ZEIT Germany 2023

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Worth the Risk


Students opt to examine their homelands from afar


Interdisciplinary research in and around nature abounds


Career centers help foreigners land their dream jobs

2023 2024

c h o o s e t h e f u t u r e . c h o o s e B a d e nWü r t t e m b e r g .

Are you looking for excellent research and study opportunities that will prepare you for the future?

Then, choose Baden-Württemberg. Here, you find Germany‘s largest number of renowned universities with a clear future-oriented focus. Experience why the state is at the forefront of academic excellence and instruction, and decide between more than 3,400 academic degree programs offered by the institutes of higher education.

International students have never been more appealing to Germany. The largest economy in Europe will be facing a shortage of up to 240,000 skilled workers by 2026 in fields from education to healthcare to STEM. That’s why government, industry, and academia are targeting fresh talent from abroad. And universities, where about 75,000 foreign students begin their studies each year, are the bull’s eye. Studying and staying on in Germany presents a big opportunity, but it’s a challenge too. We help you navigate it all – the culture shock, the fun festivals, the bureaucracy, the job prospects. Stay tuned!




A prominent researcher on values in higher education



Decoding German body language is a skill well worth learning


Some of the many programs connecting nature lovers to the great outdoors – and to other disciplines


Custom-made career services for internationals



ZEIT, a German weekly newspaper, covers education and more.

ZEIT Germany’s print edition is available via the network of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Goethe-Institut, and the Federal Foreign Office, among others. The entire issue is available digitally at www.zeit.de/germany



What’s behind the blocked account for foreigners? And is it really necessary?



Kabul to Berlin, San Ramon de Alajuela to Augsburg: two foreigners blaze new trails



Key terms to help cut through university jargon

Freiburg students share their dreams – big and small – for today and for the distant future


The staff. Plus distribution partners and further details


A pretty thorough to-do list for settling in



A challenging crossword puzzle for the bilingual brain

Publisher Anna-Lena Scholz and editor-in-chief Deborah Steinborn Photos: Maximilian Virgili (cover), Jasmina Hanf (this page)
AWAY FROM HOME Students from afar study their homelands at German universities
clichés, fun and
facts for newbies
WORTH THE RISK We shot our cover on Berlin’s Maybachufer in Neukölln 4 HOME
IT! The
cost of studying, living, and partying in Germany 16 COMPOUND INTEREST Navigating language, love, and life through tongue-twisters of words
The ZEIT Germany Team



Students from near and far are choosing German universities to gain new perspectives on their home countries

Geetha K. Wilson, 36, at the department of Indology at Tübingen University Photo: Julia Sang Nguyen


Louis Makafui Mawusi walking along the banks of the Rhine river in Cologne Photo: Natasha auf’m Kamp
Louis Makafui Mawusi on campus at the University of Cologne

Growing up in Ghana, Louis Makafui Mawusi never asked why it was so difficult to cross into neighboring Togo, Burkina Faso, or the Republic of Côte D’Ivoire. National borders were national borders, and crossing them naturally involved red tape.

Then he moved to Cologne. From his new base inside the Schengen Area, a short train ride could bring him from Germany into neighboring Belgium or the Netherlands without so much as a passport check. Suddenly he found himself wondering why it couldn’t be just as easy to cross from Ghana to Togo. In the library of the University of Cologne, he pored over detailed case studies on migration within Africa, and his perspective on the entire continent evolved.

Mawusi, now 28, is working toward a master’s in culture and environment in Africa at the University of Cologne. His choice of academic venue reflects a much wider trend. Students from around the world are coming to Germany to study the countries in which they were born and raised. While Bolivians read Latin American literature amid the hilly landscape of Jena, Ukrainians in medieval Regensburg are analyzing Ukraine’s Soviet-era World War II memorials. And Ugandans and Nigerians, among others, are researching myriad aspects of Africa within a few miles of Cologne’s famous cathedral.

If leaving home to investigate one’s homeland seems unusual at first, these students say it makes sense. German universities offer open academic climates, have deep roots in many fields of research, and cultivate international environments that encourage students to look beyond borders. Tuition is essentially free, and funding opportunities abound. In 2021, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) awarded project funding and research grants to more than 44,000 foreigners doing academic work in Germany.

There are stumbling blocks: most students will agree that the German language and the country’s somewhat Kafkaesque immigration bureaucracy are challenging. Yet as the country’s skilled-labor shortage intensifies, job opportunities in and outside of academia are enticing would-be graduates too. Germany will be short some seven million skilled workers by 2035, according to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. So aspiring academics and young professionals alike have a lot of options.

“I’m not the first, and I’m not the last,” says Muhsin Ibrahim, a Nigerian national and Hausa studies lecturer at the University of Cologne. He obtained a doctorate in African studies in Cologne two years ago. Indeed, more international students than ever are coming to Germany. According to an October

2022 DAAD report, there were roughly 350,000 internationals in the 2021–22 winter semester, an 8 percent increase from the previous year.

The vast majority of foreign students pursue technical, scientific, or business degrees. But regional studies departments at German universities also attract many students from abroad. Of the 2,088 students enrolled in Asian studies programs in the winter of 2021–22, about 20 percent hailed from East, South or Southeast Asia, according to data from the Federal Statistical Office. That very same semester, one-fourth of the 1,373 students enrolled in Slavic studies were nationals of countries in which Slavic languages are spoken.

Back in high school in Accra, Mawusi joined the German club. Later, while earning a bachelor’s degree in geography and regional planning in Cape Coast, Ghana, he took language classes at Accra’s Goethe-Institut. He learned about Germany’s low tuition and work-study offerings through various

If leaving home to investigate one’s homeland seems unusual at first, these students say it makes sense
Mawusi, 28, grew up in Accra, Ghana Photos: Natasha auf’m Kamp

information sessions that the DAAD hosted from time to time at his university.

Mawusi reasoned that if he also worked student jobs, a master’s degree in Europe’s largest economy would be more affordable than in Ghana. And his assumption was right. Tuition for his first semester in Cologne, winter 2021–22, was 287.95 euros (including 197.20 euros for a regional public transit pass). As he had hoped, Mawusi has been able to fund his studies and cover his day-to-day costs completely with student jobs and paid internships during semester breaks. He says he eventually hopes to return to Ghana to pursue a career in development cooperation or project management there.

Studying Africa outside of Africa, Mawusi says, has introduced him to subjects he wouldn’t have otherwise encountered, like intracontinental migration. It also has made him think well beyond Ghana’s borders. “I have mostly known Africa in the context of Ghana and, to some extent, neighboring

countries,” he says. His master’s program in Cologne covers much of sub-Saharan Africa, broadening his understanding of the continent.

Ibrahim, the Nigerian lecturer at the University of Cologne, says it’s not at all unusual that he has spent so much time studying his own country in Germany. He describes four main factors that draw African students here: access to academic resources such as extensive libraries and technical support; academic freedom and professors who are open to new ideas; autonomous time free of familial or societal obligations; and better job prospects.

And job prospects flow in both directions: regional studies degrees from Germany help both graduates seeking work in the EU and those looking for better opportunities back home.

Ibrahim, who grew up in Kano, came to Germany for the teaching job he still holds. After completing a master’s degree in theater and television at Lovely Professional University in Punjab, India, he headed back to Nigeria. But soon a friend texted him via WhatsApp about Cologne’s open position for a lecturer in Hausa studies. Once in Germany, he decided to pursue a doctorate while teaching. He says that combination of research and lecturing in Germany has reshaped his view of Nigeria: “I see my culture not as an insider, not as an outsider, but as somebody in between.”

If studying in Germany has its perks, it also has its challenges. In addition to learning the language, the red tape of immigration can be a hindrance. Even students who have been accepted at reputable universities may be denied a visa. And students from Africa in particular say they sometimes encounter ignorance about their backgrounds. Damalie Malaika Nabukalu, an African studies major in Cologne from Uganda, recalls being asked after a job interview whether she was a refugee. “Just because I’m African does not mean I’m a refugee,” she explains. “I could be a tourist. I could be a diplomat.”

Geetha K. Wilson, 36, moved in late 2022 from Bengaluru in southern India to Tübingen to earn a doctorate. She’s researching Chavittunatakam, a classical art form involving dance, music, and costume from the coastal islands of her home state of Kerala. The form often takes up European, Christian, and Greco-Roman themes, and Wilson’s focus is on the many tales of Charlemagne present in the traditional repertoire.

Although she’s nearly half a world away from the artists whose work she studies, Tübingen is in some ways the optimal place to carry out her research. It also isn’t hard to grasp the red tape that kept her

Wilson explores the historic streets of Tübingen
“I see my culture not as an insider, not as an outsider, but as somebody in between”
Louis M. Mawusi
Photo: Julia Sang Nguyen
Gabriela Miranda, 32, reading poems from Jaime Saenz‘s Obra poetica Photo: Alina Simmelbauer

from pursuing a doctorate in India. India’s University Grants Commission has an age cap on fellowships relevant to her field. What’s more, Wilson says, postgraduate academic job opportunities in Kerala are scarce and poorly paid.

In contrast, there are indisputable draws to working on her topic from Tübingen, she says. The university’s department of Indology hosts the prestigious Hermann Gundert Portal, an archive well-known to scholars of South Indian culture. The 19th-century linguist and missionary spent more than 20 years researching the Malayalam language before donating a hoard of 19th-century works in South Indian languages to his alma mater’s library. So anyone researching culture, history, or language in Kerala has heard of Tübingen, Wilson says.

Though students in regional studies focus on specific places, they, too, benefit from international environments. Wilson says, “there’s an international approach to everything I do.” In Germany, she must transliterate Malayalam into the Roman (Latin) script using a global standard. Romanization can be tricky. But it’s important because it allows interna-

tional scholars to access the work. In India, she says, many universities don’t use this standard.

Studying in Germany has also helped Olha Martyniuk, 28, develop an international perspective. The Ukrainian first came to Germany in 2018 to spend a year working at the memorial at the former concentration camp Buchenwald. She is now writing her dissertation at the University of Regensburg about Ukraine’s Soviet-era World War II memorials. “In Germany, there’s a sort of distance, and people compare to their own experiences,” she says. “That makes it easier to approach the topic not just from the Ukrainian perspective” but rather to place it “in a global or European context.”

Granted, the strength of regional studies programs at German universities is rooted in the controversial history of European colonialism. Some academic fields grew directly out of it. In other cases, researchers like Gundert took advantage of European dominance on the world stage to pursue their research in other colonies. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, German social scientists were active throughout European colonies, shaping linguistics, anthropology, ethnology, and other fields from which regional studies would eventually evolve.

In some cases, scholarship played directly into the hands of brutal colonial regimes. Between 1904 and 1907 imperial Germany committed genocide against the Herero and Nama people in present-day Namibia. From the start, the field of African studies was “deeply enmeshed, entangled, and connected with colonialism,” says Anne Storch, professor of African Studies in Cologne. She offers a course on the colonial origins of the field.

The legacies of colonialism persist, both in German archives and in its older academic literature. These days, scholars from around the world are


scrutinizing those sources for even more evidence of colonial entanglements.

