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Learn from My Mistakes

by Tonya

Nobody likes to make mistakes. Especially not when you have just moved to a new country and started university. The language barrier, culture shock, bureaucracy… And I’m just a girl in her early 20s!

That’s what I thought to myself when I came to Germany a year ago. Now I’m in my second year of studies and have finally made at least some sense of how life in Germany works. So it’s time I share some of my findings and hopefully make the lives of some of you a bit easier!

Here are 5 mistakes I have made as an international student in Germany:

Mistake 1: Overestimating my German

Even though I did already have B1 once I came to Germany, I still wish I would have taken a German speaker with me to open a bank account and help me with city registration. You can never be too cautious about understanding all the details when it comes to something so important.

Mistake 2: Not Signing Up for a Buddy Program

Most universities have “Buddy Program”, which I unfortunately didn’t take seriously. A buddy is a person who has been studying at your university for quite some time and who volunteered to help newcomers, like you and I, get accustomed to the campus, the city, and even the country itself. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to have an experienced person to show you around.

Mistake 3: Overpaying for Groceries

I wish I had someone explain to me how big of a difference shops can make when it comes to the prices for the same items. I used to shop at Rewe, since it was the closest to where I live, but how big was my surprise when I saw the prices at Aldi and then Netto! My advice is, check different stores and their price-variety-quality combo before setting your heart on one store.

Mistake 4: Not Paying Radio Tax

Apparently, in Germany, you have to pay Rundfunkbeitrag whether you use German radio and TV or not. This is pretty complicated, but I was lucky I live in the dormitory, and we can divide the cost between multiple people since we share the same address.

Mistake 5: Overestimating my Independence

I am the kind of person, who always thinks they are the strongest and life changes don’t affect them that much. But only now, a year into my journey, have I started to realize just how big of a change moving abroad and being completely on your own is. A reminder for every overachiever out there, it is ok to need some time off for yourself. It is ok to need emotional support. By the way, some universities provide psychological help to students for free, so check that out! And that is why communities like DEGIS can be a way to help. You can connect with other internationals who experience the same struggles as you do, which leaves you feeling less alone.

I am sure that in a year from now, I will have more mistakes I am currently making! But for now, I really hope this list helps. I talk more about my experiences studying in Germany on my socials, so feel free to follow and learn with me.

Tonya is an international student and influencer from Belarus. She moved to Germany to pursue a higher education, the experience of which she talks about on her Instagram channel @gravity_tonya

Favorites Living in Germany Visa

Extending your Residence Permit

by Anurag Bhattacharjee

Let’s begin with the obvious. The application to extend your residence permit needs to be submitted before your visa expires. Ideally, the required documents are sent to the Ausländerbehörde (eng. “Foreigner’s Office”) about a month before expiration. Here you can find a list of the documents you will need to send in: 

  1. Existing Visa Stamp Page
  2. One Biometric Photo (detailed requirements here)
  3. Blocked Account Confirmation or Declaration Page for one year
  4. Proof of City Registration (Anmeldung)
  5. University Enrollment Document
  6. Course History Certificate (only applicable in some cases)
  7. Correctly Completed Application for Extension of Residence Permit
  8. Passport Front & Back Pages Signed Copy
  9. Rental Contract (needs to show signature of all parties)
  10. Health Insurance Certificate (needs to show insurance starting date and social security number)

After sending these documents to the respective city’s Ausländerbehörde, one can expect a response within 7-15 working days depending upon the city’s population and whether any documents are still missing. After successful verification of all documents, the Ausländerbehörde will schedule you in for an appointment in their office. There they will record your biometrics, signature and verify your passport. You will also need these following things for the appointment: 

  1. Email with Appointment Confirmation
  2. Passport
  3. One Biometric Picture
  4. Cash or Giro Card

After your appointment, you’ll receive letters from the city’s Ausländerbehörde within a few weeks. These letters will provide details about when to collect your residence permit card and include a virtual residence permit letter with two confidential pin-codes. Be sure to treat the virtual residence permit letter with extreme caution, as it’s highly confidential. In the meantime, your appointment letter for residence permit card collection serves as a temporary permit to stay in Germany if your visa has expired.

