Study in Germany
“In the beginning, I was a bit nervous”

Meghna Sreedar
Meghna Sreedar | Photo (detail): Meghna Sreedar

Many young people come to Germany from all over the world to study. What challenges do they have to face? How do they deal with the language requirements? And what tips do they have for other young people who might be interested? Eight students from four continents report on their personal experiences and reveal how they mastered their courses of study.

By Janna Degener

Anna Rozum Foto (Ausschnitt): Anna Rozum
“A sense of responsibility and motivation are the be all and end all” – Anna Rozum (17), Ukraine, 3rd semester mechanical engineering in Bochum

I first found out about the Studienbrücke (Studies Bridge) while attending a German course at a private language school. Filling in the application form also turned out to be helpful. Until that point, I had had only vague ideas about what I wanted to do, now I had to explain in concrete terms why a course of study in Germany was so important to me – I did not have much money, but I wanted to put myself through some form of quality training. In Germany, a country with a strong auto industry, I thought that might well be the place to go. After my introductory interview I attended a three-Week MINT Academie course in Bochum and Göttingen, which consisted of a language course, visits to different universities and the preparation for TestDaF and TestAS German language courses. It was there that I realised I wanted to study mechanical engineering at the Ruhr-Universität of Bochum. As a participant in the Studienbrücke program, I was able to start my studies right after the eleventh grade. In the first few months I prepared myself intensively for each lecture – taking a course of study in German meant I had to learn a lot of technical terms. If I were to start studying again today, I would again take part in a small learning group with Russian or German-speaking students. I especially like the fact that in Germany you have to do a lot of studying on your own – ​​it is important to take responsibility for your own studies. You have to be highly motivated to pass all the examinations.

Farhad Faraji Foto (Ausschnitt): Farhad Faraji
“I work hard and get a lot of support” – Farhad Faraji (31), Iran, 1st semester business and management marketing in Wildau

I had studied radio electronics in Ukraine and worked in my field in Iran for five years. After fleeing to Germany, my friends there told me that it would be better to have a German degree in Germany. That's why I decided to study again. I went to the Volkshochschule (adult education centre) to study German for three months and take the B1 exam. Later, I passed the B2 exam and the C1 exam. I really benefited from the fact that I could already speak English, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Ukrainian and, of course, Persian. Then, in a career-integrated distance learning course, I was able to catch up enough with the world of economics to start a Master’s program in Business and Management Marketing. At first I had major language problems. I did not know words like “Betriebswirtschaft” (business management). In the first Bachelor semester I had to repeat all the examinations, because I did not know what was important. In the second semester, however, things started to get better. With the help of the Volkshochschule, I found a pensioner who helped me with my studies. And my neighbours helped me, too, by correcting my papers. I find it easier in Germany to get to know older people than younger ones. The German language has a lot of rules, but also a lot of exceptions. And the same is true of German culture – some people say hello to you straight away, but some do not even look at you at first. I always try to make contact. For example, I went to my business professor every week after the lecture and asked him my questions. And he was glad that I was so diligent. I also interpret voluntarily for other refugees and this is really good for my language learning.

Carlos Tchoua Mbideth Foto (Ausschnitt): Carlos Tchoua Mbideth
“In the university libraries there are great teaching materials” – Carlos Tchoua Mbideth (29), Cameroon, 5th semester, business management in Paderborn

I had already passed my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Cameroon, but I also wanted to study in Germany, because the training there is better and, on top of that, free of charge. At my university back home I attended German courses up to the B1 level and at the University of Paderborn up to the C1 level. The first lectures were not easy, that, however, soon got better. At first I felt a bit alone, because the only person I knew was a friend of my family who lived in Hanover. Then I joined a football group and made some German friends and the conversations with them also helped me very much in my efforts to learn German. If I did not understand a word in a lecture, my fellow students would help me. In addition, I soon made contact with the African student community in Paderborn. In the examinations I had to express myself in German, which I found difficult in the beginning. I also had to improve my English, because I needed it for certain courses. In my opinion, anyone who wants to study in Germany should already have a basic knowledge of German or English. You have to be very disciplined, organise your timetable before the semester starts and stick to your own schedule. The contact with the professors, however, is easier in Germany, they are very nice. And the courses are better organised. I know now which lectures I will be attending in a year’s time. The library is well equipped with e-books and a wide range of teaching materials to help students understand the subject better. And the courses have tutors who help us with practical exercises, which is a great help.

Lea Knezevic Foto (Ausschnitt): Lea Knezevic
“Academic language differs from everyday language” – Lea Knezevic (21), Croatia, 5th semester, politics and law in Münster

I moved with my parents from Germany to Croatia when I was eleven. There, I attended a PASCH school and over the years, I participated in various projects of the Goethe-Institut and that strengthened my desire to study in Germany. Although I consider German to be my mother tongue alongside Croatian, it was difficult for me at first to write term papers and legal reports in German. I also had to improve my spoken language, because a different style is required in an academic presentation from the style used in everyday life. That is why I had to work on my language skills in the evening using documents from my studies, the Internet and material from my German language lessons in Croatia. In addition, I had to go to the library to get to grips with the political system of Germany, something my German fellow-students already knew, because they had grown up with it. I also had to learn a lot about method, for example, how to organise a term paper or make a presentation look good from the content and visual point of view. My professors say that one does not become perfect from one day to the next, but that you keep on learning all your life. That motivates me. I also find it great that at the university in Germany, besides theory, there is a lot of practical content, and that topics are worked on openly. Everyone can use them to form their own opinion and get involved. My new start in Croatia, back in my childhood, and now in Germany helped me to go up to people, to chat with them and to ask questions instead of waiting for someone to come up to me.

