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First Steps:


Students from all over the world study and research at one of the more than 300 universities in Germany. They're enrolled at universities that have a wide range of scientific fields on offer or at universities of applied science with very specific, application-oriented programs.


German universities are open to all interested students from abroad who fulfill the academic entrance requirements. The best place for information concerning prerequisites and needed language skills is the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). You have to prove that your language skills suffice before you begin studying. There are several examinations you can take. There is one exception, however: if you'd like to enroll in an international program taught in English at a German university, you usually don't have to prove your proficiency in the German language. Instead, you need to prove that your command of the English language is excellent - you might have to present your TOEFL score (Test of English as a Foreign Language), for instance.


All German universities have Academic offices for foreign students (Akademisches Auslandsamt). These are also good places to start.


Further Information:


Admissions database of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)



Overview of admission prerequisites at German universities



Recognized German language examinations



General information about institutions of higher education in Germany, degree programs etc.



The 16 federal states (Information in German only)



Tips from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for a visit to Germany (only in German)





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Learning German:


To study in Germany, you have to prove that you have a good command of the German language. The only exception to this rule are the international programs taught in English. The easiest way to learn the German language is, of course, by being in Germany. You can attend one of the international summer courses available at universities in Germany. The courses are designed in such a manner that people of the same age group have a chance to learn German and a bit about the country. Participants often live with host families during the time they attend a summer course. That's a good way to learn about every day life in Germany. An alternative is renting a place at a student dormitory. The courses themselves cost anywhere from 300 to 650 Eruo.


In many countries of the world, Germany's Goethe Institutes offer language instruction at all levels. They also conduct preparatory courses for higher level examinations.


Deutsche Welle offers free language courses via the internet. The beginners course "German - Why not?" is available in more than 30 languages.


As a foreign student you must prove adequate knowledge of the German language in order to study in Germany. You can demonstrate your knowledge by taking the “German language proficiency test for college entry for foreign students”, known for short as “DSH”. Students take the examination at the respective college that they've applied to in Germany. In some specific cases, you might be able to bypass this step. For instance, if you have the lower or higher language diploma from the Goethe Institute or have passed the central higher examination of the Goethe Institute, you don’t have to undergo any further language tests. Also exempted are holders of the “German language diploma of the ministry for education and cultural affairs conference” (Deutsches Sprachdiplom der Kultusministerkonferenz). Likewise if you’ve taken your school leaving examination in a German-speaking school or wish to spend only one semester in Germany, you don’t need to prove your language skills. The “TestDaF” stands for “Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache” (test in German as a foreign language). You can take this examination, which has the same status as the “DSH”, beforehand in your country of origin. International study courses and some further training courses do not require any proof of language proficiency.


Language is the key to a country's culture. And even if communication in English is no problem at research institutes, the stay in Germany is not all work but also everyday life and leisure. After their stay is over, nearly all research fellows emphasize that knowledge of German contributes significantly to integrating, especially the family, into everyday life and making the stay a richer experience. It is very helpful to get a basic knowledge of German before the stay and at least grapple with the fundamentals of the language (script, grammar, etc.).


Research fellows and their spouses accompanying them with little previous knowledge of German, can either attend an intensive language course prior to the research visit or evening language courses during the first half of their fellowship, sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation. Details can be found in the print brochure "Guidelines and Information for Research Fellows". Research fellows are strongly recommended to participate in intensive courses as experience shows that they can spend more time practicing the language and, on top of this, get to know other people in the same situation to whom they can talk about initial difficulties and turn to for mutual support if problems occur.


If the level of the course does not accord with your knowledge of the language do not hesitate to try and change courses immediately. At the beginning of teaching it is not usually a problem to change to a different level, whereas it can be difficult to catch up with another group once a certain teaching unit has come to an end. In scientific subjects, in particular, knowledge of specialized German vocabulary can facilitate communication with technicians, laboratory staff, and assistants. Thus, at the beginning of the stay at the host institute it might be helpful to attend seminars and lectures in German or to get together with a German colleague in order to learn this special vocabulary.


