The moment you decide to move to a new country in search of new educational challenges and new adventures is the time you realise how big a step that is for a person. If Germany is your next destination there are numerous responsibilities you have to take care of before you even take your flight towards the land of poets and thinkers.
Nowadays, Germany is among the most desired countries to study and live in for international students, and there is surely a great reason for that: low tuition fees, great job opportunities, reasonable accommodation and a vibrant lifestyle and a safe and welcoming environment whether it’s a rural or urban space in a country with the most courageous history to name but a few. Germany, in fact, has more to offer than the conventional myth of punctuality and work ethics.
1. Prep Mode
In order to study in Germany you have to first decide on the courses you are interested in taking and consequently search for the most appropriate University/College. Once you’ve found the perfect school, you have to check if you comply with the designated requirements of the application process.
Do you have to speak German to attend the school?
Could you get your degree in English in the designated German institution?
Are you in possession of a valid high-school diploma or does it need legitimising?
Can I mix and match courses I am interested in as a new student or do they come in a pre-designed package?
Can you apply online in the designated institution or do you have to be there in person?
Will you be able to pay for the school fees or do you need a scholarship?
Once you are accepted into a German University you have to start preparing for all the migration bureaucracy in order to legalise your stay in Germany for as long as your education continues.
Depending on your nationality you will have to make sure that you are eligible to enter the country and, if not, immediately apply for a student visa. An acceptance letter from the University will be more than helpful, along with other necessary documents the German Embassy requires in such cases.
Will you be able to stay in Germany for as long as you want?
Do you need a residency permit?
Can you work on a student visa in Germany?
Another thing you might want to consider during this period is where you will be staying during your time in Germany. What is more affordable and appropriate to your standards and lifestyle in order to properly accommodate in the new environment is quite essential for a life from scratch.
Is it better to rent a room in some residency hall at the University campus?
Or, is it better to share an apartment with fellow expats somewhere in the vicinity?
What is the public transportation like, if you decide to live in the obviously more affordable suburbs?
You can never be sure how much you will be spending on everyday items until you get there, but asking a rough estimation from people who are already living in that certain part of Germany, is rather helpful in calculating overall expenses.
How much will you be spending on food?
Is it smart to drink in bars or it’s better to enjoy your alcohol in open air?
Is there any discount for students in different cultural and historic institutions?
2. Adaptation Mode
Once you arrive and find accommodation, you will feel like a stranger trapped in a pool of people minding their own business. It is always easier to socially interact with the crowd in a more cosmopolitan environment such as big and miscellaneous German cities opposed to the quiet, and small, not-so-expat-friendly German villages.
Germany is quite a peculiar cultural entity which in the beginning might be rather confusing for someone who is there for the first time, especially if you come from smaller and more intimate countries. A cultural shock will most definitely strike and crush your inner peace before you know it. You will find yourself asking questions like:
How come Germans are so rude?
Will I ever make any friends in this country?
What to do when some German is brutally honest it hurts your feelings?
If you are smart enough, you will turn the situation in your favour and start benefiting from such diversity, picking up pieces you appreciate the most from your new reality. In the beginning it’s recommendable to embrace your new surrounding and play by the predetermined rules, until you are integrated in the social circles that interest you most; then you start sharing truthful opinions with the people that will appreciate them and give you honest feedback. Germans are known to play hard to get when it comes to friendship, yet once you’ve made a German friend, that friendship is forever.
Life ethics are highly valued in this country, whether it is your work at the University, your behaviour in a social environment or the way you handle things at your new job in this country. In your requirements and statements it is recommendable to stay objective and concrete at least until you get in bed with the big boys; afterwards you can loosen up a bit.
As a student you must check what the best job opportunities in the area you live in are, if you want to make an extra buck and alleviate your expenses. Commonly, international students in Germany engage in common student jobs, like working around the campus, the closest bar/pub, part time working in fairs and similar events, nightlife gigs at the weekends, or freelance work according to individual skills and talents. In order to start applying for a job, you must first establish:
A bank account for money transfers.
A phone number where you can be reached and a permanent address proving that you are reliable and don’t plan on bailing out.
Health Insurance in case of any type of medical emergency (In Germany Health Insurance for foreign students is mandatory)
Your social security number as a temporary resident will help you deal with such formalities as well as register for paying taxes according to your salary. One great thing about Germany are the so-called mini-jobs, designed for students who simultaneously work and study in Germany, commonly paid around 400 euros monthly and which are entirely tax-free. If you land such a job you won’t have to consult the authorities or pay any tax on your salary, although you must own a work permit.
Your studies are considered to be a priority by the German authorities, therefore during the studies you are allowed to work the certain amount of hours which won’t impede your progress at the University. Life in campus is no different from any other country, there is a lot of studying going on, the competition is frustrating, and catching the attention of the lecturers sometimes seems impossible. One thing you should bear in mind is that they’re sole purpose in the University is you, therefore if you feel like you have something to discuss you can always approach them and ask for assistance.
Germany is utterly beautiful in the sunnier seasons and just as beautiful during the winter. If you are a fan of rainy days you’ll have plenty of to enjoy during your stay here. Travelling in your spare time is highly recommendable, as every region in Germany is special and different, with a fascinating story behind and a lovely sight to prove it. Once you start learning German, you will find out that their lovely poetry about their country is no joke but the naked truth of their pride and joy.
3. Post-study Mode
After you’ve finished your degree, you can always stay in Germany for longer to either pursue a postgraduate degree or land a potential job and start building a career of your field of expertise. You can always postpone your stay (legally) and travel within the country, if you didn’t really get the chance to do that during the engaging time at the University.
You can invite friends and family to accompany you on a field trip and share some of the experiences you’ve went through during your stay in Germany.
You can apply for a position at the University you studied in and follow an academic career in Germany.
You can apply to some multinational companies with the skills you’ve acquired for the time being in this country, and start working in some department that you can easily continue in your home country later on.
You can fall in love and get married on German soil, and make Germany your permanent home and enjoy all its perks along the way.
In Germany, you actually can do quite a lot with your life as long as you have the will and the skills to do that, and most importantly if you appreciate and accept a challenge.