It's finally time to share a piece of my personal life here in Pudding Monster. As you all know, i'm currently studying in a Studienkolleg in Germany. It's not a University, but somekind of a pre-Uni course. I will share with you all a few tips about studying here in Germany that will certainly be useful, especially when you just graduated from high school and interested in studying abroad. Let's go!
1. Get as Much Information as Possible
The opening gate to studying abroad is to inform yourself about the system in the country. I took quite some time googling and asking a lot of people about their personal experiences studying there. Try to read DAAD , Study in DE , or this article in Make it in Germany for informations about the studies, read Mein Weg nach Deutschland for information about living in Germany. For Indonesians who are interested in studying in Germany, Jermandes is worth a read. Jermandes has a range of posts in Indonesian from steps to apply for uni to living in Germany. It has a lot of posts explaining step by step for almost each process. The second step is to use your connections or groups in social medias to ask and get to know people in your future university or future city. I joined PPI Mannheim (A Indonesian student organization in Mannheim) and got to know people from my home country who are also there in Mannheim. It really helped me to know the real situation there & get some more useful tips from their stories. Join PPI Jerman if you're Indonesian because it has a lot of content about studying in Germany. The key is not to be lazy! Read a lot and ask a lot!
2. Take Time to Learn the Language
This step is the most critical because it decides if you're going to study successfully or not. You're going to study in Germany so learn German from at least (if possible) one year before in your home country. German is a complicated language and it takes a lot of practice and time to master a language. German is very very important both for your studies and daily life because even though English is widely spoken, everything is in German. Another reason is for socializing because Deutscher are much more comfortable with you and will help you more if you can speak German. After learning German in your home country, take a good Deutschkurs in Germany before officially studying in a University or Studienkolleg. It's a definitive must because the course here is completely different than what you experienced in your course before. You will be forced to speak German all the time and trained in Grammatik, Leseverstehen, Hörverstehen, and Textproduktion. They have higher standards in "judging" your German so you'll be corrected all the time. As a result your skill in Deutsch will be improved.
I took 4 Months Intensiv Course in Goethe Institut Mannheim and glad i did it. Goethe Institut is a really good German course and they also have programmes outside German classes such as City Tours, Museum Visits, and Stammtisch (Open Discussions / Hang Outs). I took part in a lot of the activities and got to talk to people from all around the world and made some friends. Your fluency will be trained with these activities. Shoutout to the awesome Kultur und Freizeit Team (Nico, Viola, Tanja, and Kyra! ;) )
3. Prepare The Documents Early
If i have to be honest, preparing documents is the worst task. To make it easier, make a checklist of the things you need to submit and file them systematically. Example : take 1 folder and fill it with all the things you need for uni applications (High school certificate, TOEFL/IELTS certificate, Lebenslauf, Motivation Letter, etc) and take one more folder for the visa documents (Form, Proof of DB Account, Proof of Deutschkurs / Zulassung, usw). Make more copies of basic important archives such as passport, high school certificate, etc. Be sure also to double check if you have all your documents on hand because there's nothing worst than going back and forth and panicking because of a missing certificate.
4. (Try) to Book The Flight Early
Plan the exact date of your travel. Booking a flight early will save a lot of money. You can save about half the cost if you book your flight 2 months before. Coordinate this date with your Visa Appointment. Make the dates as far as possible just to be safe. Check the terms and conditions of the flight if the date is flexible and how much baggage are you allowed to bring. Some Airlines have student ticket promos so check the website or call the call center to get the exact informations.
5. Apply for A Visa Earlier
Applying for a visa for Germany can be tricky because it needs a lot of documents and you must do some particular steps (make a DeutscheBank account, translate the documents to German, etc). A safe way to make sure you get your visa on time is to apply it super early, like maybe 2-3 months before. In that way if your documents are not complete or you need to go to an interview for the visa, there's still a lot of time to do these tasks. I know a lot of people who already finalized their plane ticket but at the end didn't get the visa on time. Find informations about the length of the process and look for "tricks". Let me take an example in Germany : It's faster to get a visa from the city Mannheim than Berlin. Why? Because your documents have to be submitted to the foreigner department in that city and the queue for bigger cities tend to be longer.
6. Make a Packing Checklist
You're moving abroad and there's 10000000 things that you need to bring. If you have a checklist, the chance that you forget something will be smaller. Put the most important things like document folder and personal medications on top of the list so you'll not miss them.