Further Information:


Goethe Institute language examinations



Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung (ZOP)



Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom (KDS)



Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom (GDS)



"Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache" (TestDaF)



Explanations regarding the "deutschen Rechtschreibung" (new German language changes)


The Tandem Agency offers free tandem conversation partners to help learn German



The "Language-Exchange", is a search machine for language partners




Edited by Shima

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Immigration: Visa


If you belong to a country outside the European Union and are applying to study in Germany, you need a visa. However, if you are from Australia, Japan, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, USA, Switzerland, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino, you are exempted from this rule. Be careful: all visas are not the same. A “tourist visa” cannot be converted into a “student visa” and as a tourist, you are not eligible to study in Germany. So it’s essential to pay attention to the word preceding “visa”.


Three types of visa exist for international students:


- a language course visa, which cannot be subsequently converted into a student visa. It is valid only for the duration of the course.


- a three-month study applicant’s visa, which is valid if you have not yet obtained university admission. After admission, it must be converted as quickly as possible into a resident permit for student purposes at the office for foreigners’ affairs.


- the visa for study purposes, valid for one year. In order to obtain this visa, you must provide proof of admission and financial support for the duration of study.


In order to apply for a student visa, the following documents are generally required:


- a valid passport


- passport photos


- entitlement to university admission, as recognized in Germany (usually a high school diploma or graduation examination certificate)


- evidence of previous academic performance


- proof that complete financial support for one year is guaranteed


The notification of admission from the university is also required for the application for a visa for study purposes. Generally, a confirmation from the university, certifying that the application documents are available to them , suffices.


The visa application is submitted at the German Embassy or the German Consulate in your country of residence – preferably as early as possible. German Embassy or Consulate personnel can provide further information.


The following documents are an absolute necessity for every international student:

- student visa

- passport or an equivalent document

- original certificates and the originals of the certified German translations

- a note from a qualified medical doctor concerning illnesses or important drugs, if required

- vaccination certificate, preferably international

- passport photographs for identification card.



Important Papers and Documents:


You need the following documents before entering Germany:


* a passport or equivalent identity document valid for the whole duration of your stay in Germany;

* a visa for you and family members accompanying you. You should apply for visas as soon as possible - in contrast to documents for you yourself, which are often issued quickly, there may be delays in the issue of residence permits for accompanying family members. Some countries (e.g. member-countries of the EU and the USA) are exempt from this requirement;

* confirmation from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation that you have been awarded a research fellowship;

* several passport-size photographs for the various documents you will require during your stay;

* birth certificate(s), marriage certificate, if applicable, with German translation if possible;

* officially-certified copies of your doctoral degree, and of insurance documents with German or English translations, if possible;

* if appropriate, confirmation from your health insurance that you are also covered in Germany (Please remember that, in order to get a residence permit, you have to have valid health insurance cover for yourself and your family from the first day you arrive in Germany. If your health insurance at home is not valid abroad you will have to take out a health insurance policy before you travel which is valid in Germany for the entire duration of your stay!);

* if applicable, a statement detailing particular or previous diseases (possibly recent X-ray photographs) and medication currently needed;

* your vaccination certificate, if possible, an international one.


To avoid difficulties communicating with German physicians and problems involving health insurance, you should undergo any necessary prophylactic check-ups and have special medication prescribed in your home country prior to your departure.


If you intend to drive a car during your stay in Germany, you should bring the following documents with you:


* an international driving license or foreign national driving license;

* an international "green" insurance card confirming third-party insurance coverage in Germany (if you plan to bring your car to Germany);

* a no-claims certificate from your automobile insurance company. (This will qualify you for a rebate if you intend to take out third-party car insurance in Germany.)



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Work Permits for Spouses:


Many spouses accompanying guest-researchers want to work during their stay in Germany. Those intending to engage in regular employment need a work permit (exceptions: nationals from countries of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). Spouses of research fellows who wish to take up employment must inform the German consulate of this prior to departure for Germany and apply for the respective residence permit (indicating "employment permitted"). The actual work permit must be applied for at the Employment Office. The procedure is time-consuming (processing of the application alone takes several weeks) and not always successful. In view of the tense labor situation in Germany, it may be difficult to find a vacancy.