If some students in Germany are scouring the archives for distorted views of their homelands, others are finding something else: a sense that their image of home was incomplete before they went abroad. Gabriela Miranda, a 32-year-old from Sucre, Bolivia, says it took a few years of physical distance, coursework, and conversations for this to happen.

A master’s student in romance studies with a focus on Latin American literature, Miranda’s path to Germany began back in 2011 with a high school exchange year in Jena. She returned two years later to improve her German, then applied to Jena’s bachelor’s program in biogeosciences in 2016. Before long she had switched programs and now has a fellowship from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Her views on Latin America began to change as a bachelor’s student. During coursework that focused on other Latin American countries, she says, she spotted many of the same hot-button issues that mark Bolivian history – among them colonialism, racism, and atrocities against indigenous peoples.

As her curiosity grew, she audited political science courses and began to read Karl Marx, whose theories were so influential for 20th-century Latin American politics and economics. Though she would hardly call herself a Marxist, reading the German philosopher more closely sparked new insight. And meeting and working with other Latin American students on campus gave her a chance to question certain assumptions she held about Bolivia’s neighbors. For instance, she had grown up hearing disparaging jokes about Chileans that she later realized simply played into Bolivian jingoism.

Miranda’s views of her own country evolved too. Back when Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in 2006, Miranda’s con-

servative, middle-class family was put off by his lack of a university degree and his leftism. A young teen at the time, Miranda accepted those views too.

But, as she puts it now, “you gain a different perspective from a distance.” She has a better understanding of why certain movements emerged in the region. Even the rise of Evo Morales now seems different to her. “I understood that I had also been racist,” she says. “The path he took to become president was not easy, and it was part of a long history of fighting for indigenous people in Bolivia.”

As her studies emboldened her to explore different positions, she began to talk politics with her family when she called them on the phone or visited them. She stopped backing down in discussions with her parents. And she began to argue with friends back home too. “I noticed that we were somehow not in the same mindset,” she recalls.

Far away from it all, from her perch in Germany, she had now learned about the politics, society, and history of her own city, country, and continent. And as a result, Miranda says of this personal journey, “I had begun to think differently.”

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Germany is known for beer and bratwurst. Beyond the clichés, there’s something for everyone:

For mainstreamers

The population increased from 83.2 to 84.3 MILLION in 2022

The state spent about 351 BILLION EUROS on education, research, and science in 2021 alone

Research and development expenditure reached an all-time high in 2021 – up 5.6 % from the previous year to 112.6 BILLION EUROS

Breweries sold almost 715.9 MILLION LITERS of alcoholic beer in non-EU countries in 2022, up 66% from 2012

Bakers here offer 300 TYPES OF BREAD and 1,200 TYPES OF CAKE

There are more than 24,000 FOOTBALL CLUBS with a total of 7 MILLION MEMBERS

In 2022, Germany exported 500,000 electric vehicles worth 24 BILLION EUROS

All over the world, people associate Germany with beer, bratwurst, and cars. Those are the stereotypes. But if you look beyond them, you’ll make some delightful and absolutely weird discoveries. From the world’s largest cuckoo clock to some of the most visited dance raves, there’s something for everyone. With a population of 84 million, Germany today is far from a monoculture. Indeed, roughly 24 percent of residents have roots in another country. And there’s a lot for them to learn, see, and do.

Keen on AI, fluid dynamics, or another complex field? Then you’ve come to the right place. The state spent 351 billion euros on education, research, and science in 2021. Love the wilderness? Nature parks cover nearly 29 percent of the land, and there are thousands of lakes to swim in.

If you’re more of the party type, you can explore some of the biggest, most boisterous, oldest, most creative, and simply craziest music festivals in the world. We provide the facts. The fun is up to you.

For nature lovers

Almost one-third of Germany is forest and woodland. That’s 11.1 MILLION HECTARES

The most common trees are SPRUCE and PINE

There are 104 NATURE PARKS, covering almost 29% of the country

Many of the TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LAKES are designated for swimming and recreation

In more than 800 ZOOS, the macaw rules the roost as the designated zoo animal of 2023

With 200,000 KM OF HIKING TRAILS, it’s no surprise that some 2 million teens hit the trails often in 2022

42 % of energy consumption comes from renewable energy

A QUARTER of the country’s electricity in 2022 came from wind power, a third from coal

Bike sales were up 2.4% in 2022

Alte Druckkunst eV; Atlas Obscura; Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN); CBS International Business School; Culture Trip; Destatis; Der DFB; Deutsche Welle (DW); Hotels.com; Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU); Pirateninsel Rügen; Seen.de; Statista; Studying in Germany (www.studying-in-germany.org); Verband der Zoologischen Gärten e.V. (VdZ); WordsRated
Sources: AllExciting.com;


from thousands of glimmering lakes to dozens of hip, quirky, and downright fun music festivals

For party people

OKTOBERFEST in Munich has been the world’s largest folk festival since its founding in 1810


in Hamburg is a large music and club bash held each September, featuring more than 600 events in 70 venues


in Cologne is 2,000 years old – nearly as old as the city – and boasts a parade of colorful costumes


is a giant celebration on a former military base, Müritz Airbase in Lärz, featuring popular international acts and underground local talent

WACKEN is the world’s largest heavy-metal festival, has 75,000 attendees, and is held in a village northwest of Hamburg


inspired by its US sister, first took place in Berlin in 2014 and is now the largest city-based festival in Germany

For collectors of quirk

SCHWEBEBAHN suspension railway in Wuppertal

HOTEL EH’HÄUSL the world’s smallest hotel in Amberg


EISBACHWELLE year-round river surfing in the middle of Munich


FAIRY GROTTOES in the former mines of Saalfeld

ASPARAGUS MUSEUM in Schrobenhausen

UPSIDE-DOWN HOUSE on the island of Rügen

WORLD’S LARGEST CUCKOO CLOCK in Schonach im Schwarzwald

For culture lovers

There are about 25,000 CASTLES throughout the country

A MECCA FOR CLASSICAL MUSIC, with 129 publicly funded professional orchestras

The first printed book, a Bible typeset by JOHANNES GUTENBERG, was produced in Mainz in the 1450s

Germany is one of the great publishing nations, bringing out over 94,000 TITLES every year

For the multi-cultural 24.3 % of Germany’s population has roots in other countries and cultures

The immigrant population rose 6.5 % on year to 20.2 MILLION people in 2022

The increase has been mostly due to the influx of refugees escaping war and natural disaster; other migrants to Germany are seeking gainful employment or want to reunite with family members



Whether studying or partying, the cost of living in Germany is cheaper than in other Western countries. The numbers speak for themselves

Sources: cocktail bars, numbeo, EAH Jena, Harvard University, King’s College London, Technical University of Munich, xe.com University of Applied Sciences Jena Cost of Living and Studying (in euros) Annual Tuition Loaf of Bread Monthly Transport Pass An Aperol Spritz Monthly Rent (on campus) Cup of Cappuccino Monthly Health Insurance Number of Students Percentage of Foreign Students Technical University of Munich Harvard University King’s College London 500 285 27.30 120 1.08 2.81 6 4,400 20 304.60 350 29 95 2.03 3.62 7.50 50,484 41 49,645 948 115 313 3.52 4.56 11 35,276 22 29,126 990 183 45 1.51 3.94 10 29,637 37
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Photos: José Cuevas, Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek/Connected

From Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung to Fernweh, a ZEIT Germany author navigates language and life through mouthfuls of German words


Lebensmittelgeschäft, Flugzeug & Lesestück

Years ago, I came to Germany for romance. I hopped on a Flugzeug to visit my Liebhaber in Hamburg, where he was studying at university. I didn’t speak a word of German at the time. I didn’t even know that the words for airplane and lover were compound.

I wandered the city streets, fascinated by the shockingly long strings of letters on buildings and shops: Lebensmittelgeschäft, Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaft, Metzgereifachverkäuferin. What kind of

mentality lurks behind a language that includes such mouthfuls of syllables? I wondered. This was the start of my lifelong Liebesaffäre with German and its profusion of compound words.

The velvety tones of French may make it an obvious choice for the language of love. But the

building-block, Lego-like structure of German compound words gives the language student insight into the efficient thought processes and logic of the people who speak it.

Why use a lot of individual words to describe something when you can pack them all into one?

I can still remember reading in the opening Lesestück of my very first German language textbook about an American student arriving in Germany. She


wonders why there is no Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung on the highways here. She might just as well have wondered why there’s a compound word for speed limit when everyone drives so fast. Shouldn’t there be a quicker way of saying it?

Coming to Germany to study? If you haven’t already, you will soon hear about the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz , the national law that determines financial aid for students. This need-based


form of student financing has been available to students since 1971. For obvious reasons, the natives simply call it BAföG.

You’ll likely encounter a few other examples of compound words during your first semester too. Looking for a place to live? How about dorm life in a Studen-

tenwohnheim? For the more independent, there’s always a Wohngemeinschaft, a house or apartment share to save on rent. That’s often abbreviated in spoken and written German to WG.

You’ll also probably encounter various combinations involving the word Wissenschaften, an umbrella term covering both the sciences and the humanities. (Wissenschaft means both science and scholarship.) Interested in studying literature or philosophy? You

Photos: Niklas Viola, Sebastian Beierle, Sarah Pannell (opposite page), Anna Aicher (this page)


might find yourself running from your university’s Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, its school of natural sciences, and toward its Geisteswissenschaftliche Fakultät (literally, the “faculty for the sciences of the mind”), where you can work in the humanities.

And German isn’t getting any simpler. This year, for instance, the new national Hinweisgeberschutzgesetz took effect. It’s a law protecting whistleblowers, literally a “hint-giver protection law.”

German teachers used to love to offer up Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän (a steamship company captain along the Danube river) as the epitome of a ridiculous German compound word. This 42-letter word is no longer common usage because steamships are a thing of the past,

even if captains are not. But certain modern job titles could easily compete with it. Take Sozialversicherungsfachangestellte/r, a neat and tidy word for describing a female or male employee at a social security office. Fortunately (or not), the title is often shortened to SoFa

The good news: not all German compound words are this long. There’s even a mnemonic that will help you recall them all: Eselsbrücke, which literally means

Photos: Mathis Körner (this page), Marc Krause/Connected Archives, Leon Joshua Dreischulte, Franz Grünewald/Connected Archives (opposite page)

Eselsbrücke, Wohngemeinschaft & Kraftfahrzeuge

“donkey’s bridge.” Many are more common, designating household appliances (Staubsauger), modes of transport (Kraftfahrzeuge), and small matchboxes (Streichholzschächtelchen). (This last one is rather long because it’s in the diminutive. You could also use Streichholzschachtel to describe, say, a larger box of matches, or one that is less cute.)

Some of the most common compound words are even in English dictionaries, although the nouns are

set lower-case: zeitgeist, kindergarten and schadenfreude. This last one even made it into the hit Broadway musical Avenue Q and got its own eponymous song, which defines it as “happiness at the misfortune of others.”

