I’ve been receiving questions on my exchange semester logistics ever since publishing my Around The World in 212 Days guide, so I thought i’d follow up with a Germany-speific post for those of you interested in applying for an exchange semester in Germany. I remember having a huuuge administrative headache when I was applying for my semester and being very grateful for any sort of advice or help given from seniors who’d been to Germany for exchange, so I’m writing this for future reference for anyone looking to apply!
I realize that this is quite country specific and may not be relevant to all of you, so for those of you uninterested in Germany, here’s a bunch of cat pictures on the internet for you.
Alright, here we go:
I’m doing a student exchange programme in the University of Stuttgart, Germany. More details here.
It’s cheap – as cheap as Central European destinations get anyway. The approximate projected all-in budget for one semester in Stuttgart, Germany plus accommodation, travel, and flights is 12k. My personal budget was 15k because I did an extra Winter Semester spanning two months before the proper semester started. This is way cheaper compared to a lot of other destinations like Sweden/ London/ Paris and so on.
Also – Germany is safe. There are plenty of more exciting destinations but I’d rather live in a country where I dont have to be consistently looking over my shoulder worrying about pickpockets.
A rough estimate of living expenses:
Accommodation on campus – 247Euros per month for the most basic single dorm room in Allmandring.
Groceries per week – approx 20-30Euros/ week, depending on what you eat. ie. Eggs are 99c/carton. A whole premarinated chicken can be 3Euros. Und so Weiter.
The Application Process:
Step one is getting your application accepted by both your home university and the German university. Hurray!
Now: make a booking for an appointment at the German Embassy in approximately one month from this date. This is for your Visa Application. This date MUST BE at least 5 weeks from the date you fly out from Singapore.
Step Two – The Bank:
You need to register for a blocked bank account in Germany before you can do anything – this is so they know you can finance your studies and wont just end up broke and stranded in Germany. Deutsche bank was what i signed up for and it’s the easiest. They also link up with commerzbank and post bank so you can withdraw from their ATMs once in stuttgart cos they don’t have that many DB ATMs lying around.
DOWNLOAD AND PRINT THE APPLICATION FORM FOR DEUTSCHE BANK HERE.
After you print and fill up the form, turn up at the German Embassy in Singapore and get them to approve and legalize your application. This requires an administrative fee of 30 dollars in cash. Only then can you apply for your account with a German bank via mail to the address stated on the form. I strongly suggest you use express mail, which will cost you SGD50, because it takes 3-5 working days to send it over as opposed to $2 snail mail which will take a month.
When the German bank has received your application, you will receive an email that notifies you that your account is open but will require a minimum of 638 Euros per month that you’re staying. You need to do a bank transfer of the money over to the account they provide. This step takes 2-3 weeks, afterwhich you will receive another email telling you you have funds in your account.
Step Three – The Visa:
ONLY AFTER you get all the above settled can you apply for a German Visa. You should have booked an appointment with the embassy already – see STEP ONE. Turn up with all your documents – if you’re missing even one, they won’t help you process it. They’re very strict on this!
These documents include:
– Transcript of acceptance in host university.
– Proof of study.
– Travel insurance/health insurance
– Proof of bank account funds
– Filled up visa forms.
– Passport photos
DOWNLOAD AND PRINT THE FULL CHECKLIST OF DOCUMENTS NEEDED HERE.
This appointment will require an administrative fee of $105 in cash.
Step Four – Collection:
They will then seize your passport for the duration of 5 weeks. Then can you collect it with the visa – a sticker – on it and you’re ready to fly. Yay!
A Note on Health Insurance:
You need proof of Singaporean health insurance to apply for your German Visa in Singapore, but once you get to Germany, they require a mandatory German Health Insurance as well. This will cost you approximately 80 Euros per month on top of the amount you’ve paid for your Singaporean Health Insurance.
They will tell you there’s no way around this, but there is.