Spouses of former research fellows therefore recommend you to think about how to make good use of your stay in Germany before you leave home. It may be possible to enroll in university courses as guest students or to attend courses on various subjects at adult education centers "Volkshochschulen" (VHS). If you have children, it is advisable to include the times they are absent at kindergarten or school in your planning. As day-care is not yet something you can take for granted in Germany and as in some towns there is a shortage of places especially for (pre-)kindergarten-children, you should deal with the question of child-care as early as possible.


Additional information


All electrical connections in Germany cater for 220-240-Volt/50-Hz a/c mains and European standard plugs. You may require adapters and transformers for electrical equipment you bring with you.


Important: if you declare any equipment you import into Germany, you must ensure that you export it again at the end of your stay.


Admission Requirements:


The doors of a university are open to a student only after he proves that he's entitled to be admitted to an institution of higher education. This is good for those whose educational qualifications or certificates are recognized as equivalent to those in Germany. If this is not the case, the student must undergo a “eligibility test”. In this case, each Federal State lays down the decisive criteria for evaluation of foreign qualifications required for admission. The preparatory institutions attached to the institutions of higher education are responsible for preparing students to take the “eligibility test”.


An important aspect of admission: certain courses of study are much sought after and the demand exceeds the number of places available. Students from Germany and the European Union must therefore undergo a selection procedure. The decisive element here is the average grade required for admission. Students from other countries are not subject to this procedure. But that doesn't mean that an unlimited number of students are accepted. To the contrary. For instance in subjects such as medicine and psychology, only a fixed number of foreigners who are not citizens of the European Union are admitted. Here too the selection process is subject to the average grade laid down by the institution of higher education.


Since the Winter semester 2000/2001 the German universities with courses of studies that have national acceptation restriction can select 24 per cent of the students themselves. The hopeful candidates should meet personally with the university teachers to explain their reasons for wanting to study in that particular course to prove their determination and help their chances in the selection process. Slowly more study places are being offered which are not subject to local permission restrictions. This is happening at both universities and universities of applied sciences.





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The Foreign Students' Office admits foreign students to the universities. The entrance application must be submitted by January 15 each year for the summer semester (beginning on April 1) and by July 15 for the winter semester (beginning on October 1).


The following documents should be enclosed along with the application:


· a certified copy of the certificate for admission to higher education or in other words the foreign high school qualification


· a translation (from an official translator) of the high school certificate


· a passport-size photograph


· bio-data with exact information about one's education (schools visited, exams taken etc)


· proof of higher studies attended till now if applicable


· language certificate as proof of required German language knowledge

an officially certified photocopy of the assessment test to determine the eligibility of foreign applicants to studies at institutions of higher education in Germany with subjects and mark list, if the test has been taken.


The “central office for allocation of study places” (ZVS) plays a specific role. It's responsible for instance for allocating places for students for courses of study such as medicine.


Students who come from countries belonging to the European Union can apply for these subjects directly at the ZVS while all others must submit their applications to the Foreign Students' Office(Akademisches Auslandsamt).


Important: the admission notification alone does not provide entitlement to study. All students who require a visa for study purposes must enclose the admission notification along with the visa application.


Preparatory Studies for Foreign Students:


You've finally finished school, you've got your high-school diploma, your A-levels or the equivalent from your country and you're getting ready to study abroad. But it turns out that your diploma isn't recognized in Germany. There is no international standard for school diplomas.


Not to worry, applicants whose certificates aren't recognized still have a chance to study in Germany. They can enroll at a College of Preparatory Studies for Foreign Students (Studienkolleg). Enrollment for the preparatory courses is handled by the university. As with every other authority in Germany, one needs to apply in writing. The Foreign Students' Office(Akademisches Auslandsamt) at the various universities will provide you with more details.


The preparatory program lasts for one year at the end of which foreign students have to take a final examination. If they pass the exam they are considered to be up to the academic level they need to study at a German university and can apply for admission. The preparatory courses are conducted in German, so language proficiency is a must.


