Alright, it’s time talk about how to organize your course load while studying abroad in Germany. It’s week 7 of my first semester here in Germany, so I’m all set now. These are 5 tips for organizing your academic timetable based on what I did AND what I wish I did.
Step 1: Decide which credits you need each semester for your study abroad semester/program
As the country of bureaucracy, everything in Germany is written down formally. This is also the case with organizing your studies, and the “modulhandbuch”, translated as “module handbook” is your best friend while you study. You can download this handbook from your university website and this will show everything you need from which courses are in a single module to in which order you should take them.
When you visit an academic coordinator to help you plan your studies, he/she will refer constantly refer back to the module handbook so it’s a good idea to take a look and understand the handbook before your appointment.
Step 2: Reach out to an academic coordinator to discuss your timetable plans.
After reading the hand book and planning your timetable, reach out to an academic coordinator to confirm that you are on track and to ask whether you’re missing anything.
Some courses in your program will be pflicht (mandatory) while others are wahlpflicht (electives). You have to make sure that you are taking the mandatory courses on time because some of these are not offered every semester. If you are not careful, you might have to study for another semester or a year to take one or to mandatory course which can be a waste of time.
Unlike in Canada (or even in China and South Korea where I studied abroad), credit systems in Germany is quite complicated in a sense that you have to combine lecture, training course, colloquium, test, etc. to get enough credits for a “module”. The Key table below is how my program breaks down each module; it’s complicated with everything from type of course to the type of examination.
This below is an example of how what a module consist of. In order to fulfill this module’s requirement, I have to take two mentioned courses in the form of language trainings, one with a final oral exam and the other one without any exams.
This below is an actual module description of Module 1 of my program. It’s really helpful in setting the expectation, showing the total workload, how frequent the module is offered, and what the content are objectives are in addition to credits system I wrote about earlier. Another thing to note is whether this module is a requirement to take any next modules in the program. For example, the module 1 is required in order to take module 13, so I better not procrastinate in fulfilling this requirement.
Step 3: Enroll in courses
In Germany, registering for a course (lecture) DOES NOT mean that you are automatically registered for a exam. You have to register to sit for the exam during a set period. This means that you will not get a F even if you don’t do the exam (unless you register and don’t show up), and you can in fact take the course in one semester and do the exam in another semester.
Another thing to note is that in Germany, you can drop your course whenever you want throughout the semester. This was mind-blowing to me at first because in Canada, you can drop courses before a really strict deadline early in the semester. You can use this to your advantage to explore courses that interest you, not necessarily committing to them.
If you are not successful in enrolling in courses, you can visit a professor in your department to get some help. This was the case for me to enroll in courses with German course name as I was accepted to an English program and wasn’t able to enroll in those. You can also get into courses by emailing the lecturers directly.
Step 4: Go to the first lecture, take a note of any action items t that will affect your grades such as exams, assignments, presentations and the deadlines.
Organizing your course load doesn’t end when you register for them. As mentioned before, the module system in Germany can be confusing because you have to combine courses, training and many more to meet a module requirement. So go to first few class, nail down what’s required of you. Do you have to show up to every single class or is it optional? Do you have to participate in discussions or do you have to write a big exam? These are the things you can confirm by going to the first few classes.
Step 5: Adjust (drop) and add depending on what makes sense.
If you have made this far, congrats! A couple months ago when I was organizing my course load, I visited my faculty’s coordinator every single time I was in the building for classes (lol) to confirm that I was on right track.
I ended up dropping a couple courses in the first few weeks based on how I felt from attending them so far. For instance, I had to drop a course because a professor mainly spoke German in class although I was told it was going to be in English. This was frustrating and a part of me wanted to challenge myself, but I thought this was one of those times I need to pick my battle wisely and I wasn’t ready for it.
Besides, I ended up dropping an elective because this course turned out to be an intensive online course where the professor covers all the topics and a huge exam in 2-3 months. Although I was really interested in the subject, I decided that my time could be used more effectively improving my German, enjoying, and exploring my life in Europe!
That’s it! This is how I organized my course load for my first semester of master’s program in Germany. The process can definitely be confusing as you navigate a new system as an international student. In general, building a timetable in Germany is quite flexible. On the flip side, it gives a considerable amount of room for making mistakes if you are not familiar with the German system.
A good news is that German professors/coordinators are really helpful and empathetic in helping you succeed in Germany. They are really open to having you in class and making you feel comfortable. I wrote a post on 11 honest tips for studying abroad in Germany, so check it out as well! Happy studying!!
Be the first to comment