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Zwickau: The Green Metropolis of Saxony

Zwickau is located in the industrial region of central Germany. Not only is it well-known by car lovers, it’s also popular among tourists and residents alike for its cultural events and historic attractions. If you decide to study in the student town of Zwickau, you’ll find yourself surrounded by green landscapes.

by Janine Funke

Fountain © Janine Funke
Fountain . © Janine Funke

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
93,081
Students:
4,540
Universities:
2
Monthly rent:
259 €
Tip:
Take a ride in the iconic car of the GDR - the Trabant or "Trabi".
Website:
www.zwickau.de

Welcome to Zwickau

As the centre of Saxony’s automotive industry, Zwickau is a city for car enthusiasts. Although Volkswagen operates modern facilities here today, Zwickau is the birthplace of the famous East German Trabant. The Trabant, or “Trabi” as it’s commonly called, is an iconic symbol of the former GDR. Practically every East German family owned a Trabant until 1989. If you want to learn more about Trabis, you should visit the August Horch Museum.

Schwanenteich © Janine Funke
Schwanenteich . © Janine Funke

Zwickau is a green city, located between the western Erzgebirge and the Vogtland. On your way to this Saxon city, you will pass idyllic forests, countless lakes and quaint villages. The best way to reach Zwickau is to take the regional train via one of the larger neighbouring cities. You can visit Leipzig and Dresden within an hour, and Nuremberg, Erfurt and Berlin are not very far away either.

As you leave the main train station and head towards downtown Zwickau, you’ll see fountains of all shapes and sizes everywhere. Jets of water spray and splash from animal heads and statues, lending the city a unique charm of its own. On your way downtown, you’ll pass the Schwanenteich, a large lake surrounded by woods and meadows. Students often come here to relax after a stressful day of classes in the summertime.

Schumann Memorial © Janine Funke
Schumann Memorial . © Janine Funke

When you arrive downtown, you’ll find yourself walking down narrow streets and past Wilhelminian-period buildings until you finally reach the main market square, where you can enjoy a wonderful view of Zwickau’s historic city hall. There are many attractions located nearby, for example, the birthplace of the composer Robert Schumann and St. Mary’s Cathedral.  Here on the marketplace you’ll also discover the Gewandhaus, theatre where you can watch plays or listen to the music of Robert Schumann.

Life in Zwickau

When you need a breather from academic life, you’ll find that Zwickau offers many places to rest and relax. In addition to the Schwanenteich, the banks of the Zwickauer Mulde provide plenty of space to stretch your legs. You can take an extended cycling tour through the woods around Zwickau or go on an excursion to one of the nearby lakes.

My tip

If you come to Zwickau, don’t miss the chance to take a ride in a Trabant. You can rent a "Trabi" at numerous locations, drive it yourself (if you have a license) or have someone chauffeur you around.

On warm summer evenings, you can meet up with German and foreign students at barbecues which are regularly held behind the student residence hall in the centre of town. And when the weather turns cooler, there are many inviting restaurants and bars on the main marketplace. Two of the most popular restaurants in Zwickau are the Sushibar and the Enchilada. If you’re interested in hearing the latest trends in German music, we recommend taking a trip to the Kosmonaut Festival in nearby Chemnitz in early summer.

Kymbat © Janine Funke
Kymbat . © Janine Funke

Interview with Kymbat Musabaeva from Kyrgyzstan

Kymbat comes from Bishkek, is 24 years old and studies Computer Science at the University of Applied Sciences Zwickau (WHZ). She is currently writing her master’s thesis at the Saxon-based company ZIS Industrietechnik GmbH.

Why did you decide to study in Germany?

I came to Germany in 2011 to get my bachelor’s degree. Before that I had been studying Computer Science for three years in Bishkek and attending German courses. My university has a partnership with the WHZ in Zwickau. The best students of each year are given the opportunity to study abroad in Germany. And because I was one of the best, I was allowed to go. I then continued my bachelor’s programme in Zwickau.

How do you finance your cost of living?

I received a DAAD scholarship in the first year. Then I applied for a scholarship from the Saxon Aufbaubank, and I got it!  I wrote my bachelor’s thesis at ZIS Industrietechnik. The company paid for my entire master’s degree programme, and currently I’m writing my master’s thesis there, as well. I think it’s great because I started out very early, putting what I’ve learned to practical use and becoming acquainted with a Germany company.  

How did you prepare for your stay in Germany?

Because of the cooperation between the two universities, I really didn’t have to prepare very much. And that was good because I’d never been abroad before and didn’t know what to expect. I was able to speak very good German, which was good preparation. Our partner office in Zwickau took care of the flat, visa and other student-related matters. The International Office at the WHZ Zwickau also provided us with lots of assistance.

University and residential home © Janine Funke
University and residential home . © Janine Funke

So you quickly felt right at home in Zwickau?

Yes, absolutely. We were a group of six Kyrgyz, so none of us were alone. Of course, it took some getting used to. Everything is so different in Germany, but also extremely interesting. I didn’t get homesick in the beginning because I was experiencing so much and meeting so many new people. And our studies were very demanding – as it was, the subject and the academic system were completely new to us.

Did you get to know German students quickly?

Not as quickly as I had hoped. German students often go out together in groups, so it’s hard to get acquainted. But eventually it worked out, especially through the degree programme. In Computer Science we often work together in groups which are reshuffled from time to time. And now German students frequently invite us to parties and activities, which is very nice.

Main market square with fountain © Janine Funke
Main market square with fountain . © Janine Funke

How do you like Zwickau as a university town?

I like Zwickau very much. It took me a while to get used to living in such a small city, but I began feeling at home very quickly. Everything is in biking distance. For example, I often ride my bike to the indoor swimming pool. Zwickau is super for concentrating on your studies because there’s little to distract you. If you need to take a break, there are many places you can go hiking or cycling in nature. And the cultural programme here is super. I like that a lot. Plus the city is quite inexpensive. My rent is low and dining at the Mensa is cheap. That’s why I can save a lot of money every month which I use for going on excursions, for example.

What difficulties have you encountered in Zwickau?

The hardest thing is still the language. I find it difficult to understand the local dialect - sächsisch - and I’ve been here for five years now. Everyone speaks dialect at my company and I have to concentrate very hard to understand what they’re talking about. It was very frustrating at first, but now I know it’s wasn’t my fault, it was simply the dialect.

Do you want to stay in Germany after graduating?

Definitely! My chances of finding a job as a computer scientist are quite good, so I’d like to try. I also want to get more practical experience and become better acquainted with professional life in Germany.

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