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STUDENT LIFE

Everything you need to know as an Indian student moving to Germany

More and more Indian students are choosing to come to Germany for their bachelor's or master's degrees. Here's what you need to know if you're one of them.

Everything you need to know as an Indian student moving to Germany
Archive photo shows Indian students at the TU Chemnitz, which has over 500 enrolled. Photo: DPA

Given its growing international population and free tuition in public universities, Germany is an attractive place for young people to pursue their education. Here’s what you’ll need and what you can expect, moving to Germany as an Indian student:

Increasingly more Indian students are choosing Germany over the US or the UK for higher education. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, there was a 20 percent increase in Indian students in Germany in 2019.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Who are Germany’s international students?

Indians are also the second-largest national group of international students registered at German universities. 

While there has been a dip in the number of Indian students travelling to Germany in the past year, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) claims that the interest in Indian students to study in Germany has been relatively unaffected by the pandemic. 

Where Indians in Germany Study: Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Technische Universität Chemnitz, and Free University of Berlin are the three most popular universities for Indian students. Studying in Germany has laid out the requirements for Indian students to get admission to a German university on their website. 

READ ALSO: How to finance your master’s degree in Germany as an international student

Travelling to Germany during the pandemic: Indians can currently travel to Germany under some conditions. Visa Facilitation Services Global has a detailed article on what these travel guidelines are

German study visa and residence permit: To apply for a visa, you will need a list of documents including an admission letter from your university, proof of English language and a valid passport. The German Embassy has listed the full list of documents needed to apply for a German study visa on its website.

Although the average waiting time for visas to be issued is 25 days, it may take up to 3 months for your visa application to get approved. There are several consulates accepting visa applications during the pandemic. For more information, visit the Indian Embassy’s website. 

Once in Germany, you must prove that you are a student by presenting your enrolment letter and registering your residence within two weeks after arrival, although this deadline has been extended to six weeks due to the pandemic.

Here’s more information on doing your ‘Anmeldung’ (registration). Study in Germany has more information on how to provide proof of enrollment and get a residence permit on their website.

Another important process is signing up for health insurance and providing proof that you are insured. If you are a student under the age of 30 enrolled in a degree programme at a German university, you can choose to register with a public health insurance provider so you can benefit from the statutory health insurance scheme.

Bikes parked in front of the University of Bonn. Photo: DPA

Students over 30-years-old, language and preparatory course students, PhD students, and guest scientists, however, only have the possibility of getting private health insurance. Germanvisa.org has some detailed information on how to get health insurance in Germany as an international student. 

Finding a flat: Finding an apartment to rent in Germany can be difficult, and so the number one tip is to start looking for one as early as possible. An affordable option is to apply for public student housing. These are called ‘halls of residence’ and are run by a state-run NGO called Studentenwerk. 

They offer residence to students all over Germany and house close to 40 percent of Germany’s international student population. Click out Studentenwerk’s website for more information on how to apply. 

If you’re looking for private accommodation instead, wg-gesucht, Immobilienscout24, and immowelt are among the most popular websites to find apartments for rent. Another place to look is German eBay, which has a special local feature called Kleinanzeigen. 

Here, you can find many different deals from apartments to cars to jobs and services. This website is essentially the German version of Craigslist.

On eBay Kleinanzeigen, you will find listings from current tenants rather than professional brokers. This is a popular site to post offers as it’s free for both the vendors and buyers (tenants), in comparison to ImmobilienScout24 where landlords need to pay a fee.

READ ALSO: 7 things you should know when looking for a flat in Germany

Another, slightly less explored place to look for housing is in Facebook groups. One such group is Indians in Germany, where Indian students occasionally make posts looking for other Indians to share an apartment with, etc. There are also Facebook groups exclusively for people looking to rent apartments in almost every German city. You can easily find them by entering keywords like ‘housing’ followed by the city name on the search bar.

Adapting to student life in Germany: Most websites and blogs that help international students make the move don’t touch on the emotional labour of moving to a different continent and into a different culture. It can be daunting at first to adjust to a new environment.

Thankfully, Germany has seen a surge in international students over the past few years and most universities have a diverse student body, so you will at least be surrounded by students who are also adjusting. 

Most German universities have a student life department, meant to help students with various advice and suggestions, from academic to personal.

It’s important to keep your mental health in check after going through such a big shift. While German universities generally do not provide medical services (including mental health services), you can seek help depending on the kind of health insurance you have. Check out this article to find out more about mental health resources in Germany for international students. 