So if you have Fernweh, want to study far from home, and decide

that Germany is the place, there’s no need to feel Herzschmerz about mastering the language. Don’t put on any Kummerspeck over this little worry. Compound words shouldn’t be your Sorgenkind. Instead, revel in them and milk them for all they’re worth. That’s the beauty of this not always beautiful but always well-organized language. Just don’t forget to put the verb at the end and keep your tongue in your cheek.


Liebhaber: lover

“Love haver” = Liebe (to love)

+ haben (to have)

Flugzeug: airplane

“Flight-thing” = Flug (flight)

+ Zeug (thing)

Lebensmittelgeschäft: grocery store

“Life resource shop” = Leben (life)

+ Mittel (means or resource)

+ Geschäft (shop or business)

Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaft: company that offers legal insurance

“Legal protection insurance company” = Recht (law)

+ Schutz (protection)

+ Versicherung (insurance)

+ Gesellschaft (company)

Metzgereifachverkäuferin: (female) butcher

“Butcher shop trade saleswoman” = Metzger (butcher) / Metzgerei (butcher shop) + Fach (trade or profession)

+ Verkäuferin (female salesperson)

Liebesaffäre: love affair

From Liebe (love) + Affäre (affair)

Lesestück: reading passage

“Reading piece” = lesen (to read)

+ Stück (piece)

Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung: speed limit

From Geschwindigkeit (speed)

[ geschwind (quick)]

+ Begrenzung (limit)

Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (BAföG): Germany’s law for federal financial aid

“Federal educational support act” = Bund (federation)

+ Ausbildung (education)

+ Förderung ([financial] support)

+ Gesetz (law)

Studentenwohnheim: dormitory

“Student residential home” = wohnen (to live or reside)

+ Heim (home or residence)

A literal guide to compound words


Sozialversicherungsfachangestellte/r: a female or male employee at a social insurance company From sozial (social)

+ Versicherung (insurance)

+ Fach (trade or profession)

+ Angestellte/r (female/male employee)

Eselsbrücke: a mnemonic

“Donkey’s bridge” = Esel (donkey)

+ Brücke (bridge)

Staubsauger: vacuum cleaner

“Dust sucker” = Staub (dust)

+ saugen (to suck)

Kraftfahrzeug: car, truck, or other kind of motor vehicle

“Power driven thing” = Kraft (power)

+ fahren (to drive)

+ Zeug (thing)

Streichholzschächtelchen: little matchbox “Strike wood little box” = streichen (strike)

+ Holz (wood)

+ Schächtelchen (little box)

Wohngemeinschaft (WG): shared living space (or commune)

“Living community” = wohnen (to live or reside)

+ Gemeinschaft (community)

Hinweisgeberschutzgesetz: whistleblower protection act

“Hint-giver protection law” = Hinweis (hint)

+ Geber (giver)

+ Schutz (protection)

+ Gesetz (law)


Danube steamship company captain From Donau (Danube)

+ Dampf (steam)

+ Schiff (ship)

+ Gesellschaft (company)

+ Kapitän (captain)

Schadenfreude: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

“Damage joy” = Schaden (damage)

+ Freude (joy)

Fernweh: the desire to travel, aka wanderlust

“Distance pain” = fern (distant)

+ Weh (pain)

Herzschmerz: heartache

From Herz (heart) + Schmerz (pain)

Kummerspeck: excess weight gained from eating too much because you’re worried

“Worry bacon” = Kummer (worry)

+ Speck (bacon)

Sorgenkind: problem child

“Worry child” = Sorge (worry)

+ Kind (child)



f l y b i g .

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With free tuition at public universities, Germany prides itself on being a financially accessible place to study. Its relative affordability is a major draw for international students. But to get their student visas and residency permits, most students from abroad have a rather daunting hurdle to clear: the blocked bank account, or Sperrkonto

German law requires foreigners applying for student visas to supply proof of financial solvency. The blocked account is one of the best ways to do so. During the application process, prospective students deposit a predetermined amount of money (currently 11,208 euros) into this special bank account – all in one go. The lump sum represents enough money to finance a full year of living expenses in Germany, and the government pegs it to the maximum amount of financial aid set by the BAföG (the German Federal Training Assistance Act), adjusted periodically.

Contrary to the name, these accounts are “limited withdrawal accounts,” and holders can access the funds once they begin their studies. But they may only withdraw a certain amount per month, currently 934 euros.

Introduced in 2009, the blocked account is intended to assure German authorities that young

How to open a blocked account

1. RESEARCH … the websites of German blocked account providers for the best offers. Does the provider have a proven reputation?

2. FIND … the correct form; it should be easy to find on your chosen provider’s site.

3. FILL OUT … the application form; it should be self-explanatory, with simple questions on personal details.

4. TRANSFER … the requested amount of money Depending on the

scholars from abroad can cover daily expenses and won’t burden the state. Foreigners have a few alternatives to prove financial resources, but German embassies strongly favor blocked accounts.

A few exceptions can get you off the hook. A scholarship certificate from a recognized provider like the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) is one way; a guarantor with permanent residency in Germany is sometimes accepted too. Students from EU member states as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland are also exempt. But most other students – including Canadians, Australians, and others able to enter Germany without a visa – need a blocked account in order to get a residency permit.

With an estimated 64,000 candidates for German student visas setting up blocked accounts each year, it’s a lucrative sector. A process once mired in paperwork has become increasingly digitized. In the early days, prospective students, still abroad, had to travel to a local German embassy to fill out forms that were then mailed. Deutsche Bank used to hold a virtual monopoly on the market but pulled out in 2022.

Three online providers of blocked accounts now dominate it: Frankfurt-based Fintiba, Berlin-


A little-known fact for newbies: Foreigners must prove they can finance their studies in Germany. Most do it via a special bank account. What exactly is this blocked account and (why) is it necessary?

based Expatrio, and Hamburg-based Coracle. It’s a competitive business, and these established fintech providers often offer students other products as well – from health and liability insurance to SIM cards and more.

With online providers, prospective students can open an account within minutes, provided they have the necessary funds. But for many international students – especially those from low-income countries – the greatest impediment is the large deposit requirement.

Lilian Proches Malamsha, a 24-year-old from Tanzania, is applying for a master’s in economic policy at the University of Siegen. “The amount requested is fair considering the cost of living in Germany, but it’s hardly achievable for an average income earner in Tanzania,” she says. The amount definitely discourages many Tanzanians, she says, “despite the incentive of free tuition.”

Malamsha’s family has been saving for the past two years to support her academic dreams. They were initially skeptical: “I had to explain it many times before they understood the logic behind the blocked account and not think it’s a scam.”

The need to transfer 11,208 euros all at once complicated the university application process

provider, the total sum requested will also include at least one of the following fees: a setup fee; a service fee; or a buffer deposit to cover any unexpected extra transfer fees. As a general rule, any buffer deposit not used during the transaction should be returned to you with the very first payout.

5. RECEIVE … a blocking confirmation; after successfully transferring the money, you should get a letter confirming that you’ve opened a blocked account. The amount should be clearly stated in that letter. You will need the confirmation letter for your German student visa application.

Source: mygermanuniversity.com

for Benjamin Kwebaza, 31, from Uganda. He’s a master’s student in computer science at the University of Passau. “Initially, every step of the application process seemed easy because everything was online,” Kwebaza says. But in the final stage, he was asked to prove the source of the funds he had transferred. “The provider labeled my country among the highly risky areas for money laundering,” he says.

Kwebaza and his sponsor, a cousin in the UK, had to send numerous documents by courier to prove that his funds came from a legitimate source. This led to delays.

Not everyone can overcome this barrier. Peter Osei Kofi, a 39-year-old scientist in Ghana, ruled out study in Germany entirely due to it. “It would take me up to four years before I could raise this amount of money,” he says. “I have decided not to seek admission into German universities because of it.”

Blocked accounts may be good at assuring German taxpayers that students from abroad can afford to live in the country. But they do raise questions of fairness. Most importantly, students need to be aware of what the entire process entails so that they can plan far enough in advance.



From Kabul to Berlin

A bachelor’s student at Bard College Berlin learns for – and with – girls and women in Afghanistan

When Sultana Taib was a little girl, her mother would take her to an underground school almost an hour’s walk from home. There, three times a week, she would read books, learn languages, and explore world history and culture.

It was the late 1990s, Taib and her family were living in Mazar-i-Sharif, and the Taliban controlled about 90 percent of Afghanistan. In a systematic segregation, the Islamic fundamentalist group forbade women to work, move freely in public, or attend school after age eight. If women and girls wanted an education, they had to do so in secret, at great danger to themselves and their teachers.

Taib’s mother, a medical doctor, was determined her daughter would learn anyway. “Risks were death threats, being arrested, beaten, or snatched away,” Taib says. “It was brave of my female teacher and my mother to take the risk in exchange for our learning.”

Today, some two years after the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban once again control most of the country. Taib fled in late August 2021 on one of the final evacuation flights from Kabul. She was able to bring her parents and two younger siblings with her.

Now, as she continues her own education in Berlin, Taib, 30, is taking advantage of modern technology to help her countrywomen learn despite the Taliban’s efforts to gut women’s rights.

Taib studies economics, politics, and social thought at Bard College Berlin (BCB), a private German-American university. Since January 2022 she has been earning her second bachelor’s degree there as a transfer student from the American University of Afghanistan, where she worked and studied until the Taliban takeover in 2021. She has a scholar-

ship funded by BCB’s Program for International and Social Change and the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, a private foundation.

Taib is now using the resources of BCB’s network to help other scholars in exile. She is a founding member of the Voices of Afghan Students Across the Open Society University Network (VASA-OSUN), a new civic engagement project supporting Afghan students on the campuses of the Open Society University Network. (OSUN comprises 45 member institutions on five continents.) Independent filmmaker Zarlasht Sarmast, a friend and colleague of Taib’s, also was instrumental in getting the platform off the ground.

VASA-OSUN allows Afghan students in exile to share news about the projects they’re working on, how they’re integrating into their new communities, and how they’re dealing with trauma. “This is how we try to find our way in the new places where we live and encourage each other,” Taib says.

The quest for knowledge even in the face of grave danger has stayed with Taib. In 2016, the Taliban attacked the American University of Afghanistan in Kab-

ul, killing 13 students, faculty, and staff during a 10-hour overnight siege of the campus. Taib was a student there at the time and was injured.

It took time to recover from the trauma of experiencing that violence, but she returned to the university again in 2018 and remained associated with it right up until she fled the country.

Today her life in Berlin revolves around studying and trying to encourage girls and women back home to maintain hope. There are some cultural festivities on the Bard campus, and she is exploring the German capital. Sometimes she wonders whether she might move on from Germany one day, perhaps to the United States. But for the most part, she is driven to learn and to foster learning in her homeland.

What free time she has, she devotes to advising students from her hometown to enhance their educational capacities and build basic professional skills. Using platforms like WhatsApp and Zoom, she’s in touch with former female university students who are now deprived of educational resources.

Indeed, by autumn 2021, the Taliban had barred most teenage girls from returning to their secondary schools and blocked women from working in most sectors outside of health and teaching. And the situation for Afghan women is only growing worse. In December 2022 the government barred them from university study as well as from employment in non-governmental organizations.

