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Saarbrücken: Centre of computer technology with a French way of life

Saarbrücken is situated next to the French border. You'll notice the French influence in the culture and way of life. The University of Applied Sciences, research institutes and companies attract people to the town from all over the world. This is where the small-town charm blends a big city flair.

by the Editors

Panorama of Saarbrücken © Wolfgang Staudt Fotografie/flickr
Panorama of Saarbrücken . © Wolfgang Staudt Fotografie/flickr

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
176,000
Students:
28,400
Universities:
5
Monthly rent:
288 €
Tip:
Marvel at the famous "Saarschleife" on a hike through the Saarland!
Website:
www.saarbruecken.de

Welcome to Saarbrücken

Saarbrücken is the capital of the federal state of Saarland and the heart of a flourishing economic region. The town is a centre of future-oriented research, especially in the field of computer technology. Institutions such as the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and the Leibniz Centre for Informatics (LZI) at Schloss Dagstuhl are leaders in information science.

Saarbrücken Castle © Stadt Saarbrücken
Saarbrücken Castle . © Stadt Saarbrücken

The Saarland University of Applied Science (HTW) is particularly proud of its Environmental Informatics Group (EIG), which has specialised in ecological software applications and is involved in projects throughout the world. The HTW also cooperates closely with the Institut für ZukunftsEnergieSysteme (IZES), which conducts research into renewable energies.

For many years, the Saarbrücken region was a centre of heavy industry. Today, the rusty remains of the abandoned Völklinger Hütte are a reminder of Europe's industrial landscape in the 20th century. This impressive complex is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Völklinger Hütte © Lokilech/wikicommons
Völklinger Hütte . © Lokilech/wikicommons

Saarland once belonged to France, and the town's inhabitants have always maintained close cultural and economic ties with their French neighbours. This openness and high level of cooperation are reflected in numerous business ventures and academic links between local universities, such as the institutions in Strasbourg and Metz.

When you're in the Saarland, you should make a point of watching the locals prepare a "Schwenkbraten". This is a local speciality: marinated neck of pork barbecued over coals on a grid suspended by a three-legged tripod. The procedure is referred to as "Schwenken", because the joint swings to and fro over the fire. This form of barbecue is a local custom: as soon as the first warm days arrive, everyone gets out their "Schwenker" (or barbecue). An invitation to a "Schwenk-Session" is the ultimate gesture of hospitality!

Town hall at night © Dirk Weishaar/wikicommons
Town hall at night . © Dirk Weishaar/wikicommons

Living in Saarbrücken

The best way to get around in Saarbrücken is by bike. The different parts of town are relatively far apart and buses run only rarely in the evenings and at night. There is a well-developed network of cycle paths. The more you cycle, the quicker you'll get used to the region's hilly terrain. The university residences are inexpensive and, depending on their exact location, are close to the university or town centre.

Our tip

The Saarland offers beautiful views. Here, you can admire the "curvaceous" river Saar. The "Saarschleife", a narrow bend of the river near Mettlach, is a Saarland emblem and a unique motif.

The old part of town around St. Johanner Markt and Mainzer Strasse are popular both among students and locals. There are lots of cafés, bars and restaurants here. Every morning at around 4 am, early risers and party crowds are drawn by the smell of freshly baked croissants and delicious baguettes at Chez Jerôme. The bakery on Mainzer Strasse is run by an authentic French boulanger. It's not unusual to see long queues here even in the early hours of the morning. But you shouldn't leave it too late, because Chez Jerôme closes again at 10 am.

Interview with Samandar from Uzbekistan

Samandar Atoev comes from Uzbekistan and is 34 years old. He's doing a PhD in law.

Why did you decide to study in Saarbrücken?

When I applied to do a Master's degree in Germany, I had the choice of Saarbrücken and other cities. A deciding factor for me was the study programme offered by the University of Saarland, because it fits in with my academic requirements in so many respects. I also wanted to study in a smaller, more rural and quieter environment than in the hectic atmosphere of a city.

Picture of Samandar from Uzbekistan © Samandar Atoev
Samandar from Uzbekistan . © Samandar Atoev

What should future students organise before they come to Germany?

Obviously, you should have all your papers ready and possibly also bring with you additional copies of degree certificates and diplomas. And of course it's also important that you sort out accommodation before you arrive here. Foreign students generally have problems looking for somewhere to live because it's difficult to organise from a distance.

What was most difficult for you when you first arrived in Germany? And how did you cope?

At the beginning it was really difficult for me to understand the lectures in German even though I'd learned the language really intensively. After around two months though, it was all much quicker and easier.

What's your favourite place in Saarbrücken? And why?

Everything in Saarbrücken is linked in some way with the river Saar. I like spending time on the banks of the river. Whether you're enjoying the sun at Am Staden or eating an ice cream on the Berliner Promenade, it's always nice along the Saar. There are also really good cycle paths for cyclists and nice views in both directions. I like cycling there because I love the countryside and I like to get some exercise.

What's the best way to get to know other students when you've just arrived in Saarbrücken?

It's best to live in student accommodation. Because this is where you meet students of all different nationalities and it's easy to start up a conversation. Attending a language or sports course is also a good way of getting to know new people, not just from your own study programme. There are also informal gatherings ("Stammtische") where not only native speakers but also people wanting to learn a language get together. That's one way of getting to know other people.

Saarschleife © Zairon/wikicommons
Saarschleife . © Zairon/wikicommons

Where do you go in Saarbrücken if you need a break from studying?

The best place to relax is the Deutsch-Französischer-Garten (DFG), which is not far from the town centre. From early spring to late autumn, the abundance of plants and flowers there create the perfect setting to relax in. If you want some real peace and quiet, you should go the more rural regions of the Saarland.

Please complete this sentence: "For me, studying in Germany means ...

… discovering a new culture; broadening my horizons for my career; facing new challenges and finding out more about myself.