A Guide To Gap Year in Germany
Put your dirndl or lederhosen on and let’s embarque on a gap year adventure to the fairytale land of Germany. Study, work or internship in big international cities like Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich, and immerge yourself in the German culture through exploring the beautiful countryside. Visit incredible castles and historical places, wander through the Black Forest, go skiing in the Alps, cruise down the Danube or Rhein and feast on the famous German bratwurst. If you’re interested in a fun but fruitful gap year, then the German gap year is the perfect choice.
It goes without saying that big cities like Berlin, Munich, or Aachen offer opportunities for gappers in any field and are the first choice, but here are some other popular locations to consider.
Cologne or Köln, will enchant anyone with its perfect mixture of gothic cathedrals and modern architecture. Find job or internship opportunities in large international companies (like Ford), study your course-of-choice at some of the best universities in the world, or volunteer to support meaningful causes in the local community. Basque in the beauty and history of the city—almost every street corner has it’s own story. The Cologne Cathedral will take your breath away! Lose yourself in Cologne’s old town, and drink kölsch with the locals. There’s no better way to immerse yourself on your gap year in Germany.
Stuttgart. Home to some of the most famous automotive companies in the world, this great swabian city offers endless opportunities for international students, volunteers, or future employees. Stuttgart beckons cultural junkies with acclaimed opera, ballet, the philharmonic, and incredible historic sights; the auto fans with the Mercedes Benz Museum; the sports fans with great soccer clubs and arenas; and any travel lover with it’s great festivals, concerts, and some of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world. If you’re music-obsessed, you’ll love knowing that The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, and Duran Duran have played at the Porsche Arena. (You should probably check out the venue schedule and book tickets now!).
Berlin. The fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 20th century spun Berlin along a path very few could predict. What remains is an indomitable local spirit, incredible monuments to peace, and a wonderful, graffiti-strewn wall. If you want your gap year in Germany to focus on world history, development, or human rights, you’d be hardpressed to find a better German city than Berlin. Prost!
However you decide to spend your gap year in Germany, be it studying or working, it is guaranteed you will experience a total immersion in the German culture and lifestyle. Here are some of the most popular ways to get to that point of true immersion.
Volunteer. Although most people wouldn’t think that Germany needs volunteers, there actually are a great number of volunteer programs in Germany. Teach English to a German family or volunteer in community centers and summer activity programs. With Germany’s recent intake of refugees, even more projects and causes have sprung. The chance to support people who have lost everything is tough but rewarding.
Internships and Study. Germany offers an awesome combo program, where you can spend 50% of your time studying and 50% interning at a local company. What you learn in school, you get to apply in real life, thus earning both credit and experience. Woot! On your off days you get to go to school parties or work team building events. You can find great internships with famous companies such as Daimler, Volkswagen, Porsche, or Audi. Very often, such internships have turned into full time jobs, so why not give it a try?
Work Abroad. Whether you want to be a teacher, an engineer, a translator, a business person, or are searching for summer jobs in Germany, there are great working opportunities for each field you’re working in. Big companies like BMW, Mercedes Benz and Porsche offer great opportunities for international employees and schools are more open to having a native or fluent-speaker teach the students. Work in Germany on your gap year and you might not want to leave.
Costs. Depending on your location, the cost of living will differ. But overall, if you shop smart (food can be very cheap), use more public transportation and recycle (you get money in return), you can save up on that pocket money. Always have change on you and be prepared to pay €0.50 to use the toilet (always clean!), spend €1.50 per glass of tap water, and €3.50 for a big glass of German beer. But anywhere in Germany, you can have a hearty meal and a drink for just €10. With the right budget plan and the help of FundMyTravel, you will be on your way to Germany in no time.
Accommodation. If you’re on a formal program, you will most likely be placed in dorms with other colleagues, or host families. As a student, you will be placed in student dorms, or you can find your own place if you can afford it and share the rent with two other roommates. Even if you’re coming here with work, rent can be very affordable.
Visas. If you are not an EU / EEA citizen, then you definitely need a visa for your gap year in Germany. If you’re coming on a formal program, it will likely be taken care of for you. For any other kind of gap year in Germany experience, there are visas for students, tourists, or work permits. The paperwork might be a hassle, but with our Embassy directory you will find out everything you need with just a click.
Safety. Health and safety is taken very seriously in Germany, with one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. The Germans even have laws about noise, with specific hours and days (Sundays and holidays) when you are not allowed to even mow the lawn. You won’t be losing on any of that rest and beauty sleep. Just be aware of your surroundings and keep out of harm’s way. Be polite, be on time, and be respectful!
You will notice immediately that public transportation is key for Germans. Yes, they have their no-speed-limit highways, but there is always construction on some kind of important road and there is always heavy traffic during rush hours. Public transportation can also get crowded, but they are rarely late and you will make your first class or meeting on time. Which brings us to the second most important thing.
Punctuality. If being “fashionably late” is normal in other countries, in Germany it is considered rude and disrespectful. If you are going to be late, then always call ahead and inform someone. It might cause inconvenience, but they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
In case you can’t make it to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Keine Panik!. There are Oktoberfest versions all over the country, sometimes called Volksfest, so you won’t be missing out on any of the fun.
Sundays and holidays are sacred and are celebrated with fresh bretzel, bratwurst, maultaschen, brötchen, schnitzel, bratkartoffel —and the list of delicious food goes on, but we’re already drooling. Wash it down with a Hefe Weizen, watch a soccer game, and have fun!
Taking a German gap year will be a life changing experience that you do not want to miss out on. Learn and enjoy the German lifestyle while you develop yourself both mentally and spiritually.
Keep reading! Experiential travel advice for not-so-average teens.
Take a Gap Year in Germany
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