Speaking of her group VASA-OSUN, Taib says: “We see ourselves as representatives of two and a half million Afghan women who cannot attend university today and who are not even allowed to work.”

“It’s sad for us,” says Taib. “But that sadness is our motivation. It gives us the strength to go forward.”


From San Ramon de Alajuela to Augsburg

A bachelor’s student from Costa Rica prepares for an unusual year abroad in her hometown and in Brazil

For as long as she can remember, Raquel Rodriguez Rojas has been fascinated by all things German. While growing up in San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica, a steady stream of exchange students from the far-away European country known for its castles and cars would spend a year with her family. They’d share details of their culture and lifestyle back home.

“My older siblings were always like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you,’ and that was that. But I always wanted to know more,” Rodriguez Rojas recalls.

She was only three years old when the first exchange student, a girl named Ulli, moved in. She was drawn to the international connection even then; the two are still in touch.

The young Germans just kept coming. And Raquel – “number seven” in a family of eight children – soaked up the stories of life in Europe and was determined to see for herself. Even in grade school she wanted to research German language, literature, and pop culture. In high school, learning about the country’s role in the world wars as well as the Cold War was “an absolute eye opener,” she adds, and it heightened her interest in the history, politics, and role of Germany on the world stage.

Today Rodriguez Rojas, 21, is living her dream in Augsburg, a picturesque medieval city along the famed Romantic Road. She’s studying social sciences with a minor in languages at the University of Augsburg. She wants to stay in Germany after she completes her bachelor’s degree and could imagine eventually pursuing a master’s in international relations.

Tuition may be free in Germany, but life in Bavaria isn’t cheap, Rodriguez Rojas admits. She’s self-financing with a modest scholarship from the university and a series of part-time jobs. She’s worked in restaurants, at the university’s international office, and at the post office. Her most recent odd job: waitressing at the Ratskeller, a restaurant in the historic vaulted cellar of city hall.

“It’s a funny coincidence: the very first time I came to Augsburg, I ate at the Ratskeller with Rosa-

lie, another exchange student who lived with us in Costa Rica. And now I work there!” she laughs.

Rodriguez Rojas has been resourceful and a bit lucky too. In 2020, she enrolled as an economics student at the Universidad de Costa Rica in San José. She got a scholarship meant to cover living expenses, but then Covid-19 struck and students were sent home to learn online. She saved the money for travel to Germany instead. She scrambled during the pandemic to gather all the paperwork for a student visa and to apply to the University of Augsburg.

She enrolled at Augsburg when the world was still grappling with the coronavirus. Her first semester was held online, and she participated in courses while living rentfree with her girlfriend’s family near Munich.

Ever since coming to Augsburg in early 2022, she’s come into contact with students from all around the world. This exposure has heightened her interest in other languages, she says, and she’s now learning Portuguese, Italian, and French. She has a B2 language certificate in German from the Goethe-Institut, and her rapid-fire conversation style is evident in that language too.

“My ‘German story’ begins with my family, more specifically my mom,” Rodriguez Rojas explains, sipping a Tafelwasser in a

vegan café near the historic Rotes Tor one hot afternoon in June. Twenty years ago, it was her mother who decided to take in an exchange student despite having eight children already. And it was her mother who, noticing her daughter’s very targeted wanderlust, in 2019 set aside money earned from exchange students’ stays in the family home to pave the way for Raquel’s very first visit to Germany.

Augsburg instantly felt like home, despite the inevitable culture shock, Rodriguez Rojas says. Today she is just as comfortable playing her favorite sport, basketball, with (much taller!) Germans as she is dancing at the city’s now-biweekly Latino Reggaeton parties. She loves to explore both local cultural landmarks like the Fuggerei – the world’s oldest publichousing complex still in use – and the surrounding landscape and towns.

Beyond her studies, Rodriguez Rojas is busy with extracurricular activities. She and her girlfriend offer online German language coaching to students in Costa Rica, and she’s excited that the first of their pupils plans to apply for a master’s program in Germany after completing his B.A. in Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, her next dream is just around the bend. In a sense, it’s her own unofficial social-science experiment. She wants to study and work in the region she is from – as an exchange student from Germany. “Next semester, I’m going to do an internship in Costa Rica at the Instituto de Formación y Estudios en Democracia,” she says. “And after that, I’d like to do a semester abroad in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.”

And then she’ll be back in Germany again. That’s in large part because the story that began with Raquel’s family ends with it as well. Back in 2020, just before the pandemic broke out, Rodriguez Rojas’ mother welcomed one last exchange student from abroad. “Her name is Luka, she was born in Berlin and grew up in Munich. She came to live with my family just a few years ago,” Rodriguez Rojas says. “Today she is my girlfriend.”



BAFÖG, das (German Federal Training Assistance Act) 1. the acronym for Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, a law regulating government-funded financial aid for students in higher education. 2. the grants and loans provided by that law. Half of this financial support usually takes the form of a grant, the other half an interest-free state loan of up to 10,000 euros. The financial support must be repaid in installments after completion of studies.

BOLOGNA-PROZESS, der (higher-education reform) 1. a series of agreements between 49 European countries ensuring common standards of higher education (named after the University of Bologna, where education ministers from 29 countries signed a declaration in 1999). 2. introduction of a three-tiered structure of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as easy transfer of credits between institutions within this European bloc, which is known as the European Higher Education Area, or EHEA.

DEUTSCHER AKADEMISCHER AUSTAUSCHDIENST (DAAD), der (German Academic Exchange Service) 1. a large self-governing organization funded by the federal government and its states to support international academic cooperation. 2. a popular source of scholarship funding and research grants for foreigners studying in Germany.

DEUTSCHE FORSCHUNGSGEMEINSCHAFT (DFG), die (German Research Foundation) an organization that funds research at universities and other institutions through grants and prizes. It’s the largest publicly funded grant organization in Germany. In 2022, total funding amounted to 3.9 billion euros.

German universities have a language all their own. Key terms to help cut through all that jargon

DUALES STUDIUM, das (dual study) a system combining an apprenticeship at a company or non-profit organization with higher education in a particular field.

ERASMUS+ (also known as Erasmus Program) 1. a student-exchange program fully financed by the European Union, combining all EU schemes for education, training, youth, and sports. In 2021, the program had an estaimted budget of 26.2 billion euros. 2. Erasmus stands for European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

EXZELLENZSTRATEGIE, die (excellence strategy) 1. a long-term effort by the German Ministry of Education and Research to promote cutting-edge research conditions for scholars, encourage cooperation between academic disciplines and institutions, and enhance the global reputation of German universities and research institutions. 2. an initiative awarding special status and generous funding to 10 German public universities. According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023, nine of these universities are among the world’s top 100: Technical University of Munich (TUM), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), Heidelberg University, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Tübingen, University of Bonn, Freie Universität Berlin, and RWTH Aachen University.

FORSCHUNGSINSTITUT, das (research institute) a research body typically outside of the university system. The top four (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association, Max Planck Society, and Leibniz Association) employ more than 118,800 people collectively.

GEISTESWISSENSCHAFTEN, die pl. (humanities) 1. academic fields of study (such as history, literature, philosophy) that are distinct from both social sciences and natural sciences, formal sciences, and applied sciences. 2. fields that investigate human constructs and concerns with an interdisciplinary approach.

HABILITATION, die ( postdoctoral qualification) 1. a German postdoctoral degree necessary for many full professorships. 2. Germany’s highest academic qualification, requiring defense of a work of independent scholarship.


TEN (HAW), die (university of applied sciences) an institution of higher vocational education, often focused on specific areas such as engineering or business. On average, an institution of this kind hosts 5,000 students.

MENSA, die (dining hall ) a campus location providing subsidized meals to university students and staff. These meals usually cost less than six euros.

NATURWISSENSCHAFTEN, die pl. (natural sciences) any of the sciences (such as physics, chemistry, geology, or biology) that deal with objectively measurable phenomena in the physical world.

STUDENTENWOHNHEIM, das (student dormitory) official student housing, usually situated near campus, providing inexpensive living arrangements from single rooms and studio apartments to shared flats.


LE, die (technical university) a university that specializes in engineering, technology, and related fields. Some confer doctorates, while others do not.

UNIVERSITÄT (UNI), die (university) 1. an institution of higher learning with facilities for teaching and research that awards bachelor’s and master’s degrees. German universities host on average 15,500 students. 2. an educational body with the right to confer doctorates.

WOHNGEMEINSCHAFT (WG), die (shared apartment) private living arrangement that accommodates several people who are not related through family ties. Tenants share common areas but occupy their own bedrooms.

Moving knowledge. FAU.

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) is one of the largest research universities in Germany. Our values of innovation, diversity and passion are the key to our consistently high national and international rankings Come and join the FAU family.


40,000 students

280 years of histor y

272 degree programmes

#1 innovator

Ali Aslan Gümüsay, 38, in the auditorium at LMU’s main building. Bavaria’s constitution was adopted here


What can higher education – and society – learn from Sufi circles, the circular economy, and the Catholic church? A lot, says renowned management scholar Ali Aslan Gümüsay, professor of innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability at LMU Munich

Professor Gümüsay, your research encompasses many fields, from digitalization and management to religious organizations and groups tackling grand societal challenges. What motivates you to take such a broad approach?

I mix passion and purpose when it comes to my research. I have always gravitated toward topics that I find fascinating but also have a clear impact on society. During my Ph.D., I moved into researching organizations and organizing. And once you see the world through that lens, you cannot unsee it. Almost like in The Matrix, the 1999 science fiction film, where taking the red pill or the blue pill determines everything. Everywhere I go, I just like to understand how things are organized. That’s my meta lens.

Yet there is a common thread running through your research …

Yes, and for me, it has always been values: what an organization’s values are, how values shape organizational identity, how an organization or group protects and utilizes its in-

ternal values in the midst of market forces. I started out long ago with the question: how do organizations achieve unity in diversity? Not just demographic diversity but value diversity. A couple of years later I delved into how small organizations can be powerful. Another question was how can we theorize the future before it happens?

Your interest in what we can learn from organizations takes unusual paths. You’ve explored banks and universities, recycling startups and social movements. Karate is on your research bucket list. What’s the most unusual organization that you’ve looked at through this lens?

The most unusual was probably the first one I ever looked at. Thirteen years ago I studied a Sufi Dhikr circle in London. People come together – they sing, recite, dance. I observed how the people in that circle disseminated knowledge and how they formed organizational boundaries and identities.

I learned a lot about identity through that experience. The Sufis used a strong scent in the

“ ”
Gümüsay splits his time between Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin

room. It was an integral part of their setting. When I went back home, I took that scent with me as it stayed on my clothes and skin; and when I detected that smell elsewhere, I was reminded of that organization.

Then, when I got back to the University of Oxford, where I was researching at the time, I wondered why it has a logo as part of its brand identity – but not a scent. Why not? This led me to explore, write about, and discuss with practitioners the topic of organizational scent.

So, if we examine seemingly odd organizations that are oftentimes at the fringe of society, we might learn what needs transforming in the mainstream out of that experience.

