Germany (Deutschland), the sixth largest country in Europe by land area (349,520 square kilometres), is situated in central Europe, with coastal access to the North and Baltic Seas. It is bordered by nine other European countries to the north, east, south, and west. It comprises lowlands (north), uplands (centre), and the Bavarian Alps to the south. Berlin (in the northeast) is the capital.
The climate of Germany is temperate (and marine in the north), with cool, cloudy, wet winters and warm summers, occasionally tempered by the Föhn, a warm mountain wind. There can be marked variations in climate from region to region.
Germany is still basically a homogeneous ethnic society (German 91.5%, Turkish 2.4%, other 6.1%). A trend toward a more multicultural society is now occurring with a greater emphasis on integration of immigrants. Restoring the social unity between West and East has been an ongoing agenda of the German government since reunification in 1990, with living conditions, education, and health as important priorities. The family remains at the core of German society though traditional gender roles are disappearing, bringing German society and culture more into line with the modern Western world.
Culture in Germany has many facets. From world-famous orchestras, architecture, museums, churches, and traditional cuisine to avant-garde art and music, the international student will find a mix of modern and traditional. The Germans enjoy the outdoors along their beautiful riverbanks and in the gardens which can be found in most cities and towns. Germany is a sporting nation with football the no.1 sport. Walking and cycling are common leisure activities. Train travel is excellent and fast, making it easy to get around the country to festivals and other cultural events.
Germany is a member of the European Union (EU). Its economy is the largest in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world after the U.S., Japan, and China, and it is very export-oriented (second-largest exporter in the world). It is among the largest and most technologically advanced producers of iron, steel, coal, cement, chemicals, machinery, vehicles, machine tools, electronics, food and beverages, shipbuilding, and textiles. It is the leading producer of wind turbines and solar power technology in the world.
Some of the largest annual international trade fairs and congresses occur in German cities such as Hanover, Frankfurt, and Berlin. The currency is the Euro.
International students living in Germany can generally live on €750–€950 a month: accommodation €230–€400, food €220, books/stationery €50 and other €250 (e.g., transport, entertainment, laundry, telephone) depending on location and type of housing. Tuition fees, where applicable, are an additional cost. Health insurance is usually around €50–€60 a month. Student accommodation is less expensive than renting a flat. International students should be aware that often flats are let unfurnished and that there may only be a sink in the kitchen area. Tenants then have to provide all other kitchen facilities.
The fundamental structure of the German education system is similar to that of many Western countries. It consists of elementary (primary), secondary (lower and upper) and tertiary/higher education. It is in the detail – especially in relation to the range of institutions that deliver tertiary/higher education – where the differences lie. International students planning to study in Germany need to be able to identify these differences in tertiary/higher education.
Most of these institutions are public (government). There are some privately run institutions; however, public education is the first choice for most (more than 90%).
Close to 250,000 international students are enrolled at German institutes of higher education. This makes Germany among the most sought-after destination countries in the world.
International students may have to pay some minor tuition fees. However, this is a recent situation and doesn’t apply to all higher education institutions. Therefore, it is essential to source such information from the individual institution to determine if tuition fees apply.
There is a German language proficiency requirement for entry to higher education institutions, the DSH (DSH-Prüfung). In some situations, basic language may be accepted dependent upon the course, the level of study, and the language of instruction. German-language courses are available at most institutions.
To gain acceptance, non-European Union (EU) students may have to prove financial capability. Applications should include evidence of capacity to meet the costs of studying/living in Germany.EU regulations govern the assessment students from EU countries wishing to study in Germany. Non-EU students may need to obtain a student visa prior to entering Germany. Students should first check with the German embassy or consulate in their own country to obtain the most up-to-date information about student visa requirements. Visa application processing for long-stay visas can take several months, so students must allow sufficient processing time prior to their intended date of entry. Students who wish to seek work while studying need to check if they will need a work permit.
Within seven days of arriving in Germany, all international students must register with the relevant district administrative office. Proof of, or application for health insurance coverage, must be submitted to the district office of the AOK (Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse). After three months, all international students – regardless of country of origin – need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis).
International students can work while they study in Germany, and because student jobs are subsidised (entailing lower social security costs for employers), many German employers find student workers an attractive option.