The German language diploma of the Culture Ministers, Level 1 ("Deutsches Sprachdiplom") as well as the GoetheInstitute's "Zentrale Mittelstufenprüfung" are considered proof of your language fluency.



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A basic principle of German universities is “academic freedom”. Every student is free to choose his institution of higher education and lecturer. Of course provided that all the conditions for admission are fulfilled. Private universities, art and music academies as well as sport academies generally select candidates based on tests or interviews. But for most other subjects however, you can register directly at the university. Before the semester begins, long queues of hopeful students can be seen in front of the Registrar's office. Most of them are usually young people and carry the same papers:


- the registration application (available at the Registrar's office)


- the school leaving certificate (translated in German and if required certified) or the notification of admission from the Foreign Students' Office


- proof of adequate knowledge of German if applicable (or knowledge of English for international study courses)


- a certificate from the university in the home country, if a course was begun or completed in the country of origin


- proof of medical insurance


This small document portfolio ensures successful registration. All that remains is to pay the fees each semester and one can immediately call oneself a real student.

Course Fees:


Higher institutions of education in Germany usually do not charge any tuition fees. But education policy in Germany is increasingly seeking to change this. A number of Federal states now charge tuition fees for students who study for considerably longer than the stipulated period for course completion. A small number of private colleges – in the USA – charge very high tuition fees at times.


Apart from the relatively low semester fees, students at German universities are not required to pay from their own pockets at any time. The semester fee generally does not exceed 100 euro. This is used mainly towards financing the student services association as well as the student union, AStA. In many university towns, the semester fee serves to obtain the semester ticket. The semester ticket allows students to travel by bus and train free of charge.



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Cost of Living


Modest Life, Though not Frugal:


The following applies as a rule of thumb: around 660 euro per month is required for a course of study in Germany. The cost of living is relatively high in Germany – 660 euro allows a modest lifestyle and no more. The important aspect in any case is to maintain fixed costs, e.g. rent, as low as possible. Living in Germany is not cheap and an economically priced room, possibly in a student dormitory, can ease some of the financial strain. But modest does not necessarily mean austere.

Student Discounts:

The cost of living may not always be the cheapest, but for students there’s usually some sort of discount everywhere. Museums and other cultural institutions such as theaters and concert halls offer special student rates. And with student’s identification, you’re entitled to discounts while traveling with the public transport system. And even at sport centers and swimming pools, students may also qualify for a discount. When in doubt, ask – it costs nothing.


Students are also exempted from paying the German TV and radio license. But first, you must submit a request to the appropriate municipal office, which subsequently decides on your application. Make sure you include the following documents: your student registration certificate, proof of receiving Federal Education and Training Assistance(BAföG), or proof of parental financial support or alternatively your own income.


Travel is also somewhat cheaper for students. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is always helpful in this case. It costs around 9 euro and can easily be obtained from the student services associations. The only requirements are a photo and your student registration card. The ISIC allows discounts on package tours, flights and sometimes on accommodation. If you’re under 26, traveling by train is also cheaper. You can obtain information on rates from rail travel counters or on the internet. Anyone who likes traveling will also find a youth hostel pass helpful. This allows you to stay overnight in youth hostels both at home and abroad for a minimal price.



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Looking for a Place to Stay:


“Seek and ye shall find”. A true saying. The only problem is, you unfortunately can't tell “when” one will be successful. Looking for accommodation costs much in terms of time and temper. And so it's a good idea to do this well in time. You should preferably obtain information before travel, in order to obtain cheap accommodation. Living in Germany is expensive. A German ends up paying half of his wages towards rent. If you don't want to trust your luck, you can consider several possibilities in looking for accommodation.


Offers of accommodation are available in local newspapers, usually in the Wednesday and weekend editions. You can also advertise that you're looking for a room. Classified newspapers specialize in advertisements. You could also find accommodation at your university. The “notice-boards” are usually crammed with offers of accommodation scrawled on bits of paper. For those who arrive in Germany alone, flat sharing in so-called “WGs” (Wohngemeinschaften), is a good way to get to meet people.