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HEALTH

7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

Going to the doctor when you're living abroad is a necessary part of life, but it can feel a little daunting. Here are some cultural quirks to look out for in Germany.

7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

Germany is known for having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. 

But there are some cultural differences that can take a bit of getting used to when you’re not from the country. 

Here’s a look at what you should keep in mind. 

You might have to pay at the doctor

People used to a healthcare system that’s free at the point of contact, such as the NHS in the UK, may be a little confused if they are asked to pay money at a doctor’s appointment. 

But the fact is that certain things will not be covered by your health insurance in Germany, and some optional extras could require that you have to dip into your wallet. 

For instance, many gynaecologists may offer to carry out an optional pelvic ultrasound check during a Pap smear test. If it’s not covered by your insurance, they will state in the appointment that it is an extra cost so you can decide if you want to pay for it or not. 

You should also ask if you have to pay for it upfront at the practice or if it will be sent out as a bill. 

Similarly, other specialists may also offer extra services that you could pay extra for. 

READ ALSO: ‘It works’: Your verdict on the German healthcare system

You’ll get different types of prescriptions

Another point to watch out for is that there are different kinds of prescriptions. A prescription (Rezept) given out on pink slips is usually given to people on statutory health insurance. People have to pay a reduced contribution – usually around €5-€10 – when picking up prescription medicine at the pharmacy. 

Patients with private insurance in Germany are more likely to be given a blue-coloured prescription slip. Private customers have to pay for their medicines in full before their insurance company reimburses them. You can also be given a blue slip if your public health insurance doesn’t cover the treatment.

Green slips include treatment that the doctor recommends. Meanwhile, yellow prescriptions are issued by the doctor for special controlled substances and are only valid for seven days. 

Polite waiting room etiquette

Germans may not be well known for being super friendly. But there are a few unexpected spots which are very welcoming. And one of those places is the doctor’s waiting room. 

Yes, it can be very surprising for foreigners when they are greeted with a little “Guten Morgen!” or “hallo!” in the waiting room when someone arrives. It’s customary for patients to give a polite hello and goodbye in the waiting room.

A person being vaccinated against Covid-19 in Hamburg in 2021.

A person being vaccinated against Covid-19 in Hamburg in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

… But you may face a stern receptionist or doctor

Ask a group of international residents about their experience of going to the doctor in Germany – or indeed other German-speaking countries – and you will likely hear about how the bedside manner is “different”.

This is because some doctors, and even receptionists, have a stern and direct approach when dealing with patients, which can be intimidating for newcomers to the country.

It can also be a little weird if you have to take some clothes off for an examination. You probably won’t be handed a gown, towel or even asked to undress behind a curtain. Everything is out in the open in Germany!  

Don’t worry though – none of this is personal. It’s just a different way of doing things. 

If you do come across a grumpy doctor, the best way to handle it is to either accept it or find a different doctor.

Be prepared to wait

Most Hausarzt (GP) practices in Germany operate on a drop-in basis during set times, known as Sprechstunden (consultation hours).

This means you can simply pop in during a two or three-hour window. During these times, it’s also first-come, first-served.

The advantage of this system is that it’s possible to see a doctor, for example, on a Wednesday morning without an appointment, as long as you have time to wait.

But if you are in a rush, or have a strict schedule, then the drop-in approach can be time-consuming. Depending on when you arrive, it could mean a short wait of several minutes or up to an hour.

The best advice is to arrive just as the doors open to secure a place near the top of the queue.

You can also book an appointment or Termin. But even if you book, you’ll probably still face a wait of at least 15 minutes. 

You are usually referred to a specialist

In Germany, if you are covered by public health insurance, you usually have to visit a GP to be referred to a specialist doctor.

There are exceptions in some cases, such as for gynaecologists and ophthalmologists where you can make an appointment without a referral.

If you have private insurance you can book appointments with specialists more easily.

READ ALSO: How to get a faster appointment with a specialist in Germany

Visit (or call) a GP for a sick note

If you’re sick from work then you have to get a sick note – Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung or Krankschreibung – after three days of illness to give to your employer. Some bosses may require this sick note earlier, so check your contract or ask HR. 

Generally, you have to visit your doctor to get this document. But during the pandemic, people have been able to get a sick note over the phone from their GP for mild respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19. 

READ ALSO: The 10 rules you need to know if you fall ill in Germany 

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