7. Pack Clothes Not Just For One Season
I made this mistake when i first moved here in Germany. It's winter so obviously i have to bring a lot of winter clothes, but now that it's spring, i don't have any clothes to wear. I recommend a 70%-30% or 60% - 40 % style of packing. That means, if you're going in winter, pack 70% winter clothes and 30% spring-summer clothes. In this way, you will not be spending too much money shopping for clothes and panicking when the weather changes (especially if you're fussy about clothes like me :p ).
8. Don't Pack a Lot of "Basic" Things that You Can Get Anywhere
Spare space for more important things by not bringing the basic things such as big sized shower gel, toothpaste, or food containers. Basic necessities are easy to get anywhere in your new country and you're going to be living here anyway so it's also a way to get to know the products. Another tip is not to bring unnecessary bizarre things like pressure cooker and pillow. You're not moving to a deserted island :p
9. Try to Budget Yourself
The saying that students are forever broke maybe some kind of true but you can survive living or spare some money if you budget yourself. Make a budget for the weekly groceries, eating out, entertainment etc. Shop in low-budget supermarkets like LIDL or ALDI for basic stuffs like meat, cheese, or pasta and higher end supermarket like REWE for better fruit and vegetables. Don't be scared of home brands because the quality is almost or the same with the brand ones but so much cheaper. In this way, you get to spare so much money. Eating out in Germany is quite expensive so it's better to cook yourself. If you can't cook, learn how to from websites and Youtube (check out Sortedfood and Buzzfeed Food ), or make dinner/lunch arrangements with people who can cook. It's cheaper to cook and eat for 2/3 Persons than just cooking/eating for one.
Finding a house or Wohnung in Germany is very hard. The cheaper options are either in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft / Living together with some people ) or Studentenwohnheim (Student Housing) which you can get through the Studentenwerk in each city for example Studentenwerk Mannheim . To find a WG, browse WG-Gesucht.de , Studenten-WG.de or look for facebook groups for Wohnung in the city such as Wohnungsmarkt Marburg or WG & Wohnung Hannover . In my opinion, the facebook groups are much more effective than WG-Gesucht because you can get in touch with the person directly and know if they just read the message (rejection) rather than waiting for a reply email that never comes. And another tip for WG-Gesucht is if they include their phone number in the advertising, it's better to just call them instead of writing an email. Your chance of getting a Besichtigungstermin (House Visit Appointment) is in this way higher. Try to write all emails in German even though your German is banana Deutsch because people will trust you more if you can speak German. Also watch out for WG-Castings because they kind of audition you to see if you fit well with the other Mitbewohners / Housemates. Read some of the tips for WG-Castings here
The rent in Germany consists of Kaltmiete (cold rent / only the room), Nebenkosten (electricity,water,telephone,internet) and Kaution (deposit). What you're going to pay per month is the sum of Kaltmiete and Nebenkosten, which is Warmmiete.
I know that it's hard to do but try to socialize with all of the people. You're in another country, what's the meaning of it if you just hang out with people from your country? You can improve your language skills and make connections at the same time if you socialize with natives or other foreigners. Try to have a balance between having friends from the same country and international friends. Getting to know other people is fun and you can learn their culture, experience new things, and have a lot of fun together. Having a lot of friends and activities is one of the most expensive ways
- Search for platforms like meetups.com or local meet up groups to get to know new people for example this Marburg(er) Kennen Lernen in Facebook
- Look up activities in Studentenwohnheim, Studentenverbindung, or Uni / Fachhochschule . Usually they have parties, films, discussions or other events that give you the chance to socialize with people in the city
- Join organisations of your interest or unisport to get to know people who have the same interests as you do.
- Look for a tandem partner / sprach partner through facebook groups or checking out the Schwarzes Brett / Information Board . Make friends while improving a language
12. Just Enjoy
You're living all by yourself, in a new country, new language, what can go wrong? Take part in a lot of activities, study together, and make yourself busy experiencing new things. Don't stress if things don't go smoothly, it's life. Life is always hard. Just study hard and do your best. Or as i like to say, work hard-play hard. Take it easy, it will all be okay in the end. To be homesick is also normal, but don't let yourself be so sad about it all the time :)
That's it! I hope you guys find it useful. I'll be happy to answer any questions and comments down below about my experiences or studying in Germany in general. You can ask either in Indonesian, auf Deutsch, or English. I'll be more than willing to answer all your questions so ask away! :D