Many university cities have shared-living centers (Mitwohnzentrale) which help you find accommodation for limited periods on a commission basis. University residences also provide accommodation. Anyone looking for a flat through an estate agent must bear one thing in mind: two months’ rent as advance is usually required. That is a lot of money and is not worthwhile, particularly for a short stay. But if you'd rather deal with an an estate agent, it's important to remember that the agent should be a member of the Ring of German Estate Agents (RDM).


The rooms here are indeed often very small, but on the other hand the cheapest available. Many dormitories now have bigger rooms and even offers for couples. The student services furnish addresses and information on the admission procedure for the student dormitories.


The Lease Agreement:


By signing a lease agreement, you gain certain rights, but also have certain responsibilities. Some of them are:

- payment of rent

- observance of the period of notice while moving out

-payment for certain repairs

- in some cases, covering renovation costs when you move out

- increase in the amount of rent, depending on the stipulations in the lease contract

- payment of additional costs (heating, water, garbage disposal, etc.)


Rent prices are often described as either "cold" or "warm." "Warm" means that the rental price includes the additional costs mentioned above. "Cold Rent" refers to the sum that you have to pay without those additional costs added on. The kinds and amount of these additional costs depend on the apartment and its location. Remember: pay close attention to the final amount you'll be asked to pay every month.


In addition to the rent, in most cases you will have to leave a security deposit. The amount usually ranges from one to three months rent. You will get this money back when you move out of the flat, along with any interest the deposit earned while it lay in the bank. Make sure you completely understand any lease agreement before you sign it. With your signature, you are consigning yourself to the countless rules and regulations set out in all the legalese and fine print in the lease. Before you legally commit yourself to something that might not be in your best interests, consult a friend or colleague.

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Jobbing Between Lectures:


Foreign students may work in Germany, even without a work permit. But students who are not citizens of the European Union can only work for a limited period per year. They are allowed to work for 90 days or 180 half-days every year without a work permit. In many Federal States, you can only work in the summer vacation. The office for foreigners may authorize an additional working period of 10 hours per week with the approval of the local employment office. Students from EU countries may as a matter of principle work unrestrictedly.


The following basically applies: many employers are glad to hire students. The reason for this is that, if the student does not work more than 19.5 hours a week, the employer is required to pay only a portion of the social welfare contributions. Students are therefore cheaper than “normal” employees.


However: a complete study course is difficult to finance with a conventional student job in a bar, as a pizza delivery boy or a cleaner. The average hourly rate in this case is around 8 euro per hour. The prospects are better of course for those with specific knowledge in demand on the employment market, e.g. programmers in the IT field. Complete lecture schedules leave no time for a full-time job however.


The local student services associations can be of help in looking for a job. It is also worthwhile however to visit the student job location department of the local employment exchanges, which are indeed frequently to be found on the premises of the student services.



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Providing Food, Care and More:


Students would go hungry without them: the Student Services associations are responsible for running the dining halls and cafeterias. But there’s more to their work than just providing food. The Student Services look after the needs of the students – social, economic and cultural. They also run the residence halls and child care centers at the colleges. Furthermore, they fulfill important advisory functions: ranging from social advice to support for handicapped students. Every student pays a fee each semester to the Student Services.


There are some Student Services which offer special service packages for foreign students. These include a room in a dormitory, tutoring, cultural advice and, if you want, lunch at the student cafeteria (Mensa), athletics and language courses. These packages cost between 150 and 320 euro a month.


Likewise the Student Union (AStA) makes life easier for the students. In Bavaria, this body representing the interests of all students is known as the “Studentische Sprecherrat”. A foreign students’ department is also generally attached to the AStA. This department deals with the needs of foreign students, organizes cultural and political events and is also on hand for advice in legal matters.


Committed students of a study group come together in student bodies to represent their fellow students’ interests. During the introductory week, students from earlier semesters take freshers through the city and university, cinemas, libraries, bars and the cafeteria if desired – a good early opportunity of meeting other students. Such events are almost always held in the week before the semester begins. The dates are announced on the notice board, the info board of the specialist institute. In addition, for those who do not mind working up a sweat: many new people can be met during college sport

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