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Jena: A paradise for students

As a student in the green city of Jena, you can walk in the footsteps of Schiller and Goethe and become acquainted with one of the bastions of German culture. Jena has everything a student needs. Not only will you receive top-class instruction at the university, but you can spend your leisure time in parks, cafés, theatres and museums.

by Sandra Friedrichs

Panorama of Jena © DAAD
Panorama of Jena . © DAAD

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
106,000
Students:
23,600
Universities:
2
Monthly rent:
260 €
Tip:
Go on a hiking tour and have a break in the beer garden at the Landgrafen Restaurant!
Website:
www.jena.de

Welcome to Jena

The best way to get to Jena is by train. Because you won’t believe your eyes once you’ve disembarked at the Jena-Paradies train station. There, stretching for kilometres around you, is Paradise Park where you’re sure to encounter many sport enthusiasts. The Saale River runs through the middle. Families, students and senior citizens sit on benches along the river bank and chat about their daily lives. Above the trees in the distance, you’ll spot the limestone cliffs which enclose the city of Jena and make it such an extraordinary place.

Limestone cliffs © Friedrichs/DAAD
Limestone cliffs . © Friedrichs/DAAD

The character of the city is strongly influenced by its two universities. One in three inhabitants either study or work at the Jena University of Applied Sciences or the Friedrich Schiller University, whose faculty buildings are scattered throughout town. Jena’s economy benefits from the potential offered by this well-educated pool of young people. Companies like Carl Zeiss, Jenoptik and Schott Werke are not only the largest employers in the region, they are also among the market leaders in their fields.

Graffiti at the street © Friedrichs/DAAD
Graffiti at the street . © Friedrichs/DAAD

On a wall in town, you can read “Du bist einfach paradiesisch!” (You are simply paradisiacal!), which you’ll find confirmed by the beauty of the city. When you arrive in Jena, you will be enchanted by its nature and location. There is good reason why famous people throughout history have fallen in love with the town and have studied or taught here. Schiller, Goethe and Novalis are just a few of the well-known residents who have left a lasting impression on Jena. The Goethe Memorial Site, The Romantikerhaus and the Schiller Garden are just some of the important sites you shouldn’t miss.

Even though it looks back on a rich history, Jena is by no means a sleepy, backwater town. The students provide youthful energy to the downtown streets which are lined with numerous shops and stores. The Jentower, located near the university’s main campus, contains a shopping centre and a large viewing platform up top.

Living in Jena

Jena is a typical student town that offers everything you need or desire after a stressful day of classes. You can relax here, party, play sports and take advantage of a wide array of cultural programmes and events. Although the institutes of both universities are spread around town, you can reach your next lecture in no time if you have good walking shoes or a bike.

Jentower © Friedrichs/DAAD
Jentower . © Friedrichs/DAAD

For a small snack, you should try out the cafés in the south end of the city. Café Grünowski offers affordable meals in a unique atmosphere, while vegans will enjoy yummy cupcakes and out-of-this-world chocolate frappes at Café Fau. If you’re in the mood for some luxury, try out the more conventional cafés at the marketplace. The Kaffeerösterei Markt 11 with its large selection of roasted coffees is especially popular. If you are very hungry, you can buy yourself a Hungarian lángos in Lélek or eat a pizza at Restaurant Il Ponte and shoot the breeze with the funny restaurant owner.

My tip

You should definitely go hiking in Jena. The limestone cliffs that surround the city are ideal destinations for hiking tours. After a short walk along the Landgrafenstieg, you can relax and enjoy a cold beverage and a beautiful view in the beer garden at the Landgrafen Restaurant.

You’ll find lots of students in the Wagnergasse. You can get delicious cake at the Kaffeehaus Gräfe. If you’re in the mood for the best curried sausage in all of Thuringia, Fritz Mitte is the place to go. The bars and cafés in the Wagnergasse fill up quickly in the evening. If you and your friends want to find a table at the trendy Café Wagner, then you’d better get there early. They often hold well-attended events there, ranging from movies and concerts to student parties. If you find it all a bit too stressful, then check out kassablanca which offers a similar programme. If you want to get down and boogie, then you should head over to the F-Haus.

If you’re in the mood for something quieter, you can go see the exhibitions at the Optisches Museum and the Phyletisches Museum, or take time to smell the flowers for free at Germany’s second oldest botanical garden. The Planetarium with its impressive dome of stars is also worth a visit. The Theaterhaus Jena offers a diverse cultural programme that caters to the taste of every theatre enthusiast. In the summer, make sure you don’t miss the Kulturarena where plays, movies and concerts are shown and performed night after night on a large open-air stage.

Interview with Marina from Russia

Marina Bazhutina from Russia is 23 years old and is pursuing her master’s in “Public Communication” at the University of Jena.

Picture of Marina from Russia © Marina Bazhutina
Marina from Russia . © Marina Bazhutina

Why is Jena a good place to study?

Wherever you have to go as a student, you can get there within half an hour using public transport. And if you have a lecture in a different building, you can easily get there on foot.

What should foreign students take care of before coming to Germany?

Obviously accommodation is really important. Even if you’d like to live in your own flat in Jena at some point, it’s not a bad idea to reserve a room in a hotel or flat-share so you have a place to stay in the beginning.

Wagnergasse © Friedrichs/DAAD
Wagnergasse . © Friedrichs/DAAD

How did you find your accommodation?

I found my flat through the Studentenwerk and I’d recommend the same to anyone looking for a flat. Rental costs can be quite high especially in student towns like Jena, while the Studentenwerk flats are much more reasonable.

How can you save a little money as a student in Germany?

Cook more at home and eat less downtown!

What surprised you most about life in Jena?

I was rather surprised that shops are closed after 10 pm and on Sundays. It’s normal for all of Germany, but I can imagine that such opening hours take getting used to at first.

Botanical garden © Friedrichs/DAAD
Botanical garden . © Friedrichs/DAAD

What is the best way to come in contact with other students?

I’d suggest openly expressing your wish to make new contacts in the first days of the semester, for example, when everyone introduces themselves at the start of the seminar. You could also talk with students in your department and ask them questions about the degree programme or life in the city.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with Germans?

You shouldn’t expect to make friends too quickly. Contacts are non-binding for Germans; it takes quite a while until you meet up and have fun with fellow students outside the university.

How would you sum up your studies in Germany so far?

Studying in Germany has given me an opportunity to plan my future in Germany. Germany is cosy, green and quaint in a good sense, so that you can visit lots of cities.