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STUDENT LIFE

Everything you need to know as an Indian student moving to Germany

More and more Indian students are choosing to come to Germany for their bachelor's or master's degrees. Here's what you need to know if you're one of them.

Everything you need to know as an Indian student moving to Germany
Archive photo shows Indian students at the TU Chemnitz, which has over 500 enrolled. Photo: DPA

Given its growing international population and free tuition in public universities, Germany is an attractive place for young people to pursue their education. Here’s what you’ll need and what you can expect, moving to Germany as an Indian student:

Increasingly more Indian students are choosing Germany over the US or the UK for higher education. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, there was a 20 percent increase in Indian students in Germany in 2019.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Who are Germany’s international students?

Indians are also the second-largest national group of international students registered at German universities. 

While there has been a dip in the number of Indian students travelling to Germany in the past year, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) claims that the interest in Indian students to study in Germany has been relatively unaffected by the pandemic. 

Where Indians in Germany Study: Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Technische Universität Chemnitz, and Free University of Berlin are the three most popular universities for Indian students. Studying in Germany has laid out the requirements for Indian students to get admission to a German university on their website. 

READ ALSO: How to finance your master’s degree in Germany as an international student

Travelling to Germany during the pandemic: Indians can currently travel to Germany under some conditions. Visa Facilitation Services Global has a detailed article on what these travel guidelines are

German study visa and residence permit: To apply for a visa, you will need a list of documents including an admission letter from your university, proof of English language and a valid passport. The German Embassy has listed the full list of documents needed to apply for a German study visa on its website.

Although the average waiting time for visas to be issued is 25 days, it may take up to 3 months for your visa application to get approved. There are several consulates accepting visa applications during the pandemic. For more information, visit the Indian Embassy’s website. 

Once in Germany, you must prove that you are a student by presenting your enrolment letter and registering your residence within two weeks after arrival, although this deadline has been extended to six weeks due to the pandemic.

Here’s more information on doing your ‘Anmeldung’ (registration). Study in Germany has more information on how to provide proof of enrollment and get a residence permit on their website.

Another important process is signing up for health insurance and providing proof that you are insured. If you are a student under the age of 30 enrolled in a degree programme at a German university, you can choose to register with a public health insurance provider so you can benefit from the statutory health insurance scheme.

Bikes parked in front of the University of Bonn. Photo: DPA

Students over 30-years-old, language and preparatory course students, PhD students, and guest scientists, however, only have the possibility of getting private health insurance. Germanvisa.org has some detailed information on how to get health insurance in Germany as an international student. 

Finding a flat: Finding an apartment to rent in Germany can be difficult, and so the number one tip is to start looking for one as early as possible. An affordable option is to apply for public student housing. These are called ‘halls of residence’ and are run by a state-run NGO called Studentenwerk. 

They offer residence to students all over Germany and house close to 40 percent of Germany’s international student population. Click out Studentenwerk’s website for more information on how to apply. 

If you’re looking for private accommodation instead, wg-gesucht, Immobilienscout24, and immowelt are among the most popular websites to find apartments for rent. Another place to look is German eBay, which has a special local feature called Kleinanzeigen. 

Here, you can find many different deals from apartments to cars to jobs and services. This website is essentially the German version of Craigslist.

On eBay Kleinanzeigen, you will find listings from current tenants rather than professional brokers. This is a popular site to post offers as it’s free for both the vendors and buyers (tenants), in comparison to ImmobilienScout24 where landlords need to pay a fee.

READ ALSO: 7 things you should know when looking for a flat in Germany

Another, slightly less explored place to look for housing is in Facebook groups. One such group is Indians in Germany, where Indian students occasionally make posts looking for other Indians to share an apartment with, etc. There are also Facebook groups exclusively for people looking to rent apartments in almost every German city. You can easily find them by entering keywords like ‘housing’ followed by the city name on the search bar.

Adapting to student life in Germany: Most websites and blogs that help international students make the move don’t touch on the emotional labour of moving to a different continent and into a different culture. It can be daunting at first to adjust to a new environment.