On the day of your card collection appointment, visit the Ausländerbehörde at the scheduled time with your passport and the appointment letter. Authorized officials will verify the letter, process your original passport, and request some declarations. Once this is complete, they will issue your new residence permit card, along with declaration letters in case of card loss, and associated work permit letters.

It’s a bit of a lengthy and slightly complicated process but once it’s done, you’re once again set and ready to enjoy your time in Germany!

Anurag Bhattacharjee (he/him) is a Master’s student at Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg. He was the City Chapter president at DEGIS Magdeburg and is a DEGIS alumnus. 

Favorites Living in Germany

5 Tips for Apartment Hunting

by Dhritishman Hazarika

I decided to write about my experience and provide you with the secret tips and tricks so that you don’t have to experience the troubles I went through. Consider this article as the holy grail of finding accommodation as an international student in Germany. 

1. Register at Student Dorms

To get a student dorm, you have to register before your first semester. They are very popular and therefore it is wise to apply about six to seven months prior. So, as soon as you get your acceptance letter from your University, start applying to these dorms directly. Mail your University or StudierendenWerk regarding the contacts that you should refer to for accommodation. It is a general notion that as soon as you get your University acceptance letter, you start your visa application process. 

2. Check Online Services

There are various online services for finding an apartment, some examples include Immoscout24, WG-gesucht, Immowelt and Kleinanzeigen. Check out the pages and choose a couple apartments that are interesting to you. Then follow these Do-s and Don’t-s: 

  • read AD carefully
  • write a detailed introduction 
  • optional: add pictures
  • activate email alerts
  • reach out to many landlords
  • check the place before signing the contract
  •  do not pay or sign anything up front 
  • do not offer to pay more 
  • do not give up 
  • apply to places without “Anmeldung”
3. Use Your Personal Networks

It may sound counterintuitive but sometimes it helps to also check pages not designated for renting. You can join Facebook or Telegram groups for internationals in Germany. In addition, let colleagues, fellow students or friends know that you are searching. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You might be surprised by the connections other people have.

Adhere to the same Do-s and Don’t-s that are mentioned above to avoid any scams. 

4. Look Up the Range of Your Semester Ticket

Check which cities and/or towns are covered by your semester ticket for free transportation. This may increase the range in which you can look for apartments. The ones closest to the university are likely going to be more pricey and harder to get. The public transportation system in Germany is rather well so there are plenty options to get where you want even if you don’t live in the city center. 

5. Know Some German

It is unfortunate but some landlords feel more comfortable if their tenant speaks German – at least to an extent. But don’t worry, if you yourself do not speak German yet, maybe you have a German friend who is willing to come to the apartment viewings with you. Alternatively, you can also approach your local DEGIS community for help. This additionally gives the impression that you’re integrated and eases potential worries your landlord might have. 

For more tips and tricks you can also check out the DEGIS Starterpack.

Much success on finding an apartment. 

Dhritishman Hazarika came to Germany from India. He is studying Particle and Astrophysics and the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. 

Favorites Living in Germany University Life

Why I Chose to Study in Germany

by Chirag N Vijay

Becoming an international student

No matter what country you are from, how good education may be in your country, a student should get an opportunity to study abroad, if not a whole degree, at least a semester or a couple of semesters. Studying abroad isn’t just about studies, it is about the entire character or personal development. It takes you outside your comfort zone, puts you in an alien country where everything must be started from scratch. It makes one realize the importance of networks, friendships, relationships and teaches a great deal about life.

Deciding on where to study

I was in the same dilemma a couple of years back: I had my mind set on pursuing a Master’s degree abroad right after my bachelor way back in my penultimate year of Bachelors’. But the conundrum was where to go. There were numerous options to choose from – UK, USA, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Singapore, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, and so on.

My first filtering was major and relevance of major, and since my major was Computer Science, I was left with UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

My second pruning was based on a personal preference, since I lived my entire life in a tropical hot country, I was leaning towards going to a cold country, and based on that my new pruned list of options was UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Canada.

