Hi and welcome to my second blog!
As you might have guessed from the title, I’ll use this post to show you that it IS possible (and not too difficult 😉) to go on exchange as a freemover. Hopefully, it will be motivating and of help to those who are currently planning a similar exchange!
As a little disclaimer: these are my experiences and they may vary depending on where you are going, what course you are completing and of course the lab you are in contact with. Since I am recounting this from memory, I do not take responsibility for any misinformation and recommend checking the official websites, some of which I have attached as links here.
Freemover or KI Exchange?
Was going as a freemover worth it? I would always say yes. Of course, I did not have help from KI in terms of financial aid and an exchange agreement. This means there is nobody who can help you find a lab and it is not guaranteed that the exchange will happen, essentially until you have received the visa (if applicable) and the flights are booked. Although university housing is often not ensured when going through a KI agreement, in at least some partner universities you can still apply for it.
Nonetheless, in my opinion, going as a freemover has great advantages. Below are my top 3:
- The biggest, and most obvious, advantage of going as a freemover is that you are completely free to pick the department and the university, which gave me much more freedom to choose a lab I was interested in. In several KI exchange partner universities, you are limited to a certain department, which many of my classmates were not aware of when applying.
- There are no university deadlines. I could begin the process much earlier than my classmates who were faced with several deadlines later in the year. However, the lack of deadlines means you should organize and plan well!
- Lastly, communication. Communication goes directly through you, giving you much more control over the process and you avoid delays which may arise due to potentially overloaded international offices or staff holidays.
What I did for KI
After I had had an interview with the lab, I first got the course director’s approval that the topic the lab works on is in line with what is required for the course.
I then contacted the exchange coordinator for my program regarding insurance and the required documents to make the exchange official on KI’s part. The information I received was the following:
- Insurance: Although KI offers outgoing students the Student UT insurance (Utresande utbytesstudenter (Student UT) – Kammarkollegiet), this did not fulfill all the requirements for the visa I was applying for and I took out additional insurance.
- Learning Agreement: Although I am not going through ERASMUS, the form (download (ki.se)) did not change. The PI, the course director and I had to sign it.
- Offer Letter / Letter of Invitation: This is a short letter the PI sent me, saying that I was accepted into the lab and stating the dates of the mobility.
Once I had the learning agreement and offer letter, I sent them to the international coordinator and the paperwork for KI was done. I also later had to send a project plan to the course director, however this is a requirement for the degree project course and thus was the same for everyone in my class.
In all, the whole process was definitely manageable and my lab helped me throughout. I encourage everyone who has found a lab that is not at a partner university to give it a shot!