertainty to find solutions, whether it’s for setting a local tour trip, or getting some homework support.
For an employer, it means a lot. It means you are ready for a challenge, with less fear. It means you won’t be afraid of language barriers, of international travel, of local adaptation, of mutual understanding. It also says a lot about your management capacity and your autonomy. It show that you will ask for management support only in extreme cases. It shows that you are a solution finder, that you are not waiting for others to take care about your situation, that you know how to plan, how to prepare yourself, how to budget, how to report, how to socialize. It means that you will integrate faster in a professional group and you will find your way before others.
That’s why it is a real game changer during interviews and is really positive for your career.
Are you ready to be a freemover?
The interesting part in studying abroad as a freemover is to live a much more immersive experience. You won’t be in the special cocoon in which exchange students are. So you will have to push yourself to adapt and truly understand a different culture and environment. And that is quite a challenge, don’t you think?