Living in Germany as an international student

international students
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Updated 2022-11-09 17:33

Studying in Germany has so many benefits for international students. What makes the experience even better is that students can combine their higher education with fulfilling student life. In other words, you will be studying in a highly regarded institution and preparing yourself for the international labor market while enjoying the fun aspects of the German lifestyle and culture and meeting new people from all walks of life.

In fact, out of Germany's total population of 83 million people, 10.6 million come from other countries. Imagine the motivation behind exploring such a diverse country and all its major cities and smaller towns.   

Exploring Germany

The world-class education, in combination with the German high standard of living, fun social life and opportunity to be in the heart of Europe, guarantees a rich in experiences student life and justifies the incredible number of international students arriving in Germany every academic year. Student life in Germany has much to offer and will meet your expectations, whether you are fond of beautiful natural landscapes or enjoy the big city life. Large cities such as Berlin – the third most visited destination in Europe – and Munich are full of exciting places to visit and spend quality leisure time. 

Most cities offer great shopping options, active nightlife, and plenty of cultural activities to engage in with your fellow friends. Smaller towns and cities such as Nuremberg, Heidelberg, Schwerin, and Lübeck offer unique architectural sites and outdoor adventures, especially worth trying in the warmer months between May and October. The good news is that you don't have to find out about all this alone as a student. In fact, some German universities, such as the Freie Universität Berlin, provide more than 800 out-of-school activities, many of which are organized by student associations. 

Overall, Germany is known for its historical and cultural heritage, with numerous German castles and cathedrals, many of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Cologne Cathedral and Aachen Cathedral (the oldest cathedral in northern Europe). The rich culture is an indispensable opportunity to learn more about the history of Europe and to develop a great sense of aesthetics, especially if you study architecture, art, or design. Plus, you will find so many like-minded students here, keen to explore with you and get inspired for their next project. 

Germany is home to many green spaces and national parks, such as the Black Forest mountain range (known in German as Schwarzwald) in Baden-Württemberg or the Barnim Plateau near Berlin. Germany has numerous lakes and rivers (e.g., Rhine, Elbe, Lake Constance, Königssee) that make an excellent escape for a weekend stroll out in the fresh air after a week of intense studying. There are also many theme parks, such as Europapark in Rust, the world's most visited seasonal amusement park, and Legoland Deutschland in Günzburg, amongst many others.

Student housing in Germany

Most students in Germany live in private shared flats or university halls of residence, availability for which is advertised online, on student notice boards, and through the local Studentenwerk (National Association for Student Affairs) at each university. There are many more ways to find accommodation in Germany. For example, you can check local newspapers and student magazines to see housing ads. Additionally, you can ask for halls of residence (Studentenwohnheim) at real estate agencies. Do not hesitate to contact local student associations such as the Studentenwerk or international students' welcome offices, which will help you find appropriate housing in Germany.

Each accommodation option has pros and cons. For example, student halls are great for socializing and expanding your network, and they offer more affordable options. However, often your studying may be disturbed by noisy or disrespectful neighbors. Each student hall has a contact point dealing with complaints, organizing events, and aiming to ensure the best possible living conditions for everyone. It's worth noting that not all students are eligible for a place in a hall of residence. It usually depends on their country of origin (overseas or EU students), level of study (graduate or postgraduate), and personal situation (solo student or accompanied by family members). Also, students should be aware that there are strict deadlines to apply for a place in a hall of residence, and the application is usually submitted online. 

Good to know: 

There are different types of accommodation in a hall of residence, including single en-suite rooms with a shared kitchen, shared apartments, studios, couples' apartments, housing for single parents, and apartments for disabled students. 

When searching for private accommodation, things may get a bit more complicated since the options are plenty, and you are responsible for your search and research, which can be stressful and time-consuming. Private accommodation means less communal rules, but prices are higher, especially in popular expat cities like Munich and Frankfurt. International students in Germany spend about 300 euros per month on accommodation and about 600 more on living costs. 

Private accommodation can also be shared accommodation, a widespread option among international and German students. Rooms in a shared apartment often range between 9m² to 20m². Prices vary depending on the apartment's surface and the area in which it is located. Shared accommodation in Germany is known by the name WG (Wohngemeinschaft). 

Tip: Feeling overwhelmed with your student accommodation search? Reach out to Expat.com's lively expat community in the Germany forum for guidance and advice. You will be surprised by how many seasoned expats there are willing to help!

Good to know: 

Surprisingly, you can find more affordable rentals in Berlin than in Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Hamburg, where renting costs are the highest in Germany.

Useful links:

Deutsches Studentenwerk DSW- German National Association for Student Affairs

WG.GESUCHT.de flat and apartment share

Student healthcare in Germany

Health insurance is compulsory in Germany, and you will have to show proof of the health insurance plan upon entering the country. Germany has a social security agreement with some countries, such as the EU-EEA member states. If you have public health insurance back home, you can get European insurance coverage recognized by a public health insurance company in Germany. Make sure to check in advance which documents will be needed. Usually, you can use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get your health insurance approved and benefit from the healthcare system in Germany. However, your insurance may not cover all costs in Germany, so make sure you know what services are included and which medical specialties are charged extra. Sometimes your private health insurance may not be fully recognized. If that is the case, you are advised to subscribe to complementary health insurance in case of severe accidents.

Attention: 

Non-EU-EEA citizens are required to obtain a health insurance plan before applying for a student visa

Useful link: 

BMG Bundesministerium für Gesundheit - Federal Ministry of Health

Getting around Germany

Traveling in Germany is a great way to experience the country's diversity and familiarise yourself with German culture, different German dialects, and people's everyday lives. Moving from one place to another will feel secure, even if you are a solo student. Most cities and towns are welcoming and have a significant student population to interact in bars, clubs, museums, and theatres – you name it. 

Public transport is well established in Germany, with the Deutsche Bahn being the most significant railway network offering fast train connections (ICE) between big cities. Note that the prices will be much more reasonable when booked a few weeks in advance. They also offer several promotional tickets, for example, weekend tickets or Länder-Tickets, that allow up to five people to travel at a reasonable price (from 24 EUR and above) as much as they like during an entire day or weekend. It's a great way to discover the country on regional trains. Many students arrange to share these tickets to reduce their travel expenses. Over the last few years, the long-distance coach lines have been much improved, offering much better pricing. For example, Flixbus and Eurolines provide low-cost bus travel across Europe.

Useful links: 

Länder-Tickets

Flixbus low-cost bus travel across Europe 

Eurolines coach travel in Europe

Within most cities, tramways and buses or metro (U-Bahn) are common means of public transport. They usually have monthly or yearly ticket options for students and offer the possibility to take daily group tickets, which can be shared with friends. All the cities in Germany are bike-friendly, and the cold and rainy weather is never a burden for seasoned cyclists. Bikes are easy to find, but it is advised to get a second-hand bike, as bike theft is high in large cities. Also, every city offers affordable bike and electric scooter renting options.

In case you need a car, there are many car-sharing companies, such as Share Now. However, non-EU nationals may need to get an international license, and EU citizens may have to convert their driving license to a German one. For more information, check Expat.com's article about driving in Germany

Useful link: 

Share Now

All the best with your student life in Germany! Remember that Germany is a country that enjoys all kinds of freedom and equality before the law, making German society a fair place to live in – a place in which your individual characteristics are respected regardless of your sex, origin, religion, and sexual orientation.

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