Before you embark on your journey to study abroad in Germany, make sure you are equipped with all the necessities, including some background information on how things will be like once you move to Germany. This Western European country is one of the best options for studying abroad, due to numerous factors, such as its world-class education, affordability, beautiful culture and rich history. Thousands of international students head to Germany every year, making it a diverse international student hub.
International students are valuable to Germany just as Germany is valuable to international students and their careers. If you will be heading to Germany soon, or are still in the process of deciding on your future study destination, we have compiled a list of things you should know before studying in Germany. Although we have tried to include both, the good and the ugly, it is fair to say that being an international student in Germany is a wonderful experience offering numerous benefits. Therefore, the good kind of surpasses the bad.
Here are 15 things to know before studying in Germany:
1. Education Is Not Always Free
Tuition fees are one of the primary issues when it comes to studying abroad, but this is not the case in Germany. This country is popular among international students because it trades quality, world-class education for little to no tuition fees, which in fact, are nothing compared to other study destinations around the world. However, not everything is free.
In Germany, tuition-free education is only available if you apply for select programmes in public universities. To study at private universities, you will have to pay tuition fees, which tend to be costly. Nevertheless, public universities are renowned for their excellence and quality of education, therefore if you get the chance to study in one of them, you shouldn’t waste it.
Read more on tuition fees in Germany in this article.
2. Paperwork Is Plentiful
Start preparing for plenty of bureaucratic work once in Germany. Paperwork is only challenging when you have to collect everything and make sure you are not missing any important documents. After that, it is a walk in the park, right? In Germany, you will have to familiarize yourself with its conventions and bureaucratic language. It will help you plenty.
From dealing with your visa requirements, bank account documentation, rental lease agreements, or any other official documents which might come your way, make sure to embrace everything. You are allowed to feel a little overwhelmed, but sometimes, dealing with paperwork is the only way to get by. Besides, what’s a bit of paperwork to a good university experience?
3. Knowing German Is a Plus
If your degree programme does not require you to speak German fluently, knowing the German language is always a plus. However, you will be able to get around without speaking the language since Germany is a popular exchange programme destination and people in the bigger cities, especially younger people, can speak at least some English.
If you want to learn German, however, get acquainted with the basics before you go to Germany and you will be able to practice your knowledge with the locals afterwards. There are also many options for you to learn the language once you get to Germany such as university programmes, private language courses, or numerous options online.
4. Accommodation Will Be Challenging
Accommodation facilities are not available for every German university. Those universities who do offer student accommodation, usually have affiliated dormitories or student housing arranged through your partner institution. Additionally, some universities offer single-person accommodation and you should contact your university if you want to live in one of those.
International students in Germany tend to live in shared flats, but, to find something convenient, you should start your apartment hunting early. There are resources available in English you can check online, but make sure you do your research well so you find a place which is close to where you will be studying so you do not spend too much time commuting.
5. Germans Love Punctuality
Typically, Germans actually really appreciate punctuality, and they consider it rude when someone is as much as a few minutes late. From going to doctors’ appointments or simply meeting friends, you should make punctuality your best friend during your time in Germany. Trust me, being in time shows the type of commitment Germans highly appreciate.
Germans are known for being strict, organized, and methodical. They spend a lot of time planning their workday or social life. Punctuality might well be dubbed as an important asset of their culture and, if you are planning to leave good impressions, buy a wristwatch and never be late to a meeting, whatever the meeting may be.
6. Small Towns Are Idyllic
Everyone probably knows that this Western European country known by the name of Germany has picturesque landscapes and interesting architecture in every corner. Apart from the obvious beauty of the bigger cities like Munich or Berlin, you will be able to find numerous fairytale smaller towns in Germany as well, which are actually super visit-worthy.
Towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Görlitz (setting of The Grand Budapest Hotel), or university towns like Marburg or Freiburg truly complement the beauty of Germany. You will be able to find thousands of castles around the astonishing German landscape. The majority of them are over a hundred years old and now being used as museums, cultural centres, or hotels.
7. Locals Value Their Sundays’ Peace
Sundays are usually quiet in Germany and locals value their Sundays’ peace quite a lot. Although there are people working, it does seem like nothing is actually open on Sundays, and as if no one is doing any housework, or even mowing their lawns. It feels nice to know that the country is taking a rest from their hectic routines, collectively, on Sundays.
