Series: Studying abroad as a visually impaired – Erasmus+ – Part 2: What to expect in Germany
Welcome to the second part of the series concerning my Erasmus+ stay in Dresden, Germany. This time it is not going to be that much about my visual impairment, but rather about practical things that probably every future Erasmus+ student would like to know before applying for the program. .
The most important thing has already happened – you decided to go abroad for a semester or two. But what about now? There are plenty of theoretical handbooks to read, but I know from my own experience, that there is nothing more than a practical experience. Learn what to watch out for, what to avoid, and how to manage your stay.
Paperwork, paperwork and paperwork again
A letter of motivation, CV and a list of study results are just the beginning. If you want to study abroad, you will have to spend a lot of time filling out forms, writing emails and with other paperwork. If you are going to Germany, get ready for the worst.
The Germans literally thrive in bureaucracy, at least in Dresden. Whether it is booking a room in a dormitory, registering subjects or accessing a university library, you need to fill in tons of forms. Not to mention things related to the specific needs of disabled students.
Sick leave, holidays – closed
Have you gone through all the paperwork and want to reach someone in person? I guarantee that you will meet an employee on sick leave or on vacation several times during your stay. Whether they are university employees, shop assistants or bank clerks. So if you need to arrange anything, start with it as soon as possible.
Aauthorities and once more bureaucracy
After accommodation, foreign students must deal with a lot of things by the local authorities. Unfortunately, the whole system does not distinguish whether you want to study for a semester or for five years, so the Erasmus participants have the same duties as other foreign students. First you have to register a temporary stay at the municipal office. There are usually more of them in the city and it pays off to choose an office farther away from student dormitories, the queues are really long.
If you live in Dresden on a dormitory, you will not avoid direct debit payments from the German account. So you have to set up an account with the bank. There, however, they will ask you for a tax number, so there is a registration by the tax office also needed. All communication is only in German
Do you speak English? – Was?
Whether you study biology, psychology or engineering in Dresden, say goodbye to English and make sure your German is at a good level. Even if you chose only subjects in English or another language, you simply cannot avoid German. The fact that you wouldn´t be able to communicate in English in shops and offices can be somewhat expected. What surprised me the most were the introductory lectures and trainings for the Erasmus students. There, the lecturer also used only German.
Choosing your courses
You may know that before arriving at the university you have to choose the subjects you want to study there, which will then be recognized by your home institution. Therefore, a so-called learning agreement, where you select the subjects you are interested in, has to be compiled. But nothing is as simple as it seems.
With each semester, both subjects and teachers usually change, and at the time of drawing up the plan, most subjects for the next semester are not yet published. It may happen that upon arrival you find out that none of the subjects you have selected are taught. If you’re lucky enough and the subjects don´t change, it still doesn’t mean you can really attend them. For example, there is usually a limited capacity of the courses and it could happen that foreign students will be no longer accepted.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when creating your budget. It is good to find out in advance how much things in Germany cost. Things to take into account are for example prices of goods in shops, canteen meals, transport, school fees or rental of dormitories. However, there are likely to be other unplanned expenditures.
Dormitories in Dresden
One of above mentioned unplanned expenditures may occur right at the beginning when renting a dormitory room. In my case, the original price offer was acceptable. The description stated that the rooms were equipped and the internet connection was available. Before moving in, however I received a letter that due to the fact that the rental is less than a year long, the price will be higher. Bedding and dishes were either not included. With the onset of the new year, they increased the price by another significant amount. Do not expect curtains or carpets in the rooms. Internet connection is also not included in the price, in addition, you have to get your own router, apply to the company providing the Internet and get it all up by yourself.
Eating and shopping
Eating in Germany is very cheap compared to housing and transport. Refectories are here at every turn. Food in the canteens is cheap, for the student the lunch will cost between three and four euros. In addition, the mobile app makes it easy to find all menus and allergens are listed for each meal. Veganism is popular in Germany, so there is always a choice of vegan and vegetarian food. Unfortunately, the menu is completely missing gluten-free diet. It was a surprise to me that even in shops, food is often cheaper than in the Czech Republic, and in better quality.
If you have gone through all of those above mentioned things, it is time for enjoying your stay. Such a chance does not come every day and the experience is definitely worth it.