To get out of this, you need to prove that your Singaporean health insurance covers everything your German health insurance will, including dental coverage. If necessary, get your Singaporean health insurance company to write a letter certifying that they will cover all your medical expenses. Once you reach Germany, you will need to visit a German health insurance company like AOK with all the documents on your Singaporean health insurance and show it to them for them to write a letter certifying that you are exempt from German health insurance. However, this means that if you ever return to Germany as a student, you will not be able to apply for the German health insurance forever. This doesnt matter to me because I’m graduating soon and I will in all likelihood never be a student in Germany again, but if you’re planning to pursue further studies here then maybe.. reconsider.
I went with the AIG Student Travel Guard Classic Insurance. It was pretty pricey, but still way cheaper than what I’d be paying in total for German insurance.
With this letter from AOK, you can now proceed to enroll in your German University by submitting a bunch of forms the school will give you once you touch down! All this administrative work is super fun! Not.
But I promise it’s worth it 🙂
Scholarship / Work options:
The only scholarship I know of offered by the German side is the Baden-Württemberg Scholarship, but you have to be nominated by your home university, so essentially there’s nothing much you can do. It also depends on whether they offer spots for the scholarship to your university – I dont actually know anyone from Singapore on it, but almost everyone from Australia is.
With your German visa though, you can officially work in Germany.
A reader has helpfully emailed me on this point. Please see below:
I was in Germany for exchange too (Freiburg!) and I managed to get the Baden-Württemberg Scholarship which gave me 600euros/month.. which was SUPER, or else I would have been broke beyond broke.
I emailed my NUS exchange coordinator about the scholarship, and they told me to wait for a ‘nomination’ email. I went around preparing all the items needed for the application anyway, because each school actually has a number of scholarships they can give out to their exchange students, and for my exchange university there were only 3 of us going. 2 of them were already on some sort of scholarship (you can’t be under any scholarship/funding to qualify), so I knew that I could almost definitely get it. I also emailed the exchange coordinator at Freiburg University to ask about the scholarship (saying that I”m from NUS coming over bla bla).
And then.. 2 days before the dateline, I finally got an email from NUS asking me to send in my application! Luckily I already had all my stuff prepared, or it would have been impossible to submit everything in 2 days.
So yup, long story short is just to bug coordinators from both sides to let them know that you want to apply, so they’ll actually remember to nominate people.
Staying on campus is the cheapest option you have for German accommodation. You have to apply through the German Studentenwerk – your home university should have supplied you with the forms for this. The term for rental is a minimum of six months with a deposit of 300Euros at the start, even though your actual term will only be about 5 months. If you want to terminate it early, you have to submit a request to the Studentenwerk 4-6 weeks before so you don’t have to pay for the last month / can get your deposit back.
To move in, you need to get your keys from the hausmeister (the dude in charge of your cluster) when you reach. To general surprise, the hausmeister only opens for one hour every day, so email them to make an appointment for moving in or you’ll be homeless.
According to one of my readers, it’s nearly impossible for non-Erasmus students to get on campus accommodation in Munich (TUM). Renting a room along the U-bahn will cost about 4-500Eur/month, so adjust your budget accordingly!
(Erasmus basically refers to students on exchange from Europe)
A Sim Card in Germany is pretty easy to get. Just walk into any O2 or Vodafone shop and ask for a prepaid sim card. It will cost you 15 Euros for a 1GB data only plan, or for a 500MB + call and text plan and you will have to top this up every month.
You can also go with prepaid cards from companies like Blau.de or Lebara, but these sim cards are purchased from grocery stores/ generic mobile phone shops. The plans are more value for money (3GB for the same price, etc) but the shopkeepers are not allowed to help you set up your SIM card for these providers. If you’re confident of figuring out how to work it on your own/ have a German friend who can translate the instructions for you, then go for it. Otherwise, just do what I did and go with a trusted mobile phone provider.
Tying up Matters:
At the end of your semester in Germany, you will need to fill up a course list with whatever courses you’ve taken and obtain this certificate from each professor called a Scheint to prove you’ve taken that class. When you submit this to the International Students Department, they’ll process it with your marks and send it to your home university to kickstart your credit transfer process.
Alright, I hope I covered most, if not all, bases! Let me know if you have any more questions over at my ask.fm and I’ll update this space accordingly. In the meanwhile, enjoy, and all the best with your application 🙂