Why small German university towns are the best for foreign students
The first challenge when thinking about where to study in Germany is this - where should I go? A country town or big city?
Small town university life in Germany has more pros than cons and promises a high level of cultural exposure, making it the perfect choice for those who want to immerse themselves in German daily life.
Here are the top five reasons why studying in a small German uni town is the best.
1. The food
As most small towns are more reliant on charming independent bakeries, cafes and restaurants than on chains, you’re more likely to notice and try local specialities than you would be in a big city.
The best time of year for this is definitely Christmas, when local baked goods are all the rage, such as Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Schneeball biscuit - a rare find outside of Franconia. Though not a university town itself, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is well worth a day trip and can be accessed from nearby university towns such as Würzburg.
When living in Bamberg in northern Bavaria, my favourite thing to sample was the huge selection of beers. The tiny town has nine breweries and is home to Rauchbier, which tastes somewhat like smoked bacon.
2. The fairytale architecture
Bamberg. Photo: DPA
Who doesn’t want to wake up every morning to quaint, ageing houses or beautiful baroque facades?
Some smaller uni towns - such as Bayreuth, Regensburg, Bamberg and Würzburg - are themselves or contain within them UNESCO World Heritage Sites, internationally appreciated for their beauty.
Strolling through the streets of Bamberg really was a dream.
The contrast between the grand architecture of the cathedral and the sloping medieval roofs was not only a constant reminder of the town's rich history, but was pretty easy on the eyes too.
3. You bump into friends all the time
Regensburg. Photo: DPA
You’re never far from a friend in a small town, which will make you feel at home very quickly!
Establishing roots in a new place is the best way to banish homesickness.
Thankfully this is pretty easy to do in a small town as it is not uncommon to bump into classmates, lecturers or the bar staff from your favourite local pub as you’re picking up your groceries.
4. People are more likely to speak German to you
This is probably the biggest selling point of all. With the exception of some students who are actually studying English, you should have a fair shot at practising and improving your German.
Rural areas are more accustomed to locals than tourists, and therefore are more reliant on German than English.
5. You can learn a dialect
Examples of the Upper-Franconian dialect. Photo: DPA
Though you’ll get a chance to practice your German, you might struggle a bit with local dialects, common in smaller towns.
However, this is an opportunity to learn some niche words to impress people with upon your return to your homeland (if you choose to return, that is).
It’s also a cool way to understand how language develops on a local level.
It's not all good though...
That said, there are a couple of downsides:
Regensburg. Photo: DPA
Buses tend to stop running early in sleepy small towns, so if you want to have a late night out, it’ll be a taxi home for you. Though in fairness, most places are walking distance from one another.
Not only this, but what are you to do with yourself once you have visited the few small museums in your adoptive town?
Cities do have more to offer in terms of cool things to see. But a short city break could be the answer to this problem while you live in and absorb all the day-to-day culture of a small German town.
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