Top 10 Myths & Facts: Common Questions about Studying in Germany

We know what often comes to mind when you even vaguely consider studying in Germany: Of all places in the world to study, why study in a country which only drinks beer? Why ‘torture’ yourself purposely and study in a language not commonly spoken back home? Fret not, there is a reason why Germany is called the Land der Denker und Dichter (the land of thinkers and poets)!

We all get our fair share of questions pertaining to ‘Why Germany?’ when we’re back home, often in large part thanks to our inquisitive relatives and friends. After all, there has to be a reason why Singapore students who have obtained places in prestigious Anglophone universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and the London School of Economics gave up their places there and chose to study at various (and often also no less well-renowned) German universities instead. With this short list dispelling common myths with actual facts, we hope that we will correct some common (but unfortunately widespread) misconceptions about studying in Germany.

This page is written by the very people who once asked themselves these very same questions, but eventually took the plunge and never looked back. So take the leap of faith and be different! (By the way, contrary to popular beliefs such as that mentioned above, Germans on average statistically drink more coffee than beer on a daily basis!)

Myth Number 1: The universities are not reputable!
Who says so! According to the latest THE rankings, 12 German universities – most belonging to the German equivalent of the Ivy League universities – belong to the top 200 universities globally, testifying to the high quality of education in Germany. Universities such as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology are ranked 7th in Europe for citation impact, while the Free University of Berlin ranks 6th in Europe for the Arts and Humanities. Other universities such as the University of Munich (LMU München), the Technical University of Munich and the University of Heidelberg are also amongst some of the most reputable and well-regarded universities in the world according to various surveys and rankings, including those by prospective employers. Admittedly, there are significantly more universities from the UK and US in the rankings due to the dominance of the Anglosphere in the 21st century, but with the launching of the Excellence Initiative by the German government to boost the research funding and reputation of selected universities, German universities have been consistently moving up on international rankings. This can be seen by the improvements made by the German universities in the QS rankings of 2011, where all 6 universities in top 200 universities made significant progress on the rankings. After all, the concept of modern education and research or Bildung came from Germany and was used as a founding philosophy for many top American universities today – surely you can trust the people who came up with this revolutionary concept of education to deliver?

Myth Number 2: Don’t studies in Germany take longer than usual to complete, ranging between 6-7 years?
This common misconception might have been true in the past, with the Diplom taking 5 years and the Magister between 5-7 years. But thanks to Germany adopting the Bologna Process, most universities have completed the switch and transition from the Magister/Diplom system to the internationally more recognised Bachelor/Master system, making it easier for students to have their degrees recognised overseas. Studying in Germany is now consequently significantly shorter, with 3 years for the Bachelor’s degrees and 1-2 years for the Master’s degrees. Additionally, with the introduction of the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS) in Germany, it is now also easier for students to transfer their credits between universities worldwide – particularly so in Europe. This increases the mobility of students, who may want to pursue their undergraduate studies in Germany but their graduate degrees elsewhere, and vice versa!

Myth Number 3: Don’t I have to do everything in German?
Yes and no, depending on what degree programme you want to pursue! While most undergraduate programmes require functional knowledge of German, many universities also offer programmes which can be done entirely in English. In particular, there is increasingly a significant number of Master’s and Postgraduate programmes taught in English as part of the push to attract even more international students to Germany. For more information on the list of programmes offered in English in Germany, please check the DAAD database! For the entire list of undergraduate and graduate degree programmes, click here!

Myth Number 4: There isn’t any support for international students in Germany!
If there isn’t any support for international students, why is Germany then the top destination for international students after the UK and US? In fact, according to an article published by the BBC, Germany emerged tops (beating the UK and US) in an international league table in terms of providing a global education as well as support for international students. Most universities, if not all, have a dedicated international office handling the needs of international students on top of assisting them in settling-in alongside the various local municipal student services (Studentenwerk). Furthermore, many universities also provide language courses (some even for free) to facilitate the integration of international students into the German system and way of life. Besides that, there are many different activities, parties and events organised for students to ensure that they assimiliate quickly into German society without missing home too much.

Myth Number 5: Studying in Europe is expensive!
Yes and no – studying in the UK (or US for that matter) is expensive with school fees constantly on the rise, but school fees are still relatively affordable in Germany. General tuition fees are capped at €500 per semester, which means you spend only €1000 yearly on tuition fees irrespective of your course of study – significantly lower than the universities in Singapore too, especially if you’re considering to do courses such as Medicine! Furthermore, this only applies to certain states; there are still many other states with strong universities which do not charge a single cent for tuition fees! This is in large part due to the German belief that education ought to be prioritised as means of social mobility and progress, explaining the generous funding for various research programmes at the university level – so who says you can’t get anything good for close to nothing, or even free?

Besides, the cost of living is still moderately affordable, with most students getting by on around €600-800 a month (including rent), or €950-1100 in big cities with higher costs of living. After doing the math, this means that you can effectively complete your entire undergraduate programme at the same cost a year of tuition in the UK and the USA would – with extra cash to pay for your air ticket home, to boot! Additionally, both the German Federal Government as well as the universities are actively encouraging private-public partnerships in providing as many scholarships as possible – there are many which are available to non-German or EU students as well!

For more information on financing your education in Germany, please click here!

