The next year abroad is sure to be the highlight of your academic career so far. It will be filled with wonderful new places, people and experiences. Whether you are in the Beginner/Intermediate program or the Advanced program, the information can help with some of the little detail that will make your trip run a little smoother.
As a leading industrial nation of Western Europe, Germany is in many ways similar to the United States. Little differences, such as the lack of drinking fountains and the fact that stores are closed on Sundays, may seem inconvenient and maybe even ridiculous compared with American standards, but just remember that you are a GUEST in a foreign country and YOU have to adjust to the country, not the country to you. And after awhile it is normal.
It is very likely that you will be recognized as an American. Accepting this will help you adjust to life in Germany. Although tourists manage quite well by speaking English, students will have better luck in making contact with their German counterparts if they try to express themselves in German. Germans, as well as others, will respect you more and will tend to be more willing to associate with you when you try to speak German. Many Germans, especially students, speak English and conversations may quickly turn to it. They often want to practice their English. American accents in German are very easily picked out. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Also, don't allow yourself to be intimidated, Germans are generally patient and don't mind helping out once they realize you are serious about learning the language. Don't be discouraged, be persistent and always try to reply in German, even when they reply to you in English. Many American students choose to spend most of their time with other Americans, and speak English almost exclusively. Uncomfortable though it may be at first, the only way to develop your German speaking skills is to interact with Germans. This is the only way to gain fluency in the language.
Some words of advice: you must submerge yourself in the culture to experience Germany! Never stop trying to get to know the Germans around you. You must spend extended time with Germans in a variety of German settings. For example, if you attend church at home, continue going to church in Germany. Whatever outings you choose to participate in, do not give up. Remember that it takes time to meet people and adjust to the language. Don't make your goal trying to see 3 different countries every weekend, rather try to experience the culture of the country you're in, exploring Germany. A fast, easy, and fun way to improve your German is to get involved in sports or clubs. Whether your interests lie in sports or religion, most likely there will be an organization for you on campus or in the city. Talk to your roommates. They will usually help you find a sport or club that interests you.
Baden-Württemberg is a state in southwestern Germany. It is one of the wealthier German states with companies like Daimler Chrysler, Porsche, and Bosch calling it their home. Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, is full of theaters, operas, and excellent shopping. All of the cities and schools described below are in Baden-Württemberg. There is a thick Swabian dialect/accent spoken. Understanding may be difficult; but most people also speak "high" German as well. Don't give up, lots of others have succeeded.
There are three types of universities in Germany: the traditional university, the Fachhochschule, and the Berufsakademie. The traditional university offers a wide variety of majors and only accepts students who have graduated from a Gymnasium. Fachhochschule and Berufsakademie are more specialized and focus on fields such as Business, Engineering or Architecture.
Be aware, that as of 2000-2001, almost all study abroad students will enroll at Tübingen for the fall semester. Only those students who are proficient in German and are familiar with the university system are able to immediately attend universities at other locations. However, some IP students in Tübingen do go on to another university or Fachhochschule in the second semester.
Heidelberg is a mid-sized city about 45 minutes south of Frankfurt and about an hour and a half north of Stuttgart. The city is very charming and historic, having remained relatively unscathed from the destruction of World War II. The University is not in just one location, instead it is spread throughout the city. The bridge, castle, and Altstadt make Heidelberg a very popular stop for tourists.
Mosbach is a nice little town. Mosbach has 4 pubs, 6 restaurants, 1 club, but no movie theatre. It's a small town and everything is within walking distance. Since Mosbach is not a very international town, due to its size, be prepared to be treated like a foreigner. This is a unique experience that other IP students won't have if they are living in bigger cities in Germany. You can travel to nearby cities easily by train. Most German students leave to go home for the weekends.
Buy a, "Semesterpaß" in Mosbach upon arrival (valid October-March). You can travel to Heidelberg or Heilbronn with this pass. (It takes about 40 minutes to get from Heidelberg to Mosbach.)
Reutlingen is located about 25 minutes southwest of Stuttgart by car. Although Reutlingen and Tübingen are comparable in size, Reutlingen has much more industry. Bosch is a well-known presence in Reutlingen. Reutlingen's European Business School is the best in Europe, but as an IP student you only have access to the International business school, which is also good and is on the same campus.
Stuttgart is a modern city in the south of Germany, and the capital of Baden-Württemberg. There are three institutions of higher education open to CSU students within the city, the Universität Stuttgart, the Berufsakademie Stuttgart and the Fachhoschschule für Druck und Medien Stuttgart. Travel within the city is easy thanks to the subway and trolleys. Stuttgart has all the luxuries of a big city while holding on to its charm. Plays, musicals and large movie theaters are abundant. Stuttgart also has the best deals and selection when it comes to shopping.
