Firstly, know that, from one student to another, what you will get out of any semester/trip/summer school/internship abroad will be far greater than the hardship and effort you imagine the application process to be. I can personally guarantee it. Once you know this, the application will become a process of self-evaluation, something to help you, and certainly nothing to be feared. It is there to allow you to present your best self to the judges, and your only job is to make sure your best self goes into it.
At this stage it is important to note that this article will not be telling you how to write a CV or covering letter or anything like the information undoubtedly already on your university’s career webpage. Instead, as a student with two successful applications to summer schools already under my belt, I will attempt to offer my personal opinion on how you can make the application process your friend, and to try and reduce what anxiety towards it you may have.
The most important thing, one that I cannot stress enough, is to put yourself into positions where opportunities for education abroad are literally put in front of you. And once you’re there: take them! Opportunity knocks only once, so be damned sure you’re ready to open the door. I joined the Certificate of Global Citizenship that my university runs, and I would urge you to research what kind of similar programs you can enroll in where you are, as these internationally minded courses are often geared towards helping students find their feet in enterprises abroad, and as such will often encourage and assist you in applying for things they themselves might be putting out.
Enthusiasm can be your trump card, so get enthused! Make the application process work for you by beating it at it’s own game; getting your top notch covering letter, CV and anything else it requires in on time, and directly to the person in charge of applications. And of course attach it to a nice, grateful, enthusiastic email (unless of course it is an online application, in which case follow the rules they set exactly, and don’t pester anyone with applications directly unless you have to). So, how to be enthusiastic? My tip is to have your CV, cover letter etc ready and easily accessible so that you can send it off at a moment’s notice. Your applications should have a similar structure, regardless of what you are applying for, so if you have a cracking CV ready, all you have to do is alter its shape to highlight the skills you possess that are most applicable to the opportunity. Write a keen, competent and eager covering letter, and send it in before the deadline. Demonstrating enthusiasm through punctuality, awareness and general positivity (very important) will make your application stronger. The application process is your friend: so make it a friend you’d want to have.
Finally, think about the audience of your application. I read a friend’s summer school application recently; the writing was sloppy which immediately looks unprofessional. It’s worth having someone, ideally a lecturer, read over your application to check grammar and tone. The friend also hadn’t considered what the judges wanted to read. Know your audience! The admissions officer is not going to want to see your holiday wishlist, or childhood obsession with Sweden, as a reason for admission, but rather about what you can bring to a foreign university and how they will help you develop your skills. Promote yourself to them but don’t go too overboard, keep it succinct and relevant. Think of it like this: blow your own trumpet, but keep in tune with the rest of the orchestra. A tailored application, and a thoughtful one, will go a lot further than an anecdotal one: save your stories for the interview.
The application process can be your friend if you let it. Don’t fight it. Don’t hate it. It is worthwhile, and remember that with a friendly application, and a bit of luck, there’s a good chance you’ll be the selected candidate.