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Potsdam: Studying like a king

Potsdam is a delightful town surrounded by Brandenburg's magnificent countryside. A friendly place, Potsdam is famous for its film productions and historical landmarks. With over 30 research institutes based here, Potsdam is also the region's economic centre. And the best thing about Potsdam is that everywhere is within easy cycling distance.

by Jo Graff

Neues Palais © Graff/DAAD
Neues Palais . © Graff/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
158,000
Students:
24,100
Universities:
4
Monthly rent:
301 €
Tip:
Explore nature around Potsdam on the Havel river and its many lakes!
Website:
www.potsdam.de

Welcome to Potsdam

Potsdam is a historical town. Once a royal seat and garrison town, it has retained much of its former splendour, as revealed by its expansive parks, stately buildings and magnificent palaces. "Each to his own" is an old town motto dating back to the 18th century. And this still appears to hold true even today.

You'll soon notice that the pace of life slows down in Potsdam. Residents and visitors have a relaxed air about them and are drawn in by the town's unique charm. You can explore most of the sights by bike. The capital of the federal state of Brandenburg is clean, compact and peaceful. In the town centre, you get the impression the locals all know each other.

Orangery © Graff/DAAD
Orangery . © Graff/DAAD

Imposing monuments such as Cecilienhof Palace and Sanssouci Palace still bear witness to the town's past. The Russian quarter Alexandrowka, the Dutch houses in the town centre, the Volkspark Babelsberg and Pfingstberg are also well worth a visit.

The university buildings are spread all over the town. Computer science students study at the Hasso Plattner Institute, while film students attend the University of Film and Television "Konrad Wolf" Potsdam-Babelsberg. Natural scientists, on the other hand, can be found in Golm (at the other end of town). The "Neues Palais" campus is located right next to the Prussian kings' former guest palace.

Alexandrowka © Graff/DAAD
Alexandrowka . © Graff/DAAD

Every year, the town attracts visitors with a theme year, hosting over a hundred interesting events and activities. In the year dedicated to the subject of "Film", for example, open-air film screenings were organised at original film locations. The town's idyllic setting is undoubtedly one of the reasons why German celebrities such as fashion designer Wolfgang Joop and TV presenter Günther Jauch live here.

More photos

Living in Potsdam

Life in Potsdam is relaxed and enjoyable. The clocks here tick a little slower than they do elsewhere. Many students commute from Berlin every day because they prefer to live in a more vibrant city. Depending on exact location and connections, the journey takes between 20 and 60 minutes. Even if recreational activities do not compare with those of Potsdam's bigger neighbour, the town has a lot to offer students. The countryside in and around Potsdam is exceptional: numerous lakes, woodland areas and the river Havel are ideal places for sporting activities.

Glienicke bridge between Berlin and Potsdam © Graff/DAAD
Glienicke bridge between Berlin and Potsdam . © Graff/DAAD

The town also offers an impressive cultural programme: the Filmmuseum Potsdam, which hosts film evenings and special exhibitions, the Filmpark in Babelsberg and the tropical world of Biosphere Potsdam close to Potsdam's University of Applied Sciences, to name just a few. Indeed, Potsdam is a centre of film. The Thalia cinema is a popular meeting place for students, one highlight being the annual student film festival "Sehsüchte". In the summer months, open-air screenings draw visitors to the Freundschaftsinsel, or Friendship Island.

My tip

I love the fact that Potsdam is so incredibly green. Trips on the river Havel and lakes are a special way of exploring more of Potsdam's cultural landscape. I once hired a raft there with friends in the summer. We had a barbecue on it and floated down the river. It was great fun!

In Potsdam, nothing is far away. There are lots of student parties and clubs, such as the Nil Studentenkeller next to the Neues Palais or the Pub à la Pub on Breite Strasse. Special events are regularly organised, such as games evenings, karaoke or readings. You'll find most bars and cafés in the town centre around Brandenburger Strasse, Potsdam's main shopping street. Potsdam students like to meet at 11-Line where they can visit exhibitions, play table tennis, or hang out and watch TV series. In the Waschbar on Geschwister-Scholl-Strasse, you can do your laundry while enjoying a leisurely breakfast with friends. The university also organises start-of-semester parties. Events like "Rubys Tuesday" now enjoy almost cult status. Of course, lots of students also like to organise private parties in the various student residences.

The Waschhaus is generally a place you should make a note of. The area on Schiffbauergasse is referred to as "Kunstraum" and showcases young contemporary art. This is also the home of the Hans-Otto-Theater. "Kuze", Potsdam's cultural centre for students, and Spartacus are popular venues for all kinds of events, including the "Schlechte Laune Sause".

Interview with Jaeyoon from South Korea

Jaeyoon Jung comes from South Korea, is 28 years old and is studying for a Master's degree in IT Systems Engineering with a focus on Human Computer Interaction in Potsdam.

Picture of Jaeyoon from South Korea © Graff/DAAD
Jaeyoon from South Korea . © Graff/DAAD

Why did you decide to study in Potsdam?

I came here about a year ago. Actually, it's all to do with a professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute. I was doing an internship in Singapore at the time and I had to do a lot of research for it. While I was doing this, I read some very interesting articles by one particular author. I did some more research and eventually found out where he was teaching. I got in touch with him and he eventually advised me to apply to do my Master's. I didn't actually know much about Germany at the time.

Landscape © Graff/DAAD
Landscape . © Graff/DAAD

How did you prepare?

I could speak a little German before I came here. And, of course, I wrote to my professor a lot. I also applied to the Studentenwerk for student accommodation six months beforehand and also for a scholarship with the DAAD.

I got both. Living in student accommodation helps a lot. I'd advise everyone to apply. Germany offers lots of benefits. I think that's really great. The Semesterticket is also really useful. It allows me to travel by bus and train for free.

What did you find difficult in the beginning?

The language and culture. It was all very alien to me. And the food too. It took several months for me to get used to it. It's totally different to Asian food. Registering with the authorities was very difficult for me. I had to arrange everything on my own and back then my German wasn't very good.

Friendship Island © Graff/DAAD
Friendship Island . © Graff/DAAD

How did you meet people?

I met lots of people through a DAAD meeting. They then introduced me to their friends. That was relatively easy. The university also offers a Buddy programme. I joined this, and there was also a student from our institute who was there to help me. Sports courses are also a good way of meeting people.

How would you describe life in Potsdam?

Very laid back. It's completely different to life in Berlin or other cities. My favourite place in Potsdam is the Park Sanssouci. It's incredibly beautiful there, especially in the summer.