Berlin is not only the capital city of Germany but at the same time the biggest city of the Federal Republic with over 889 square kilometers. At the moment there are living about 3.5 million people.
It is located in central Europe, longitude 13:25 E, latitude 52:32 N, 34 m above sea level, at the rivers Spree and Havel. The local time zone is Central European Time (MEZ or MET, one hour in advance of GMT, i.e., MEZ = GMT+1) with daylight savings time in the summer (MESZ = GMT+2).
As capital city, Berlin has a very turbulent and diverse past, which can be seen and felt even today at many places in the city.
Simultaneously the city is full of live and brings together a lot of different trends and worlds. In few other German cities there can be found more different people and that many styles as there are in Berlin. It is this diversity and the pure happiness for live that rules the city and makes it unique.
Berlin also is a city of young people and students. Many young Germans want to come to Berlin for their studies and there are also a lot of foreign students coming to Germany and get excited for the atmosphere and the attitude towards life they find in Berlin.
Even in the ancient times of the city different sovereigns and kings, like for example Friedrich III., have chosen Berlin as their headquarters. The city was growing rapidly and during the Industrial Revolution it had become the fourth largest city in Europe. This growth continued during the German Reich and the Weimar Republic. During the Third Reich Berlin was going through bad times and was headquarters for the Nazi propaganda. During the Second World War the city center was almost completely destroyed. After the war ended Berlin was divided in different zones that later formed the separation in DDR and BRD. Some 50 years later Germany and Berlin were separated till in 1990 there was the reunification.
All these developments, strokes of fate but also achievements can be seen in several museums in Berlin. The history of Berlin is very close to the history of Germany and many memories are kept alive as for example parts of the berlin Wall which can be seen in many places of the city.
These parts of the Berlin Wall can be counted to the most popular sights in Berlin, but there are many more. The most popular square in the city is the Alexanderplatz, it also contains the Fernsehturm, the Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft and the Weltzeituhr. The Fernsehturm is one of the town’s landmarks and also a great viewing balcony. One of the most famous sights is of course the Brandenburger Tor. This symbol of the German reunification is an impressive building. At the time when the Berlin Wall was still standing there were some passages with heavily armed troops, facing each other. The border was controlled seriously but today the Checkpoint Charlie is a rather small guard house reminding of this time and one can just hardly imagine how it looked then. Parts of the Berlin Wall can be found all over the city, some of them with ancient watch towers and other barricades. There are tours going by bike to some of the most interesting parts of the wall and there is a guide telling about the touching stories of this time. The Denkmal für die Ermordung der Juden remind of the Nazi era and the millions of people that died then. It is one of the most touching and impressing places of Berlin. Some 2,700 stone squares are placed on the area and if going through them looking up to the sky it is a really unique feeling. The Jewish Museum is also very interesting. The Bundestag as seat of the German government and the surrounding political buildings are also worth a visit. You get a great glimpse to the city from the glass dome on top of the building. More sights are the Kurfürstendamm, the Botanical and Zoological Garden, the Castle Bellevue, the Castle Charlottenburg, the Palast der Republik and many more.
Berlin is split in 12 urban districts and each of them has its own history and many of them have different cultural backgrounds.
Exploring Berlin takes a lot of time and even if you think you know everything there’s something new coming along. The life in the capital is never boring and there is always something to do or to explore.
From medieval times as a prominent trading center through royalty and socialism, torn apart after the World War II and back in its feet after the fall of the wall, Berlin has had an eventful history into becoming ze’ Berlin we know today. In such a turmoil, this epic city has been knocked down to rise on its feet over and over again thus its architectural pastiche reminiscing trials and tribulations in the eyes of a voyager.
