Why study in Germany
Germany is a country where education has a strong research focus, clearly imposed high standards, a more traditional and hierarchical approach to lectures and seminars, and a highly competitive application system.
There are over 400 higher education institutions in Germany, of which 59 universities feature in the World University Rankings. In Europe, German universities have always been highly regarded. And ‘always’, in this case, means since 1386 when they opened the first university in Heidelberg. And today, they care about higher education just as much: each year, Germany spends an average of 14,200 USD for each student (an amount higher than the OECD average of 11,800 USD).
Why do international students choose to study in Germany?
1. Free higher education for international students
Most public universities are free for all students, regardless of nationality, so many international students choose to study in Germany. However, getting in is not easy; the number of places is limited, and speaking German is usually necessary. On the other hand, private universities offer English-taught programmes, which are easier to get into, but also have quite expensive fees.
2. Different types of study programmes for different fields of study
In Germany, higher education is structured by fields of study and the specific goals of each degree. This means students benefit from clear career paths due to their specialised training and opportunities for professional development.
3. Perfect place to study if you’re into Tech, Engineering, Arts, or Humanities
German universities have consistently performed well in the field of Engineering & Technology. The country has a strong industrial and technological base which, combined with the strong partnerships between universities and industry, leads to high-performing, innovative study programmes perfect for tech enthusiasts.
At the same time, German universities also excel in fields like philosophy, literature, and history. Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger are just some German names that changed these fields forever.
Culture in Germany
German people place a high value on being on time and getting things done in an organised manner. They are also hardworking and appreciate good discipline, while their communication style is direct. You will also find that Germans care a lot about social justice and environmental protection, and the country has many initiatives and programs in place to promote sustainability and social responsibility.
Cultural diversity in Germany
Germany is among the biggest countries in Europe and the second most populous on the continent (with a population of more than 83 million people). Its position in the continent's heart exposed it continuously to cultural influences: northern and southern, eastern and western-European.
Germany reflects its complex history and regional differences. Generally, western Germany has a slightly higher quality of life and salaries than eastern Germany. At the same time, religion is less important in the East than in the West, and there are lower living costs. Some of the major cities in the East include Berlin, Leipzig, and Dresden.
There are also cultural differences between the North and the South. The south is known for its traditional Bavarian culture, with lederhosen, dirndls (traditional clothes), and a strong beer culture. The north tends to be more international, with cities like Berlin and Hamburg known for their art scenes, nightlife, and fashion.
Each region has its own distinct traditions, dialects, and culinary specialities. For example, Bavaria is known for its traditional folk costumes, beer festivals, and hearty cuisine, while the Rhineland is known for its carnival celebrations and love of wine.
Different cultures in Germany
The country is home to many different ethnic groups, including Turkish, Poles, Russians, Italians, Romanians and others. Each of these groups has its own unique cultural traditions, languages, and customs, which contribute to the overall cultural diversity of the country. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, the largest immigrant population in Germany is from Turkey, with more than 1,4 million people as of December 2021. Naturally, Turkish is the most commonly spoken immigrant language; in many schools, students can study it as a second language and even choose it as a subject for the Abitur (the German exam taken at the end of high school before they can continue to university).
Languages spoken in Germany
The main language spoken in Germany is called German or "Deutsch" (not to be mistaken with Dutch, which is spoken in the Netherlands). In school, most Germans learn the so-called "Standarddeutsch" or "Hochdeutsch," the standard or high form of German. However, there are many different accents and dialects spoken throughout the country.
Aside from German, several other languages are spoken in Germany due to its diverse population and history. Some of the most common are English, Turkish, Polish, Arabian, and Russian. You can get by knowing only one of these languages, especially English, which is taught in schools, and Turkish, which has a large immigrant population speaking it, but your experience will be limited. If you want to move past basic day-to-day activities or situations and want to enjoy socialising, as well as full work and study opportunities, then you need to learn German.
German food culture
Germany is known for its love of pork, beef, and sausages, served in hearty dishes, with potatoes, vegetables, and bread. Some of the most well-known German dishes include:
- Schnitzel - Thin, breaded and fried cutlets of meat, usually pork or veal, served with a side of potatoes, vegetables or salad.
- Sausages - Germany is famous for its many types of sausages, including bratwurst, weisswurst, and currywurst, often served with mustard and bread or potato salad.
- Sauerkraut - This is fermented cabbage commonly served as a side dish with meat.
- Spätzle - Noodles often served as a side dish with meat, stews or gravies.
- Pretzels - A soft, chewy bread often served as a snack with mustard or cheese.
- Black Forest Cake - A chocolate cake layered with cherries and whipped cream, named after the Black Forest region of Germany.
Overall, German food culture is diverse and flavourful, and many German cities and regions also have unique specialities and local dishes.
