Student blogger Kym provides international students that are moving to Germany to participate in Master’s of Ecotoxicology in Landau with a few things that might make the transition easier.
The very first thing you need to do is get an address. Without an address you can’t open a bank account and without a bank account you can’t really function. Because I am a little older than your average Master’s student, I really didn’t want to live in a student dorm (which I believe you can organize and book before coming to Landau). However, this was based off of what North American student dorms are like….. because well I need my sleep. Supposedly, German dorms are not like this, apparently they are rather quiet and most of the people I know that are living in dorms haven’t had a lot of problems with noise or partying until the wee hours. Because of my preconception of dorm-life I set out to find an apartment, and found a nice place on the WG-gesucht.de website. Its good to look at it for options because the dorms are getting a little pricy. When I got here I was told by some students that if you are renting a place for more than 300 euros you are getting ripped off. However, I think that the days of getting things that cheap are coming to an end as the university, and therefore the student population, are growing. Landlords are starting to realize they can charge more for their apartments as the demand for rooms continues to grow. If you would rather live in an apartment than a dorm I would also recommend coming a few months early to find a place. If I had to do it again I would have come in August and started to look because as early as September, apartments with empty rooms start to fill up.
Once you have an address, you can go and get a bank account (make sure its a free student account). Which you will need for paying uni fees, rent, and everything else. Here in Germany the banking system is quite different than in North America, everything is done by bank transfers. Its not complicated but it is different. Most students do not have credit cards and in my experience when you are signing up for something like a cell phone plan they will not set it up so it charges your credit card every month, they set up an automatic bank transfer (hence, the need for a bank account). When you get a bank account the bank will either mail you a sheet with a bunch of codes on it or give you this little calculator-looking thing to generate codes (don’t ask me how it works, I went with the paper option). From then on you can use your online banking and make a transfer. Once you submit a transfer, the website will ask you for one of the codes from the sheet, you enter it, and presto! Money transferred.
The last thing I will talk about today is getting a cell phone (or “handy” as the Germans call it). When I moved here I wanted a smart phone, as it is easier to say in touch with friends and family back home. I looked around and got an okay deal, although still not the best monthly fee, but it allowed me to get an iPhone and the contract was two years (which is how long the program is supposed to be, so I though why not?). In recent months though, I was talking to Miri, one of the other girls in the program, and she told me that she only pays 8 euros a month, and has data and everything (she uses Aldi talk, which I believe is a pay as you go type of deal). So I think if you already have a smart phone, come and buy a sim card and do one of the pay as you go type things. Also a note about phone contracts, if you do not cancel the phone contract when your time period is over it will automatically sign you up for another year (I know it seems criminal), so be diligent in knowing when you contract is up, if you have one.