The University Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, is located in Trossingen. The city itself is in Southwest Germany, 12 km from Villingen-Schwenningen, and about 20 km from Rottweil. Trossingen is a small city, with everything located within walking distance. The university is for dedicated music students, giving the opportunity to focus on music within small classes and individual instruction. This however, is not a city with great nightlife, and many of the students go home on weekends, leaving the town somewhat empty. Stuttgart is about two hours away by train. There are also many other great cities of interest nearby. It's a good idea to buy a "Bahncard" for about 100 Euro. This will give you half price on rail fare for the whole country.
Tübingen is a typical University city. It was not bombed during WWII, so the old city is still fairly preserved. There are 85,000 people in Tübingen, of which 20,000 are students. Tübingen is about an hour train ride from Stuttgart and a 10 minute train ride from Reutlingen. It is right on the Neckar River, and you can generally walk everywhere. Along the banks of the Neckar River, in the middle of town, you'll find a wonderful spot for strolling and relaxing. The University is throughout the city, as are the students. The dorms were a little farther from the city, but the views of the city are great and the buses run often. Tübingen's Altstadt is full of cafes and small shops. There is a very active nightlife in the city and plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet Germans and other foreign students. Tübingen is also a city with plenty of bikes and buses.
Furtwangen and Villingen-Schwenningen
The Fachhochschule Furtwangen is located in the Black Forest in southern Germany. It snows in the winter (you'll need a thick winter coat and umbrella) and is comfortable in the summer. The school is situated both in the town of Furtwangen as well as in the town of Villingen-Schwenningen. The International Business department of the Fachhochschule Furtwangen is in Schwenningen. Villingen-Schwenningen are sister cities, about 15 minutes from each other, each consisting of populations around 40,000. The major city to visit in the south is Freiburg. Tübingen is about 2 hours by train.
Konstanz is a beautiful city and the biggest on the lake. Niederburg, the oldest part of Konstanz, is the most active place to be when the weather starts to warm up. There are a couple of theaters, wine bars, and jazz bars; several of which cater to the student population with carious methods such as deals on alcohol and two for one burger deals, etc. Konstanz does not have the hustle and bustle of a huge city, but nevertheless is quite charming. It offers a variety of activities for students to engage in.
Arrival, Orientation and Preparatory Language Program (PLP) (Top)
Beginning, Intermediate and Music
Upon arrival you will attend a three day orientation in Tübingen before going on to Horb for the Preparatory Language Program (PLP). The hostel that you will stay at is clean and comfortable, so don't be afraid. The staff will greet you at the door and everyone is extremely helpful and nice. All of the paperwork that you will need to fill out for residency, the bank, and insurance is organized for you, and they even show you where to sign. During the orientation, you will also be given information about traveling, and how the bus and train systems operate. The three days spent in Tübingen will go by quickly. The IP program will arrange a city tour and other activities for you. In the evening you will have plenty of free time to hang out downtown, go to the beer garden and get to know the other participants in the IP program.
The PLP takes place in Horb. Horb is a quaint little town southwest of Tübingen, known as the "gateway to the Black Forest." When you first arrive in Horb you will be taken to the Language Institute. You will be given a brief overview of your time in Horb, and then you will be able to meet your host family.
The IP group is divided into three groups, based on the results of the placement test that you take on the first day of the PLP. These are grammar based classes, which will help prepare you for your stay in Germany. The Language Institute arranges weekly field trips to places throughout Baden-Württemberg. The cost of these fields trips in included in the price you have already paid to attend the Institute, so you might as well take advantage of them. During your time in Horb you will most definitely want to go out, but keep in mind it is a very small town. There are plenty of places to go; you just have to know where to find them. Occasionally, you will be able to find live music, or a special event in Horb or in a near by town. Bus transportation is limited, especially in the evening, no buses after 6:00 p.m.; however, there is a night taxi that you can take at a discounted student fare.
From Frankfurt the train takes about one hour, involves changing trains either at the main station in Frankfurt or in Mannheim, and costs between euro 15 and euro 22 one way. As an alternative to the train, it is possible, and often more convenient, to take the Lufthansa Airport Bus from Frankfurt airport to Heidelberg. A ticket costs about euro 20. The bus schedule is available on: http://www.frankfurt-airport.de/en/travel_planner/arrive_depart/bus/airline_shuttle.html.
Once in Heidelberg, you can proceed to the university either by taxi or by bus. The taxi stand is in front of the main station exit of the train station. You should ask to go to Universitätsplatz. It is also fairly convenient to get into the city by bus. The bus stop is in front of the North exit. Further information on transportation to and around Heidelberg as well as on the city itself is available on: http:www.cvb-heidelberg.de/english/index.html.
In the arrival Hall of Stuttgart Airport you will see the sign directing you to the S-Bahn. It is a white S on a green background. Take S-Bahn S2 or S3, get off at the stop marked Hautpbahnhof. Take the exit Kronengasse. It is a five minute walk to the Office of International Affairs, Geschwister-Scholl-Str. No 24.