Weather in Germany
Germany has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. However, there are some regional variations. In summer, temperatures can reach up to 25-30°C (77-86°F), especially towards the south of the country where it’s warmer. In fact, the southwest has a Mediterranean climate so you can even see exotic trees like lemons, kiwis, and figs. In winter, on the other hand, temperatures below the freezing point and snowfall are not uncommon, particularly in the Bavarian Alps and the Black Forest.
How to choose a university in Germany?
The first thing you should know when thinking about how to choose a university in Germany is that there are four types of higher education institutions, each with its own particularities:
1. Universities. They have a strong focus on theoretical knowledge and research.
2. Universities of applied sciences. These universities have a practical approach to learning. Their most common fields of study are Technology, Business, Social Services, and Media.
3. Colleges of Art, Film, and Music. These universities are entirely dedicated to the study and practice of Art, Film, and Music; typically, there is a talent-based admission test, and specially gifted people might get in even if they don’t fulfil the other requirements.
4. Cooperative universities. These universities combine academic learning with practical work in a company (they offer dual study programmes – duale hochschulen)
Deciding where you want to study is a deeply personal choice, but there are a few general ideas you should consider, like your budget, the language requirements, or the location of the university. To simplify things, we’ve compiled a list of the main aspects to remember when deciding which German university is right for you.
Choosing a university checklist:1. Depending on what you wish to study, find out which type of higher education institution offers the programme you’re interested in: universities, universities of applied sciences, colleges of art, film, and music, or cooperative universities. 2. Check the language of instruction: German is the primary language of instruction at most universities in Germany, although there are some programs taught in English. 3. Consider the key differences between different locations in Germany:
- East vs West: the east is a bit less wealthy than the west but has lower living costs.
- North vs South: The south is known for the traditional Bavarian culture, while the north tends to be more international.
- Rural vs Urban: many students choose to study in rural areas like Bayreuth, Göttingen, or Tübingen for a quieter lifestyle and access to outdoor activities. However, urban areas offer more opportunities for internships, jobs, and cultural events.
4. Choose between public and private universities: public ones have free tuition fees but are much harder to get into and most likely have programmes taught in German; private ones have tuition fees that are quite expensive but will likely have programmes in English, and it’s easier to be admitted into one.
5. Read student reviews to learn how other students feel at that university. If you access a programme of study on our portal, you can read tens of student reviews for each study programme. And if you're still in doubt, try chatting with students who are currently studying at universities you are interested in.
>>> There are plenty of international study programmes to choose from on Studyportals: 2000 study programmes in Germany.
What are the best universities in Germany
Known for their high academic standards, strong focus on research, and emphasis on theoretical education, 59 universities in Germany feature in the most important World Rankings. Here are the top 5 universities in Germany:
- Technical University of Munich.Known for its strength in engineering and technology, the university also strongly focuses on interdisciplinary research and international collaborations. It is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in Germany and Europe.
- Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich. As one of the oldest universities in Germany, LMU has a strong reputation for research in a wide range of fields, including humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. It is located in the heart of Munich, known for its vibrant cultural scene and high quality of life.
- Heidelberg University. Located in the charming university town of Heidelberg, this university has a long history of academic excellence and research innovation. It is particularly known for its research in medicine, natural sciences, and humanities.
- Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. This university is a medical school, one of the largest and most prestigious medical institutions in Europe. It strongly focuses on research and innovation in healthcare and is located in the vibrant city of Berlin.
- Humboldt University Berlin. Founded in 1810, Humboldt University has a long tradition of academic excellence and research innovation. It is particularly known for its strengths in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and is located in the heart of Berlin.
What are the top student hubs in Germany
When you think of studying in Germany, the first place that comes to mind might be the dynamic and rapidly evolving Berlin, and it sure is a worthy destination. But Germany has quite a variety of student hubs that you should absolutely consider.
Berlin.The German capital is cosmopolitan, welcoming to international students and ex-pats, and more affordable than other capitals in central and western Europe. It is also home to several prestigious universities, including Humboldt University, the Technical University of Berlin, and the Free University of Berlin.
München. München, the third largest city in Germany, hosts the famous Oktoberfest celebration and is considered a hub of technology, art, culture, and business. On top of that, you will have a lot of opportunities to do awesome outdoor activities. It is also home to the top two universities in the country, as per the latest rankings: the Technical University of München and Ludwig Maximilian University.
Heidelberg.In Heidelberg, you can find the oldest university in Germany, dating from the 14th century: Heidelberg University. The city sits between a river and a forest, with its own castle ruins, old bridge, Gothic churches, and funicular railroads. The historic city is one of the most beautiful in Germany.
