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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

Finances University Life

Scholarships 101 for Internationals

by Chirag N. Vijay

Scholarships are one of the most popular ways for international students to finance their studies – whether it be tuition fees or living expenses. Several scholarships are offered by private organizations and state governments for international students to sustain themselves. Here are the most popular ones. 

Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst is a joint organization of Germany’s higher education institutions, responsible for promoting international academic relations. They focus on the exchange of students, academics, researchers and offer scholarships to foreign students, graduate and doctoral students, and scientists in Germany.

The DAAD scholarships are awarded to students who want to get a qualification in a full-time course of study. 

  • Completed Bachelor’s degree not older than 6 years
  • 2 years of work experience in respective field
Monthly Stipend
  • Postgraduate: 850€
  • Doctoral Students: 1.200€

The DAAD further offers a scholarship finder that may be useful for you. Be sure to check it out. 

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung awards around 1,200 scholarships a year to students across all levels (undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral) belonging to various countries.

  • Enrolled at state recognized universities in Germany
  • Excellent academic records
  • Politically and socially active with a special interest in sustainability, ecology, human rights and justice.
  • Level B2 German language skills
Monthly Stipend


  • Postgraduate: 949€
  • Doctoral Students: 1350€ + 100€ (for travel costs)

Non-EU Students:

  • Postgraduate: 850€ + individual allowances
  • Doctoral students – 1200€ + 100€ (for travel costs)

The scholarships are awarded for the period of study with an extension of one semester for postgraduate students and for two years with an allowed extension of two semesters for doctoral students.

This scholarship program aims to promote foreign students and doctoral candidates who have completed their undergraduate studies in their home country. It, therefore, is available for students wanting to complete a postgraduate, doctorate, or research program. 

Priority is given to students of Ph.D. candidates from so-called “developing countries” or countries that are going through a political transformation.

  • Completed Bachelor’s degree
  • Above average academic achievements
  • Level B2 German language skills
Monthly Stipend
  • Postgraduate: 850€ for two years
  • Doctoral Students: 1100€ for three years

The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung further reimburses up 500€ a semester for tuition fees for scholarship recipients. 

Foreign students can apply for funding for study programs or for the main study stage of state examinations. The minimum sponsorship period for funding is two semesters. Extensions up to the completion of studies can be granted on an application basis.

  • Completed Bachelor’s degree
  • Above average academic achievements
  • Level B2 German language skills
  • Social commitment and liberal engagement
Monthly Stipend
  • 850€

This scholarship is made possible through a public-private collaboration where businesses, foundations sponsor students with a sum of 150€ per month while the Federal Government adds another 150€ to that amount. As the scholarship is awarded by participating universities, they also set the requirements for applicants.

  • check participating university
  • Academic excellence
Monthly Stipend
  • 300€ for at least two semesters

After two semesters, the university reviews if the student still meets the scholarship criteria and may extend the funding. 

In conclusion, good German language skills and good academic performance are a must to apply to most scholarships. Because some scholarships may even require the students to have specific political leanings, the choice of scholarship is completely dependent on the particular student.

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.