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What to Know Before Studying in Germany

University of Erfurt

More students now consider studying abroad as a way to make themselves more attractive to employers. Countries, like Germany, have very different education systems and it is essential to understand the opportunities available.

Higher Education in Germany attracts many students from foreign countries. Its universities account for a dozen of the top spots in the ranking of the 100 best universities in the world.

One characteristic of German universities is the control of educational standards and rotation of specialists that ensures that, even in more remote or less famous universities, students receive the best training, helping them to compete in any labor market.

For foreign students, there is another attraction: an opportunity to learn a European language and to understand the culture. The cost of living in Germany is moderate, when compared to Moscow in particular.

The country has well-developed social infrastructure, which assists those who are newly arrived in the country with student benefits and medical insurance, for example.

A welcoming atmosphere, smooth-functioning bureaucracy and low crime rate all make it easier for young adults to adapt to life abroad.

For those who want to travel across Europe, Germany's central location and dense transport network (again with reduced fares for students) lets people see much more than textbooks during their years of study.

 There are three main ways for a Russian student to enter a German university: a master's degree to follow the bachelor's degree; training at a university (a three-year bachelor degree and further master's degree) after the second course at a Russian University; and finally admission to a German university after a year in shtudienkolleg.

There is a difference in the term of study under the Russian and German secondary educational systems, so the Russian school graduate has to complete two years of post-secondary education in order to be admitted to a German university.

However, if the Russian student has already completed two years of university then, when applying to a German university, he will only be able to apply to study the same specialization.  

Shtudienkolleg allows the student to solve this problem: here the training comes in one of five broad areas — languages, humanities, economics, engineering and sciences, and medicine. Foreign students who are still classed as schoolchildren as per the German system of education, can learn German and several different disciplines so that after the end-of-year exams, they go on to university.

Alexander Klyanitsky decided to enroll in shtudienkolleg after the first course at his university in Russia, because he chose a double bachelor degree — history and social anthropology. "In Russia there is no practical application of my occupation, and in Germany, if I had arrived after the second year of university, I would have had to become a straightforward historian full stop. Instead of which I decided to come one year earlier, so that I could begin an independent life, adapt better to the local life, find a part-time job, select a place to study and, what's more, have a choice of what I study".

There are some pitfalls though: not all shtudienkolleg offer a full range of courses (usually medicine, economics, technology). Nor do all colleges provide admission to the university, sometimes only to hochshule, which is a technical university. While most shtudienkolleg open the way to all universities in Germany, some lead only the universities of the same state or land.

Klyanitsky at first was upset that he would not be studying in Berlin. But then he decided that while Berlin attracts a lot of westerners, it could be interesting to study in another German region. While taking his exams he met students from Albania and Burma. Thuringia became his option. "And I think the teachers here will pay more attention to everyone."

Smaller and quieter locations have their advantages. Another student, Daria Lopatina is an economics student at Cleves, on the border with The Netherlands. At first she found the town rather small but then became involved in its social life. She developed a project where students from different Asian countries shared each other's cuisine. This developed into a business project called, the Asian store, and it was a success: "My project received a grant for development and I decided to stay in Cleves to grow my business."

So, starting with shtudienkolleg, you may even find your career.