In years, Berlin has been an attractive entity luring people from all around the world not only to visit such a wonderful city but also make a permanent home out of it, in search of new opportunities and challenges within the cities survival spirit. Various inputs and influences have brought the city its cosmopolitan and easygoing vibe where people usually feel welcome to pursuit their dreams, one of the biggest assets the city has to offer. It is known to be a cultural hub, gathering artists and masterminds to indulge their creativity and productiveness into brining the world the new art order. As rules are apparently made to be broken in this city, nothing is actually ordinary in Berlin therefore it’s never boring to be part of it.
Opposed to other capitals in the world Berlin is indeed kitschy, yet sexy nevertheless is written over its swag.
Why Study in Berlin
Germany has one of the best educational systems of the world, the degrees from German universities are acknowledged all over the world and the experience of studying in a strong industrial nation as Germany is important and positive for the own future.
Berlin owns 4 universities and numerous technical colleges. The choice is therefore not easy.
The Freie Universität Berlin offers study programs in humanity and social sciences, natural sciences and medicine.
The Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin also covers humanity and social sciences as well as cultural sciences, medicine and agriculture.
The Technische Universität Berlin has its focus on engineering and natural sciences but also offers programs in planning, humanity social sciences and economics.
The fourth university is the University of the Arts in Berlin which covers – as the name says – the programs art, design, music and performing arts.
Besides the high quality education, Berlin has also a lot to offer for the personal development. As it is the capital city of Germany one is very close to politics, history and up-to-date developments. One can immerse into the German culture and get to know the diversity of the nation.
Berlin also is a very international city and brings together a lot of different cultures, which form the Germany of today. One can participate in cultural and traditional events, which take place in Berlin and one is in the heart of it.
Furthermore, Berlin is – compared to other university cities – cheaper concerning rent and cost of living.
Universities in Berlin
As for studying, Berlin is becoming more and more attractive to international students pursuing an education abroad. Additional to being an inspiring city, Berlin hosts some of the greatest tertiary education institutions in the country.
Freie University in Berlin features 12 departments within three central institutes offering its national and international students a range of 150 programs in various disciplines to choose from. Under the umbrella of both Freie University and the Humbolt University in Berlin operates one of the best Medical Schools in the country, Charite Medical School. It international ties are well known just as its highly appreciated reputation due to innovative teaching methods and its advanced professional staff. Freie University is open to everyone regardless of their origin, it is a great exchange program opportunity as well as a memorable summer/winter school experience.
Humbolt University of Berlin
It being crowned a “University of Excellence” came by merit, as Humboldt University keeps ranking among the top 10 German Universities by national and international standards. Its staff is mainly invested in quality research and excellent teaching techniques, promising future experts to the international market. Humboldt University aims to attract young prodigies and make a useful tool to society out of them.
Technology is one of the strongest point of this country and all thanks to adequate and progressive education; expert are made not born. Due to discipline and admirable work ethics, career driven students and a magnificent staff, national and international Technological University in Berlin never ceases to surprise us by coming up with ideas that will someday rule the world. Of course all of this is done with a help of friends, strong and valuable international partnerships that bring the University a scientific domain to operate in and a praised industry to check for results.
Berlin University of the Arts
It is one of the biggest and most accomplished Art Universities in the region, comprised of four segments of Fine Arts, Design, Music and Performing Arts treated from the most controversial and traditional angles of the era. Berlin University of Arts features over 40 different courses and the possibility to pursue a postgraduate degree and an academic career afterwards. As it welcomes talents from all over the world, it has become quite an attractive destination for rising stars ready to give in their full potential. Its cosmopolitan structure among students and staff makes for another cultural insight as well as an example to tolerance towards diversity.
Of course, there are other universities as well located in Berlin.
Housing and Accommodation in Berlin
Places for student residences are given away from the “Studentenwerk Berlin” and you can apply at the university or at the “Studentenwerk”. Which alternative is better will be told to you after you received your letter of acceptance or you ask at the International Office.
In total there are more than 30 student residences located in the different urban districts of Berlin. Depending on which university you want to study at there are some residence who suite better than others because they are net to the university. Information about the student residences in Berlin can be found at the webpage of the Studentenwerk.
