Congratulations for securing the admission letter to pursue your studies in Germany. This article will help you get an overview of the student life in Germany.
To have an easier transition, students are advised to inform themselves about the important information they need to know as soon as they arrive in Germany. Many Studentenwerke offer help at the beginning of your stay in Germany!. Read more about the Studentenwerke services here >>Deutsches Studentenwerk - Arrival in Germany!
I. Arrival in Germany
As soon as students arrive in Germany, these are some of the important issues which MUST be completed during the first two weeks. In case of any questions, you can contact the international office at the university or the association of students (Studentenwerk) for further assistance.
1. Orientation week - life within the university
The orientation week is a programme offered by many universities to guide new students during the beginning on their studies. The programme provide students with necessary information needed to go through the semester. Here is an example of the orientation week at the university in Halle (Orientation|First Steps). During this week, the students get access to the following information:
- Facilities offered by the University
- Services offered by the different faculties within the university
- Student ID cards
- Student Association Organisations
- Registration information for student portals
2. Registration with the authorities and extending residence permit
As soon as you arrive, YOU MUST register your local address within two weeks with the relevant authority in your area of residence. See example of the residence registration in Munich.
Depending on the authority, one can apply for the residence permit with the same authorities that register the local address. The international office is in a position to inform students about the responsible office for the visa/residence permit extension.
3. Health Insurance
Students enrolled for studies at the university and are below 30 years are eligible to apply for the public health insurance in Germany. Inform yourself as soon as you arrive if you can apply for this particular insurance. Students taking language courses or attending Studienkolleg are not eligible to apply for the public health insurance. They must insure themselves through the private insurance cover. Read more about the Health Insurances in Germany.
4. Opening a Bank Account
Having a bank account is a requirement for your studies in Germany. The accounts are usually free of charge for students. You will need the bank account for transferring the semester fee, health insurance, rent, receive salary from student jobs/internships or scholarship grant. To open an account, one must submit the following documents:
- Student ID
- Confirmation of registration from the registration office
5. Accommodation for Students
Students in Germany either live in a student hall or residence or a private accommodation. In contract to other countries, German universities do not automatically assign rooms to students when they enrol. So it is recommended to find accommodation before arriving in Germany. The International Office at the University can provide advice and useful information for finding a place to live. There are different ways to search for flats. But start early as soon as you have an admission. Read more about Accommodation for Students
6. Public Transportation in Germany
Public transportation is very efficient throughout the whole of Germany. In Germany, public transport costs are often included in the student's administrative fee. The ticket usually covers the whole Federal State (Bundesland) for the whole semester. Read more about the Transportation types and travel tickets in Germany.
II. During your Studies
1. Working during studies - Student jobs and internship
International students (non EU Members) are allowed to work for 120 full days or 240 half days in a year. Students attending language and preparatory courses are NOT allowed to work. Student jobs are advertised in different platforms. One can search for jobs online, or job advertisements within the university/student hostels on the notice boards. Some universities and Studentenwerke have their own job portals. See examples below from the University in Munich (Jobs and Internships).
2. Social Engagement during your studies
Social Engagements during studies enable students to combine their academic activities with other social activities which gives them a balance as they pursue their studies. Such engagements are also highly acknowledged by potential employers and scholarship organizations. They are keen to identify if their potential employees and scholarship holders possess the social skills which are some of the requirements when applying for jobs or scholarships.
Here is an overview of the most common student clubs and sport activities in Germany
- IOG - Ingenieure ohne Grenzen
- Technik Ohne Grenzen
- STUBE - Engagement during studies
- University Sports - Engagement during studies
3. Language Barrier and Culture Shock
Language barrier is one of the biggest cultural hurdle in any foreign country. Although many Germans speak English, this is not a guarantee that everyone will be able to communicate in English. It is therefore advisable to take some German lessons before coming to Germany. It is also of great use since one can easily find their way out at the University or in a working environment. New arrivals in Germany soon discover that Germans are very orderly people, they keep off private lives and are very punctual and very direct. They believe in separating their work and personal lives which helps them to be very effective. Some encounters with many foreigners is that some Germans are very conservative and may ask odd questions due to lack of exposure. The best thing is to ignore it and try to enlighten them about the cultural background of where you come from.
III. Finishing your studies
Most international students prefer to look for jobs in Germany immediately after their studies. But some students would like to relocate back to their home country to facilitate knowledge transfer and brain gain.
International students can extend their residence permit and are entitled to the 18 month job seeker visa which allows the students to search for jobs immediately after graduation. Many universities offer career services (see example from LMU in München) within the university which are of great use. They offer training facilities for job applications and preparation for a job interview but also provide the job portal for current job offers. Read more details about Staying in Germany here.
If you decide to relocate back to your home country after studies, there are some formalities which you should follow and clear with the responsible authorities.
Make sure you deregister your place of residence, cancel the health insurance and telephone contract, cancel the appartment contract, close your bank account and notify the pension insurance fund. You can read more about Returning home here.
CIM Returning Experts Programme to Kenya
Do you know there is a programme that has been facilitating returnees to return back to their home country? The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM), a joint operation of GIZ and the German Federal Employment Agency has been supporting African professionals relocate back home from Germany. Several Kenyans have also managed to relocate back home.
>> Read more about the Relocation Programmes in Germany.
>> Read more about Returnees Success Stories of Kenyans who relocated back to Kenya.