Then based on the current affairs (Brexit), I further pruned it to USA, Germany, Switzerland, Canada. The next filter was the Return of Investment and travel and based on that it was either Germany or Switzerland. I finally chose Germany as it was one of the leading countries in the field of engineering and technology and the importance is given to research and being in the heart of Europe, also it provides an option of traveling to the nearby European countries during the holidays.

Reasons I chose Germany to study


You might not become a millionaire the moment you finish your studies or 2-3 years down the line and though you might not mint money (as in the USA or Canada), Germany offers a good balance be it Work-Life-Balance or Study-Leisure-Balance. After coming here, I found out that I’m getting ample free time here whereas it was an unattainable luxury back in my home country. It allows a person to spend time on their hobbies and other interests. So, if you prefer experiencing some balance during your stay abroad, Germany is your best choice.

Power & Safety

Germany is one of the largest countries in the European Union and leads in many fields from Automobiles to IT and Finance to Healthcare. It is a leading force in many fields and offers ample opportunities for both work and research in the latter. Apart from being one of the global leaders in various fields, it is incredibly safe. Comparatively, Germany has a low crime rate.Thievery, mugging, racial discrimination, and sexual harassment are strictly dealt with and as a result, Germany boasts of a low crime rate in almost all types of crime.

Affordable Education

One of the main criteria while choosing a place is “Money”. Luckily Germany doesn’t accede to the capitalistic prerogative of capitalizing on even the basic needs of society. Most of the public universities in Germany have no tuition fees and just have a small semester contribution. So, if you are looking for top-class education but possess a bit of a money crunch, look no further away from Germany.

Travel Opportunities

One of the biggest advantages of studying in a European country is the ability to travel across entire Europe at affordable rates. The added advantage of studying in Germany, in particular, is, given its geographical location it is closer to many top European destinations. So, studying in Germany offers a 2 in 1 package deal where a student can experience top-class education and affordable travel to other European countries.

Apart from travel, Germany has an excellent system of health insurance in place which ensures that even citizens of other countries studying here get access to the best healthcare facilities and don’t have to shell out large sums of euros for the same.


Germany essentially is a very liberal and welcoming country with diversity in all areas be it ethnicity, language, race, or sexuality. It is a very open secular country that treats everyone equally regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality.

Low Cost Of Living

Compared to the other major study abroad destinations in and around Europe, Germany has one of the most affordable costs of living making it the icing on the cake for students who are planning on coming to Germany for their higher studies. Apart from it, Germany has robust public transportation systems in place and students can use it for commuting with their respective student identity cards.

Scholarships & Part-Time Work

Germany offers a lot of scholarships to meritorious international students to help them financially manage their studies or their stay in Germany. They are offered both by private institutions and the state government.

The German Student visa allows a student to work for 240 half days or 120 full days in a year to sustain themselves financially or to earn a few extra bucks on the side. It helps the students to gain some work experience before they graduate and enter the job market.

Some of the common jobs are tutors, bartenders, werkstudents, interns, research assistants, and administrative staff at universities.

Culture & Language

Germany possesses a very rich diverse culture and has been home to many famous writers, artists, scientists over the years and a lot of ground-breaking scientific research has taken place here, so studying here allows students to witness and visit the old knowledge-rich museums and learn a great deal about German culture. Apart from that, it allows students to learn a new language (German) which is one of the most spoken languages in today’s world.

Career Opportunities & Work

German companies across many fields (fashion, automobile. IT, or finance) employ a lot of international graduates. There are immense career opportunities for international students when they graduate from their respective programs. There’s also a provision wherein students can apply for an extension of their residence permit (18 months) for seeking a job after they have completed their degree.

These are just some of the reasons I felt which might help decide why to study in Germany, there are a lot of reasons apart from this and it varies from student to student as almost everyone has unique and different expectations.

It’s my 4th month as an international student in Germany and I’m loving every bit of it, so personally, I would recommend you strongly consider studying in Germany!

Chirag N. Vijay is from India and studies Computer Science in a Master’s degree program at Passau University. He particularly focuses on Deep Learning, Autonomous Systems, Intelligent Systems, and Internet of Things.