Finding the right place to study in Germany

Two international students are walking and chatting together. In the background you can see a university building.
© Getty Images/blackCAT

Trier was nowhere near the top of Mareike Hoffmann’s prioritised list. Her first choice was Heidelberg. However, cities such as Heidelberg, Munich, Leipzig and Berlin are extremely popular among German and international exchange students alike. This is why it is not easy to get a place at a university in these cities. But are there no other cities that also offer good conditions for living and studying there for a few years?

After a year in Trier, Mareike Hoffmann is very happy with her place of study. She didn’t know much about the city, she says: “I looked at it online and thought it looked very nice. had good ratings, too.” In Trier she was able to start studying the discipline of her choice – psychology – right away, which was why she decided to take the leap.

Immersed in German history

Trier is a city with a fascinating history. It is located in the south-west of Germany on the river Mosel and has a population of around 100,000. The city was founded at the time when Germania was ruled by the Romans. Many Roman monuments exist to this day. While the city’s location could be considered somewhat remote within Germany, it is near the border to Luxembourg. The region therefore does have some international flair.

Trier is not the only university city in Germany that is rather unknown, but much more interesting than people might expect. Universities in Germany receive public funding, which is why the quality of study programmes tends to be on the same level as in the more popular locations. Most higher education institutions offer study programmes in English, too, at least when it comes to master´s degree courses. A high ranking should therefore not be the only criteria when choosing a place to study.

Studying in Germany: What international students should know

Studying in Germany: What international students should know
Studying in Germany: What international students should know ©

Affordable accommodation is hard to find

The housing situation is a key selection criterion. Mareike Hoffmann lives in a hall of residence right on the university campus in Trier. She pays 210 euros for her room, and she shares a kitchen and bathroom with one other student. This is very affordable. There are some university cities where students pay twice as much for a room, and not everyone can get a place in a hall of residence managed by the university. Those who need to find a room or an apartment on the housing market of Berlin or Munich will struggle to find anything suitable for under 500 euros.

“I always bump into people here on campus, and there are lots of sporting activities, too. I can walk to my lectures,” Mareike Hoffmann points out. On the other hand, she has to accept that going into town requires a 15-minute bus ride. Trier is also not connected to the Deutsche Bahn long-distance rail network. This means that there are regional trains only, which might be a no-go for international exchange students who wish to travel around Germany a lot.

A small town or a large city?

Is a larger city a better choice then? The advantages are obvious: good traffic links, more international communities and better options for sourcing foods from around the world. On the other hand, larger cities tend to be more anonymous, and it might be easier to make friends at a smaller campus-based university. In addition, the cost of living is always higher in large cities.

Another characteristic of a good university city is a wide range of cultural offerings. A real insider tip for young people who are interested in classical music or the theatre is Bayreuth, for example, where the world-famous Richard Wagner Opera Festival is held every year. has a student symphony orchestra and a theatre club where students can realise their own projects. There are also interesting student jobs related to the opera festival.

A master's degree in computer game studies

The town that has a population of 75,000 also has a few highlights to offer when it comes to the study programmes available. There is a master's degree programme in computer game studies, for example. Another key research area of the university is Africa. Academics from a wide range of disciplines cooperate with partner institutions in African states in the context of the so-called Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence. On the university’s website it is stated that “the focus is on the continental and transcontinental interconnections of cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, economic, and ecological processes”.

Those who are already considering their career prospects when choosing a place to study, should take into account, whether the region is home to any interesting companies that offer internships or cooperate with a university. The rule ‘the bigger the better’ does not necessarily apply here either. There are many medium-sized companies from rural areas in Germany that are global market leaders in their respective fields.

A higher education institution in the woods

The in Brandenburg is another lesser known German university. It is located some 60 kilometres to the north-east of Berlin and was established relatively recently in 1992, after the German reunification. The university’s profile that is based on sustainability and environmental protection is unique in Germany. The same is true for the institution’s environment: nature reserves can be found to the north and south of Eberswalde. The university has a campus in town and one in the woods. This feature attracts students from around the world.

Learning for life

On the university website, Prince Owusu Bonsu who completed a master´s degree in biosphere reserves management here, praises the quality of the degree programme, the support available to students and the international atmosphere. “I also enjoy the diversity of students, backgrounds and experiences,” he writes, adding that “all of this gives rise to an open-minded and friendly environment that goes beyond the academic sphere and allows for wonderful personal connections.” It seems to be the case that Eberswalde was just the right place for him to study in Germany.

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