What’s it like to live and study in Germany? Well, for one thing, you would probably be studying at a university which is among the best, not only in Europe, but the world, with top-notch infrastructure and equipment; there would most likely be a great library to do research for your assignments, as well as a comfortable place to study in peace. Also, the German higher education system has undergone a dramatic internationalization, which means that you will get the chance to meet and study with people from all over the world.
Germany is an economic superpower that has become a very attractive place for students all over the world to pursue their studies, and ranks right after the United States and Great Britain in that respect. Many German universities are in the top 100 world rankings, having both tradition and excellence in teaching, and where many Nobel laureates have studied; so there isn’t a doubt that you will receive extraordinary education. Studying in Germany is amazing, easy and loads of fun.
Going to a new place always means adjusting and learning about that country and it’s culture. It is helpful to prepare yourself before going abroad, for the new things you will encounter, by consulting books, websites and forums as well as getting recommendations from friends that have been there before. To gain a good personal experience of Germany, you have to submerge yourself in its culture, by getting to know and spending as much time as you can with Germans around you, be it students or locals.
There is no shortage of student clubs and activities on and off campus, so if you are interested in activities like e.g. hiking or chess or whatever in your home country, you can continue pursuing the same interests and engage in the same activities and make new friends and learn German in the process. You may have heard that Germans are somewhat reserved in their interactions with others, and there may be some truth to it, but mostly in the case of elders and dwellers of smaller towns. But in larger cities and places with a lot of young people, you’ll find out that they are friendly and accepting of students from abroad.
Be sure to address the elderly with “Sie,” which is the formal “you” to show respect and call your professors by their last name; you can of course call your colleagues and friends by their first names and use “du” if you speak German. Germans value punctuality very much so be in time.
The best part: there are universities in both large cities or quaint towns – whatever suits your personality and needs. Whether you enjoy going out a lot and partying, or have a more chilled lifestyle you’ll have options.
Cost of living in Germany depends on the place you will be studying at and your lifestyle, but generally the basic expenses (such as accommodation, study materials, transportation, food etc) are close to the European Union average – around €750 a month. Getting a student card is recommended since you will get discounts at museums, theaters, cinema, public swimming pools and many other places so make sure you make the most of your student status as much as you can.
You can work part-time and earn extra money on the side to support your lifestyle while studying. If you are a national of an EU member country or a national of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, than you have unlimited access to the job market, just as Germans. Beware that if you work more than 20 hours during a week you will have to pay into social security.
If you come from a country not mentioned above you only have the right to work for 90 full days or 180 half-days a year and if you wish to work more than that, you need to get a work permit. Internships are regarded as work hours too – even the unpaid ones – so please be mindful not to work more than you are allowed to, so you don’t risk trouble with the authorities or worse still – get expelled from Germany. Labor laws are very strict in Germany, so make sure to respect them.
Transportation is not a problem since there are trams, buses and trains in almost all the regions of Germany. A common transportation ticket among students is the “Semesterticket” which allows you to use any public transportation at a discount price for a full semester.
Since some universities and campuses are located in suburbs away from city centers, you can save a lot with a single transportation pass. Riding a bike is a common choice among students too, you can get almost anywhere on a bike and thus cut the transportation expenses as well as get some exercise.
According to German law everybody studying in a state-recognized college or university has to have health insurance to qualify for enrollment, thus one of the prerequisites to getting admitted in a university is to have proper health insurance.
Make sure you submit an insurance certificate (called “Krankenversicherungnachweis” in German) at the admissions office before the beginning of your term. Guest researchers, students in language courses as well as students over 30 years old need to get insured from private companies. The health insurance plans MAWISTA Student and MAWISTA Science are specially customized for international students, language students (e.g. in preparation of a language test), guest scientists, scholarship holders and internship students in Germany.
For more information please read: Health Insurance in Germany
School comes first, but there’s no denying traveling is a lot of fun. During weekends and university breaks make sure you take travels throughout Germany. This way you gain new perspectives, get to see many amazing things and come back home with stories to tell.
Germany has nine different neighboring countries, so you will be able to visit new places and experience new cultures without spending too much money. Plan in advance, find deals on trains or carpool with others and don’t miss opportunities to visit extraordinary places across Europe. Make use of travel agencies that offer last minute deals on gateways to cool places for students.
Another way to travel to other countries is by renting a car, Europcar and many others have deals on weekends, rent a car on Friday afternoon and bring it back on Monday morning. This way you can visit another country in a convenient and affordable way.