Studying abroad is a perfect way to expand your education beyond your coursework at home. It is a chance to discover your strengths, weaknesses, and interests by learning a new language, immersing yourself in another culture, and getting outside your comfort zone in another country.
In a short time, living and studying away from your familiar surroundings at home can transform your world view, and help you grow in your understanding of yourself on a personal and professional level.
In addition, studying abroad is an impressive experience to add to your resume and can show potential employers that you are a cultured, well-rounded individual. So what is even better (more powerful, valuable, and life-altering) than studying abroad? Earning a full degree abroad.
Long gone are the days when students felt they needed a graduate degree from their home country in order to earn a legitimate degree. Universities worldwide offer top-notch graduate degree programs, and oftentimes at a price that is much more agreeable than what you’d find back home.
For those who want to earn a degree abroad but are concerned about the price tag, degree programs in Germany may be the answer. In fact, Germany recently revised national laws to provide opportunities for native and foreign students to go to university for free! Graduate programs may charge tuition but state schools have minimal administrative costs, around 100 Euros (say WHAT?).
Since you can practically earn a degree in Germany for free and can easily find excellent graduate programs in Germany taught in English, there’s really no better time to pack your backpack and head to earn a master’s degree in Europe.
1. Pick an area of concentration.
What graduate degree are you interested in pursuing? Is it liberal arts, engineering, physics, history, or language? Figuring out your area of concentration can help you choose the right master’s degree program in Germany that focuses on the areas you are most interested in.
If you are going to earn a degree in Germany, you should choose a subject that you will benefit from studying in your location. Do you want to study under famous professors and researchers in a particular field Germany is considered at the forefront in? Do you want to start creating a business network somewhere you’d like to live and work someday? Do you want to have increased access to unique collections and one-of-a-kind pieces of art? Consider all of these questions before choosing the location and subject of your graduate degree program in Germany.
2. Learn German.
Nearly 1,000 degree programs in Germany are conducted in English, so you can get by with minimal German language proficiency, but it will still be helpful to feel comfortable around the language, whether you want to talk to someone with limited English abilities or you are simply sitting in a restaurant surrounded by conversations. In addition, you’ll want to be part of the entire German experience while studying overseas, so learning the language is essential to becoming fully immersed in the culture.
Bonus: Adding new language skills to your resume will help you stand out among other job candidates in the future. So, find a friend or mentor who is proficient or fluent in German, and ask them to help you learn and practice the language while (and preferably before) earning your degree in Germany. If you don’t know anyone who speaks the language, you can purchase or rent language learning software online. Viel Glück!
3. Research graduate degree programs in Germany.
Visit GoAbroad’s directory of masters degree programs in Germany for international students to find a graduate or professional program that interests you. Be sure to check if there are any prerequisites, and clarify what costs won’t be covered by Germany’s international student-friendly laws. Most degree programs in Germany are tuition-free, but some programs will have some fees.
Popular universities for international students include Freie University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and Heidelberg University.
4. Find out more about your potential new home.
Germany is a big country with diverse cities. Find out more about where you’ll be studying and living: What are the transportation routes? How much is the cost of living? Does it have community amenities you are looking for?
Popular student cities are the old faithfuls: Munich and Berlin. Munich is a city famed for an annual beer drinking festival, but it is so much more. Its foot-traffic friendly downtown welcomes high heels and combat boots alike. As the unofficial capital of Bavaria, you’ll have just what you need to soften the sting of your late night cram sessions: Münchner Weißwurst, a pretzel, and sweet mustard within reach. Edgy Berlin, on the flipside, will give students a peek at Germany’s more modern, dynamic side. Students are drawn to study in Berlin for a multitude of reasons, including of course it’s famed public art, the robust nightlife, and more serious academic stuff (like the fact that it’s the capital city and home to world-envied museums).
5. Decide on a program and start preparing.
Once you research degree programs in Germany and decide on one or two you would like to apply to, make sure you know all the deadlines and requirements. Contact the university or department’s office if you are unsure or visit the program website. Common requirements are a resume, letters of recommendation or a portfolio, if applicable.
Remember: Student visas have deadlines and requirements too.
6. Start saving your money.
Tuition is a great chunk of money to avoid paying, but you will probably want to enjoy tourist attractions, and local food and shopping while earning a degree in Germany, so it’s important to save money for the trip. Most of the time, a student visa will not allow you to work while you are abroad, even if you stay for several years. If you take your time to fully research the area you will live in, you should be able to estimate your expenses fairly accurately.
Channel your enthusiasm about earning a master’s degree in Germany into working hard and saving as much as possible.
Another alternative worth considering is starting an online, crowd-sourced fundraiser to finance your international degree. You can get your friends, family (maybe even Grandma and Grandpa, depending on how tech savvy they are), and community network to support you in your international academic endeavors.
7. Make a plan and stick to it.
Right now you are energized and ready to get going on your degree in Germany. To keep your energy high while preparing, make a plan. List the things you need to find out about first, like programs and colleges. How will you be learning German? You need a schedule. Same goes for money. How much can you save each pay period? Put your plans in writing, keep them visible somewhere and watch as you check off tasks, bringing you one step closer to boarding a flight across the Atlantic.
Finding graduate degree programs in Germany can be one of the most cost effective ways to get a world-class education and experience life outside your comfort zone. If things don’t work out with your first application, try again. The planning and saving will be worth it, and will allow you to add unique insight and skills sets to your resume and memories.