Germany attracts many international students every year with its reputation for high-quality, low-cost education, as tuition fees there are practically nonexistent at public universities, unlike other popular destinations like the United States and the United Kingdom. But if you think about studying in Germany, there are a few things you should know first. According to CountryAAH, Germany has a total population of 83.7 million.
1. Free but under certain conditions
To be eligible to study for free at German universities, the candidate must study under the same conditions as local students, with all the inherent challenges. And, especially at graduation, the main courses are taught in German. So it is necessary to prove minimum proficiency in the language to participate in the classes. However, the supply of English courses at German universities is growing every year.
2. Working time limits exist and must be respected
If you go to Germany on a student visa, you will be able to work but with limits. For students without a European Union passport (such as Brazilians without dual citizenship), 120 full working days or 240 part-time days are allowed.
During the semester, students can work only 20 hours a week. However, compared to major cities in the US and the UK, for example, rent, food, health and public transport costs are generally cheaper.
And, if you happen to be Brazilian but have dual European citizenship, you may be eligible for BAföG, a state aid (half loan and half subsidy) that is generally interest-free. This funding can also be extended to citizens outside the European Union, but only in extraordinary cases.
And of course: never try to work by breaking the established rules and time limits. If you do that, you are at serious risk of being banned from the country.
3. Scholarships available for all areas
Fortunately, in Germany there are many scholarships available to foreigners, regardless of the area of study. DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, is supported by the state and offers the widest range of scholarships for international students. And this is just one example, as there are many other foundations dedicated to the distribution of scholarships.
4. Independence is fundamental
Unless you have a European Union passport, expect to spend a lot of time dealing with the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners’ office). The visa application for those who are approved at local universities usually consists of a smooth process and, if you complete your course in the country, you will be eligible for an extension of up to 18 months to stay there and look for a job.
Still, be prepared for unexpected obstacles and understand that your dreams and goals are of no interest to anyone within the German bureaucracy. You will be solely responsible for gathering all documents that are requested; obtain local health insurance; demonstrate financial independence; find an apartment; register with the Bürgeramt (local administrative office) and schedule a visa appointment while still in Brazil.
5. Dealing with roles too
In Germany, all bureaucratic processes involve many, many prints of papers and copies. You will need to familiarize yourself with the business letter conventions and keep copies of everything.
So be perfectly organized with the storage of these documents and papers. It may not seem like it at first, but it can make your life easier when solving problems with renting your apartment or resolving issues related to your visa in the country.
6. Speaking German helps immensely
Of course, in large German cities you can manage with English, even without knowing the native language, and, as already mentioned, some undergraduate and graduate programs are available in that language.
However, essentially all aspects of your life in the country will be easier if you have German skills, from dealing with government officials to making local friends. If you decide to stay in the country to find a job, fluency in the local language will give you a crucial advantage in the job market.
And, contrary to common sense, German is a lovely language and relatively easy to learn if you are already fluent in English.
7. German universities will not hold your hand
In Germany, you are unlikely to have someone at the university responsible for looking after you and helping you during your academic career. You will be solely responsible for managing your schedules, classes and study sections.
The evaluation model in the faculties also varies widely, even within the same course. You can, for example, have a subject that works in a more interactive way, taking into account your participation during classes and activities at home; but you may also have subjects that will give you a final grade based only on a single exam or final assignment.
8. Student housing
Some large German universities have official housing for students, but these options are probably not going to be the most attractive or the best chance of having a busy social life.
A good alternative for this is to live in a Wohngemeinschaft (WG), a kind of “coliving” that houses a large community of international and German students in a kind of shared housing, where each student has his own individual room but shares the rest of the facilities .
Living in a larger WG with several Germans is a fantastic strategy for getting to know the places and expanding your circle of friends, not to mention your language skills. But as the demand is very high, it may take you a while to find a vacancy. You can start by searching these online sites: wg-gesucht, dreamflat and housing anywhere.