There are plenty of other examples. I also studied a circular economy hub in Berlin’s Neukölln district. It aims to create a world without waste – a powerful, big idea. But how can a small circular-economy hub in a Berlin neighborhood create a world without waste? Yet we could learn a lot about the power of being small from this fringe organization of

sorts. That particular organization is fascinating. For one thing, they literally had an opendoor policy. When you got there, you could just walk right in. The door was always open. Because they care about the neighborhood and being linked with it, they wanted that openness. Throughout the organization, the boundaries were quite fluid, which allowed them to shape the outside world as well. And they were quite successful at it.

Star t your journey !

Small can be powerful in organizations, yet with more than 380 officially recognized universities, German academia is the opposite of small. Looking through your “meta lens,” how might higher education as an organization learn from others?

Universities are structured mostly around departments. But societal challenges are not. That’s why it would be great to see more courses in the future that are interlinked between two or more departments.

At LMU in Munich, we are building such courses around impact entrepreneurship with colleagues from political science, mathematics, law, and so on. Research would benefit from such an interdisciplinary approach as well. Advanced institutes – as places where scholars meet around a common theme from multiple perspectives – really are a wonderful step in this direction.

Interdisciplinarity is a buzzword in the US, the UK, and elsewhere around the world
“Universities are structured mostly around departments. But societal challenges are not!”
Discover it now www.zeit.de/studypaths F i n d yo u r i d ea l g e r m a n u n i ve rs i ty a n d stu d y p ro g ra m m e i n o u r b i g stu d y d at a bas e.

today. But there are structural constraints. Tell us more about your experience bridging disciplines.

In my own research field, management, there’s a lot of interest in interdisciplinarity. And there is a growing community that wants to work together on grand societal challenges. The hard part is working within the systemic constraints. Academic publishing, the very structure of the journal system, doesn’t always allow for interdisciplinarity, so we scholars are trying to change this – partly through special issues and by opening up journals to looking at things through broader, interdisciplinary lenses. Also, within the [peer-]review process, it’s much easier and safer to stay within one’s field than to publish something in outlets that are less known by one’s community and hence harder for a board to assess.

You have a lot of experience in business and academia elsewhere in Europe – both working for Boston Consulting Group and

teaching at Oxford and Cambridge universities. Coming back to the country in which you grew up, how have these experiences abroad changed your perspective on German academia?

The Oxbridge college system literally brings diverse faculty to the dining table. Because of this, I think I’ve brought back a collaborative and interdisciplinary mindset. It feels natural to engage with other research departments, institutes, and faculty. What’s more, given the chair structure in Germany, my role has moved much more toward management rather than pure research. That’s another key difference between Germany and the UK.

In England, the emphasis in the social sciences is on individual research, possibly linked to the department. Professors don’t commonly lead academic units unless they are doing so as chairs of departments and groups. In Germany, each professor leads an academic unit. With that managerial role I can better leverage certain resources. That is the pro. But

Make it happen.

it also takes a lot of time to organize certain things, which you wouldn’t have at Oxbridge. That’s the con. There’s less time for your own research and teaching.

You now divide your time in academia and research between three cities that are in very different regions of the country: Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg. Is this kind of academic mobility the future in Germany?

Partly it’s for personal reasons. I currently live in Hamburg with my wife and son. With dual-career couples, whether in academia or in business, this has increasingly become the case. But especially in academia, you need to be mobile. It is very unusual in Germany to get a teaching or research position at one university and stay there forever.

That’s not all bad. In terms of learning, it’s good to see different institutions. It’s logistically complicated at times, but it’s also enriching cognitively, socially, professionally … In one city, for instance, there may be stronger ties

Study with us and you can achieve great things. Explore your study oppor tunities at JLU: vir tual or on site, in English or German language, under- and postgraduate level, tuition-free www.uni-giessen.de/ internationales

with the local practitioner communities; another may have different access to funding or policy makers. At the same time, we need to work hard to make academic careers better meet the requirements of the modern family.

How has your own academic mobility benefited you in teaching or in research?

I have found two academic homes that are very much aligned with my values. The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin and LMU Munich’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (LMU IEC) are both focused on research excellence and impact. Being part of both makes me a bit of a knowledge broker between them. That is definitely an advantage!

And I think that could be a part of the future of academia. Young academics might care about different things; they might want to sit in different institutions and pursue their interests within two or three of them.

I think we have multiple identities in academia today, and that’s just fine. I definitely think that I broker knowledge between different disciplines and professions but also between academia and practice. That is often how impact happens; you bring something from A to B, adapt, recombine, and transform.

This is also how innovation happens, whether in research or practice. For instance, we recombine different issues such as AI and management. At HIIG, we are working on how AI impacts leadership. We show that AI can enable managers to make earlier and more simulated decisions and that there will also be more co-decision-making between human intelligence and AI going forward. How AI shapes work representation is another area; we highlight the multiple ambiguities around what AI is, what it does, and how it will impact the future of work. At LMU Munich, meanwhile, we are focusing on the interaction of AI, management, and sustainability.

You have also been very involved in social entrepreneurship. The Zahnräder, a Muslim empowerment network promoting social causes in Germany, is one prominent example. The word means “gear wheels,” which is a good metaphor for a network. How did it come about?

The Zahnräder network was quite a unique social incubator. While at Oxford, I wrote

about academic entrepreneurs and what they need to succeed. I used these insights to cocreate a group tailored toward Muslim social ventures. Zahnräder aimed first to help Muslim social entrepreneurs incubate fascinating projects that had been lying dormant. Second, it helped put them in touch with NGOs like Ashoka and other supporters of social causes. The network offered them a safe space to learn “social-venture language” – the skills and such – to prepare them for the mainstream. It functioned as a bridge toward mainstream social entrepreneurship at a time when the concept wasn’t that prominent in Germany yet. It also helped them to find positive,

proactive language for describing their work to people outside of their communities.

Back then, Muslim social entrepreneurs’ religious identity was frowned upon by some people in [German] society. By founding the network, we gave them a lens for viewing Muslim social projects in a positive light, pointing out how they serve society. Until the Covid-19 pandemic, we were very active. It is still an official Verein (association) today.

You not only translate research into practice but also help practice with your research. How do you do this?

I try to give back. I believe in what is called engaged scholarship. During fieldwork, I may advise on issues not directly linked to what I research, or I may help with contacts. After I have finished my research, I often go back and talk to them. Even if it’s just very informal. With the Berlin circular economy hub I mentioned, I told the management team what I thought about their practices – such as the significance of the open door as a form of opening boundaries for communities. They felt that I gave them a certain language for understanding their approach.

It sounds like your research is very close to your heart, to your own values …

A lot of times ideas come from our own identities. Back in high school, we took class trips to visit churches. And at Boston Consulting Group I saw many organizations from the inside. I found it fascinating to see these different settings. I care a lot about serving society, and these values have to come from somewhere. I guess that’s part of my upbringing, coming from a diverse background in Germany, and probably the result of my parents’ emphasis on kindness, justice, and service. Actually, I don’t care so much about where the values come from. But I want to see values more often in the things that we do.

What does that look like, concretely?

Here’s one example. At HIIG, we are thinking about our own interaction with Global South scholarship. Simply put, for a long time in academic discourse, the Global South didn’t even exist. The research data came from the Global North, the US and Europe in particular. That’s a bit of a generalization, but it reflects the reality.

Gümusay in the entrance hall of LMU’s main building on Geschwister-Scholl-Platz
“I think we have multiple identities in academia today, and that’s just fine”

Then scholars from the Global North started collecting data from the Global South and publishing it in Western journals. Why?

Because they wanted to integrate the Global South, because the data was fascinating! The Global South became important. We cared about this part of the world, but Global North scholars were the ones doing the publishing. They wanted to create awareness, but in essence, now they were extracting data from the regions.

So at HIIG, working with scholars from the Global South, we are now writing a paper on how academia could be different – so that the Global South is not the point of data extraction but an equal partner in scholarship.

It’s part of the institute’s Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Digital Transformation project. The project team commissioned papers from the Global South instead of writing their own papers on the Global South.

We also designed multi-stakeholder dialogues. We have become a platform provider

for diverse voices instead of just publishing our own research.

That has had powerful impact. Yet if I think about my team on the project, they didn’t publish a paper out of this experience. So from the perspective of their careers – in the current academic system, which puts a lot of weight on a young scholar’s publications –it’s not so good.

Now they are writing a reflective piece. So they are publishing, but it’s a meta publication reflecting on what happened, not on data collected. It would be good if such a service – in our case serving as a platform for the scholarship of others – could also be recognized when it comes to assessing young scholars.

You strike up conversations on campus, in cafés, at conferences. Is this by design, or are you just a particularly friendly German?

I like to keep connecting people. Two days ago one of my students told me she’s really interested in a particular field, so I connected

Understand today. Shape tomorrow.

her to one of the people in our institute working in that area. Yesterday I met the CEO of a social venture for the first time. He wants to create a new social venture. He asked me whether I knew anyone who could become his co-CEO, and I immediately offered a suggestion along with some concepts that were unfamiliar to him but could be helpful in his planning. When I meet people, my goal is to help them with people and with concepts to push forward. And that, in turn, serves society.

In one of my classes on social entrepreneurship, I tell my students there are three questions they need to ask themselves when they network. First, how can you help the other person? Second, how can the other person help all the people you know that are not in the room right now? And third – but only after the first two – how can this person help me? And if you do this, and if each of your friends does it, then you are multiplying networks and scaling change. That’s a small thing, but small can be powerful.

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Pulled eyelids, pressed thumbs, and steely stares: German body language can be harder to read than grammar. But you can decode it


From fast talkers to confusing new dialects, chatting with native speakers involves a steep learning curve – no matter how much you’ve been practicing in the classroom. And that’s before you’ve even gotten round to deciphering the gestures. Every language has its own unique set. Learning how they’re used throughout German-speaking countries can help boost your cultural understanding and your confidence. You may even sidestep some embarrassing social faux pas.



Waving in Germany isn’t just for saying goodbye. You can also use it to show that you doubt your conversation partner is being serious. Waving with your palm toward your face is the equivalent of saying “Are you kidding me?!” We don’t really have a comparable gesture in English, so nailing this in general conversation is a


One common if outdated gesture in the English-speaking world is to circle your index finger next to your temple to indicate that whoever you’re talking to (or about) is crazy. It’s a jokey gesture that shouldn’t hurt any feelings as long as it’s between friends. The German translation? A quick tap of the finger to the forehead. This is known as “ jemandem den Vogel zeigen” (to show someone the bird) – not to be confused with the classic expression of displeasure that Americans call “flipping someone the bird.”


Want to wish somebody good luck? Don’t “cross your fingers” for them. German speakers are unlikely to understand what you’re getting at. Instead, fold your thumb onto your palm and make a fist around it. This will only work as long as you don’t forget to say


Many newcomers observe the infamous “German Stare.” When the Canadian Deidre Olsen moved to Berlin three years ago, this was one of the first culture shocks they experienced.

“On many occasions, when getting my nails done, eating in a restaurant, or sitting on the train, I’ve noticed an older person, usually a woman, staring at me, eyes unblinking,” Olsen says. “When I look them in the eyes, they don’t look away. Their faces are expressionless. I can’t tell if it’s a look of intrigue, disgust, or something else.”

