Alright, it’s time to talk about 5 easy steps to organize your courses while studying abroad in Germany. It’s week 8 of my first semester here in Germany, so I’m all set now. The tips I'll share today are based on what I did AND what I wish I did.
Building a timetable in Germany is quite flexible in general. On the flip side, it leave considerable room for mistakes if you are not familiar with the German system.
Step 1: Decide which credits you need each semester for your study abroad semester/program.
As a country of bureaucracy, everything in Germany is written down formally. This is also the case with organizing your studies. Therefore, the “modulhandbuch,” also known 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, they will constantly refer 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 handbook 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 take the required 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 a mandatory course, which can waste time.
Unlike in North America (or even in China and South Korea, where I studied abroad), credit systems in Germany is quite complicated in the 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 the types of courses to examinations.
This below is an example of how what a module consists of. In order to fulfill this module’s requirement, I have to take two mentioned courses in the form of language training: one with a final oral exam and the other 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. Furthermore, it shows the content and objectives in addition to the credits system I wrote about earlier. Another thing to note is whether this module is required to take any subsequent modules in the program. For example, module 1 is required 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 an exam. You have to register to sit for the exam during a set period. This means that you will not get an 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 you can drop your course in Germany whenever you want throughout the semester. This was mind-blowing to me at first because, in Canada, you can drop classes before a stringent 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 when I tried to enroll in a course where the course name was written in German. Since I was accepted to an English program, I couldn’t register in those. Additionally, You can also get into courses by emailing the lecturers directly.
Step 4: Go to the first lecture
Go to the first lecture, take note of any action items that will affect your grades, such as exams, assignments, presentations, and 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 the first few class, nail down what’s required of you. Do you have to show up to every class, or is it optional? Do you have to participate in discussions or do you have to write a big exam? You can confirm these things by going to the first few classes.
Step 5: Adjust (drop) and add depending on what makes sense.
If you have made it this far, congrats! I visited my faculty’s coordinator every time I was in the building for classes (lol) to confirm that I was on the right track.
Plus, I ended up dropping a couple of 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 would be in English.
Besides, I dropped an elective because this course turned out to be an intensive online course where the professor covered all the topics and a vastly comprehensive 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! Hope you enjoyed my guide- 5 steps to Organize Courses While Studying Abroad In Germany. The process can definitely be confusing as you navigate a new system as an international student, but you're almost there!
The good news is that German professors/coordinators are really helpful and empathetic in helping you succeed in Germany. They are happy to have 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!!