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Advice for Studying Abroad in Germany

Are you considering studying abroad in Germany but looking for some advice from a student who has done it before? Look no further! We spoke with Johan who studied abroad from Sweden at Aachen University in Germany to ask for his best advice for those interested in studying in Germany.

Classes in Germany

At my university in Germany, the schedule was the same every week for the entire semester. Some classes were super long – like four hours with a short break – while most of the classes were two hours with no break.

  • Tip 1: Make sure you go to class well-fed and stay hydrated so that you can keep up your concentration for those long classes.

There was minimal student interaction before, throughout, and after the lecture so this might be somewhat of an adjustment depending on what you’re used to. Lectures typically had about 1,000 students and smaller courses would have around 20 students while higher level courses could have less.

The lecturers usually present their material with a PowerPoint presentation. There was minimal student/teacher interaction during lessons. However, teaching assistants often hold exercises where students would do calculations and practice what was taught in the lecture.

  • Tip 2: I definitely recommend attending any extra exercises to make sure you keep on top of your studies.

German Professors

Most of the professors I worked with were German. In my opinion, it seems like in Germany the professors are gods and can do whatever they want with complete authority. If you’re used to a more egalitarian style, be prepared for a change. The good news is that most of the professors have office hours or their assistants hold sessions where you can ask about the material.

  • Tip 3: Attend office hours to understand what your professor expects you to understand.

These will help you understand what the professor wants you to learn and what he/she finds important. Knowing this should help you get a better grade.

German Grading System

The grades were 1-4 with 1 being the best. 4 is the average grade in difficult courses so you’ll need to work for your grades. Some classes include projects or a lab but most courses only have one exam and your entire grade is based on this exam. Attendance isn’t mandatory for most courses so the responsibility is all on you.

  • Tip 4: Make sure you study, attend class, and are completely prepared for these big exams.

German Language

In school, you need to know German, unless you are in a specific program where courses are taught in English. In general, programs will be in German and students will be expected to know German.

In society you can get by speaking English. Be prepared that people may not be willing to speak English with you. I found this especially true at uni.

  • Tip 5: Even if you aren’t studying in German, learn some phrases to show that you’ve made an effort with the language for the best experience.

Student Life in Germany

There should be a lot of sports clubs and activities that you can join through the university. Where I studied there were several activities and fitness courses that you could join in without even signing up. Where I studied, there were quite a few European and Asian international students. German students do integrate with international students – but you might need to go out of your way to meet and get to know people.

  • Tip 6: Look out for events and sign up! German friends aren’t hard to make but you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone to meet new people

Student Accommodation in Germany

At my university I had to apply for university accommodation, it’s not guaranteed even for international students. Most universities that I knew of had a dorm where you share a kitchen but shared apartments can also be available for students. It might be popular for students to find their own accommodation in the city. Here are some tips from to find housing as an international student.

  • Tip 7: Find out as soon as possible whether you need to register for housing or find it on your own.

Holiday breaks

Semesters in Germany are typically divided into spring (April to end of September) and autumn (1st of October to end of March). If you’re lucky, your exams will be scheduled so that you have a break between semesters. If not, your exam will be scheduled right before your next semester starts.

  • Tip 8: Don’t book any holiday trips until you know when you need to be on campus for exams.

Getting around in Germany

German cities have good public transportation making it easy for students to not spend too much while having an active lifestyle. When enrolled, you’ll get a semester ticket so you can go wherever you want within the state.

  • Tip 9: Try to buy as few transport passes as possible until you get your free ticket.

Necessities in Germany

Depending on where you’re from, you might be surprised by how many shops and services only accept cash. Coming from Sweden, I didn’t expect this and had to learn to keep enough cash on hand to get around the city. Germans seemed to love cash! Also, remember to do your shopping during the week or on Saturday because everything – including grocery stores – seem to be closed on Sunday.

  • Tip 10: Don’t leave your shopping until Sunday and be ready to pay in cash!

Has Johan’s advice gotten you one step closer to studying abroad in Germany? It’s never too early to start searching for your perfect program.

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