If you’re being stared at when you’re out and about, don’t panic. Many international students and expats struggle


Sarcasm alert! That’s what German speakers mean if you see them pulling down a lower eyelid. English has many kinds of vocal intonation to make sarcasm more than obvious. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come across in German, and an earnest listener may miss it entirely. So give your eyelid a quick tug to spell it out.

walking against a red light, cycling on the pavement, or breaking any other strict social codes?

There’s a historical precedent, too. Germany’s 20th-century history has a dark side, and in Nazi Germany as well as communist East Germany, many Germans kept track of neighbors’ comings and goings – out of care or out of fear –and many even reported on them. This totalitarian subtext is, fortunately, long gone. But the wide, unwavering eyes can still feel pretty eerie at times.

knew exactly what she meant. Unlike the German stare, which is point-ed and can come across as disapproving or intrusive, the neutral face is a blank expression that isn’t directed at anyone in particular.

“We talked about walking in any German town and how you’ll notice that people don’t walk around like they’ve got perma-grin. They simply walk around. And then when they want to smile at someone, they will,” Warner says. “Contrast that with the US: people are obliged to smile almost all the time, most especially women.”

Warner quotes the words of another client, who is also married to a German man: “The absence of a smile doesn’t mean anything; it’s simply a cultural difference.”


In English-speaking countries, it’s common practice for the audience to break into a round of applause after an inspiring lecture or talk. If you try to get the clapping going in a German lecture hall, you might just draw blank stares from your peers. Instead, it’s customary to use your knuckles to knock on desks and tables.

One of the first things most newcomers to Germany notice is that locals don’t look all that happy while going about their daily business. This can be slightly disconcerting; it can easily be interpreted as a general sense of doom and gloom.

Nicole Warner has experience of this from her years living in Germany and has discussed it with her German language students. When one client mentioned her German husband’s “neutral face,” she


Counting on your fingers in German is as easy as eins, zwei, drei. Well, it will be if you follow this next tip: start with the thumb.

In English-speaking countries such as the US, people tend to lead with the index finger. So, asking for two drinks at a bar would mean showing the index and middle fingers. It’s time to relearn how to count on your fingers! Germans lead with the thumb, so don’t forget to hold up your thumb and index finger to order those two drinks.

You might need to check where your hands are next time you chat with them.


Something else to be wary of is using the “okay” sign. You know the one: put index finger and thumb together to create a circle showing that everything’s fine. Well, in German-speaking countries it’s sometimes viewed as a very rude gesture. While knowledge of all these different gestures can greatly enhance your conversations, Stefan Meister, managing director of consulting agency Intercultures, points out that Germany is diverse. “Almost one third of Germany’s population has roots in another country,” he says. “This might lead to distinctly different body language and gestures depending on one’s culture of origin.”

And nonverbal cues should be interpreted within context. “Pay attention to the overall situation, tone of voice, and accompanying verbal cues to get a more comprehensive understanding of the message being conveyed,” he says.

Lastly, remember that many German speakers really appreciate the efforts of those who are learning their language. So if you ever need someone to explain a gesture, don’t be afraid to ask.





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Trudge through snow in the Swiss Alps. Feed horses to find out what treats they like best. Taste peat to check for sand. All across German-speaking Europe, interdisciplinary programs are bringing students out into nature. There, they can tackle the world’s most pressing environmental problems or just see if the grass is greener


Within the equine business program at Nürtingen-Geislingen University, one requirement is key: a love of horses.

As Dirk Winter sees it, that’s an easy jump to clear. “Horses are really very friendly – they are so human oriented,” says Winter, who is Nürtingen-Geislingen University’s dean of equine management. “They’re intelligent and they learn quickly.”

When the equine business bachelor’s program was established back in 2009, it was the first of its kind in Germany.

While a passion for horses is the most important factor for potential students, knowing how to ride them is not. Students aren’t trained to become riders or breeders. Rather, the program is rooted in academics, with relevant courses in biology and animal sciences, agriculture, economics, corporate management, and much more.

Its lecturers all share decades of experience working in the equine industry. It’s a bigger industry than many laypeople realize, says Winter. The annual revenue of the country’s equine industry

is estimated at roughly 6.7 billion euros, according to the German Equestrian Federation’s 2022 annual report.

Some alumni of the Nürtingen-Geislingen program go on to work for feed mills as product or marketing managers. Others work in event management for prestigious equine events held around the country throughout the year.

For students who arrive on campus with their own horses, the Jungborn research and teaching stable offers seven stalls at a discount of 150 euros per month. Elsewhere in the state of BadenWürttemberg monthly board can be triple that price.

In exchange for the reasonable rates, the horses stand ready to serve as teaching assistants. For example, students assess their musculature and learn about feeding and proper nutrition.

One fun fact about all of the students currently in the program? They’re all women, Winter says.

And that’s nothing new. Winter says of the 568 students who have graduated since the program began, only 12 were men.

One of Germany’s largest botanical gardens right in a university’s backyard

Sprawling over 28 hectares, Ulm’s Botanical Garden features an orchard, a rose garden, and an arboretum. On hot summer days, visitors can retreat to a fern valley, a coniferous forest offering cooling shade. In the gray of winter, greenhouses devoted to lowland and mountain rainforests offer tropical oases.

There are even four “talking trees” – beeches equipped with various sensors that track how factors like temperature, humidity, and dryness are impacting their health. “Berti,” the project’s first and most famous beech tree, even has her own Instagram page.

For biology students, the Botanical Garden is one of Ulm’s major draws. It’s used for teaching and constant experimentation.

“We typically don’t give students a list saying ‘this is where you start, and this is where you have to end,’ but we give them a framework,” says Steven Jansen, who’s been a professor of tropical botany for well over a decade.

Jansen says it’s generally up to students to come up with hypotheses and methods to test them. And there’s a seemingly endless

list of questions to explore. How does this plant respond to different levels of light? Can those two plant species grow in the same pot? A favorite student experiment is to test which herbivores, such as grasshoppers, have an appetite for which plants, Jansen says.

Jansen, who became director of the Botanical Garden in April 2023, envisions bringing even more students and departments into the fold. He’s planning to set up a smart greenhouse with sensors, which he calls his “new, somewhat ambitious goal.” He envisions monitoring the growth of plants over a long period of time, subjecting them to various stress conditions and seeing how they respond. This would generate a lot of data and require interdisciplinary collaboration. Jansen pictures mathematicians running the data with the help of AI models and analyzing it. Engineers could help optimize the sensors.

“I hope that more interdisciplinary teams come and use the Botanical Garden,” says Jansen. “It’s research, it’s teaching, and it’s public engagement; all are crucial, and they all come together [here].”

With 10,000 equine-related businesses nationwide, grads have job prospects
Photos: Jörg Brüggemann/OSTKREUZ (opposite page); Robin Edqvist/Unsplash, Tomoko Uji/Unsplash (this page)

• 95 % of o u r s tu d e n ts re c o m m e n d us to o th e r s

• R esear c h - dr i ve n an d e xc e lle n t c are e r p ros p e c ts

• N o fe es an d to p r a tio of p rofes so r to s tu d e n t

• F ir s t- c las s s tu d y c o n di tio ns an d su p p o r t

• To p p osi tio ns in in te r na tio nal r an k in gs

• In te r na tio nall y p o p ular u ni ve r si t y c i t y

u n i-j e n a .d e /e n /s t u d ie s

It’s hard to overstate the importance of oceans and coastal zones. More than three billion people rely on the seas for their livelihood, according to the United Nations, and nearly 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast.

“Because coastal areas are so important for us, and because we like them so much, we also put tremendous pressure on them,” says Inna Sokolova, professor and chair of the department of marine biology at the University of Rostock.

“So there’s tension between using and enjoying [these regions] and being able to do so in the future,” she says. “To make this use sustainable, we need to understand what those pressures are and how we can control them.”

Dynamic coastal areas with an especially heavy human footprint form the major focus of Rostock’s marine biology program. It offers 21 spots per year in its two-year master’s program, with students pursuing an array of projects.

In Sokolova’s research group, for one, those can range from studying the effect of oxygen

deficiency on the metabolisms of different species to assessing the impact of human-caused pollutants and other stressors on marine populations.

Aboard the Limanda, the university’s research catamaran, students gain hands-on experience at sea and learn basic sampling and measurement techniques.

Students can apply to become certified scientific divers too. The intensive course has trained about 300 research divers since 1995.

Understanding the many facets of the marine environment requires a grasp not only of biology but of ecosystem dynamics, biogeochemistry, ocean physics, and much more. Although oceans cover 70 percent of Earth’s surface, the vast majority remains uncharted.

“The ocean is not very easy to study,” says Sokolova. “That’s why you need it to be interdisciplinary, because biologists cannot do it all. In order to understand why marine ecosystems are so diverse,” she adds, “you also need people who understand how the water mixing works, how the currents work. It’s very, very complex.”

The questions about snow that fascinated researchers 100 years ago are still engrossing scientists today. Of course, their methods are far more advanced now. And with a warming Earth, the sense of urgency is greater than ever.

“Studying snow and ice is a crucial component of understanding our environment, our Earth, and the climate system,” says Henning Löwe, head of research for snow physics at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos.

Löwe explains it this way: a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius – from 15 to 17 degrees Celsius – may not seem too dramatic. But if you’re starting at -1 degree Celsius, a two-degree rise means that water will have completely changed its physical state from solid to liquid.

The SLF belongs to the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). As part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH), WSL is keeping company with some of Europe’s leading universities.

When SLF was founded, it was largely geared toward answering

questions of urgent relevance to local Swiss communities. It’s been issuing an avalanche bulletin since 1945. But as challenges have become more global, the scope of SLF has widened too.

The snow physics team is small, with 13 people at various stages of their careers. There are master’s and doctoral students as well as postdocs, interns, and permanent researchers. They conduct experiments in the cold laboratory, work on models and equations, and go out in the field.

While the team is diverse, Löwe says, the allure of snow unites them. Indeed, that’s what compelled Löwe, a physicist, to leave his home in northern Germany almost 20 years ago and move to Switzerland.

When it comes to snow, “it’s always the same thing that fascinates people,” Löwe says. “They like the symmetry and how white it is and how it changes your environment and how everything gets silent. And all of these things have a physical explanation, and they are relevant. Explaining these things helps to improve our understanding of the Earth.”

Snow and ice are immediate indicators of climate change
At the Baltic Sea, students can dive into the very waters they’re studying
Photos: Regine Tholen/Unsplash, Krzysztof Kowalik/Unsplash



The University of Augsburg as a network university offers optimal conditions for studying and research. Surrounded by green parkland with its own lake, the campus invites you to recharge in between lectures, providing a relaxed and friendly environment in which to study As one of Bavaria’s oldest cities, Augsburg provides a welcoming atmosphere for researchers and students alike.

Students design city parks for a future of climate uncertainty

Within the bachelor’s and master’s programs for landscape architecture at Technische Universität Dresden, there’s an emphasis on giving students a holistic education as well as individualized attention.

The different aspects of this course of study are reflected in the five chairs, or professorships, comprising the university’s Institute of Landscape Architecture.

