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Flensburg: Study where others go surfing

If you love the wind and the sea, outdoor activities and the charm of a small city, there’s no better place to go than Flensburg in northern Germany near the Danish border. In this quaint town of red-brick houses on a green campus by the sea, studying will be a breeze!

by Sophie Nagel

The Volksbad is not for swimmers, the cultural centre offers exciting concerts and parties © Sophie Nagel
The Volksbad is not for swimmers, the cultural centre offers exciting concerts and parties . © Sophie Nagel

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
82,258
Students:
9,237
Universities:
2
Monthly rent:
291 €
Tip:
Take a walk down Norderstrasse.
Website:
flensburg.de

Welcome to Flensburg

Flensburg is situated directly on the Baltic Sea in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. It’s one of the northernmost cities in Germany. The only city further north and even closer to Denmark is Glücksburg. Flensburg is a big beer-producing town. In fact, Flensburger beer is one of the most popular in Germany.

Pedestrian zone and Nordermarkt © Sophie Nagel
Pedestrian zone and Nordermarkt . © Sophie Nagel

The city still bears the traces of its long maritime history. In the district of Flensburg-Mürwik there used to be a marine base where products from around the globe found their way to northern Germany. Rum, for example! The Rum Museum located in the basement of the Maritime Museum presents the history of Flensburg’s rum trade that goes back many centuries. Before the Braasch Rum-Making Museum on Rote Strasse opened in 2014, the Rum Museum had been the only one of its kind in Germany.

Cross-border tourism with Denmark is very important to Flensburg’s economy. In fact, in 2008 the city installed bilingual street and place signs all over town, and Danish is taught as a second foreign language in school after English.

The architectural style in northern Germany is very different from that of Munich, for example. Especially along the east shore on Sankt-Jürgen-Strasse, you’ll see many small, Scandinavian-looking houses. And along the Wrangelstrasse, you’ll find a number of impressive 19th-century villas.

Northern Germany is frequently described as “flatland”, but there are several streets in Flensburg which are quite steep and will challenge even the hardiest biker. The road leading to the Museumsberg, for example, is pretty tough, but the view at the top is certainly worth the trouble.

Shoefiti in front of the Danish Central Library © Sophie Nagel
Shoefiti in front of the Danish Central Library . © Sophie Nagel

Living in Flensburg

Surfing, swimming, fish sandwiches – Flensburg is a popular holiday destination, something you’ll definitely notice in the summertime. With the seagulls flying overhead, you can feel the fresh breeze coming in from the sea which gives the city a pleasant feeling of freedom. There are three main beaches in Flensburg: the Ostseebad, the Strandbad Solitüde and the Fahrensodde near a small yacht harbour.

My advice

It’s always nice taking a walk down Norderstrasse. In front of the Danish Central Library, you can see shoes hanging from a string attached to the front of the buildings. It’s called “shoefiti” (a combination of “shoe” and “graffiti”), a trend that comes from the USA.

Many young people spend their time there and in town. There are numerous shops and nice cafés in Flensburg which make the city even more attractive. The trend in Flensburg is to buy locally produced clothing, food and accessories. You can find many self-made articles for sale at the “Flensburger Stadtmatrosen”.

If you head down the street “Schiffbrücke” toward the shore, you’ll pass Flensburg’s oldest harbour pub – Onkel Jule. Even though it hasn’t been renovated for years, a visit to Onkel Jule is a “must” if you want to get to know the town better. Later on, you can go dancing at "Phono" at the harbour or at the Kulturzentrum Volksbad. You should make an effort (i.e. wake up a little earlier!) to go to the weekly market held at the Südermarkt downtown every Saturday. Maybe a fresh-squeezed fruit juice will help you get through the day. You can have breakfast at the"Kaffeehaus", which transforms into a popular dance spot at night. At noon, you can get a nice lunch at "Café Kritz". Are you interested in cultural events? There’s a vibrant theatre scene in Flensburg with numerous performances at the Stadttheater and the Theaterwerkstatt Pilkentafel.

The University Sports programme offers a wide range of courses such as boxing, football or even kitesurfing. You could also go to the Solitüde Beach and rent a stand-up paddle board (SUP) for a few hours. After that, you might like to visit the "Heimathafen" or look for starfish along the pier. Flensburg organises various festivals throughout the year, like the Short Film Festival in November, the "Dockyard Festival" with concerts and the "Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival".

Interview with Shoaib from India

Shoaib Khan is 26 years old and is enrolled in the English language master’s programme “Wind Engineering” at Hochschule Flensburg.

Shoaib from India © Sophie Nagel
Shoaib from India . © Sophie Nagel

Why did you decide to study in Flensburg?

My goal is to start a career in the area of renewable energies. My master’s programme in Wind Energy is exceptional. It’s one of the only degree programmes worldwide that focuses solely on wind energy. Apart from that, I wanted to get my master’s degree abroad. And what better place to do that than in Germany which is a leader in renewable energies!

How did you prepare for your stay in Germany?

Luckily I didn’t need to translate any of my documents because they were already in English. I gathered information online about visa application procedures and looked at what documents I would need in Germany. I also asked people about how I could best find an apartment because the university didn’t organise one for me.

Has Flensburg met your expectations?

Yes, I am satisfied. My course is very useful because it introduced us to the latest wind-energy technologies. Flensburg is small, but absolutely gorgeous. You’ll find everything you need here for recreation, a sports programme and lots of places to go out with friends. The semester ticket is not so great, though, because it isn’t valid outside the city.

How do you finance your living expenses in Germany?

My parents support me. I also worked as an assistant for a professor for a while. I’ve found it difficult getting a job outside the university because my German skills aren’t good enough yet.

What surprised you most about Flensburg?

People here love sports. Sports are part of their lifestyle. There are great bike paths and you’ll see people jogging around in every season of the year. Punctuality is very important in Germany. Trains and buses always leave on time. I like the principle of recycling. Trash separation is a big issue in Germany and also a bit complicated. Sundays in Flensburg are rather boring because almost all the shops are closed. In my home town of Mumbai, Sunday is a very busy day!

The steamboat “Alexandra”  © Sophie Nagel
The steamboat “Alexandra” . © Sophie Nagel

Why is Flensburg a good place to study?

There’s a modern laboratory at the university where you can become acquainted with the latest research and learn how it is used by the industry. I feel that Flensburg is one of the safest places for international students. The campus is very green, the city is located directly by the sea which means you can easily walk to the shore, go surfing, kitesurfing, swimming. You also notice the multicultural feeling because of the proximity to Denmark. Many Danes live in Flensburg.

What’s the best way to get to know other students?

The best way is to stay in contact with the International Office. They organise lots of excursions and events which help you become familiar with your surroundings and meet lots of people. They also offer great programmes like the “Study Buddy” or mentoring programme which help you make contact with Germans. They also host film evenings on a regular basis. With a tandem partner you can learn a new language easier and make a friend. In the beginning, I found it hard talking to people with the little bit of German I knew. And most Germans are somewhat reserved.