Rhine - Ruhr region. This region is the largest metropolitan area in Germany and is an international, industrial, and educational hub. The area sits in the country's West and includes large cities like Düsseldorf, Köln, and Dortmund. In the Ruhr area alone, there are 22 universities, which makes it the area with the largest number of higher education institutions in Germany.
Overall, each of these student hubs in Germany offers a unique and distinct experience for students, with different cultural, historical, and natural attractions to explore.
Tuition Fees in Germany
Tuition fees in Germany depend on the type of university you attend – public or private – and on your level of study – undergraduate, postgraduate or doctorate degree.
Public universitiesare free for all undergraduate students, meaning there are no tuition fees for international students. The only cost is a small administration fee of 265 EUR per year.
For Master’s degrees, the situation is a little different. MAs are free only if you completed your Bachelor’s in Germany and your MA is in the same field of study. PhDs are usually free.
The only exception to this rule is the Baden-Wurttemberg area (which includes the cities of Freiburg and Stuttgart), which has tuition fees for students outside the EU. Even in this area, some universities (e.g. The University of Stuttgart) allow you to apply for a tuition fee waiver if you’re going through financial hardship, or request a tuition fee reimbursement if your financial status changes and you start having difficulties after you’ve already paid.
Private universities are paid. Tuition fees reach up to tens of thousands of euros per year. The average for a Bachelor’s degree is between 10,000 and 15,000 EUR per year, while a Master’s varies between 10,000 and 20,000 EUR per year. However, some universities can have tuition as high as 50-60,000 EUR, like Bard University from Berlin.
>>> Use the ‘Tuition fee’ filter on the left menu of our Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD search pages to find the programme best suited for your budget. You can also sort the list of available programmes by Lowest tuition fee by clicking the top right Sort button.
Can I study in Germany for free?
Yes, you can access free education in Germany for international students, and this is a big attraction point for students who want to study abroad in Europe. However, there are a few restrictions to accessing tuition-free programmes:
- You must study at a public university
- Undergraduate and PhD programmes are free, but the only way to study a Master’s in Germany for free is if you completed a BA in that country and your MA is in the same field of study as your BA.
- There is an exception to the rule: public universities in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg area have tuition fees for non-EU international students. Some of the best universities here are:
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Germany
Because higher education in Germany is mostly free, there are not so many scholarships available. The main organisation offering scholarships and awards is Begabtenförderungswerke - scholarships for gifted students.
This is a group of 13 scholarship providers supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Types of scholarships on offer
There are several types of financial aid and scholarships available in Germany, and to choose which ones are best fitted for you, you should keep in mind a few factors: eligibility, requirements, what kind of support they offer, and whether that meets your needs, how difficult is the application process, and how competitive is the award.
These are the main scholarship types in Germany:
DAAD Scholarships: The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers a wide range of scholarships for international students and researchers to study or conduct research in Germany.
Deutschlandstipendium: This is a merit-based scholarship that provides financial support to highly talented students enrolled in a degree program at a German university.
Erasmus+ Scholarships: The Erasmus+ program provides scholarships for students from EU member states to study or conduct research abroad, including in Germany.
StipendiumPlus: This is a scholarship program funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) that provides financial support to talented and committed students who face challenging social or personal circumstances.
Foundations and organisations: Many private foundations and organisations in Germany also offer scholarships to students based on academic merit, financial need, or other criteria.
Where you can find scholarships
An excellent starting point when trying to figure out where to apply for scholarships is our Scholarshipportal.com, a database where we list over 1,700 scholarship opportunities for Germany.
Other credible sources with up-to-date information about scholarships and financial aid:
- Studyportals Scholarship – International Distinction Award, open to all international students – see FAQ about the award here.
- Your preferred university's official website. They will likely award scholarships themselves or recommend partner organisations where to apply for financial aid.
- Funding programmes for musicians and artists. If your area of study is art, music or film, you can also look into accessing a programme that supports artists and musicians.
How to apply
Once you’ve researched and shortlisted the scholarships you want to apply to, it’s time to get going with the actual application. Applying for a foreign university scholarship may be intimidating, but if you follow these steps, it won’t be that hard:
- Check the eligibility criteria: ensure you meet all the requirements, including academic achievements, nationality, age, field of study, and more. Applying for a bursary or a university grant may have different rules from applying for a scholarship.
- Gather the required documents: Financial aid providers all have a how-to-apply for university funding or scholarship page. This is the place to find and check what documents you need, things like transcripts, a motivation letter for applying to the scholarship, and recommendation letters.
- Complete the application: pay attention as you fill out the scholarship application form to ensure you include all required information.
- Submit the application: a very important step, take a deep breath and click submit!
- Wait for a response: this may be harder than it sounds. But if you are shortlisted, you will probably be called for an interview or asked to provide additional information. See our advice on how to do well in a scholarship interview.
- Accept the scholarship: the best part! If you are selected, read through the terms and conditions and accept the scholarship offer if you are happy with the terms.
