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The First Hurdles – Life in Berlin

18/05/2017 - 07:58-0 Comments by | new_zealand flag

So you’ve decided you want to study in Berlin – awesome. The truth is, you’re not alone.

Today, tourism in Berlin is skyrocketing, the search for an apartment is becoming more strenuous and expensive than ever, and gentrification is swiftly changing the face of the cities Stadtteile. It’s more evident than ever, that the whole world wants to move here. And rightly so, because there are more reasons to love this city, than I can fit into a blog post.

According to the Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg in October of 2016, of the 3.5 Million people, who live here, at least 30.7 percent are either foreigners, or german citizens with an immigration background – a new record. In 2014, the Berliner Morgenpost reported, that more than 22,000 international students were enrolled in Berlin Universities, whether they be Erasmus Students, or full time students – like me.

It is important to keep in mind while reading this post, that when I arrived, I had the prime intention of applying to University here as a Non-European Student.
Firstly Visas – for those who need them (Non-EU).
An extremely important stepping stone, and in my experience, the most stressful. The most valuable advice I can give you is: get your ducks in a row, inform yourself and then inform yourself again.  Join the ‘Free Advice Berlin’ Facebook Group and search through previous posts. If you’re still in your home country, seek advice from the German Embassy, even apply for your visa there. Remember that this is Germany, and bureaucracy has whole new level here. Be prepared. Make sure you have all the correct documentation, bank accounts, insurance, Anmeldungen etc. you need and stay determined – you’ll be ok. The first free appointments are months in advance, so check the opening times of the Ausländerbehörde you need, set an alarm and wake up in the horrendous hours of the morning, so you can get a waiting number. In my first year, I was on a Working Holiday Visa, but many of my Non-EU friends were on a Language Course Visa. I later then transferred my Working Holiday Visa into a Student Visa (which also was an extremely challenging experience).

Great, you’re now legally able to live in Germany, time to find a room in an apartment (WG).

This topic, is hot on the lips of not only the Newly-arrived in Berlin, but even the Berliners. This city is undoubtedly in the midst of a house crisis. Websites like WG-Gesucht and Studenten-WG are what I’ve found to be the most useful. Don’t take it personally when you’ve already sent 50 or 100 applications and heard no reply – it’s not only happening to you.  Take your time with your applications, try not to just copy and paste text from previous applications.

Although I am guilty of this myself. Always aim for an apartment where it will be possible to do your Anmeldung, even if you’re going to be subletting. Subletting is a good temporary option, but always aim for something unbefristet.  In my 15 months, I’ve moved 7 times and have lived in Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Wedding, Lichtenberg and Charlottenburg, mainly due to different subletting situations. Although this is a really nice way to experience the different Berliner Kieze – it can become very exhausting. Most importantly, don’t fall victim to the scams you’ll undoubtedly receive via email. If you’re unsure of the legitimacy of the email, ask friends for their opinion or write a post on Free Advice Berlin, before you send ANY copies of your IDs or money. The Berliner WG Market can be difficult to navigate, but you’ll eventually find something.

With a roof over your head, and a visa, begin perfecting your german skills. If you’re wanting to apply to University here without a German Abitur, then you’ve got an important exam to pass: the DSH/ TestDaF/ Goethe C2. (This is of course dependant on where you’re applying, some Unis or Hochschule allow you to apply with a B2 German level. It’s best to enquire directly). I arrived in Germany with B1 level German, applied to Humboldt University with a B2-C1 level and received a conditional acceptance, which meant I had to pass their DSH exam with a C1 or C2 level, in order to be properly enrolled. Which I did in October of last year.  Intensive language courses, tandem partners, living with Germans, preparation courses, german movies and newspaper articles, were all extremely valuable in my preparation – and are things I’d absolutely recommend. At the end of the day, your improvement is reliant on how deeply you immerse yourself in the language. Mach dir Mut. Du schaffst das!

Of course, if you’re studying in English – then that entire paragraph was completely egal.

My preparation for my application lasted 9 months, but it shouldn’t have to. In between language courses, and working, I was jumping between european countries and exploring as much of this continent as my budget would allow. Although the entire process of settling down in Berlin can sometimes feel like a bureaucratic nightmare, I can absolutely confirm – it’s worth it. At the end of the day, to achieve it all of these things, in a foreign country, culture and language, is something worauf du richtig stolz sein kannst.

Tags: Accommodation, English Blog Post, Everyday Life, First Steps in Germany

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