A Bachelor’s degree course in Germany will take 3 to 3.5 years to complete while a Master’s degree course will take 1.5 to 2 years to complete. During this duration, the student will learn and experience many new things. Here are some values that you will learn while studying in Germany.
You will be surprised how often you check the weather forecasts. One of the first things I do when I get up in the morning is to check the weather forecast for the day. This is so I can decide what to wear for the day. Will it be too cold? Wear more layers of clothing. Too windy? Take out the windproof jacket. Raining? Remember to bring the waterproof jacket when leaving the room.
Pro tip: Layering your clothing helps you stay comfortable throughout the day especially in winter when the temperature can be -10 degrees outside, 10 degrees along the building corridor and up to 21 degrees in the classrooms. The air between different layers of clothing will act as an insulator and keep you warm.
Planning ahead doesn’t stop at weather forecasts. Many supermarkets are closed on weekends and during public holidays. You will need to plan ahead and check if you have enough food to last until the supermarket is open again. If you ran out of food too soon, you will have to spend a lot more eating at restaurants. Cooking your own meals will cost you €2 to €3 while eating out can cost up to €10 or more!
I was pleasantly surprised by how well-connected the places I have been to in Germany are. Everywhere I need to go is connected via the public transportation network. Having said that, public transportations in Germany do arrive and leave on time! It’s important to arrive on time especially if you are taking the train to another town or city. Within the city, it’s usually more forgiving as the next bus or train is a mere 5 minutes away.
Pro tip: When taking the bus or train, do check if you will need to change or hop over to another bus or train. The German word for it is umsteigen and it’s common to change to another line especially if you are taking a longer route. Do not miss your stop and when taking the train, immediately head over to your next track (German: Gleis) where the train will most likely be waiting.
You will have to make an appointment for most meetings in Germany. As a student, that would mean making an appointment to see the doctor, making an appointment to renew your health or medical insurance, making appointments when visiting governmental offices and so on.
One of the first things I am taught when I arrived in Germany is to sort my trash and to place them into the right bins. Recyclables such as aluminium cans, plastic packagings and milk cartons are collected in yellow bags. Papers and newspapers are placed in blue bins. You will usually need to pay a deposit on plastic and glass bottles and those will need to be returned to the shop where you purchased them. Organic kitchen waste goes to the brown bio-bins. Non-organic and non-recyclables are placed into the black bin while batteries are to be disposed at special collection boxes. You can usually find the collection boxes at supermarkets.
It is also common for a German to bike 10 to 20 km to work instead of driving. It’s a win-win for them as they can save money on fuel and car maintenance, stay healthy, and enjoy the scenery on the way to work.
As a student, I had to intern at a company for 2 entire semesters. During my tenure there, I noticed that Germans are very focused at work. They do not stay back in the office beyond the normal office hours. Due to this work ethic, employees in Germany have a good work-life balance. They get to go home on time daily and have the weekends to themselves to pursue their hobbies or to recover for the following week.
This is probably one of the most overlooked benefits of studying in Germany. Studying abroad means you will be away from the comfort of home and away from your family. You will need to make your bed, clean your apartment, wash dishes and clothing, cook, and unique to Germany, remember to apply to sit for your semester papers. Failing to do so will mean you will have to wait for the next semester to sit for the papers and that might delay your graduation.
Pro tip: For many students, cooking is one of the most important survival skills to have. Students who cook their own meal will save a lot of money as eating out is very expensive. Cooking their own meals also means that students will need to learn how to purchase ingredients in suitable quantities. Purchase too much and there will not be enough space in the refrigerator. The food could also expire before you have the opportunity to cook and eat them.
Being on my own also means that I have to plan and budget my expenses properly to stretch my Euros. Thankfully, there are many ways for students to save money in Germany. Students get to enjoy many student benefits and can even travel around Europe without breaking the bank! More on this in another article.
Germans are very honest people and it reflects in their day-to-day. There are usually no turn-stills or gates for commuters using public transportation. Everyone is expected to purchase their ticket before embarking on their journey. From time to time, conductors will check that passengers have purchased their tickets, otherwise, a heavy fine will be imposed. So if you are thinking that you can try your luck and not pay to use public transportation in Germany, think again.
You will learn how to plan ahead, the importance of being punctual, how to be more environmentally-friendly, how it’s possible to have a good work-life balance by being focused and efficient at work, how being independent means more than taking care of yourself, it’s about taking responsibility for your actions (including spending within your means) and most important of all, having good character.
Do share what other values you learnt while in Germany or in other countries. What’s the local culture like in that country? Write to us at [email protected]