Tübingen/Trossingen (report to Tübingen upon arrival)
The nearest international Airport is Stuttgart. From the airport take bus number 828, which leaves once every hour (Monday-Friday) from the bus stop in front of gate 2 of the airport. The bus will take you to the main bus and train station in Tübingen. If you fly into the Frankfurt airport, the best way to travel to Tübingen is by train. Follow the sign with the DB (Deutsche Bahn) or ask for information at the Reisezentrum. You have to change trains in Stuttgart. The University of Tübingen is in walking distance of the Hauptbahnhof (train station).
You will complete your PLP at the University of Heidelberg so follow the arrival instructions for the Heidelberg students.
From Frankfurt the train takes about two hours and involves changing trains at either Frankfurt main station, Mannheim or Heidelberg. It costs between 20 and 30 euros one way. Once arriving at Mosbach main station you can easily walk through the small square in town to the Berufsakademie. It is too short of a distance to take a Bus or Taxi unless you have lots of heavy luggage. It is most likely that someone from the Berufsakademie will meet you at the station. The address of the Berufsakademie is Lohrtalweg 10.
During your language program, which takes place in Heidelberg, you will travel to Mosbach for a one day orientation on the town, the school, and setting up various accounts etc. You will receive information in the mail detailing everything you must bring to Mosbach with you to complete the orientation from Daniela Englisch or Ivonne Zilling (IP Coordinators for Mosbach).
The program starts out with a Preparatory Language Program (PLP) in Heidelberg, which consists of 4 weeks of intensive German. Heidelberg is a beautiful and enchanting city with lots of half-timbered houses. The historical ruins of a castle overlooking the city are just marvelous. Classes take place in a university building near the old town of Heidelberg. Your classmates will be international students from all over the world (20 students). Heidelberg is an international city and it is very easy to get around town. It's best to check into public transportation and to purchase a one-month bus pass upon arrival.
Academic Life (Top)
Classes in Tübingen are pre-selected for beginning IP participants. The courses are geared towards the students and the professors are great. One course in particular, Intercultural Communication, examines the differences between German and American culture. The other classes consist of grammar, geography, history, literature, and film. Beginning students attend classes with the other IP participants, which can make it more difficult to meet German students on campus. In addition, it is a challenge to not speak English with the other IP students. Nevertheless, there are many opportunities available to international students to improve upon their German. Through out the semester, students are required to attend intensive language training courses. It is easy to arrange tutorials with German students for help with the language. Students can also sign up for a German mentor, who will show their mentee the ropes of student life in Germany. In addition, there is also a “Tandem” program, which is a language exchange between German students and foreign students. All of these programs are a great way to meet new people.
Advanced students attend courses developed specifically for international students. The students in these classes come from all over the world, which creates a fun atmosphere. The selection of courses is broad and all of the professors are extremely helpful. In addition, advanced students must also attend courses with German students. Within these courses, the level of instruction is considerably high and the academic language is a challenge to understand. Most professors will be more lenient with international students, as long as they talk to them at the beginning of the semester.
The biggest difference between the educational system in California and the system in Germany is the method of instruction. IP students are required to attend a lecture with German students in order to give them a better idea of what to expect in a German university class. The classes consisted of lectures given by the professor and did not incorporate any class discussions. During the lectures, students would listen and take notes. In some lectures, no interaction at all takes place between the professor and the students. German students are expected to work more independently. They are given a list of books and journals which give them the necessary information for the class. It is up to them to complete the reading and the general requirements for their courses. No one is there to tell them how much to read or what is important in the text. That is a choice that students must make for themselves. Most courses meet once a week and last two to three hours, as opposed to being split up among the week. Professors tend to not assign so much homework. Instead, there is usually one final test at the end of the semester, which their whole grade depends on. Therefore, students study through out the semester and during vacations as well, in order to prepare themselves for this large exam. At the end of the semester, students will take this exam and/or write a paper of about 10-15 pages. Though German students are required to attend many lectures, there are also other types of courses available at the university. There are tutorials, labs, and seminars which are more interactive and incorporate similar teaching methods that one would see in America.
The libraries close earlier than American university libraries, but usually offer a good selection of books in English. Free computer labs are also available, but there are not as many computers and printing capabilities are limited. Membership to the Trossingen Stadtbücheri (Library) is free if you are a student at the Musikhochschule.
The D.A.I. (German and American Institute) in Tübingen also offers an English library and is free to all members of the D.A.I.
The Berufsakademie Mosbach
The program starts in Mosbach on October 1. It is not necessary to register at the Berufsakademie since you are automatically registered through the program. You will no longer have German language courses through the program. From now on, you will have to take it upon yourself to learn German.