What to include in your application
The specific requirements for a scholarship application will vary depending on the type of financial aid or scholarship and the program you are applying to. However, a scholarship application will always ask you to explain why you are applying for financial aid and how it will help you achieve your academic and career goals. This is usually done in a motivation letter or a request letter for your scholarship application, and it is the most important element of your application. That’s why it’s essential to Learn how to write a motivation letter for your scholarship.
Other information to include in your application will likely be:
- Personal information
- Academic background, such as your academic transcripts, degrees, and certificates
- Letters of recommendation, typically provided by teachers, professors, or employers who can vouch for your academic abilities and potential
- Financial Information
- Essays or writing samples that demonstrate your writing skills and ability to think critically.
- Other supporting materials, such as a portfolio of work or a list of awards and honours
Apply to university in Germany
How to apply
The easiest way to apply to a German university as an international student is through Uni-Assist. This service guides you step by step as you put together your application, it evaluates your certificates and sends your application to the university you’re interested in.
How much does it cost to apply to university?
The cost for the service is 75 EUR for the first application and 15 EUR for subsequent applications.
Can you apply directly to a university?
The alternative to Uni-Assist is to apply directly at the university and contact their International Office for assistance.
There are also differences between public and private universities. At public universities, admissions are regulated by “numerus clausus,” a numbers-based system determining the number of available places on a programme. It doesn’t matter how good students are; the set number will be respected. Also, admission is based on high school marks, so again, the numbers will determine whether you get in or not.
However, demand is not as high for private universities because of their tuition fees, so getting in is considerably easier.
What’s the structure of the German academic year
The academic year in Germany generally runs from October 1st to September 30th of the following year and is divided into two main semesters:
1. Wintersemester: from October 1st to March 31st
The lecture period typically begins in mid-October and ends in mid-February, while the examination period typically lasts from late February to mid-March
There is also a semester break, usually from mid-February to mid-April
2. Sommersemester: from April 1st to September 30th
The lecture period typically begins in mid-April and ends in late July, with the examination period lasting from late July until mid-August. The semester break takes place from mid-August to mid-October.
There are also three extra short breaks during the academic year:
- Christmas break: around Christmas and New Year time in late December - beginning of January.
- Easter break: it depends on when Easter falls, but it’s usually in March or April
- Pentecost break: usually one week in May or June (depending on when Pentecost falls)
Of course, there can be variations to this schedule depending on the individual university, so it’s always best to check with your university as well.
When to apply for German universities
Depending on when your course starts, there are also two application deadlines: 15 July if your programme starts in the winter semester and 15 January if your programme starts with the summer semester.
Documents needed to apply for university
The specific documents required to apply to a German university may vary depending on the program and the university. However, here is a list of common documents that are usually required:
- A completed application form: This can be an online application form or a paper-based form.
- A copy of your high school diploma or equivalent: This may include a transcript of grades or a certificate of completion.
- Proof of language proficiency: This may include a certificate of proficiency in German (such as TestDaF or DSH) or in English (such as TOEFL or IELTS), depending on the language of instruction of the program.
- A curriculum vitae (CV): This should include your education, work experience, skills, and achievements.
- A letter of motivation: This should explain why you are interested in the program and why you are a suitable candidate for it.
- Letters of recommendation: These should be written by teachers, professors, or employers who can attest to your academic or professional abilities.
- A valid passport or ID card: This is needed to prove your identity and citizenship.
It's important to note that some universities may require additional documents, such as a portfolio of artwork or a medical certificate. Make sure to check the specific requirements of each university and program before applying.
To study in Germany, you need to speak German or English. Most programmes of study require German, especially those at public universities.
German Language requirements
If you apply at a public university in Germany, chances are the main language of instruction will be German, so you will need to show proof of your German language skills by taking one of these tests:
- DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang) - the German language exam for university entrance
The test is organised and hosted by the university at which you apply, but keep in mind that not all universities offer this test. Check which institution offers DSH.
- TestDaF (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang)
The test can be taken both on paper and digitally at one of the registered test centres worldwide. Find the available centres to take TestDaF.
English language requirements for German universities
If, on the other hand, you apply for an English-taught degree, you’ll have to show proof of English language proficiency, in which case these tests would apply (but check your university’s page to be sure which tests they accept):
- IELTS. You’ll get a score of 0 to 9 for each category (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking), as well as an overall band score. Generally, German universities ask for a score of 6.0 or 6.5.
- TOEFL. The four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) have a score of 0 to 30 points each. You can get a maximum of 120 points. Many universities ask for a score of 90 to be admitted.
- PTE Academic. You can obtain a score between 10 and 90 points in the three sections Speaking & Writing, Reading, and Listening. To study for an undergraduate degree, you usually need a score between 51-60 points, and for a postgraduate degree a score of 57-67.
