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Note: this is all in Europe.

I am in the process of applying for a phd position. I think I have a decent chance (albeit still small of course) of getting the position, since it matches my profile and I know one of the supervisors well.

In 2015 I took a semester abroad, doing a minor in a different subject than I graduated in. This subject is not related to the phd subject. However, it was still a valuable experience (living abroad, being independent), which I think will help my chances slightly.

The problem is that due to an issue between the two universities, the study credits I got there ended up not being accepted, and I had to take extra courses at my home uni to compensate for this. Of course, this is ridiculous, because I basically spent half a year there for nothing (in terms of ECTS). I do have a signed document stating that I completed my semester there, as well as grade lists, but I don't have any official records saying I completed my courses.

Should I still mention the courses I followed abroad, with the risk of having to explain that I don't have the credits for it at a later stage? I may end up looking chaotic/messy if they find out I spent a semester in another university without officially passing any courses. However, not mentioning it leaves a half year gap on my CV and I also miss the independence/international experience checkmark. I did spend half a year in another country on another occasion, but that was work-related, not academic.

TLDR: took semester abroad, records of it are lost, no official proof I completed the courses. Do I mention this semester at all on my phd application? Courses are only very slightly related to phd subject.

  • the study credits I got there ended up not being accepted --- Not accepted at the abroad university, or accepted at the abroad university and not accepted at your home university? If the latter, I would include the courses and simply state the abroad university at which the course credits were earned. I have credits at several universities, in one case these being some school teacher-education courses I took in the late 1980s as part of an alternative certification process to teach high school (in the U.S.). – Dave L Renfro Jun 26 at 13:04
  • I don't have any official records saying I completed my courses — Does the university where you took the courses have official records that you took the courses? At least in the US, most grad programs (eventually) want official transcripts sent directly from each university you've attended. – JeffE Jun 26 at 14:35
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Do I mention this semester at all on my phd application?

Yes. Treat the semester as a regular CV entry, e.g., include a heading such as

MMM'YY -- MMM'YY, subject, university, country

Under that heading explain what you studied, e.g.,

   I studied courses in X, Y and Z at Master's level.

Perhaps even explain why you studied them, e.g.,

   The knowledge I acquired allowed me to ABC.

(For a PhD application, my advice remains the same, it just seemed easier to explain for a CV, rather than such an application.)

[There's a] risk of having to explain that I don't have the credits for it at a later stage?

The credits aren't necessarily relevant. You acquired new skills and those skills allow you to achieve something new.

I may end up looking chaotic/messy if they find out I spent a semester in another university without officially passing any courses.

You can control the dialogue (e.g., as I have suggested above) and present the semester as a plus, rather than a negative.

[There's] no official proof I completed the courses

No official proof exists for many aspects of your application, e.g., you can explain achievements without proof.

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