The schedule at the Berufsakademie is very intense. You will not have much free time and you will have to structure your day carefully. The Berufsakademie will assign a mentor to you. Make use of having a mentor. He/she can be very helpful with everyday issues and also academic questions.
At the end of the program you will receive a diploma and (optional) an International Bachelor's Degree, which costs Euro 160. It is definitely worth it for your further study to invest the money for the International BA degree.
The instructors at the University are very friendly, helpful and understanding. As long as you communicate with them, you will not have any problems.
The most usual form of housing is a coed floor from 4 to 15 people who share a unisex bathroom, a common kitchen and a small living room space. There is cupboard space for each student, as well as room in the refrigerator. (The refrigerators are a lot smaller than what you may be used to, as Germans usually do their shopping on a daily basis.) The household goods, dishware, spoons and other cooking utensils are usually provided and free to use. The floor usually holds a meeting at the beginning of the semester to decide on chores, the daily newspaper, and the deposit for various household items. Usually you share a phone with the students on your floor. You can also have a phone installed in your own room. The installation will cost you about 50€ plus about 15€ monthly service fees to the phone company. The kitchens are usually well supplied, but if you want to make recipes from home, bring a conversion table and non-metric measuring cups. Bedding usually is provided in the dorms. If you prefer to have your own bedding, you may purchase it here. Sheets and towels are not provided, you might want to bring some along or save the space in your luggage and buy some here. Summer Sales will be in full swing, when you arrive and it will be easy and cheap to buy bedding and towels in whatever city you choose. Bring converters for your computer or other electronic goodies.
You may think about living in an apartment, though most international students choose the dorms. The benefits of living in an apartment complex would be the greater opportunity to meet German students. Apartments are more expensive and farther from the Universities. The University dorms house more international students but aren't as likely to be as comfortable as an apartment. Students should note that the OIP office usually prearranges housing in one of the many dorms. If you choose to arrange an apartment later, you must first give six weeks notice to the end of the month, to the Student Housing Administration.
Most of the rooms available to IP students are small, with free Internet, and anywhere from 7 to 20 people per floor. Every room comes equipped with a bed, a desk, drawers, a closet, and a sink. There are many shared bathrooms on each floor. If you have chosen to live in Waldhauser Ost in one of the lowrise buildings, you will have your own bathroom inside your room. Each floor has a kitchen for everyone to use, and you will be provided with a cupboard. The kitchens are well stocked, so don't worry about needing to provide all of your own pots and pans. Anything that you may need for your room, bathroom, or kitchen, can easily be purchased at the nearby IKEA. There is a washer and dryer in practically every building. It is 1 euro to wash clothes and 1 euro to dry. At first, figuring out the laundry will without a doubt be tricky, but it does get better. One nice thing about living in the dorm, is that you will be placed with many German as well as other International students. The dorm is a great place to practice your German. No matter which dorm you chose to live in, there will be a mini shopping center, a post office, a bank, and a few other stores close by. Another advantage to living in the dorms is the frequency at which the buses run. Your wait for a bus will never be too long, and there are special night buses for Thursday through Saturday nights. Most of the dorms in Tübingen do not provide a phone on each hall. If you would like to have a land line, it is best to get it installed in your room. It is approximately 60 euros for installation, and the 20 euros per month, in addition to the price of the calls you make.
Many international students lived in the hospital dormitory or the local hospital. Other students there are nursing students from the hospital. It is a very sterile and quiet place. There are no computers at the dorm, a laptop might be very helpful to bring along. You can also find private accommodation, which many students preferred. If you want to do this, contact the International Office at Mosbach while you are still in Heidelberg. Housing costs range from US 175 per month for a basic dorm style room to US 400 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Accommodations range from apartments to houses to dorm style rooms. You will receive a questionnaire in the mail asking you about your housing preferences. Costs range from US$160 per month for a basic dorm style room to US$425 for a one bedroom apartment.
It is possible to find accommodation on your own, however, it requires persistence and patience. Many landlords do not like to lease to students for such short periods of time. It is best to talk to other students once you are there to find out more about independent housing if that is what you want.
Housing was found for me through IP, so that when I arrived, I was greeted by an IP Counselor and taken to my apartment. I live in the student housing on campus. My first surprise was that I had my own room. I thought I would have a roommate. My second surprise was that the entire building is filled with other exchange students, with the exception of a couple of German students. The bad side to this is that the quality of spoken German in these buildings is low. I have never been in dorms in the U.S., so I can't compare the living situation, but I think it is pretty good here. There are a few minor things that bother me, but there aren't any real problems.