Wenqi Peng Foto (Ausschnitt): Wenqi Peng
“Repetition, repetition, repetition – that’s the only way to learn German grammar” – Wenqi Peng (20), China, study preparation, mechanical engineering in Wildau

“Made in Germany” is famous all over the world and that is why it is my dream to complete a mechanical engineering course in Germany. I started to study German at a language school in China. I passed B1 level and then came to Germany to participate in the study preparation program of the Technical University of Wildau. I find the grammar and vocabulary of the German language difficult, especially the separable verbs. Nevertheless repeat, repeat, repeat is the only thing that helps. The German teacher is very good. In Germany the German language is the one I use in everyday life, for example, when shopping – that’s when I speak with Germans. In the beginning, I was a bit nervous because I did not know if I would find new friends, but now I have already met people from Pakistan and Azerbaijan and that makes me very happy. I also play basketball to make new contacts.

Meghna Sreedar Foto (Ausschnitt): Meghna Sreedar
“I learned all the specialist vocabulary at the ‘Studienkolleg’” – Meghna Sreedar (20), India, 2nd semester computer science in Munich

In India, I went to a PASCH school because it was near where I lived and I was interested in foreign languages. Our school and teachers took a very active part in projects and activities run by the Goethe-Institut. I liked the fact that I was able to contribute something. Then I got a scholarship for a youth course, which took place in a small town in Lower Saxony. It was there that I met students from all over the world and obtained a lot of information on studying in Germany from the University of Göttingen. I thought it would be a good idea to study in Germany, because I was interested in a technical subject. Now I've been there for a year. At the beginning I attended a Studienkolleg (preparatory college), where we learned to read and write technical texts. From a linguistic point of view this really helped me a lot. I had no special difficulties at the beginning. This is probably due to the fact that when I was in school in India I only spoke in German and wrote texts in German. Nevertheless my German is still improving. It was a new experience for me to attend lectures with hundreds of other students. You cannot rely on the lectures alone, you really have to sit down alone with the materials yourself and tackle your studies yourself. For this, it is important to be very motivated

Aleksandr Vlasov Foto (Ausschnitt): Aleksandr Vlasov
“If you are really motivated, you will make the grade on a course of study in Germany” – Aleksandr Vlasov (19), Russia, 3rd semester, biology in Bochum

I started to learn German back in the 7th grade at school and wanted to study in Germany to get a good education. To take part in the Studienbrücke (Studies Bridge), which I had read about on the Internet, I had to write a letter of motivation. After a successful interview, I then attended universities in the Ruhr area with other students from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Georgia, taking part as well in the TestDaF and the TestAS German language courses. When I showed them my school marks, I got an invitation and now I am here. In a preliminary course I revised the basics of such subjects as mathematics, chemistry and physics together with German and foreign students. In a Studienbrücke seminar I learned all about how to organise your course of study. When you study biology in Russia, you also have to do other subjects, like history. In Germany, we only study field-related subjects such as chemistry, math and physics, I like that very much. At the beginning of my studies, I had difficulties with the German language. In the first semester I did not pass the biology examination, but in the second semester I managed it. I communicate a lot with Germans and watch the news in German, that helps a lot. I think the most important thing is that you really have to want to study in Germany and, if you want to pass the course, you have to spend a lot of time studying the specialist literature.

Nicole Aranibar Foto (Ausschnitt): Nicole Aranibar
“You have to have the confidence to speak German in front of many people” – Nicole Aranibar (25), Bolivia, 8th semester economics and politics and, 1st semester Regional Studies Latin America, in Cologne

I went to a German school in Bolivia, learned German from the 3rd grade onwards and took the German general qualification exam for university entrance – the Abitur. At the age of 16, I spent four months in Munich living in a host family as part of a student exchange. This was for me a very different world, but I liked it a lot. That's why I decided I would try to study in Germany. I did a traineeship in Bolivia, completed a course at a vocational school and worked to save the money I would need. From the beginning I was thrilled at how international the University of Cologne is. The Latin American student group took me under its wing right away. This helped me at the beginning, which was not easy, because I had to get used to the language. In the lectures, I could not understand all the words, especially when the lecturers spoke with an accent. Many international and English words are used in business, but that was no problem for me. In my subsidiary subject, politics, there were many specialist  terms that I had never heard before and had to learn. I was, however, able to work well with the vocabulary that was used on the slides. I never availed myself of the possibility of using a dictionary in the exams, because I would have lost too much time. Students who are studying at a major university must be very extroverted and have the confidence to speak up or ask questions in crowded lectures or seminars. At first I underestimated what it meant to organise a course of study in Germany. It is a challenge to have to look after yourself for the first time, to take care of your own home, the food and many other things. Today I know that the faculties also offer support to students when they are organising their studies. I would recommend everybody to make use of these services right from the beginning.