Thankfully, Germany has seen a surge in international students over the past few years and most universities have a diverse student body, so you will at least be surrounded by students who are also adjusting. 

Most German universities have a student life department, meant to help students with various advice and suggestions, from academic to personal.

It’s important to keep your mental health in check after going through such a big shift. While German universities generally do not provide medical services (including mental health services), you can seek help depending on the kind of health insurance you have. Check out this article to find out more about mental health resources in Germany for international students. 

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EDUCATION

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Germany has a number of specialised nursery schools that focus primarily on helping children with their German language skills. Here's what foreigners need to know about them.

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

What even is a Sprach-Kita? 

A “Sprach-Kita”, or Language Kindergarten, is a special type of nursery school that’s been around in Germany since 2016 under the government’s Sprach-Kita Programme. The main aim is to help young children build up their German language skills to a level that will allow them to succeed at school. 

How is this different to a normal Kita or daycare centre?

Unlike most Kindergartens in Germany, Sprach-Kitas employ staff who are specifically trained in language teaching and acquisition. These specialists are paid for through Sprach-Kita Programme funding and help to shape the environment of the nursery school, making it easier for children to develop their German skills in an everyday setting.

The schools also have access to external support and advice on catering to children with language setbacks, and may work closely with parents to encourage further language development at home. 

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, around 7,000 nursery schools have successfully applied for “Sprach-Kita” status and received at least €25,000 funding through the programme. These were mostly Kitas that had already taken in a higher-than-average number of children from foreign backgrounds, such as those in popular migrant or expat areas.

Sprach-Kitas will generally be much more diverse and focus most heavily on children’s language skills, in addition to teaching young kids about cultural inclusivity.  

READ ALSO: ‘Multilingualism is an enrichment, not a deficit’: Raising bilingual kids in Germany

Who are Sprach-Kitas for?

Any young child in Germany is allowed to go to a Sprach-Kita, but the main target audience for these specialised nurseries are the children of foreign parents.

In households where German isn’t the main language spoken, children may struggle to keep up with their classmates at school due to their lower level of German fluency. That could be because the child has two international parents – such as a French mum and an English dad – or because the child has more contact with a parent who doesn’t speak German. 

According to recent statistics, around one in five nursery-age children in Germany doesn’t speak German with their parents at home. That equates to 675,000 children in total. In addition, around 40 percent of nursery school children come from a migrant background. 

Through the Sprach-Kita Programme, government is hoping to help these children integrate at an early age to set them up fully for life in Germany. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rise in multilingual children in Germany

Do I have to pay for a Sprach-Kita? 

Parents usually have to pay a monthly fee for their child to attend a German nursery school – and the same applies to Sprach-Kitas. The fee structure is generally set by the local government, meaning it can vary widely across different regions of the country.

However, you won’t pay any more (or less) for a Sprach-Kita than you would for an ordinary nursery school. 

Where can I find a Sprach-Kita?

Around one in eight Kindergartens in Germany is currently a Sprach-Kita, meaning they aren’t particularly hard to find.

To look for one near you, the best thing to do is to hop onto the government website and look on this interactive map detailing all of the Sprach-Kitas in Germany. 

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

However, partly due to staffing shortages, Kita places in Germany are highly competitive right now – so securing a place may involve getting in touch with a number of them at an early date. 

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Currently, the funding for the Sprach-Kita Programme is due to end at the end of 2022 – and it’s unclear what the fate of the existing language-focused nursery schools will be after this happens.

Though the three parties of the traffic-light coalition had pledged to extend the scheme in their coalition contract, it appears that the programme was one of the first victims of savage negotiations over next year’s budget.

That means the federal government are now hoping to transfer the responsibility for funding the language support over to the 16 states.  

“Responsibility in the area of daycare for children lies with the states and cannot be permanently financed by federal funding programmes,” a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry told Welt. 

The Ministry for Families has also pledged to make language acquisition a cornerstone of its forthcoming Good Childcare Act, which will see at least €2 billion in federal funding made available for nurseries in 2023 and 2024. 

That could make it possible for existing Sprach-Kitas to remain in place as specialised centres for language support. 

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