The dormitory in Möhringen-Stuttgart is brand new. The modernistic architecture is quite unique, and allows students to live in a new, clean and safe environment. The rooms are single and comfortable; six people share one decent sized kitchen with two bathrooms and two toilets. Cleaning organization is based on the people living in the apartment, but certain standards must be achieved, since once a week the apartment gets checked by the Housemaster. Keep in mind that the Hausmaster has the key to our dorms and would come whenever he wanted, however, he wasn't allowed to enter our rooms. Other than that the accommodation is excellent.
Unlike apartment life, you may never get the chance to screen your roommates, or even be notified who they are or when they'll move in or out, so be assertive and introduce yourself. Be sure if there is a Putzplan, or cleaning schedule, that you do your chores and politely require others do theirs – this is the only way your apartment will stay clean. As a general rule, Germans do not expect to be great friends with their flatmates in a dormitory. Other exchange students may have entirely different cultural expectations, and a respectful conversation will often be the door to a new friendship and a learning experience.
Although some fellow students managed to find off-campus apartments, the housing market in Stuttgart makes it very difficult to find a reasonably priced apartment anywhere near the universities.
The Studentinwohnheim is the cheapest living in Trossingen, but it's a 20 minute walk from school. Other housing in Trossingen ranges from about 150€ to 400€.
Rent: 133€ (A two-room apartment with a very small kitchen and bathroom. No common space for my roommate and me. He occupied one room, and I occupied the other.
Total rent per month = 266€.
GEZ (AKA "Rundfunkman") Radio = 10€
Food: 150€ + (Yes, eating at at restaurants is more expensive.)
Transportation: 100€ (14€ rountrip to Horb) Bahncard for $79 gave a 50% discount on every trip inside of Germany.
I resided in Europahaus, which is one of several student-housing options available in Konstanz. I liked it a lot. There were two different choices - a two-bedroom apartment of a four-bedroom apartment.
Money and Banking (Top)
It is mandatory to have a bank account while in Germany to pay rent, as the Studentenwerk, and almost all private landlords prefer a direct transfer every month (Uberweisung). The IP coordinators will most likely assist you in setting up an account in Germany with the Kreisparkasse Bank. A student account is free, but it is no frills - just checking and an EC (ATM) card.
Baden-Württemberg is the most popular bank among students, as you can find one in almost any town. This makes traveling easy. The big firms like Deutsche Bank and Dresden Bank offer all the same services.
It is advised to have access to an account at home, as well as opening up a German banking account to be able to deposit money in and pay the bills from. A parent/relative can make a deposit into your account at home. You can make withdrawals from anywhere in Europe; keep in mind, that the fees from your US bank can vary between $1 and $4.00 per month (i.e. Wells Fargo charges $2 per withdrawal, Bank of America $3 per withdrawal)--plus exchange rate fee of about 3% of your total withdrawal. You may want to consider putting parents on your account so they can fix anything that might come up while abroad.
If you have a VISA debit card; you can withdraw money automatically from an ATM and then deposit cash into your German account- avoiding the wait of cashing checks. Make sure your PIN # is 4 digits. Interestingly, German bank ATM's (Geldautomats) do not give a receipt after transactions. There is usually another machine located near the Geldautomats specifically for printing account statements. For someone who never balances their checkbook and forgets stuff often, I found the German system a bit frustrating because the postings of Geldautomats withdrawals can sometimes take a few days, especially if it is a transaction between partner banks, like Postbank and Dresdner Bank. Keep in mind too, that if you do not pick up a copy of your statement for a certain period of time, usually 30 or 90 days , it will be mailed to you, with the postage paid from your account.
Some students suggest taking along $1,500 in cash and traveler's checks, while others say it depends completely on the individual and just plan on bringing as much as possible. Traveler checks are good-cashed at any bank and helpful in the first few weeks/months when purchasing new items for your room and for travel. Keep in mind, that when you change your traveler's checks at a German bank they usually charge a 10% service fee on the exchanged amount based on the value in Euro. It is important to know that it might take a German bank up to three weeks to cash a regular check from the States, but this is not usual. Normally at Kreissparkasse it takes about 4-5 days for a private check to clear from the States. Most of the time using your ATM card is cheaper than Traveler's checks.
Mosbach: Best to bring enough money for the first four weeks in Heidelberg. It is not recommended to set up a bank account in Heidelberg since you would need to transfer your account to Mosbach, which is a big hassle.
Stuttgart: The IP counselor that greeted me on my day of arrival also helped me set up a bank account on my first day. I use the ATM's to get my money just like in the States.
The University of Stuttgart's International Center (IZ) offers a Buddy service, which is free. Although the quality varies depending on the buddy, I found the service to be invaluable. My Paten (Buddy) picked me up from the airport, helped me move in to the dorm, open a bank account, and register at the city offices as a resident, all of which must be done within the first few days after arrival.