There are some advantages and disadvantages of student residences, for example:
– As international student you normally do receive a place at the student residence
– The student residences are very close to the university
– You will soon meet new people and other students there
– Kitchen and bathroom often need to be shared with many others
– Student residences are often used as meeting point and party rooms, it therefore can be quite loud there
– The rooms are often very small and just rarely furnitured
If you decide not to take a place at the student residence there are some webpages like www.wg-gesucht.de that help you find a private room with others. If German students go abroad they often rent their rooms for this period, so it is possible to find something for just one or two terms. It is also possible to search for a room for your whole studies. You should look if the room is just next to university or if it is quite far away, maybe you also want to have a room at the center of the city. The people already living in the room often want to meet you before they give away the room but this is also possible via Skype. There are many different points of view how the live in a WG should be. Some want to do a lot of things together like cooking or partying. Others have very separate lives and just share the flat with the others. You should think about what you want.
Pros and Cons of a WG can be:
– You are very flexible by choosing the location of the room, e.g. you can also move to the center of the city
– It is quieter and the room is often bigger and cleaner than in the student residence
– If it is not a WG just to save money the roommates can become your best friends
– Rent for private rooms can be more expensive than in the student residence
– Depending on the location of the room it can be far away from university
– If you don’t get along with your roommates it can be hard to avoid seeing them
In the end everybody has to decide on his or her own what solution is the better one. Maybe you’ve already been living alone at the home university and want to have a different kind of living now. It is also possible that you don’t get a place at the student residence. All this can influence the decision.
Find and Book Cheap Hotels in Berlin
Cost of Living in Berlin
Living in Berlin is relatively cheap yet it totally depends on the lifestyle you choose; if you humbly decide to cut on luxurious treats you can manage making ends meet with a couple of hundreds however, if you indulge in a fancy nightlife and wicked after dark hours you will be spending a lot more.
Apartment including the communal costs circles around 300-700 euros, depending on the area for a shared room. Student dormitories on the other hand are way cheaper, 250 euros including the community costs, but it’s very hard to land one and you definitely have to search for one months before you depart.
Tuition fees including public transportation, mandatory by every German University will cost you around 250-300 euros per semester.
Food expenses vary depending on your habits; if you are prone to eating healthy that costs more than feeding on cheap junk food around the corner. 300 euros would be the ultimate yet you can surely survive on 200 and below if you know how to manage and save.
Eating outside in cafes and restaurants varies, the beauty of this city is that it offers alternatives for the depth of every pocket.
If you are used to working out regularly, you might want to check if the University you are enrolled in has some gym facilities which you can use. Nonetheless, it doesn’t really cost so much to keep fit and you can always jog for free in the closest park from your apartment.
Cinema tickets can be expensive so avoid going there on Sundays.
Visiting monumental institutions will cost you close to nothing as a student as you will find there are discounts everywhere. However, in order to party like an animal you must have some spare dimes in your pocket, otherwise you will soon get broke.
Working While Studying in Berlin
Many students can’t live from the money their parents have for them, it is just not enough form the studies abroad. Without a scholarship a job is the next possibility to earn money. Sadly, there are some restrictions, which should be concerned if wanting to work while studying.
To get a job it is necessary as citizen from non-EU countries to have a residence and working permit. But even then as student you are not allowed to work fulltime. There are certain limits for how many days of travelling are allowed. It is 120 full days or 240 half days per year, this limit cannot be crossed. Those wanting to work more than these days have to apply again for more time. Reasons to accept or refuse the application depend on the city, for example high percentage of unemployment can be a reason. A solution can be a job right at the university. As on campus working student you do not have these restrictions. It is although necessary to enroll the work.
If wanting to work during the holidays the 120/240 regulation is also valid. Internships are only excluded from the rule if they are obligatory for the study program.
There are no regulations for students from the European Union to work in Germany.
