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Culture

Foreign Flavor at Germany's Universities

Around 100,000 students have begun studying at German universities this semester. Though there are many advantages, it's anything but a smooth ride.

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Foreign students sometimes face money and assimilation problems

The beginning of the semester in Germany means the start of intense studying and stress for Germany’s students – double that if you come from a foreign country.

Roughly 100,000 foreign students have begun the semester at universities across Germany this week. They hail from as nearby as Warsaw, as far away as Beijing and Casablanca, attracted to the country’s top-level teachers, institutes and apprenticeships.

“The choice of teaching methods, the books and laboratories, that’s what I like the best,” Douglas, a Cologne engineering student from Ghana told DW-TV. “The rooms are really well-equipped.”

The tuition isn’t bad either. Most university students pay absolutely no school fees, a magnet that has drawn hundreds of thousands of foreigners over the years.

“The moment we raise our school fees to the same level as, for example, England, we would have drastic decrease in the number of applicants,” said Harald Klingel, at the University of Cologne, in an interview with DW-TV. “We’d probably have to change our application process.”

Working for an education

What the schools don’t take however, the cost of living in major cities will instead. Foreign students studying in Cologne, Hamburg and Frankfurt will have to pay a lot. Students in the slick city of Munich perhaps even more, forking out 800 euro a month for rent and food, according to the Institute for the German Economy.

To counter the costs, Douglas, like many foreign students, works part-time and during school vacation to cover his bills. It’s a decision he’d rather not make.

“It’s a big obstacle to study like this, because you always have to stop in order to make money. That means studying takes longer then it actually should,” said Douglas, who has been in Germany for four years.

German law used to make jobbing on the side extremely difficult. Now, foreign students are allowed to work up to 180 half days a year; many of them, like Douglas, getting jobs in factories or gastronomy.

Once they take care of the cash flow problem, German students still face a dilemma common to students across the globe: fitting in.

“At the beginning it was very difficult because I had no friends,” said Bojana, a Macedonian student studying medicine, who has been here for about a year.


Now, she admits, the going is getting better. Still, Germany could make it a little easier on her, she says.


”Some people are always so cold,” she told DW-TV. “Sometimes it’s also difficult to get along with the professor. But those are just things that take getting used to.”

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