Trossingen: There are 2 banks in Trossingen, which are branches of larger banks which are found all over Germany, like Kreissparkasse and Volksbank. Germans do not use checks! You will not be opening up a "checking account." When signing up for services (rent, utilities, insurance, etc.) you will be given a contract, entitling the company or your landlord to take money out of your bank account every month. (überweisung)
There is a Citibank in Tübingen. Those students who hold accounts with them are advised to check with their local branch in the States and inquire about transferring account information to this branch. Also, those students who hold a Citibank VISA or MasterCard are advised to use this bank when making cash advances as there is no fee. You can also make cash advances at the central Kreissparkasse branch in Tübingen located on Wilhelmstrasse. Opening an account in California prior to coming to Germany is advisable, parents can deposit loan checks directly into the account with having to wait and withdrawing money is free.
The total estimated cost are around 600€ a month. This budget includes enough money for housing, food, health, daily expenses (clothing, books, transportation, miscellaneous). THIS IS RATHER CONSERVATIVE - do not plan on spending less than this, and this does not include extracurricular activities or travels. Plan on setting aside at least $1,500 - $2,000 for travel during the Christmas and semester break.
Internet access is pretty good. Dorm rooms are equipped with high speed Internet access, for those students who have their own computers. For students without, Internet access is easily available on campus six days a week.
Trossingen is not "high tech." There are 8 computers with high speed Internet. The public library also has two computers that can be reserved if you have a library membership. Messner Mode, a clothing store in Trossingen, has an "Internet café" with two computers.
Most of the dorms in Tübingen come equipped with Internet access. Use of the Internet is free of charge. If you already own a computer, it is a good idea to bring it with you. The Internet is a quick and cheap way to keep in touch with family and friends at home. If you do not have a computer, it is not necessary to go purchase one. There are different university locations at which you will be able to use computers with no cost to you.
Telephone/Cell Phones (Top)
Sometimes using a "Handy" is cheaper than having the phone company set up a telephone in your residence.
There are 2 different kinds of cell phone services one can buy: a contract deal, or using prepaid cards.
Text messaging (SMS) in Germany is much cheaper than in the USA. Use SMS instead of calling if you have a prepaid Handy, it will save you lots of money. Calling with a cell phone is still quite expensive.
I have no cell phone, but I do have a land line. I have a good rate to the USA. Simply tell the phone company you would like a good rate. The minimum monthly rate will be slightly higher, but the rate is only 4 cents per minute.
Germany's weather ranges from cold and snowy winters to hot and humid summers. Baden-Wüttemburg has mild winters by European standards, but that's harsh by Southern California standards. Tübingen reaches 0 Celsius normally, sometimes -5 Celsius in January. Due to this wide range of temperatures, a versatile wardrobe is a must. Bring some warm clothes. A warm winter jacket is a must. Hats, gloves, and scarves are a good idea. Bring clothes that can be worn in different combinations, and that can easily be layered. Try and bring at least one dressy outfit for special events. Long underwear is a must for wearing under jeans in winter.
You definitely will need to buy a portion of your clothing here, but be aware that prices are generally higher than in the United States, and the price of jeans can be simply outrageous. Your normal campus clothes will fit in here, but by buying in Europe you will be able to dress more "European", and thus blend in better. Dressing European is not a must; it is simply a matter of choice. Make sure to bring comfortable rainproof shoes, you will be doing a lot of walking. Girls...cute shoes are hard to come by, so make sure to pack that favorite pair! If you do find cute shoes, they are generally rather expensive.
Tübingen has a few edgy clothing stores offering the latest in European fashion, like Risiko on Haagasse. Reutlingen is a 15 minute train ride away, which is free when you have the semester ticket. In Reutlingen, you can find all department stores like H+M, C+A, NewYorker, Haux, etc. The best place to buy clothes, though, is Stuttgart (Konigstrasse). But don't forget - as the Euro continues to gain on the Dollar every day, shopping here in Europe gets more and more expensive.
For those who enjoy winter sports like skiing and snow boarding, you might want to bring your clothing along. Austria, France and Switzerland are within a couple of hours and very tempting for those long winter months. Equipment is easily rented.
Traveling in the Rest of Europe (Top)
Traveling is a huge part of your experience. Take advantage of it! Traveling gives you a different perspective on things, and lets face it...it's tons of fun! School will need to come first during the semester, but you will have lots of time to travel on the weekends and during the semester break. Considering that Germany has nine neighbors, it is very easy to experience different cultures without traveling too far. Eastern Europe is a great place to visit, and most things are about half the cost of their Western European counterparts. The most popular and feasible means of transportation used in Europe is the rail system. The European rail system is generally very reliable and efficient.
BahnCard - This is a discount card available at any German train station, and it should be purchased before you plan to travel anywhere with the train. If you are under 26 the BahnCard will cost you around 100 Euros (it may sound expensive, but it will pay for itself in no time) and allows you a 50% reduction on all train travel within Germany for one full year. For students over 26, it will cost you 212 Euros. There is also a 25% reduction card also.
