How can I finance my studies in Germany?
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This is probably the question every prospective student is asking himself/herself! And you should give this matter serious thought, because, whether we like it or not, studying in a foreign country depends as much, or sometimes even more, on whether we have the financial resources to cover the costs that a study abroad implies, than on our qualification.
These costs depend on the program and the duration of your studies. Since not very many can afford to cover the costs out of their own pockets, what other options are there?
First of all, let us begin with a rough estimation of what a study abroad means from a financial point of view. As you can imagine, this kind of information is subject to change, so please check the links concerning tuition fees provided before, or directly check the website of your desired university or FH. Let us say this will roughly amount to some 500 euros per semester for a normal undergraduate program and it can go up to some 2,000 - 6,000 euros for some Master’s programs. You can calculate what this means for you depending on the university, the kind of and on the intended duration of your studies.
Well, the first best option would be to have your family behind you to support you. This is a good way to avoid debt after graduation. And this also means that you would have more chances to fulfill your dream of studying in Germany. The second best option would be for you to be an exceptional student, to have the best results, since this is the main criterion on which scholarships are awarded. What about the rest of us, the “normal” people? What are our chances?
Scholarships for studying in Germany
One of the most frequently asked questions is: How do I get the scholarship of my dreams? Actually, we have already got into this issue so far. You can check all the above mentioned tips and links to find out more about scholarships. One thing you should keep in mind, though, is that the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) grants only a limited number of scholarships and usually to advanced students or graduates and to graduates pursuing doctoral studies.
You can either use the search tools provided by DAAD or by the DFG or you can ask the university of your choice for help. This does not mean that the university will directly help you with the financing of your studies, but they can direct you toward other German foundations that could do that. It is your responsibility to find your scholarship. When you apply for a scholarship, remember the tips above. However, no scholarship will cover all costs or the complete duration of a full program.
So, if you are one of these advanced students or researchers, check all the above mentioned websites. You should also find out what are the criteria on which foundations grant scholarships. These can be the country of origin, field of study or research, achievements, or even religious affiliation. For a more comprehensive list of German foundations ( Stiftungen) go to www.stiftungsindex.de (only available in German).
Tip: Some of the German foundations also have offices in other countries. See which ones have such an office in your country and try to apply there. This will increase your chances of getting the desired scholarship.
If you are a young student, the first and best point to start your search for a scholarship is the International Office of your home university. Your university might have partnerships with German universities, which means you could study for a few months in Germany and the costs will be supported by the universities. You should definitely take advantage of such programs, as this way you can accumulate the experience you will later need for your further studies.
The International Office of your home university is also the right place to find out what other programs might be available for you. For example, if your home country is a member of the European Union, you could benefit from various European funded programs such as Socrates, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Tempus, or Marie Curie (for doctoral students).
Through programs such as Socrates and Erasmus, undergraduate students can study in another European country for three months up to one year. Leonardo da Vinci and Tempus are programs that promote projects and cooperation between European universities. See whether your country is a member of such a cooperation project and how you could benefit from it.
You should also become a member of a student union or organization in your country, if you are not one already. This will help you keep up to date with new programs and other possibilities and it will most definitely be a great advantage since you will be among the first to find out about a new scholarship! And the membership itself will help you add bonus points to your application! One such international organization is, for example, AIESEC.
There are many possibilities, but you need to keep looking for them on the one hand, and you should also be looking for ways to improve yourself to fit the profile of the right candidate for such a scholarship on the other hand. Remember, you can find financial help with your home university, with governmental institutions as well as private foundations and companies in your country and in Germany, or with international or regional cooperation programs between universities. Keep looking, and you will find, keep improving, and you will be the one to stand out of the crowd!
Student jobs in Germany
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the question of studying and working. Students all over the world are forced to live on a tight budget, and many would like to work for some much needed extra money. Can you do this in Germany? Again it depends on a number of factors. International students are allowed to work a maximum of 90 days per year, or alternatively, 180 days part time (up to 4 hours per day), without having to obtain a work permit.
If, however, you come from a country member of the European Union or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, the same rules as for German nationals will apply for you. This means you will be allowed to work more, but this should not interfere with your studies. Exceptions from this rule are the following countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary. As for prospective students from the two newest EU members, Romania and Bulgaria, the same conditions and restrictions will apply. For more accurate and up to date information, check this issue with the International Office of your home university or visit the websites of the German embassies or consulates in your country.
If you want to work more than that, you would have to obtain a work permit from the local Employment Agency ( Agentur für Arbeit). Universities may also offer jobs, but due to the high demand they are quickly taken. Student services in cooperation with the employment agency can also help you find suitable student jobs.
Remember that if as a student you earn more than 325 euros per month, you will have to pay contributions into the German pension fund. These contributions are transferable within the European Union. Students from non-EU countries can claim a refund after they finished their studies and leave Germany. Depending on your income and the duration of your paid employment, you might have to pay other social contributions as well. Foreign university staff, visiting academics and researchers will generally receive a residence permit which allows them to engage in gainful employment.
As you have seen, it is not very easy or realistic to think that you could finance your studies by working. Even if you meet all necessary legal conditions, there still is the problem of finding a job. So make sure that before you are seriously considering the option of studying in Germany you have a sound financial plan. For more information on the topic go to: www.daad.de.
Tip: If you are still an undergraduate student, it will be easier for you, for example to get a visa to work in Germany for a maximum of three months. Of course, there still is the problem of finding a job, which is not very easy at the moment. But you can ask at the German embassy or consulates in your country what possibilities there are for students wanting to temporarily work in Germany, for example during your summer holidays. You could gain important experience this way and maybe you will also be able to save some money and prepare for your study. This kind of work is of course unskilled work and therefore not highly paid such as au-pair or in restaurants. But it will definitely be a great first contact with the country, the language, the people and the culture, and you can only benefit from such an experience! Remember, there are no small beginnings, just wrong attitudes!
This article is an extract from Study in Germany - A comprehensive guide for foreign students. Click here to get a copy now.
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