by Apurvaa Subramaniam
So you have decided to study in Munich. Well done, you have chosen wisely. Munich, the capital of Bavaria, famous for the Oktoberfest, is also home to a host of universities including 2 of Germany’s elite universities Technical University of Munich(TUM) and Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU). Here are some tips on how to make the most of your student life in Munich and experience the true “Münchner Gemütlichkeit”.
Editor's note: Don't miss out to have a look at the exciting study programmes offered in Munich!
Plan and prepare in advance
Once you have are accepted to a university in Munich, it is essential to start your preparations as soon as possible, ideally at least 2 or 3 months before your arrival.
Non EU citizens usually require a Residence Permit to study in Germany. Keep all the required documents ready and apply well in time. Depending on your nationality, the visa may take up to 4-6 weeks to be approved and granted. It is compulsory for foreigners to purchase health insurance for their stay in Germany. Many foreign students are also required to open blocked accounts or ‘Sperrkonto’ in a bank in Germany before they can apply for a visa. Thus, carefully read through the visa requirements for your country in the German Embassy or High Commission’s website.
Student housing run by the Studentenwerk in Munich is usually the cheapest and most sought after option. However, it is generally very hard to get because the demand is much greater than the supply. Flat shares or WGs are a good alternative. It may take you a long time to find a suitable residence, so it’s better to start looking early. Websites such as wg-gesucht.de are a good place to begin your search from.
Many organizations such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offer different kinds of scholarships. If you are going only for a few semesters on a Study Abroad program, your university may also offer scholarships.
Connect with People
Talking to people who are already in Munich or those who are coming to study like you is always beneficial. You could join or set up a Facebook group for all the students coming to your university for example. Reading blogs and forums is also worthwhile. Toytown Germany is a great resource for foreigners in living in Germany.
Many universities in Munich have a ‘buddy system’ i.e. you are allocated a buddy who is usually a student currently studying in the university. You can ask your buddy various questions about the university, life in Munich, and so on. Your buddy will often become a good friend as well. So do ask your university to allocate you a buddy.
For any course related queries it is best to contact your professors in advance. They are generally very helpful.
Have a Plan
Set goals, think about the things you want to achieve, activities you want to do and places you want to visit. You will be surprised at how quickly the time passes after your arrival, especially if you are staying for only a few semesters!
Make the most of your time
The first few days may be a bit tough with everything being new, but hang on because things will definitely get better!
Attend the University’s Orientation Programs
Most universities have at least 2 weeks of orientation for new students. These programs include providing administrative help such as getting your student ID, library pass, transport pass, registration in the KVR for foreigners, as well as campus tours and parties. Thus, not only are these programs useful but also a great way of meeting new people and making friends.
Manage your time wisely
The European university system is usually more flexible compared to the Asian system (from my choose your exam dates, enroll in courses in one semester but take the exams in the next semester and so on. While this gives students a lot of freedom, it also means a lot more responsibility. Hence, make sure you maintain a good balance between work and play.
Internships and Part-Time Work
A number of career fairs are held every semester in the main universities of Munich. It is fairly easy to find internships here, even for foreign students as fluency in German is usually not a must.
Lots of part-time work opportunities are also available in the university such as assisting professors, working at the library, campus bar and so on. This is a great way to earn some extra money.
For a richer experience, participate in various activities. There are a lot of different university clubs to choose from such as dance, debating, music, computer clubs and so on. The Olympiapark in Munich offers a lot of sports facilities. You can join a sports team as well.
The DAAD organizes interesting events such as the Tandem Reporters program. A host family program is offered during Christmas through which you can spend a few days in a German family’s home and thus experience typical German Christmas traditions.
Since most people in Munich speak English, it is not essential to know German. However learning a bit of German is certainly beneficial and will be very helpful if you travel to small towns and villages outside Munich. The locals also appreciate foreigners who try to integrate and learn their language and will therefore be friendlier. Most universities offer German as a foreign language.
Travel and Make Use of Student Discounts
Munich as well as a lot of other places in Europe offer generous student discounts on transport, entrance tickets to attractions and performances and accommodation. So carry your Student Card everywhere and take full advantage of this.
Munich is also ideally located for travel to Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland to name a few. Ryanair operates a number of cheap flights from Munich. Deutsche Bahn also offers good prices if you book a few weeks in advance. Deals such as the Bayern Bohemian ticket are also worth checking out. Mitfahrgelegenheit is a cheap way of traveling to relatively nearby places by road.
Stay in touch after you leave
Join the Alumni Network
Sign up for your university’s alumni newsletter. This may be very useful in the future as it will give you access to a large network of people, job opportunities, seminars and other developments.
Preserve your Memories
Studying abroad will be one of the most memorable experiences of your lifetime. Thus, creating a blog or a scrapbook or writing articles about it will help you relive all the wonderful moments again and also serve as a guide to other students.