German Railpass- Students intending to travel within Germany during holiday periods might consider purchasing a German Railpass, available only in the United States, which allows unlimited travel within its validity period inside the entire German rail network. These tickets are valid on all trains, including the new, plush, speedy, super-duper Intercity Express Trains that ply their way between northern and southern Germany. The pass comes in several packages: 5 days in one month flexipass, $110; and 10 days in one month, $145. With the exorbitant pricing scheme of German trains, these passes are clearly a worthwhile expense, often even cheaper than prices available with the half-fare BahnCard.
Inter-Rail Tickets - Available at travel agencies. This allows half price train fares in the country, in which it was purchased, and free, passage in 21 other nations for two weeks or one month. Great way to see Europe during intercessions and breaks. A six-month residency is required to qualify for this discount.
Tramperpass - Available at the train station, it permits free passage throughout Germany for one month.
Transalpino Ticket - Available at travel agencies, one time ticket allows up to a 50% discount on travel to other European countries. Starting point and destination must be stated.
Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (Happy-Weekend-Ticket) - Available at the train station. It permits travel for up to 5 people on the slower trains to anywhere in Germany within a 24 hour time period. These tickets cost 27€ and are only valid Saturdays and Sundays.
Almost every major city has a bahnhof (train station), and every bahnhof has a bus station with listings of when and where one can travel. Buses are a good option for within a city, but can also be used for day trips to the next town. Just look at the schedules and plan a tip.
Europcar has weekend deals to rent a car Friday afternoon, and return it on Monday morning. If your lucky, you can get an upgrade on a new BMW 5 series, when all the cheaper cars are rented out. Nothing rivals the German autobahn in a German vehicle. Europcar is a good way to gain mobility and put together a trip to the next country. It may be a good idea to get an International Drivers Licence from AAA or State Farm. This will insure less hassle, in the case of an accident or run in with the Polizei.
Another travel possibility is through the Mitfahrzentrale (MFZ). This is simply arranged ride sharing (you go along with a driver and help pay for gas. This mode of transportation is economical, efficient, and always fun. One trip taken from Stuttgart to Bremen with someone through this website cost only 20 Euro.
Throughout Germany, there are travel agencies that specialize in last minute getaways. One is called LastMinuteUrlaub. This company offers flights and hotels to all the European hot spots like Ibiza, Canary Islands, Barcelona, Rome, Athens, and so on, just 2 or 3 days in advance. This service is a great way to put together a cheap, spontaneous and warm weekend adventure.
This next year is sure to be action packed. For those in the Beginner/Intermediate program, concentrate on the Intensive Language course. Take advantage of the travel opportunities within Germany. Germans love to travel and there are so many great places to go. Culture shock is not something to be feared. The intensity and durations completely depend on each individual. But knowing the differences and what to expect is the best preparation one can have. Dress warm and have fun.
Social Life (Top)
Germans, like everyone else, respond to friendly, unaffected, good-humored, sincere people. Although Germans and Americans have ways of life that are in some respects similar, they frequently hold different attitudes toward personal relationships. It may be helpful for you to be aware of some of the aspects of the German attitude.
Germans do not find it necessary to have large numbers of friends. Many people stay pretty much to themselves, and they are not thought odd by society as a whole. You will find, consequently, that it is not necessary to acquire a large number of friends. A German ordinarily takes his time about getting to know another person and does not issue social invitations to people whom he does not know well. True friendships are not offered lightly in Germany. Germans, as a rule, do not discuss personal matters with people whom they do not know well. Personal feelings are expressed only to the most intimate friends. An odd suggestion, perhaps, but try not to be "chummy".
You may find that introductions are made less often; young Germans do not view them as invariably necessary. Almost all German students speak to each other with "du", even if they do not know each other. However, this is not true in stores or with most instructors, so remember to still think in the "Sie" form when speaking outside of the university setting, as it can be embarrassing to you and insulting to the German recipient.
It is very easy to make friends with other international students though German students are much more difficult, even with good language skills. But I think that is determined differently with each student. Stuttgart has many fun and educational activities to offer for people who like to do things in groups or alone. Meeting the locals is generally difficult in Stuttgart compared to other German cities.
Most German students are very well informed about world affairs, and it will be worth it to keep up with world events yourself, because you will no doubt be asked for your comments about events taking place in the U.S. and Germany. They will often already have strong opinions on the subjects that you may never have heard about, and these opinions will often extend to American students as well. However, a very direct statement does not indicate that someone's mind is entirely made up – often it's the perfect opportunity to open a discussion and get to know someone.
Splitting the bill is more the rule than the exception among German students. Women and men are expected to pay their own ways. Never go on a date with an empty wallet! Opportunities to meet other students vary. A good way to meet other students is to attend university-sponsored meetings and activities. Participating in sports activities is also a good way to meet German students. It may take some time and effort to get to know them, but it's worth it.