- Duolingo English test. The test is gaining more and more popularity and is already accepted by thousands of institutions worldwide. You’ll get a score between 10 and 160 points, where 95-100 points is the equivalent of the 6.0 IELTS score.
>> To learn more about the different English tests you can take, read this comprehensive guide we’ve put together.
Student housing in Germany
Finding suitable and affordable housing can be a challenge, especially in major cities where demand is high. The main options you have in Germany are the following:
- Student dormitories. Many universities have their own dormitories, which can be a good option for international students. These dormitories can be a bit basic, but they are affordable and offer a great opportunity to meet other students.
- Student housing apartments. Many students in Germany live in shared apartments, called "WG" (Wohngemeinschaft). These apartments have shared kitchens and bathrooms, but each person has their own private room.
- Off campus student housing - Private apartments. If you prefer to live alone or with family, you can also look for private apartments. However, these can be more expensive and harder to find, especially in big cities like Berlin, München, or Hamburg.
Renting a one-bedroom apartment in Germany varies between 500 and 1000 EUR on average, depending on the city you choose (München and Stuttgart being the most expensive) and how close to the city centre you want to live. Of course, you can also share a flat, and that will amount to a smaller rent.
Check these useful resources where you can find student accommodation:
You can look for a flat on Amber - a private platform where you can easily book student accommodation across 9 countries.
Studentenwerk is a student organisation that provides affordable housing options for students. They manage dormitories, shared apartments and single apartments at affordable prices.
When to apply for student accommodation
You should start looking for accommodation as soon as possible, ideally several months before your planned move-in date, as long as you have an offer from the university you applied to.
Many universities in Germany have their own housing facilities or partnerships with local accommodation providers, so it's also a good idea to check with your university's international office or student services department for information on available options and application deadlines.
Cost of living in Germany
Overall, Germany is a more affordable place to live compared to other countries in Western Europe. You can make do with less than 1000 EUR per month. And if you combine this with free tuition fees, you’ve got a very budget-friendly study destination.
Accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense. The cost of rent varies depending on the location and size of the apartment or room. In bigger cities like Berlin, München, or Hamburg, the average rent for a single room in a shared apartment ranges from €300 to €600 per month, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranges from €600 to €1000 euros per month. A monthly pass for public transportation can cost around €70 to €100 per month.
Cost of food in Germany
The cost of food in Germany is relatively affordable, with a basic meal in a restaurant costing between 8 and 15 euros. Grocery shopping can also be affordable at discount stores like Lidl, Aldi, or Netto. Here are some general estimates of the cost of food in Germany:
On average, a litre of milk costs around 0.70-1.20 EUR, a loaf of bread costs around 1-3 EUR, and a dozen eggs costs around 1-2 EUR. A kilogram of apples, bananas or potatoes costs around 1-2 EUR, and a kilogram of chicken or beef costs around 8-15 EUR.
A basic lunch in a fast-food restaurant or cafeteria can cost around 5-8 EUR, while a sit-down meal in a mid-range restaurant costs, on average, 12-25 EUR per person. Fine dining restaurants can be much more expensive, with prices ranging from 40-100 EUR per person or more.
A water bottle (0.5 litres) is typically around 0.50 - 1 EUR, while a regular beer costs between 1.50 and 3 EUR in a bar or restaurant. A bottle of wine (750ml) can range from 5 to 15 EUR, with higher-end wines costing more.
Work and study in Germany
Are international students allowed to work in Germany?
International students are allowed to work in Germany under certain conditions. If you are a non-EU citizen, you can work 120 full days or 240 half days per year. However, during semester breaks, you are allowed to work full-time. You must request permission from the Federal Employment Agency and the Foreigners' Office to work more than that. Also, remember that international students are not allowed to work as self-employed or freelance.
It's also worth noting that some degree programs may have their own limitations on the working hours for international students in Germany. Therefore, it's important to check with your university's international office or career centre for specific guidelines regarding employment for international students.
On the other hand, if you are an EU citizen or a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you can work in Germany without any restrictions.
Where can I find jobs?
You can start by looking at specific job portals for student jobs in Germany. On these portals, you can find part-time work for students and flexible and short-term work opportunities.
Some popular student job portals include:
Moreover, many universities in Germany have career centres that can help students find work opportunities. These centres can provide information on job vacancies, internships, and career events, but they also guide in creating a resume and preparing for job interviews.
>> Read this article for Tips on Finding Part-Time Jobs for International Students, including ideas of how to get an internship or online work-from-home jobs for students.
Is Germany safe?
