Studying in Germany: A Guide for International Students
My dearest readers,
As promised, I bring forth a type of “guide” to studying in Germany for international students. While most facts in this post are related to Berlin and come from personal experience, many of the tips are also pertinent for other cities in Germany as well. I have researched long and hard before choosing Berlin, and I will try to include as much information as I can.
So without further adieu, let’s begin.
Choosing the right University
The first step in studying abroad is choosing the right University for you. You don’t have to choose the “best of the best”, as they may not have a good program that you like or want to pursue. This was one of the reasons why I didn’t choose LMU, one of the top universities in Germany (LMU and TUM constantly compete with one another for the top spot on the list, and they go back and forth with regards to specific disciplines). LMU only offered master programs that were centered around literature AND language. I was only interested in studying literature, so while the idea of the “BEST” university did motivate me, it didn’t offer what I wanted. So I had to make a decision, a better known degree by studying a field that I didn’t like, or a less “better” degree but studying something I love. I chose the second. However, Humboldt is considered one of the best with regards to humanities. So I got a “win-win” situation in this case, which I am extremely happy about. This should be something you look for in a university as well. While I agree that the top universities have their perks, it shouldn’t be the sole reason of you choosing one that you will like.
Another tip in choosing the right university is checking whether you can afford it. Now, we all have heard that Germany has had free tuition for a couple of years now. However, certain states have introduced tuition fees for international students, namely NON-EU students. So if you are like me, you are part of this group as well. If you are part of the EU, I would ask you to move on to the next paragraph. So, the state of Baden-Württemberg re-introduced tuition fees of €1,500 per semester. Therefore, keep in mind where you plan on studying. Otherwise, tuition fees normally range from €200-€400, varying from city or university. I pay around €316 per semester at Humboldt for a masters degree. I’m not sure for bachelor’s though. Specific information is always found on the websites of universities. So take your time, browse through universities and make a list.
After you have chosen the right university (or universities), it is time for you to apply. For most universities, foreign students have to apply via uni-assist, a preliminary evaluation service. Initially, you would have to submit an online application, then physically send the documents by post to uni-assist. Uni-assist will check your documents, and then send you an e-mail and a letter by post informing whether your application is successful or not. If documents are missing, you will be notified and given time to send the remaining documents. This is only possible if you do not miss the university’s application deadline. If you send your application to uni-assist less than 5 weeks before the deadline ends, chances are slim that you will have the chance to send additional documents.
I’ll create a full post on using uni-assist, as there is quite a lot to talk about.
Generally, you are required to have some knowledge of German beforehand if you wish to study in Germany at public universities. If you plan on applying to private universities, there might be different requirements. I personally wanted to study only at public universities. So, you would initionally need at least a B2 level of German which you can prove by taking a standarized test accepted in Germany, such as Goethe Zertifikat, DSH or any other (they will usually be listed on the websites of the universities you choose). If the language of instruction is in English, a B2 level would be sufficient and you would also have to prove your English proficiency as well. The usual standardized tests are TOEFL, IELTS or any other (again, stated on the websites). if the language of instruction is in German, you would need to prove at least a C1 level of proficiency, or take a supplemental “studienkolleg”, a 6-month mandatory pre-course where you would study either the subjects or language needed to enroll in a degree at a university. The possibilities and requirements for taking a studienkolleg are usually found on the websites of universities.
Bonus tip: if the language of instruction at a university is in English, and your previous education’s language of instruction was in English, you might be exempted from submitting a TOEFL or IELTS score. This is only possible if the institution of your previous education can issue an official document stating that you have reached the C1 level of English during your studies (in accordance with the Common European Framework of dadadie, don’t remember the whole name). But again, clarify this with your university by sending an email first!
After you send all of your documents, all you have to do is wait for a reply (hopefully a positive one).
Oh yeah, we’ve arrived at THAT topic. If you receive an admission letter, your next step would be to apply for a Visa or Residence Permit (known as Aufenthaltserlaubnis). If you are from Kosovo (or any other state that needs a visa to go from their house to the supermarket), then you have a two-step process to obtaining your residence permit. You initially receive a visa of up to 6 months, which will have to be converted into a residence permit once you enter Germany. You CANNOT, repeat, CANNOT (say it three times), convert your tourist Visa into a residence permit. I won’t get into the details but don’t even think about it!..
If you have a passport from a country that doesn’t need a Visa to enter Germany, you can apply for a residence permit directly in Germany.
I’ll write another post specifically about the issue of Visas and Residence permit, stay tuned!
Aaaaand the final part, starting your studies. This will be a very short part, because if you plan on studying in Germany I am sure you are prepared for the work it takes to complete a full degree!
If possible, try not to procrastinate. For those of you that know me, you know how much I struggle with this. However, it really does pay off to get your ducks in a row and plan your studies well. Also, try to not drift away from university requirements. Stick to studying, manage your time effectively and give a 100%. I have no doubt that all of you will shine if you work hard!
Thank you for reading lovies, and I wish you all success if you decide to study in Germany!
Love and pancakes,
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