Shopping on a Sunday is definitely out of the question, apart from a few hours in the morning at the local bakery or at a gas station in the worse case scenario. Due to the power and influence of the labor unions and the Church, German laws still strictly regulate the opening hours for stores of all kinds. Plan ahead for food needed on weekends.
Interaction with the Germans in everyday public life (e.g., waiting in line at a store) may require you to do a little adjusting to the German concept of private space and the norms of politeness. Although you may be a bit uncomfortable about getting too close to someone or being impolitely aggressive in being served, rest assured it's just the way of doing business.
Compared to the University in Tübingen, I found that the University in Konstanz was more conducive to forming friendships with fellow students because it is a campus University. However, I must acknowledge that the cultural barrier was present at both Universities. More often than not, the majority of new friendships will be with other study abroad students from the the U.S. and the rest of the world. You must be willing to make a sincere effort to learn German and socialize with Germans, if you would like to make friends with German people.
Some students in Trossingen have the "in" on gigs, ask around. Also, check the Schwarzbrett in the Hochschule for opportunities.
Most gigs don't pay much, but it's a good way to make connections and play! If your looking for something, you just might find it. Just like home, churches, bands, orchestras and choirs look for performers or "fill-ins" for concerts.
The choir performs a big concert at the beginning and end of each semester. Sometimes singers earn a little Taschengeld (maybe 15€) for singing in these concerts.
Other opportunities may present themselves: in 2002, a music director from Villingen-Schwenningen decided to put on a small opera with singers from the Hochschule. Each singer got paid a little to perform.
Bring your motes if you are a brass player, the school has some but they are not very good.
Culture Shock (Top)
It's true, Germany is a western European culture, and therefore differences are not as stark as say, those between American and Japanese culture. However, the possibility still exists for some type of culture shock. Certain differences, when added together, can create a feeling of frustration, or depression. By being aware of these differences and ones personal reaction to them, culture shock can be dealt with properly.
The German language is very direct. While English and other languages use softeners like "I think," "it might be," "perhaps," and so on, German uses strengtheners like "jawohl," "bestimmt," etc. In fact, one of the most used words in the German language is "doch," a contradictory "yes," for which English has no direct translation. This difference in communication style can cause some irritations, as one may misinterpret directness as impoliteness.
Some of one's favorite brands might not be available in Germany. Friends and family are left behind. Daily life in Germany is composed of a completely different routine. Culture Shock Germany, a book available in the United States has a wonderful description of the differences between Germany and the United States, and comprehensive reasons explaining the differences. If you have the chance, read this book before departure. But the best thing to do is have an open mind, and meet these new experiences with patience. Through time, people adapt.
Beware of the "Rundfunk" man. German TV and radio are not loaded with commercials, like in the USA, but that comes at a price. Funding for TV and radio in Germany comes from private owners of TV and radio. If you have a TV or radio in Germany, you are REQUIRED to pay a monthly fee. Yes, inspectors DO come to your house and ask you to declare your TV or radio. Refusing to declare could cause you to pay a $500 fine.
IP Staff in Tübingen
I am really glad I am doing this program instead of coming here independently. It is stressful sometimes because everything is in German and a different system. It has been awesome so far. The coordinators are REALLY good and VERY helpful. Not only did they find great places to live for all of us (with Germans!), but they also helped to fill out all the bureaucracy forms and sign up for classes. They also helped us to get involved in activities and clubs, and even find jobs! They also helped me write a German resume and corrected my email correspondence with a program I was looking into.
The IP Stuff in Tübingen is excellent.
Studying in Hohenheim
I spent the first semester of my study abroad year at the University of Tübingen. I then took the opportunity to spend my second semester at Hohenheim University located in Stuttgart.
My first recommendation for any student planning to spend their second semester at Hohenheim University is to attend the intensive German course they offer during the March break. It is a great way to meet other international students and refresh your German before attending real university classes. If you do not have the option to attend this course, know that the school itself is very small and easy to meet people. It is located outside the actual city of Stuttgart, but only takes 20 minutes by Ubahn to get there. It is a really nice, peaceful location.
Another recommendation is that a light load of coursework is the best. I thought that attending two German based courses and two for my communications major was perfect. I also had the opportunity to take a seminar class for one of my communication courses; that was very interesting and challenging. My German courses helped me to better understand the lecture I was taking weekly. I highly recommend that along with your university courses, you should take German as well.
Some disadvantages about studying outside your host university may possibly be the independence. The experience living away from other California students and your IP advisors is hard enough along with a real German university course load. You will be expected to really handle everything yourself once the school year starts after the German intensive course. Frau Renz, the advisor here, is extremely helpful and always eager to answer any questions.
-IP Student 2007-08