In general, Germany is considered a safe country; however, you should use the same common-sense personal safety measures that you would use anywhere else in the world:1. Make sure you know the emergency numbers:
- 110 for emergencies that require the police (national Emergency Number)
- 112 for medical and fire emergencies (European Emergency Number)
In the case of health issues that require medical attention but are not so urgent as to require a trip to the hospital but can’t wait until you can see your GP (general practitioner), you can also call 116 117.
Student insurance in Germany
Everyone living in Germany must have healthcare insurance, whether statutory or private. International students need health insurance as well, so you must already hold insurance when you enrol at the university at the start of the new semester.
For that, you have several options:
- Use health insurance from your home country. This situation applies to students from the EU (you need to request the European Health Insurance Card - EHIC from your country) and a few other countries with which Germany has such an agreement.
- Take statutory health insurance from Germany, which will cost you around 110 EUR per month.
- Choose health insurance from a private insurance provider in Germany
- Pick a provider which specialises in student insurance, like AON. This insurance also covers student dental insurance, emergency assistance, personal possessions, and student travel insurance.
- Opt for the health insurance offered by DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)
Support services available for international students
Your university is the most important place where you can find quality student support services during your university years, offering various services in mental health, academic support, language support, and others.
Within your university, you should look for:
- The International Office: this is the first point of contact for international students where you can find support for issues specific to international study.
- Office of the University Registrar: which deals with general administrators tasks.
- The Students Union: a student organisation which represents and protects students’ rights. Each university has its own Students Union which is part of FZS - Free Federation of Student Unions
Other organisations which offer great support for international students in Germany are:
- DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service: the largest support organisation for international students in Germany
- German National Association for Student Affairs: This organisation provides services to support international students in Germany, including information about accommodation, health insurance, and social events.
- Study-in-Germany: website with a lot of useful information for international students.
- Uni-Assist: the platform that helps international students apply to German universities.
- The Federal Foreign Office: where you can find official information regarding Visa application and legal requirements of living in Germany.
- Studentenwerke: a network of student service organisations, which provides a wide range of services to support students in their academic and personal lives. There are 58 Studentenwerke throughout the country.
There are quite a few student organisations in Germany, fit for many different tastes and interests. We’ll go through some of the best-known ones:
- AIESEC is a global youth-led organisation that provides leadership development and cross-cultural exchange opportunities for young people. It is present in over 120 countries, with several chapters in Germany.
- The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Germany is a student organisation that helps international students integrate into German university life. It offers social and cultural events, language courses, and other support services.
- Campus for Change is a student-led organisation that focuses on sustainability and climate action. It supports student initiatives and projects, and advocates for sustainable policies on campus and beyond.
- Enactus Germany works with students to develop and implement sustainable business projects that address social and environmental challenges.
- The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a professional association for engineers, scientists, and other professionals in the technology field. IEEE Germany provides networking opportunities, conferences, and other resources for students interested in the field.
Things to do for students on a budget
Germany has plenty of things to do for students on a budget like visiting museums and galleries because many of them offer free admission, particularly on certain days of the week or during specific hours. There are also a lot of events like concerts and sports events which have discounted admission for students with a valid student ID card.
In Germany, you also have the opportunity to spend time in nature because there are many parks, forests, and other natural landscapes worth exploring. You can go for a hike, have a picnic, or simply relax in nature without spending any money.
Moreover, some of the best free things to do in Germany for students are street festivals, concerts, and markets organised in cities across the country. These are a great way to experience the local culture.
Top urban attractions for students
- Oktoberfest: Held annually in Munchen, Oktoberfest is the world's largest beer festival and draws millions of visitors from around the world. The festival runs for 16 days, usually from mid to late September until the first weekend in October, and features traditional Bavarian food, music, and of course, plenty of beer.
- Karneval/Fasching: Also known as the "fifth season," Karneval/Fasching is a pre-Lenten festival celebrated in many regions of Germany. The festivities usually include parades, costumes, music, and dancing, and take place in February or March.
- Christmas Markets: This is one of the best things to do in Germany in winter. Found in many cities and towns across Germany, these markets offer traditional crafts, foods, and gifts, as well as plenty of glühwein (mulled wine) and other holiday treats.
- Berlin International Film Festival: Also known as the Berlinale, this film festival is one of the most prestigious in the world and takes place annually in Berlin in February. The festival showcases films from around the globe, and attracts filmmakers, industry professionals, and movie fans from around the world.
- Berlin Wall: The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the Cold War, and its remains serve as a powerful reminder of the country's divided past. Visitors can see portions of the wall still standing, as well as the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which chronicles the wall's history.
Top 5 Outdoor Attractions:
- The Romantic Road: The Romantic Road is a picturesque route that winds through some of Germany's most beautiful towns and villages, including Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Augsburg. The route is perfect for a road trip and offers plenty of scenic beauty and historic landmarks.