One of these chairs deals with the history of landscape architecture and the preservation of garden monuments; another is focused on engineering; another on planning; and another on planting design.

And there’s Ana Viader Soler’s chair, which focuses on landscape design, with a special emphasis on public space.

“In these public spaces, you have to think about inclusion. There’s a very important social component,” Viader Soler says. She adds that it’s important that students learn to think critically through every stage of the design process.

“A park is not finished when you finish the park,” Viader Soler

says. “The park is growing. It’s also about thinking: Who are the people that are using this? We are in a very diverse society, and everybody has to have a place in a public space.”

Every year, there are 55 spots for students starting the bachelor’s program and 50 for the master’s program at TU Dresden. Viader Soler also encourages students to participate in Erasmus+ programs to enrich their understanding of the field.

Climate change is a topic that touches all aspects of landscape architecture, not least planting design. To take just one example: if some regions are likely to experience more droughts, that will affect the type of vegetation that can be planted.

This is a pivotal time for the profession, Viader Soler says. Landscape architects must reckon with how they are going to work on a planet changed so dramatically by human activity.

“We have a big responsibility because we are planning the cities of the future,” she says. “We are the gardeners of the 21st century, and our garden is the world.”

U N I V E R S I TÄT A U G S B U R G w w w u n i - a u g s b u r g d e / s t u d y M E D I C I N E C O M P U T E R S C I E N C E L A W H U M A N I T I E S T H E O L O G Y E C O N O M I C S S O C I A L S C I E N C E S N A T U R A L S C I E N C E S M U S I C
future in Bavaria #UniLebenAugsburg


Researchers see, smell, taste, and touch the very stuff of their studies

It’s impossible to talk about peatland studies and palaeoecology at the University of Greifswald without mentioning the researcher who shaped it, Hans Joosten.

The emeritus professor taught at the university for two decades; developed a strategy to rewet drained peatlands while keeping them productive (known as “paludiculture”); and received both the German Environmental Award and the Order of Merit, Germany’s highest civilian honor.

But when asked to pin down his title, Joosten says: “I’m simply a peatland guy. I’ve never worried about titles.” He is worried about restoring peatlands and keeping more of them from destruction.

Peatlands are found across the world, and Joosten has spent most of his life trying to save them. Out in the field, he uses every tool at his disposal. No need for lots of sophisticated equipment, he says. “You can see, you can smell, you can hear, you can taste, you can touch.” So when he’s on excursions or conducting fieldwork, whether alone or with students, he practices what he preaches. He treks through terrain, plunges his

hand deep into the soil, scoops out a handful of peat … and pops it in his mouth.

It’s a foolproof conversation starter, but there’s a method to Joosten’s madness. It’s the best way of discerning if there’s sand in the sample. This in turn helps him understand if the peatland has been overflowed with river water, or if there’s been any erosion. “I can taste the purity of the peat between my teeth,” he says. “That’s a very easy method.”

He wants students to “think like a peatland” too. Ideally, he says, they should know its properties so well that they’d know how it would react even to the smallest of environmental changes.

Joosten describes the enormous sense of responsibility that lies at the core of peatland studies and palaeoecology. Maybe that’s why, even after his official retirement from the university in March 2021, he continues to be active.

“The demands are increasing and the challenges are too,” Joosten says. “To some extent we know what we have to do, but it’s not easy to implement, and time is running out.”


At Tr i e r U n i v e r s i t y o f A p p l i e d Sciences, we prepare s tudent s and employe e s for t he glob al age o f internat ional cooperat ion t hrough joy f ul teaching for mat s, innov at i ve re s earch an d n e w, di ver s e ways of professoral recr ui t ing We solve real problems in digi t alis ation, heal th and sus t ainabili t y topic s. We inv i te fellow s tudent s and e x per t s f rom abroad and t hus not only acquire sp e cialize d k now ledge, bu t al so feel joy to wor k in in ter nat ionally mixed teams.

Photos: Sayo Oladeji/Unsplash, Hayley Murray/Unsplash





Thinking of staying in Germany after your studies?

Before she even graduated from Justus Liebig University Giessen in 2022, Nidhi Shah, a 27-year-old from Mumbai, landed a job in the private sector as a biotechnology research assistant in Aachen.

Shah, who holds a master’s degree in biotechnology from Giessen, says tapping into the university’s international career service (ICS) early in her studies was key to her successful search for a position.

Just arrived on campus? Hashing out a long-term career plan may be the last thing on your mind. But if you want to work or do postgraduate research in Germany, your school’s ICS office should be one of your first stops. Its services, tailor-made for students from abroad, can help you explore career avenues within the EU, your home country, or farther afield. You’ll typically find ICS either at your university’s international office or in its center for career services.

German immigration policy allows foreign students to apply for 18-month job-search visas when they complete a university degree in

the country. But career support for foreigners should begin well before that. With coaching, seminars, and job-search portals, ICS offices can ease the transition from university life to the labor market. For Shah, learning about her university’s career services during orientation week set the stage.

ICS is a relatively new phenomenon in Germany. International offices are responsible for organizing academic exchanges; career services are responsible for preparing students for the world of work. Fortunately, the two departments often coordinate with each other to provide ICS. An increasing number of universities, public and private, large and small, now are offering these services.

That’s good news not only for students from abroad but for German employers too. In March, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) emphasized international students as a particularly sensible potential solution to the skilled-labor shortage.

“Universities are migration magnets and motors for the immigration of skilled wor-

kers,” the DAAD wrote in a position paper. “However, this potential is far from fully exploited.” It encouraged the further development of ICS at universities as one important way to address that challenge.

Simon Morris-Lange, head of research at the Allianz Foundation, has penned multiple studies about international students and employment. What are his most recent findings?

“Although most career service departments tend to be quite small,” he says, “more than three-fourths have started to experiment with support services specifically designed for international students.”

Shah is just one student from abroad who has taken advantage of that development. After earning her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology in India, she moved to Germany in 2019 to pursue a master’s degree. Shortly after arriving in Giessen, she was proactive in soliciting the help of ICS, and she kept checking in. Others may go through several years at university without knowing these services exist.

Preparation is key. International career services at universities around the country are getting more involved in helping out


H oweve r well yo u s p e a k G e rma n a n d what eve r yo u r r ea s o n s f o r im p r ovin g it , th e main thin g is that yo u s t a r t p ra c tisin g – a n d e njoy it !



Even your first semester at university is critical to launching a successful career.

“The start of your studies in a new country, a yet-to-explore culture, and speaking a new language can be overwhelming,” says Luise Haack, career coach for international students at the University of Passau. But don’t procrastinate, she says. “Leverage introductory career events during your first year to benefit from insights into everyday life and your upcoming job search.”

Get a head start even before semester’s start. Explore services offered to interna-

tional students on your university’s website. Find the names of team members you can contact. Then introduce yourself via email or in person and ask to be added to their mailing lists.



Beyond individual coaching and group workshops, many ICS offices offer certificate programs or online courses that cover important career topics. Want to polish your résumé? Don’t know how cover letters differ in Germany from your home country? Interested in learning how to use a certain type

of professional software? Your ICS may well offer something for you.

At the University of Bonn, for instance, the iStart career program for international students provides workshops, career coaching, application reviews, and job postings. This model program is funded by the DAAD.

The iStart program has its own podcast series and explanatory videos; offers a free intensive career preparation program in English; organizes multiple career-preparation seminars that last throughout entire semesters; and even provides networking opportunities with alumni around the globe as well as with employers in the Bonn area.

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Now that you know … how can you make the most of international career services? The following tips can get you started

Shah is now more than a year into employment at Lenio Bio GmbH, life-science biotech manufacturer, and she’s loving it. She recommends fully using ICS’s career support. “It is their job to help us navigate the German job market,” she says.


Don’t assume that all you need to launch an international career are a few résumé pointers. “International students often have a harder time finding employment than their German counterparts,” says the Allianz Foundation’s Morris-Lange. “Apart from the language barrier, many don’t quite understand how the German labor market works.”

Most students from abroad recognize the names of such heavyweights as Volkswagen, BMW, and BioNTech, says Morris-Lange. But many don’t realize that “there is a whole universe of small and medium-sized companies [SMEs] that are already feeling the demo -

graphic crunch and are looking for talent,” he says. Learning about the local labor market’s structure and expectations will go a long way in a job interview.

One easy way to conduct informal market research? Be sure to spend time at as many career events as possible, both on campus and off. SMEs account for more than half of Germany’s total economic output and almost 60 percent of employment, according to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Change. By chatting with their representatives at such events, you can learn about everything from company culture to employment terms, expected salary, flex work, and career progression.

Shah found the career day on campus to be particularly helpful for one-on-one interactions with current employees and humanresources professionals. They told her about what they were looking for in candidates and explained their application materials. The interactions and relationships she initiated that

day gave her insight into the hiring process and how to pitch herself to potential employers.



Start your job search well ahead of time. Morris-Lange says internationals should begin planning as soon as possible – and maybe even get a jump on their German peers.

Apply for internships during your studies too. “Even if your internship applications yield no results, you still have gathered the experience of what it’s like to be in the job market,” says Shah. “And once you have secured something, be it an internship or a working student position, there is a high chance that would be your gateway into securing a full-time position.”

Finally, be persistent. Follow up regularly with potential employers, with people in your growing network, and with ICS staff as well. Give yourself – and your career – the gift of the best preparation possible.


On and around the University of Freiburg campus, students take a break from studying and share some of their more personal dreams


Lukas Driever, 25, Germany

master’s student, global studies

I just want to be happy. In the last few months and years, I’ve been thinking a lot about finding someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want to create a strong bond and build a life together with someone who has the same energy, who is willing to achieve everything together with me. As for my professional future, I see myself as an independent entrepreneur. I don’t yet know the precise direction I want to go in. We are facing global problems like the climate crisis. I think it’s a very natural and human urge to make the world a better place for future generations.

Yechen Fu, 24, China

master’s student, global studies

I’m from Haikou. Our program involves studies in different countries and on several continents. We’re starting out here in Freiburg. Then we will go to South America or Africa, then on to India or Thailand before we come back to Germany. My dream is to get a job in Germany after my studies. I could imagine working as a consultant or for a trading company. I want to make connections – with China but also with other countries. And I want to travel a lot and discover the good things in the world.

Bianca Fladerer, 21, Germany

bachelor’s student, German studies and philosophy

I’m from Fürth, in Bavaria. I’m writing two essays right now that are due soon. When I’m done, I’m going to reward myself by buying a pair of “short fins” for the pool. You can swim very fast with them. It’s just fun. I try to go swimming several times a week, especially in the summer. Every day I spend in the outdoor pool is a good day! You’re out in the fresh air, in the sun, and you can exercise without overheating. I dream about having a job that I enjoy so much that I could picture doing it even without a salary. I’m thinking about becoming a teacher. I can really see myself working with children and young people.

