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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

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