Everybody who wants to earn money in Germany needs a tax payer’s account number, this means you need to register at the finance office. For so called 450€-Jobs (meaning you don’t earn more than 450€ per month) you do not pay taxes but for jobs during the holidays where you probably earn more, taxes get relevant.
You need to be careful if you get any financial help like for example a scholarship how much money you are allowed to earn in addition.
Those who want to work in Germany should also think about how much time the studies will take. Especially at the beginning, when the language causes some problems you should think about if you really have enough time for a job.
Things to see in Berlin
In Berlin wherever you turn your head on to you find out there is something you haven’t seen yet; bottom line it’s impossible to get bored.
- Berlin Wall Memorial (A walk through the East Side Gallery is a must.)
- Holocaust Memorial
- Museum Island
- Rotes Rathaus
- Charlottenburg Palace
- Berlin Zoo
- Palace of Tears
- Brandenburg Gate
Things to do in Berlin
Buy yourself a souvenir in a Flea Market
Green areas are Berliner’s sanctity places. Take a walk over Mauer Park on Sundays and you will be stunned by all the priceless antiquities sold on Flea markets organized by random people in the city. Bye yourself a little something to remember.
Rent a bike and enjoy the city sights
Cycling is very famous in this city, and what better way to glance at the cities tremendous architecture.
Take a selfie
Take a minute and make it memorable. Take a selfie in Berlin.
Dine fine in some extravagant restaurant
Berlin hosts some of the most extravagant restaurants in the world, so put some money on the side during your stay and enjoy the sensation of a fine dine. Don’t mind the check!
Join a party in some kinky nightclub, from dusk till dawn
Nightlife in this city is vicious, so prepare to engage in a never-ending story; you might have an idea of when the party will start but you will for sure never know when it ends.
Meet random people and make conversation
Berlins cosmopolitan structures brings all kinds of people together therefore the minute the opportunity presents, join some city bash and start socializing. It’s refreshing and fun.
Enjoy a curry wurst from the nearest vendor
You can’t live in Berlin without ever trying some hot Curry Wurst just around the corner, it’s a sacrilege.
Watch a football match among fanatics
Germans are known to go crazy when it comes to football; it’s pretty damn amusing, especially after you’ve had a couple of beers altogether.
Go shopping in KaDeWe
The biggest department store of all times; you name it, it’s there. Shopaholics remedy.
Enjoy a trip down the trendies art streets
Art is Berlins trade mark; its new, its real and will knock you off your feet most of the time.
Learn German language in Berlin
Studying in Berlin as international student also means to learn the German language. Even if some of the study programs are in English it is a goal for the stay to learn German. If you have a program in German language you will soon need to learn scientific and professional words and in the every-day life accents and everyday speech can be difficult to understand. You will soon learn the language just by using it regularly but an additional language course can also be very helpful to get a more fluent and correct speaking.
Language courses at the university: This mostly is the first choice for many international students. The language department at the university offers German language courses for international students and these are quite cheap. Another advantage is that they are at the same place as the other courses and you don’t need to drive to a different place. Before entering the course you normally need to do a short test to check what level you have, so you will get the right course.
Besides the courses at the university also different departments and schools in Berlin offer German language courses. For example the Deutschinstitut or the Volkshochschule. Other offers can be found on the Internet. If you want to study German the Goethe Institut is a place to do this.
Language courses can be very helpful to learn grammar and writing but for a fluent speaking and a natural feeling for the language the daily use is still most efficient.
It is therefore important not only to stay with other international students and speak the own language. It is a good thing to say from the beginning that you are not that good in German but you would like to talk together in German to learn it. In lectures and at other activities like university sport you can meet a lot of German students and while doing stuff with them you will learn the language easily.
We’ve gone through all the German language schools you can find in Berlin and listed the top ones you should consider joining.
For more information, please visit German language courses in Berlin.
Pictures: Pixabay, Wikimedia