How not to feel like a foreigner while you're studying in Germany

by Florian Dietrich

This article was written by Sara Schuster, published on 11th January 2013 and has been read 8381 times.

Sara is a Journalism student, doing her final year at Universität Hamburg, Germany, while also working at a student health insurance company. Here is her advice for other international students, based on her experiences doing her whole degree in the country.

I know how frustrating it can be to go to a new place and feel like giving up, going home and not being the successful person you always dreamed of being.

It's even worse if you're an introvert and every attempt to socialise totally drains your energy - or perhaps you come from a culture that is really different from the one you’ve decided to study.

I know all of this because it happened to me.

I felt the need to get this off my chest and hopefully there are some students out there who are studying abroad and will find this useful. Here is some advice for students in Germany, but it can pretty much be applied to any other country.

Learn German

When I first came to Hamburg, I only knew the basics of the German language which I learned from online resources, so I found that I got very nervous whenever someone spoke to me in German and I couldn’t reply back. I immediately joined a language course and everything went smoothly after a few months but I really wish I had started learning German much earlier, just to avoid some stress and to order a cup of coffee without worrying if I’m saying it right.

Be friendly

Germans are really friendly by nature and it’s best that you show that respect back. They won’t consider you as an outsider if you become their friend. Have a smile on your face and crack a joke whenever you get a chance.

Socialise with other international students

There will be many other foreign students who come to study at your university. Be nice to them, try to engage them in conversation, and don’t be afraid to ask them about where they're from. Most people love talking proudly of their home country.

Join a club that interests you

Whatever your passions are, there’s a big chance that there are groups and clubs that have already been set up in your city. Have a search online and register straight away! They are really happy to receive new members and that will help you get familiar with other people there. While I was studying I found a book club which I joined, there I got to meet a few very interesting people who played instruments, we then held a little music gig at a local pub where I got to sing. It was really wonderful!

Do sports

If you like doing any kind of sports, you can always join informal teams that get set up just to play a simple football or basketball game, to relieve the studying stress. Many universities have fields and halls for sports, and it's much more fun than joining a gym - you get to meet new people and might even get to travel around a bit.

Stay open-minded

Studying abroad is a life-changing experience, but if you're not open to new ideas and experiences, you will only do harm to your intellectual growth, not to mention people regarding you as ignorant and uncivilised. Engage in deep and controversial conversations. Ask questions. See how different people from different countries and cultures react.

Be yourself

Change is good, but don’t let yourself be someone who you’re not just for the sake of socialising and not feeling like a foreigner. Be proud of yourself and your background. Show people who you are and they will respect you for that. Be original and unique. You’ll feel much more confident that way.

Remember the reason you went there in the first place

You went to Germany to study, and that should be your top priority. Your life will depend on the skills you learn at university. Pay attention at lectures and revise for exams. This is my most important piece of advice! If you aren’t familiar with studying in Germany, read and understand how their education system works.

Don’t forget to have fun, experience new things, meet new people and enjoy your time abroad as much as possible. You will never regret the decision and you’ll treasure the memories for years to come.

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