- The Black Forest: Located in southwestern Germany, the Black Forest is a dense, evergreen forest known for its natural beauty, cuckoo clocks, and traditional Black Forest cake. Visitors can hike, bike, and explore the many towns and villages in the area.
- Rhein in Flammen: Rhein in Flammen, or "Rhine in Flames," is a series of summer festivals held along the Rhine River. The festivals feature elaborate fireworks displays, music, and other entertainment, and take place in various towns and cities along the river.
- Neuschwanstein Castle: This castle, located in the Bavarian Alps, is the inspiration for the famous Disney castle and is one of Germany's most popular tourist destinations.
- Brandenburg Gate: One of Berlin's most recognizable landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century triumphal arch and a symbol of unity and peace.
Travelling in Germany
In Germany, you can travel by train, bus, trams, and ferries. As a student, you might receive a free travel card from your university, but even if you don’t, princes are quite affordable.
The Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the national railway company and operates both regional and long-distance trains. If you are under 27, you can receive student travel discounts and find tickets starting from 12.90 EUR.
Other useful resources are:
- BVG Berlin which operates the public transportation system in Berlin.
- MVG Munich which operates the public transportation system in Munich.
- RMV Frankfurt which operates the public transportation system in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region.
- VRR Ruhr which operates the public transportation system in the Ruhr area.
Moreover, while studying a German university, you can take advantage of different programmes such as:
- Erasmus+ a European Union program that provides funding for students to study, work, or volunteer in another EU country.
- The German Youth Hostel Association which offers affordable accommodation.
- Youth Interrail Pass, you can buy a discounted interrail pass to travel by train either in Germany, in Europe, or across the world.
Many language schools in Germany offer courses for anybody interested in learning. Some popular language schools include
- Goethe-Institut is a global organisation that promotes the German language and culture through language courses, cultural events, and examinations.
- Berlitz, a language education company that offers a range of language courses, including German, through various formats such as in-person classes, online courses, and self-study materials.
- DeutschAkademie, a language school which offers German courses for various levels of proficiency, both in-person and online, with a focus on small class sizes and personalised teaching.
Many universities in Germany also offer German language courses for international students. Some universities even have preparatory courses for those students who want to study with them but do not meet the language requirements yet.
A third option is online courses. These allow you to learn German from anywhere in the world. Some popular online language-learning platforms include
- Duolingo is a very popular language-learning app that offers gamified lessons for free. You can learn a variety of languages, including German, and can access it both on mobile devices and web browsers.
- Babbel is another language-learning app that offers interactive lessons and exercises for a subscription fee. It provides personalised feedback and tracks progress, and covers a range of languages, including German.
- Rosetta Stone is a language-learning software which offers personalised lessons and feedback, and you can learn German for a subscription fee.
Living as an expat in Germany
Germany is a welcoming and multicultural society; expats can find many opportunities to connect with others and explore the country's rich culture. However, if you managed through your studies without learning German, now it’s time you start language classes. If you want to be successful in the job market, speaking the country’s official language is very important in Germany.
Finding expat apartments is usually not difficult, and if you pick something outside the city centre or choose to share the apartment, you can get by with an affordable rent.
At the same time, remember that health insurance is mandatory for all residents, including expats. Similarly to when you were a student, you can choose between public or private health insurance, depending on your needs and preferences. Public health insurance is generally more affordable, while private health insurance offers more personalised care and additional benefits such as dental and vision coverage.
Expat communities in Germany
According to Deutschland.de, a service of The Federal Foreign Office, the best cities for expats in Germany are Aachen, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Frankfurt am Main. These results are based on a survey taken by 20,000 expats and revealed 8 German cities in total, which were among the 82 most popular with the ex-pat community.
At the same time, you can look at the quality of life in general in Germany and discover that apart from the four cities mentioned above, Berlin, München, Nürenberg, and Stuttgartare some of the best places to live in Germany for expats.
In terms of what nationalities are predominant in Germany, based on the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, at the end of 2021, the largest migrant population was Turkish, followed by Polish, Romanian, and Syrian people.
If you want to connect with fellow nationals in Germany, you can start by joining DEGIS, the biggest international student network in Germany. Here you can participate in events, meet other students, and volunteer with them to gain useful experience.
Germany Immigration rules
How your immigration status changes after graduation
Once you graduate, if you are from outside the EU, the main thing that changes is that you will no longer have a study Visa so you’ll need to find a different type of visa to stay in the country. Depending on your situation, you have several different Visa options.
Keep in mind that the German immigration process can be complex, and there are fees associated with it. The current immigrant visa application processing fee is €75. Additionally, applicants may need to provide extra documentation and attend an in-person interview.
Types of Visa
The type of Visa you need after graduation depends on what you want to do regarding work and employment. The main categories for you are:
- Job seeker visa. This visa allows recent graduates to stay in Germany for up to six months while they search for employment. If a job is found, the individual can then apply for a work visa.