Sofía Calderón, 26, Venezuela

bachelor’s student, liberal arts and sciences

I’m from Caracas. I study liberal arts and sciences. Before that I studied literature in Venezuela. I’ve always known that I wanted to stay at university – preferably for my whole life. My dream is to become a professor. I still have a lot to do to achieve this: a master’s and then a doctorate. First, I have to finish my bachelor’s degree. And I hope to find a good job soon. As an international student in Germany, that can sometimes be really hard, especially if you don’t speak German fluently. At the moment I’m living in student housing. I hope that I will soon earn enough money to afford my own place, but flats are expensive in Freiburg.


Franziska Gervers, 21, Germany

bachelor’s student, physics

So far I’ve only been writing for myself . But I dream of becoming a science journalist. I decided against being a teacher because I want to communicate science to people in other ways. In school, most students didn’t like math and physics. I felt the same way until tenth grade, when I had a wonderful teacher who could communicate really well. In primary and secondary school, it’s all about formulas. In college, you learn how to develop intuition for things, and suddenly you can explain the world around you. That’s the most beautiful thing about studying. My dream is to be able to share this enthusiasm with others.

Omar Abdelgawad, 27, Egypt

master’s student, embedded systems engineering

I don’t have big dreams. I am really content with what life offers me. Of course, I want to get ahead in life. My next step, though, is simply to finish my master’s degree. One day I hope to have a high standard of living, with a good job and stability. At the moment, though, I’m just looking forward to this summer. I want to swim in the lake! I don’t like winter so much as a season. I also would really like to travel a bit, preferably to France, to Strasbourg or Colmar – and especially to Paris. I want to go to Disneyland near Paris and explore there. I’ve read and heard a lot about it. Now that would be a dream come true!

Teresa Mayer, 24, Germany

bachelor’s student, history, philosophy, and English

When I first came to Freiburg, I wanted to study history my way, not the way some set of course requirements tells me to do it. I didn’t want to focus only on history. I wanted to add other subjects, to take my time, and if a lecture interested me, attend it. I also really wanted to do a semester abroad in Ireland – and that’s exactly how it happened! When you come from a non-academic background, you don’t always know that these opportunities exist. I realize it’s a privilege. I think we should all be able to study much more freely and not be so bound by attendance requirements and deadlines. There should be less pressure on us all to finish our studies in the allotted time. For that to happen, there needs to be a way of providing financial security for all students, not just those who come from privileged backgrounds.


Mohamad Abbasi, 29, Iran

master’s student, solar energy engineering

My wish is for peace in the world. I’m always aware of the water shortage in Africa and South Asia, for example. I hope that we can alleviate this problem, because water is one of the most precious resources in the world. I hope I can make a small contribution to solving the problem.

Maryam Jahanpanah, 28, Iran

master’s student, solar energy engineering

I’m from Shiraz. My dream is to be a very advanced engineer in the field of solar energy. As we all know, energy is a really important issue for the next generation. I want to play a part in solving the energy problem. My vision is that we stop using fossil fuels and only use renewable energy like solar and wind. There is still a lot of work to be done! Finally, I wish that one day in the future all people in the world would enjoy the same quality of life.

Demi Eegunnike, 22, Nigeria

language student, interdisciplinary semester

I’m from Nigeria, but I studied in Kharkiv. I am now doing a language course for students who have come to Germany from Ukraine. After the war there started, I came to Freiburg by train in May 2022. Now I’m hoping that my [Ukrainian] bachelor’s degree certificate will come through. I finished my studies in Ukraine, but I don’t have the certificate yet because the procedure for conferring degrees was disrupted by the war. And of course I really hope that all of my friends who are still back in Ukraine are safe. A fellow student I know who is from India is fighting for Ukraine in the Foreign Legion.

Ada Frantzen, 20, Germany

law student (state exam)

I’m from Hamburg, way up north. This summer I want to get to the top of the Schauinsland, Freiburg’s mountain. You have a great view of the entire region. Friends have already been up for a picnic. I’d like to find more time to explore the area, maybe go on a walking tour of the vineyards. Summer in Freiburg is the best. I’ve looked forward to it all year ... lakes for swimming and beautiful beer gardens! As for studying, I hope I can keep my stamina. Law school takes seven years. I’m trying to find the right balance between studying and enjoying life. Making time for myself and my friends is important, and that includes having fun.


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Just in case kitty runs amok in your new digs, your landlord will be glad about that security deposit

The first thing you need is a roof over your head. Your cheapest bet is a student residence (Studentenwohnheim), a type of shared housing specifically designed for students. Most university towns have several, run by the local office of student services. Though rents vary depending on location, size, and amenities, a room costs on average 250 euros per month. Affordability inevitably means popularity, however, so it’s important to register for a place as soon as possible.

If you don’t want to move into a dormitory (or don’t manage to secure a spot), you can take the route of the WG (StudentenWohngemeinschaft ): sharing a private flat with several other students. You’ll have to take turns with the washing machine and the tea kettle, the bathroom, and the kitchen, but you’ll also make friends fast. You can search for shares or post your own want ad on an online platform like WGGesucht, or opt for the more oldschool approach: scouring university bulletin boards.

Prioritizing privacy and comfort over cost? Then it might be worth the extra work to hunt for your own place. WG-Gesucht and eBay Kleinanzeigen are good places to start if you want to sublet for a limited period. The latter is also a go-to for sourcing secondhand furniture on a budget. You’ll find everything from beds to balcony furniture for not much money or effort. And you can sell your furniture this way, too, at the end of your stay.

If it’s a long-term stay you’re after, try a website like ImmoScout24. But be aware that the price you see listed is only part of the story. In addition to base rent (Kaltmiete), you also have to factor in the cost of heat, electricity, wa-

ter, and internet service. In most cases, you’ll need to organize these utilities on your own after moving in. If you need a DSL connection or electricity, for example, take a look at Check24, which lists the most affordable providers in your neighborhood.

Landlords, by the way, typically require a security deposit (Kaution) equivalent to three months’ rent, to be returned upon termination of the lease. Stay on the safe side by meticulously documenting the condition of the apartment when you move in. This will prove that nothing has been damaged during your stay.

You can always spend your first days in an Airbnb and look for apartments from there. In Germany, people still have to go to apartment viewings in order to

get shortlisted. Just keep in mind that the bigger the city, the more challenging it is to find a place. And, with Germany facing its worst housing shortage in two decades, the search has become even harder of late. Unfortunately, the German Property Federation (ZIA) expects a shortage of around 700,000 flats in Germany by 2025. So if you are moving to a city like Berlin, Hamburg, or Munich, you may need to budget a few weeks or months rather than a few days for your search.

an appointment with your local registration authority (Meldeamt) before you move. Securing a certificate of residence, the so-called Meldebestätigung, is a prerequisite to opening many other doors.

While you can book your appointment online, you will have to attend it in person. Be sure to bring along your passport, registration form ( Anmeldeformular) (filled out and signed!), and a completed and signed landlord’s statement (Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung).

German law stipulates that you should make this appointment within two weeks of moving to any German city. But as local authorities tend to be fully booked even months in advance, it often takes longer to clear this hurdle. If you don’t meet the deadline, it’s probably not a big deal, but be sure you can prove that you tried to get an appointment within those first two weeks.


A key stepping stone for some foreign students requiring a student visa is a blocked bank account (Sperrkonto), which you can read all about on page 24.


As you’ve probably heard, bureaucracy holds a special place in German life. By all means book

A range of public and private German banks offer student bank accounts if you want another option to supplement the Sperrkonto. These include Sparkasse, Postbank, and Commerzbank. Their networks have ATMs on almost every street corner in Germany, where you can withdraw money free of charge (though you should keep an eye out for hidden fees). You’ll need your passport and your Meldebestätigung to get started at your local branch.

Among tech-savvy international students, a favorite is N26, a virtual bank that operates

Want to study or work in Germany? You’ll need to hop over a few hurdles before settling in. Get on the right path in those all-important first few weeks
Photo: Lioba Kappel

purely online and in the English language. Setting up an account with N26 is free of charge, and you don’t even have to show your Meldebestätigung. You can use your account via a mobile app that allows you to categorize your transactions and save money in different spaces. What’s more, international transactions are free.

Regardless of what bank account you opt for, cash is still king in Germany. Even if more and more supermarkets and boutiques are accepting Apple or Google Pay these days, many kiosks, bars, restaurants, and cafés don’t accept cards of any kind.


Everyone in Germany needs health insurance (Krankenversicherung), and international students are no exception. It’s a good idea to tackle this early on, since proof of German health insurance is a prerequisite for getting a student visa and a residency permit. If you’re not from the European Economic Area or a handful of other countries (and therefore can’t use your home insurance policy), sign up for public or private Krankenversicherung.

Students under 30 doing a degree can register for discounted public health insurance. In most cases, public health insurance suffices to cover most medication and hospital stays, though there’s often a substantial deductible for dental visits. Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), HEK, and AOK are all respected public health insurers.

If you’re 30 or older when starting your studies, you can’t get public insurance. But there are many available options for private health insurance.

Students taking a preparatory course prior to starting their de-

grees (including those in German language courses or studying at a Studienkolleg) are not eligible for public health insurance either. In this case, you will need to find a tailored private plan for the duration of the course. (If you’re under 30, you can register for public health insurance once you’ve been accepted into a degree program.)

Ottonova, a Munich-based startup, offers digital private health insurance with special rates for expats in Germany for up to five years. Premiums start at 150 euros per month.

Germans are known for craving a sense of security. So it’s a good idea to line up some liability insurance for yourself too. After all, you might step on a classmate’s smartphone. Personal liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

starts at about 30 euros per year for individuals and 50 euros for a family.

In addition to being the land of insurance, Germany is also the land of cyclists, so it’s smart to insure your trusty two-wheeled steed while you’re at it. Feather, an English-language digital insurance service provider, offers basic cover for bicycles from 2.90 euros per month, which protects against bike theft.


You’re on the home stretch. But if you’re from outside the EU, you still need a German residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel ) to attend your university or course. Apply

for this at the local foreigners’ registration office ( Ausländerbehörde). There are different types of Aufenthaltstitel and requirements depending on your home country and the type of course or institution you’re enrolling in.

Now that you have an appointment, it’s time to show off all of those papers you’ve worked so hard to collect! Bring along your passport, a biometric passport photo, your rental contract, your landlord’s statement, proof of health insurance, and confirmation of registration at your local Meldeamt. And fill out the permit application itself – the Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels, available online – and also bring along 110 euros. Your student residency permit card will either be issued on the spot, or it will be ready for collection about six weeks later. Keep in mind that Covid-19 measures may still affect the nature of appointments; so don’t forget to check the website of your local authority for updates.


Look out for a bill in the mail for a so-called Rundfunkbeitrag. It’s for your obligatory contribution to public television and radio, and everyone who moves into a flat or house in Germany has to pay it – even if you don’t own a TV or a radio. Contributions amount to about 220 euros per year and can be paid annually, quarterly, or monthly. If you don’t pay it, you’ll receive continuous reminders before you are eventually fined. If you ignore that too, there is even a potential prison sentence, so just pay your contribution promptly. Besides, tuning into the radio is great for your German skills.

Don‘t forget your personal liability insurance. You never know ... Photo: Bastian Thiery

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Academic terms can be baffling in any foreign language. Try your hand at this bilingual crossword puzzle as a fun challenge to learn them


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