Small things matter the most sometimes, and this applies to decisions you make when you get a master's degree in Germany. GPA, motivation letter, and visa are all extremely important, but what about how your life will look when you actually move here? Here are 5 key things to consider when getting a master's degree in Germany.
1. Make sure to think about whether you want to live in a big or a small city.
Having lived in big cities for most of my life, I was pretty surprised when I first moved to Tuebingen. A lot of convenience factors that I took for granted were gone. For example, there’s no wifi in some buildings on campus (if not extremely slow), and technology companies such as Doordash, Uber, Hellofresh, and many more haven’t reached this town yet to offer services.
It’s definitely fun to live in a student town where nearly half of the population are students. Everyone is so friendly, they are not in a rush, and the overall atmosphere is quiet. Perfect for a student lifestyle!
One thing I learned that is positive is that in Germany, companies’ HQ and offices are less centralized, so it’s easy to get a job even if you live in a small town. Yes, there are many job opportunities in Berlin and Munich but so are there in smaller cities like Stuttgart.
That being said, there is still a stark difference between East and West Germany in terms of career opportunities, so you need to think about that. Here’s the map of the prominent German companies' HQ.
If you are planning to travel a lot, you should remember some airports in Germany have more flights that are cheaper (ex. Wizz Air). In addition, it’s easier to go to airports from certain cities. For instance, Koeln has multiple airports nearby.
2. Think about whether you want to attend a private or a public school.
Most Germans attend public schools, but there are some good private schools that offer smaller classes and more support if that’s what you are looking for. Private schools usually offer courses in English, and these are some of the excellent business schools: WHU, HHL Leipzig, ESMT Berlin.
Most private schools are business schools, but there are a couple of private medical schools (ex. Witten-Herdecke).
3. Plan your exchange semester ahead.
Going on an exchange semester is a competitive process here in Germany, so you should plan ahead, talk to an international semester coordinator months ahead of time. If you are doing a master’s degree, you’ll have to apply to go on exchange two months into your master’s program.
However, since attending a German university is free (or inexpensive), you can study at a foreign university that would otherwise require a hefty tuition fee to attend. For example, going to the US to study can cost a lot of money if you were to pay the regular tuition at the American institution.
4. Not all universities are “equal” in Germany.
Do you know that German children are separated into three different education systems after grade 4? They get divided into Gymnasium, Realschule, and Hauptschule depending on their academic aptitude and preference.
This is true for post-secondary education as well in Germany, where students can decide from different educational streams. They can choose from Universities, technical universities, applied science schools, or even do an apprenticeship or a duales studium where you work and study simultaneously. Universities in Germany offer much more theoretical studies, whereas applied science school teaches practical knowledge. Technical schools are where you can study specific areas such as natural sciences, engineering, and management (sometimes).
5. Think about whether you want to go to a small or a big school/program.
Small universities provide opportunities to meet people easily and connect with classmates and professors. For that reason, smaller schools tend to have a strong sense of community and easy access to get personalized assistance.
On the other hand, big schools have more more diversity (this might matter a lot because the German population is not as diverse as in Canada) and a wider range of student activities to choose from. There are also more academic choices and freedom.
Adjusting to a new school system on top of exploring a new country/city and culture can feel overwhelming. As previously mentioned, the grading system and course scheduling are all so different in Germany compared to North America. I hope you found this guide helpful and make the best decision in which school to attend in Germany!