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Frankfurt (Oder): Studying on a cultural border

Frankfurt (Oder) offers cultural diversity, a fascinating history and a gorgeous landscape. In just ten minutes, you can cross the Oder River and visit the neighbouring country of Poland. With everything close by and prices which are affordable, it’s an ideal city for students.

by Janine Funke

Bridge crossing the Oder River © DAAD
Bridge crossing the Oder River . © DAAD

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
59,000
Students:
6,600
Universities:
1
Monthly rent:
273 €
Tip:
Discover historic landmarks on a boat trip along the Oder River!
Website:
www.frankfurt-oder.de

Welcome to Frankfurt (Oder)

Frankfurt (Oder) is the easternmost university town in Germany. The campus of the European University Viadrina is situated on the Oder River. After a day of lectures and seminars, you can enjoy nature in the meadows along the river. Or you can take a quick trip to a nearby city by train. The bustling capital of Berlin is less than an hour away and Posen and Warsaw in Poland are not too far either.

Frankfurt (Oder) is an important centre of science and research. The internationally renowned Leibniz Institute Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics (IHP) has helped bring in numerous companies in the fields of microelectronics, communication and energy technology. The city is home to a business and innovation centre which provides support to regional entrepreneurs who cultivate contacts around the world through an international trade and commerce centre. The Frankfurt (Oder) Trade Fair and a technology and commerce centre make the city attractive to companies.

Panorama of Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice © DAAD
Panorama of Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice . © DAAD

Frankfurt (Oder) is separated from the Polish city of Słubice by the Oder River. Słubice was formerly a part of Frankfurt (Oder) and used to be German until after World War II, when the Oder was designated Germany’s eastern border. Today, Słubice is completely Polish. The Oder Bridge takes you across the border to the Polish side. If you take a walk along the German side of the Oder, you’ll pass the “Friedensglocke“ (Bell of Peace). The bell is an important landmark of the city and symbolises the friendship between Germany and Poland.

You can enjoy a wonderful view of both cities from the 89-metre-high Oder Tower. There are many shops on the lower levels of the building, and the well-known Panorama Restaurant is located on the 24th floor.

Street sign in two languages © wildvanilla/Flickr
Street sign in two languages . © wildvanilla/Flickr

Very few old buildings downtown were reconstructed after World War II. That’s why you won’t find a historic downtown quarter like in many other cities in Germany. Everywhere you go, you’ll see prefab high-rises which were typical housing projects in former socialist East Germany. There are a number of monuments which date back to the time of German division, such as the Marx head on Karl-Marx-Strasse. You should definitely pay a visit to St. Mary’s Church from the 13th century. The architecture and stunning stained-glass windows, which illuminate the inside of the church, are simply awe-inspiring.

The German writer Heinrich von Kleist was born in Frankfurt (Oder). Today there’s a museum dedicated to the famous playwright and his works. At the Kleist Forum Frankfurt, you can see various concerts, operas and musicals – and not only by Kleist. You can enjoy more music and theatre during the "Kleist Festiva"l and the "Frankfurt Music Festival".

Living in Frankfurt (Oder)

Above all else, living in Frankfurt (Oder) is affordable. The rental prices are significantly lower than the German average and are even cheaper on the Polish side of the border. The drinks are less expensive in bars and clubs, and museums and theatres offer great bargains to students. There are lots of cosy cafés on the marketplace.

My tip

You can discover the beautiful region around Frankfurt (Oder) by taking a boat tour of the Oder River. You’ll also find interesting monuments from World War II on the Polish side of the border.

Unithea, an annual German-Polish theatre festival, is really worth seeing. The festival is organised by students of the University Viadrina and takes place in Germany and Poland. There’s also an outdoor summer festival which is held every year in the town of Eberswalde not far from Frankfurt (Oder).

With so many forests, fields and lakes nearby, the region around Frankfurt (Oder) is ideal for bicycle tours. Perhaps you’ll pass the Chorin Monastery near Eberswalde. And if you want to cool off, you can take a swim at the Helenesee.

Interview with Yannick from Cameroon

Yannick Gana is 21 years old, comes from Cameroon and is pursuing his master’s degree in “International Business Administration” (IBA) in Frankfurt (Oder).

Picture of Yannick from Cameroon © Yannick Gana
Yannick from Cameroon . © Yannick Gana

What made you decide to study in Frankfurt (Oder)?

The degree programme was what made me choose Frankfurt (Oder). I wanted to study in Germany because the educational system is well structured and obtaining financing is not as hard as it is in other European countries. I also wanted to study Economics, but with an international scope in more than just one language. I only discovered later that the working atmosphere in Frankfurt (Oder) is very good as well.

Did you learn German to prepare for your studies?

I started learning German in Germany. Now I can speak the language relatively well, but I still take courses at the Language Centre at the European University Viadrina. I think it’s necessary to learn the language if you really want to succeed in Germany. German isn’t an easy language, but with time, you can learn almost anything, right?

How should foreign students prepare for their stay in Germany?

The most important thing, in my opinion, is that they should work on being punctual. Germans take that really seriously. To avoid problems later, you should also make sure your finances are in order before you arrive. I applied for several scholarships but was rejected. Now I’m working part-time during my studies to cover my living expenses.

On the Oder River © DAAD
On the Oder River . © DAAD

Is there anything you had a hard time getting used to in Germany?

Definitely the weather and the food. Of course, I also had problems with my visa and the language, and at times, integrating, but the weather and food definitely took getting used to.

What do you especially like about Frankfurt (Oder)?

I especially like the fact that the city is quiet. It’s also quite practical to live so close to the Polish border – you can buy things much cheaper on the other side. When I want to relax, I take a trip to Berlin. But when I’m not in the mood for such a long trip, I go to the bar Hemingways or the club Bananas. I frequently play football on Birkenallee with other students in my programme. I think the European University Viadrina is a very good place to study. You can work together in small groups and the lectures are very high quality.

Did you come in contact with other Germans quickly?

It was easy meeting other exchange students. But the German friends I now have all come from my degree programme. Getting to know Germans is a bit more difficult and takes time.