Germany is one of the most competitive countries in the world with the highest number of international students. As per data released by the Economic Times, Germany has over 440,564 international students across its higher institutions. “In the 2021/2023 academic season, over 440,564 international students were enrolled.” So, if you made it as an exchange student in Germany, you are among the few lucky ones.
In case you are like many wondering why Germany has so much attraction, well, out of several factors to consider is the fact that the opportunities to study in Germany are countless. Plus, Germany institutions are affordable. With dozens of scholarships, you can safely pick an institution of your choice.
However, as a foreign exchange student, you don’t have a scholarship to get into any institution in Germany. As with most institutions, you would be filling in the Student exchange program forms in collaboration with your school to be transferred to Germany. However, whichever way you are made to experience Germany, Life in Germany for an exchange student is no different from that of an international student in another program.
Now that you are in Germany, What is the life of an exchange student like in a German university? What peculiar challenges lie ahead for international students? In this article, we wish to address these basic concerns.
How is life for international students in Germany?
Many International students move into Germany with some overboard notions about the Personality of the German people. Although, while all you may have read may not be wrong, the Germany people are friendly people. Yes, you may not find them responding to some simple gesture, which is due to their nature and focused minds, but a closer association with them offers you a better room for accommodation.
Particularly, international students in Germany are respected, especially if you approach the German culture with respect and love for the common things. Exchange students in Germany receive special care from host families, which makes it a lot easier for cultural assimilation and bridging of language barriers.
Although the transition into a new environment with so many cultural differences may come as a shock, international students, especially foreign exchange students, enjoy several perks from considerate Germans. However, you will face the hard weather and learn to navigate your way through a lot more things, having a knowledge of what you should and should not do will make your stay a lot more worthwhile.
In the next section, let’s discuss some common challenges International students face in Germany.
What are the Challenges for International Students in Germany?
Living in a different country will always pose challenges. This is no different for international students or foreign exchange students in Germany. Some challenges you will face as an international student in Germany hover around understanding the cultural values and operation system in the country.
This section addresses the most prevalent challenges international students face during their program. Some of these challenges are:
Difficulty in Making friends
Adjusting to Weather
Finding suitable food opioids
Managing and coping with time
Navigating Academic activities
High cost of living.
1. Language Barrier
One of the biggest challenges you may face in Germany is the language barrier. Although in major cities like Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologny, Düsseldorf, and Stuttgart, English is spoken fluently by both old and younger Germans, this is not the case in most remote cities.
However, if you live in Rural areas in the east of Germany or such places like the Small towns and villages in the Bavarian Alps, where German is used primarily for communication, this becomes a major challenge. You would need to learn basic German language in other to enjoy your say in these areas.
More so, the language barrier is not s major issue in the University because your professors and staff will speak English and they are pretty much advanced. But, to be on the safe side, you must take up basic German lessons. This would improve your communication level and enhance your social life.
2. Difficulty in Making Friends
Although a good number of the English-speaking population in Germany are young people and professionals in University, the chances of interacting completely without a bit of German are most unlikely. This therefore makes it difficult for exchange students to make friends and integrate into German society. However, with the support of your host family, and some German classes, you can scale this without much worries.
3. Adjusting to the weather
Germany has a temperate climatic zone with somewhat humid westerly winds. But sometimes, it fluctuates between wet to cold sessions, especially during winter. So, if you are used to a warm and calm atmosphere, adjusting to the extreme cold during winter may be so much of a challenge. But like they say, you could get used to it with time.
4. Finding suitable food options
As with every other country, the Germans have different dishes, this is apparent judging from the diverse cultural heritage in Germany. Hence, finding a familiar dish in Germany is almost impossible, except your culture shares something similar. This is particularly challenging for students who are very selective and on dietary restrictions.
Managing and coping with time
The German academic system differs from the academic systems in many other countries. For example, German universities typically have a more independent study approach, with less hand-holding from professors. Also, the Germans are pretty strict and forward when it comes to delivering quality lectures. You may be frowned upon if you do such things as coming late to class or not taking coursework seriously. Assessments are meticulously graded so, no, you will be down on your toes.
However, on the brighter side, getting used to the system helps you achieve your goals and gain valuable skills within the time of your appointment. After all, Germany is known as the best with top-ranking universities so this isn’t below expectations.
