Reasons Not to Study Abroad in Germany

I’m not going to sugar coat things. While the experience of studying abroad in Germany can be amazing, it is not for everyone. So, especially if you are considering pursuing your entire Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Germany, maybe you should first consider these reasons for NOT studying abroad in Germany.

I studied abroad in Germany for one semester during my Bachelor’s and then came back to Germany to complete my entire Master’s degree. And while I write a lot about all the great things about studying abroad in Germany, I think it’s important that I tell you the not-so-great things as well.

1. BUREAUCRACY
The stereotypes of the rule-abiding Germans and the redundancy of German bureaucracy are true. From registering with the city to registering for exams, you will probably spend a good amount of your time in Germany running around from office to office until you finally catch the right person during their unpredictable and infrequent office hours.

MFW I have to go to the Bürger-, Einwohnermelde-, Ausländerbehörde-, StandesAMT.

Tip: Save all of your emails (office workers tend to “forget” or “lose” things), triple-check your deadlines, keep a calendar with all of your important deadlines

2. NO STUDENT FACILITIES
Especially if you are going to a public university in Germany, you should not expect to have a variety of student resources available (for free) on campus. This means no high-tech computer lab, no super-modern student center, no team of personal counselors. Also, the resources that are available will likely cost you. For example, a student membership to the on-campus gym at my university costs about 20€ per month.

Tip: Join a student organization and enjoy your university campus for what it is – a place of learning and research.

3. LEARNING GERMAN
I don’t care if your study program is in English – you need to learn German. Even if you are living in a big student city, getting through your day-to-day will come with a lot of uncertainty and confusion if you think you can get by on English alone. So, if you have absolutely no interest in taking a German course, stay home.

Now don’t get me wrong – you do not need to be fluent in German before coming to Germany. Germans are incredibly accommodating, and most young people do speak English. However, if you are planning on staying for a while, enroll in a German course (which will often be provided for free by your university).

Tip: Don’t be lazy! Just take a German course.

4. EXAMS
Depending on the system you are used to, the German grading/exam system can be quite confusing/aggravating. First of all, most classes base the grade for the entire course on the final exam/term paper. It’s stressful, and it means that the final exam period at the end of each semester is a very intense time for all the students on campus.

Another big difference that I noticed between the U.S. and German university systems was registering for exams. If you are registered for a course in the U.S., then you are automatically registered for the required exams. Not in Germany! You need to enroll in a course, then half-way though the semester, you need to enroll for the exam. Being the only foreigner in my degree program, I, of course, forgot to enroll for an exam during my first semester…

Tip: Read the exam regulations (Prüfungsordnung) at the beginning of the semester, and take every word to heart. Trust me, you do not want to have to deal with the dreaded Prüfungsamt later.

5. COURSE STRUCTURE
If most of this list could be wrapped up in one sentence it would be this: Do not study in Germany if you are not independent and disciplined. This especially goes for the courses themselves, which are usually structured much differently than university courses in the U.S.
Compared to the U.S., Germans spend much less time in class and much more time doing independent study. This means that you will have to be independent in structuring your time efficiently and disciplined about doing the outside reading, studying, and research.
Tip: Keep up on your reading and studying throughout the semester! Otherwise, you will end up cramming hardcore at the end of the semester as you study for exams that make up 100% of your grade and that you know nothing about.
Do you have any other warnings for students wanting to study in Germany?