Shops in gas stations, train stations, and airports are still open on Sundays, but apart from these and a few other working industries, most shops are usually closed during this day of the week. You will be able to go to restaurants, though, as well as museums or transportation centres. German laws are quite strict and the country simply values order.
8. Medicine Is Only Sold in Pharmacies
Unlike in the U.S., supermarkets are not allowed to sell the over-the-counter type of medicine in Germany. If you want to buy such medicine, you should go to a pharmacy, also known as an Apotheke in Germany. Apotheken can be identified through a large, red A on the entrance. So, if you feel like you need to buy cough drops or cough syrup, make sure you head towards the pharmacy.
The law in Germany demands that a pharmacy (Apotheke) is owned and operated by a pharmacist. Drug stores in Germany sell the likes of toiletries or other non-medical items, excluding medicine. In pharmacies, medications are kept on shelves behind the counter and you can even find non-medicinal health products at the same store.
9. Keeping in Touch Might Be Difficult
Due to differences in time zones, it might be a bit challenging to keep in touch with family and friends who live in non-European countries. They might be free to catch-up when you are sleeping or vice versa, and it can especially become a problem if your schedule is particularly tight. And you will likely have a tight schedule when you begin your studies abroad.
Being in a foreign country, you will constantly want to explore and meet new people and create new experiences. This does not necessarily mean you should lose contact with people back home. Sit down one day and figure out the perfect way to make this work and find a balance between the two, even though it might be difficult.
10. Cost of Living Is Reasonable
Compared to other European countries, the cost of living in Germany is quite reasonable and affordable. According to the 2020 estimations, international students in Germany will need approximately 853 EUR/month in order to cover their living expenses which translates to around 10,236 EUR/year.
The cost of food, bills, and clothes is affordable, however, one of the challenges you might face is the monthly rent. Typically, students live in shared flats with other students and they share the cost of accommodation and utilities. In addition, part-time jobs are another way students earn a bit of extra income during their studies.
Read more about the living expenses as an international student in Germany here.
11. You’ll Have to Juggle Study and Work
International students earn extra income through part-time jobs in Germany. If you do decide to take up a part-time job alongside your studies, you will have to enhance your time management skills because juggling study and work (and social life) can be a challenge. This is, however, nothing you cannot overcome.
Apart from earning more pocket money through part-time jobs, international students also get to practice their language skills while working, create friendships, and enhance numerous other skills which they will find useful when they enter the job market after graduation. Unless you have been awarded a scholarship or have financial stability, part-time work is quite beneficial.
12. Numerous Grant Opportunities
Germany is known for the many grants and scholarships it offers for international students. Whatever your field of study may be, the chances of finding a source of funding are numerous. Be it engineering, literature, or art, all you have to do is search carefully and make sure you are attentive while applying for a grant.
For example, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is a state-supported body offering a wide range of scholarships and research grants for international students. There are also other organizations that help students from overseas to get the education they want and the financial stability to manage the living expenses in Germany.
13. You’re Not Alone in This
Whatever you do during your time in Germany, remember that you are not the only international student here and, if you look closely, you will find hundreds of people in your shoes. You might feel homesick or anxious or overwhelmed in the beginning, it is completely understandable to feel this way in a foreign country, but it will all get better with time.
Do not isolate yourself from making friends and exploring the beauty Germany has to offer. Find other fellow students, locals or internationals, and hang out with them and talk to them for any advice or worry you might have. Talking to other people, especially those who understand you, always helps.
14. It’s a Journey to Remember
Now, once this study abroad experience of yours is finally over, you will want to extend it for a few more days (or stay here forever). You will get so used to everything and grow to love everything around you that going away will feel like leaving your second home behind. Although the excitement of meeting your friends and family will equal in intensity.
Germany is a wonderful country and the possibilities for young and eager minds to advance are endless. Make sure to enjoy every moment while you are in Germany and create as many beautiful memories as possible. Study abroad experiences are almost always the highlights of each student’s university life.
15. International Students Love It Here
International students love Germany and this is a fact. This picturesque country surely knows how to exceed expectations, with its fairytale landscapes and historic castles. The culture is just beautiful and the food is delicious. Numerous festivals take place during the year in Germany, among which the famous Oktoberfest, where moods simply thrive.
Apart from the beauty and entertainment Germany has to offer, the academic expertise of German universities allows students to jump-start their careers and create connections from all over the world. German universities offer exactly what students need to enhance their career, that is, the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach the tops.
Related: Why Study in Germany?
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