How do you Cope with Challenges as An Exchange Student:
First, to navigate the language barrier, consider enrolling in a German language proficiency test or classes online. Or, indulge your host to teach you the basics
Be part of your student’s clubs and associations. Many clubs and student associations in German universities help connect international students with others. This is a better way of making friends and getting more involved with activities that can help you understand the culture.
Studying in Germany as an exchange student comes with its rewards. If you understand the basics and can navigate the process, you can be certain to have a wonderful experience.
This next section addresses everything you need to know as an international student in Germany. From the cost of living to how you can enjoy the social activities in Germany. Let’s get to it.
Everything You Need to Know as a Foreign Exchange Student Living in Germany
For an enjoyable stay in Germany, you should have a glimpse of what living in Germany is all about for an international student. Although we have addressed the common challenges students face in Germany, in this section of our discussion, we hope to answer your questions as regards other factors that affect the lives of exchange students in Germany. Let’s start from the top.
The cost of living in Germany is different for different cities. According to a survey conducted by the German Academic Exchange Service, international students in Germany spend an average of €863 ($1,040) per month on living expenses, including accommodation, food, and transportation.
However, as a foreign exchange student, you may not have to go through the tough search process for accommodation. Your host family is responsible for providing a comfortable apartment for you. Also, the host family takes care of other bills like feeding, electricity, and other utilities. So as an exchange student, you pretty much have very little concerns.
However, for other international students undergoing other programs, the cost of living isn’t particularly cheap. Although a majority of international students in Germany choose to live in Student residences due to the low cost of around 300£ per month, the highest part of expenses for most students still lies in housing.
Generally, living costs in Germany are over £850 to £1300 per month. This amount covers housing costs, social activities, food, and public transportation. However, to be on the safer side, consider finding suitable accommodation in less expensive cities in Germany. This way, you channel the extra money spent on accommodation into other areas.
Furthermore, For food, students can save money by cooking their own meals and shopping at discount supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl, rather than eating out.
2. Studying in Germany
As already addressed, the academic system in Germany is structured in such a way that you need to be on your toes to make it straight. The professors are experts in their fields and dedicate their time to students for counseling and required assistance.
Also, the curriculum is structured to give students hands-on knowledge in specified fields.
Overall, the system is structured to help student get the best of their experience and even language is not a barrier to this end.
Hence, if you wish to excel in your academics in German, you must approach your studies with dedication and patience.
Do this to manage your time efficiently:
Attend classes and keep records of your notes
Create a study schedule and stick to it. It is very easy to get distracted with other activities like working and extracurricular activities. To be on the safe side, create a working schedule for yourself.
Find a study buddy, together it will be a lot easier to keep track of your coursework.
Work on all course assessments with meticulous diligence.
3. Working in Germany
One way to keep yourself afloat as an international student in Germany is to engage in part-time jobs. Fortunately, foreign Exchange Students and other international students are allowed to work part-time in Germany.
However, this has to be done within the required time frame as designated by the government, such as a maximum of 120 full days or 240 half days of work per year. Finding a part-time job will help you gain viable work experience in the German workforce while creating a platform to improve your skills and earn more money.
Some of the most common part-time job opportunities for students in Germany include tutoring, working in a restaurant or coffee shop, or doing administrative work for a company. Balancing work and studies can be challenging, so it’s important to keep a schedule and prioritize your responsibilities.
4. Transportation in Germany
As a foreign exchange student, depending on your program, your host family usually takes charge of transportation costs. However, other international students in Germany are eligible for a discount on transportation passes. However, living close to your institution can save you the extra cost except for traveling for other reasons outside of academics.
5. Socializing & Events in Germany
With the vibrant culture in Germany amide other Ethnic immigrants, there are very many fun activities. You can participate in one of their seasonal festivals, cultural events, and even student gatherings. These events create avenues for cordial relationships between you and other students.
Living in Germany as a foreign Exchange student comes with its challenges but the perks and benefits outweigh them all. So, as an exchange student or as an international student, prepare your mind well in advance to face these challenges and create a solution that gives you complete comfort.
Additionally, we advise you to take a few months to brush your German language skills, this can help you access more of Germany’s economy. Also, Research the average cost of living in any of the cities you will be studying over the course of your program.