- Language course visa. This visa allows individuals to stay in Germany for up to one year while they study the German language. This can be a great way to improve language skills and increase employability in Germany.
- Visa for the self-employed. This type is for those who are active in liberal professions like Art, Science, or Education and work as self-employed, as well as for those who wish to start their own business in Germany.
- Work visa. This type covers several possible situations:
- Blue Card;
- work with a contract;
- work with a qualification that is partially recognised;
- work as an IT-specialist with work experience;
- job seeker (academic);
- job seeker (vocational training)
Immigration processing times
Processing times for German visas can range from a few weeks to several months. For example, a job seeker visa may take approximately 4-6 weeks to process, while a family reunion visa can take several months.
Job opportunities in Germany
Germany has some of the lowest unemployment rates in the European Union while having the largest economy in the EU. This means there is a constant need for skilled workers and educated people to fulfil the labour force demands in the country.
If you decide to stay and look for graduate jobs, here are some starting points:
- Expatica: great job opportunities in Germany for international students who speak English
- EURES portal (European Employment Services, part of the European Commission): for people from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.
- The Federal Employment Agency: the largest provider of labour market services in Germany, and includes ZAV (International Placement Service), a department specially dedicated to job opportunities in Germany for foreigners
- English jobs: jobs that require English speaking
- Jobooh: jobs in startups
- Academics: academic and research jobs
- Staufenbiel: jobs in Germany for graduates and students
- Stepstone: includes internships and jobs for graduates
- The Local
If you want to know more about working in Germany, you should also check
Continue your studies in Germany
If you are an international student who will graduate from a German university and would like to continue your studies in Germany, there are several options available to you:
- Pursue a Master’s degree: you can apply for a tuition-free Master's degree if you already have a Bachelor's earned in Germany, as long as you continue in the same field of study at a public university. Head over here to see over 1800 Masters in Germany.
- Apply for a PhD: if you are interested in pursuing a research-based degree and already have a Master’s degree, you can apply for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme in Germany. You can opt for an individual doctorate (self-directed research under one professor) or a structured PhD where you have team supervision and courses, and it’s usually advertised with grants. Here’s a list of PhDs in Germany.
- Apply for a postgraduate diploma or certificate: postgraduate certificates and diplomas in Germany can be obtained from universities, technical colleges, and private institutions. They are typically non-degree programs that focus on practical, job-oriented training and often include a combination of coursework and hands-on experience.
- Apply for a professional qualification: professions such as law, medicine, or teaching require additional qualifications beyond a degree. You can apply for these professional qualifications through professional organisations or regulatory institutions.
Frequently asked questions
1. Do international students need a visa to study in Germany?
Non-EU/EEA students need a visa to study in Germany. The type of visa you need depends on your country of origin and the length of your stay.
2. Is studying in Germany worth it?
Studying in Germany can be worth it for many students because of the high-quality education, international reputation of German universities, and opportunities for research and career development. However, it ultimately depends on your individual goals and circumstances.
3. What is the cost of studying in Germany?
Studying in Germany can be free at public universities, except for the Brandenburg state. However, other expenses are to consider, such as accommodation, health insurance, and living costs. Overall, you can study in Germany for less than 12,000 per year if you opt for a tuition-free university.
4. How much money is required to study in Germany?
The amount of money required to study in Germany varies depending on factors such as the location of your university, your lifestyle, and the type of program you are studying. You can live in Germany with less than 1000 EUR per month if you budget well. According to Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (official student loans and scholarships regulator in Germany), the exact estimate is a minimum of €934 per month or €11,208 per year. If you’re a student of a non-EU country, you’ll have to show proof that you have the possibility to cover these finances when you apply for a Visa.
5. Can I study in Germany without IELTS?
Yes, it is possible to study in Germany without IELTS. Some universities may accept other language proficiency tests or allow students to take language courses at the university before beginning their degree program.
6. What are the requirements to study in Germany?
The requirements to study in Germany vary depending on the level of education and the program you are applying for. Generally, you will need to have completed secondary education and have proof of language proficiency (either German or English depending on the language of instruction for your course), as well as meet any additional requirements set by your chosen university.
7. What exams are required to study in Germany?
The main requirement is to pass the final school examination in your home country, which must be the equivalent of the German Abitur or the A-levels or the Baccalaureate. Apart from that, you will have to take a language exam and, depending on your programme, you might also have to sit additional tests. For example, for Med School, you will likely have to pass the "Test für Medizinische Studiengänge" (TMS), a subject-specific university entry examination.
8. How to get permanent residency while studying in Germany?
International students in Germany can apply for permanent residency two years after completing their studies if they meet certain requirements, such as being employed as a skilled worker and having sufficient financial resources.