Myth Number 6: I can’t find a job in the future!
With the added asset of knowing a foreign language on top of English, as well as having an overseas experience, you actually stand a good chance of finding a job upon graduation – be it in Germany, Singapore or elsewhere. German qualifications are recognised throughout the world and their graduates (particularly in fields such as engineering and research) are highly sought after by top MNCs. Besides, many local scholarship agencies are also keen to give out scholarships to students who wish to pursue their studies in a non-English speaking country as they seek to diversify their talent pool from beyond the traditional Anglophone countries, meaning you have an assured job upon graduation. These scholarships often come with a shorter bond as well (5 years instead of 6 in an English-speaking country).

Should finding a job after your first degree not be your cup of tea, you can pursue your graduates studies anywhere in the world as well – SSAG alumni have gone to places such as Yale, Cornell, Georgetown and Oxbridge to pursue their Master’s degree. This just goes out to show how there are endless possibilities as to what you can do with a German degree!

Myth Number 7: Why would I need to learn a new language?
In today’s globalised world where every single possible advantage in terms of skills matter, the question should be: why shouldn’t you? Although English is widely used as a lingua franca today, many people around the world are still not fully conversant or fluent in the English language. Furthermore, learning a new language is always an asset as it builds up inter-cultural competencies, as well as develops deeper mutual understanding for the developments of lasting relationships at both the personal and professional level.

Because of this, why not pick up a language that ranks amongst the world’s most politically and economically important languages, especially in the European Union where it is the most widely spoken first language? Being an official language of not only Germany but also of Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, South Tyrol (Italy), Luxembourg and Belgium, German and German-speaking companies have maintained global leadership across broad industrial sectors. This range include luxury automobiles (Porsche, Daimler, BMW and Audi), mid-range automobiles (Volkswagen), steel (ThyssenKrupp), high-power lasers (Trumpf), semiconductors (Infineon Technologies), medical equipment (Siemens), lighting (Osram), chemicals (BASF), materials (Bayer Group), optics (Carl Zeiss), glass (Schott), automobile components (Bosch), cameras (Leica), pharmaceuticals (Merck), athletic wear (Adidas, Puma) and computer software (SAP) just to name a few!

In the arts and humanities, as well as philosophy, many German as well as German-speaking writers and thinkers have contributed greatly to our modern culture and thought, ranging from philosophers like Kant, Hegel and Freud, to poets and writers such as Goethe and Kafka, to global fairy-tale extraordinaire such as the Brothers Grimm, to well-known classical componists such as Beethoven, Mozart and Handel. For this very reason, the teaching and learning of fine arts and the humanities are still very much taken seriously in Germany as well as other German-speaking countries!

If you’re more into sports, the Germans also excel in many fields, with sports such as football and winter sports to name a few. So, with all these extensive list of achievements, why are you still hesitating to learn the language of thinkers and poets?!

Myth Number 8: Okay the universities are good, but… I don’t think I can get into a German university!
While admission to German universities are competitive, it is somewhat easier to be admitted into a German university than an American or British one due to policies favouring international students to some extent. State regulations dictate that around 8% of university places are to be reserved for non-EU citizens, which means us! Although certain university courses such as Medicine have a strict Numerus Clausus, while others require entrance tests before admission, given the high quality of our secondary education, students who complete their pre-university education in local Singapore schools stand a good chance of getting into top German universities.

Myth Number 9: Am I going to be cooped up in my room studying the whole time?
Most Singaporeans students here would agree that Germany is the Singapore of Europe. Germans are hardworking, inquisitive and study hard for their exams – the libraries during the examination season will make you wonder if you’re back in NUS or NTU! In fact, some might even say Germans are almost as kiasu as Singaporeans are!

Yes, there will be stressful times where your assignments start piling up and you need to study for your examinations, but this happens everywhere else as well. All you need to do is manage your time wisely!

The best thing about studying in the heart of Europe is the tremendous travel opportunities – jump on a train and you can be in the Swiss Alps or singing to the sound of music in famous cities such as Salzburg within an hour or two; no matter where you are in Germany, you’re just a short hop way from the enchanting cities in Eastern Europe or the sunny beaches of Spain and Italy! With the moderate costs of travelling and the countless options of budget airlines, there will always be things to explore and discover in Europe. Furthermore, many visitors and Singaporean students who visited Germany as tourists have commented that the Germans – contrary to stereotypes – are actually as friendly or even warmer than some of their European counterparts (we shan’t say names here)! As long as you show a basic respect for the country and the way of life, you can be assured of a warm treatment – especially so, if you can speak the language (local dialects are a fun and useful bonus)!

For more information on travelling in and around the country, please click here!

Myth Number 10: There are no Singaporeans or Singaporean students here!
As unbelievable as this may sound, we’ve had people asking us this question. If there are no Singaporeans in Germany, who are the people writing this post and coming up with all these personally written information? Indeed, the Singaporean community may be significantly smaller than those in the UK and the USA, but this is what makes studying in Germany so attractive – you really get to fully experience an authentic overseas education, meet new people that you’ll otherwise not meet if you just stay amongst Singaporeans, as well as mingle with fellow Germans and other international students. This is also one of the main reasons why many of us chose to come to Germany – we get to experience studying in a whole new environment and culture all on our own! From looking for your own apartment, to setting up your own bank account, the experience at the start may be daunting; however, it has certainly gone a long way in making us more independent and street-smart – an opportunity we believe no want would want to let slip away!

At the same time, we nonetheless recognise the need to stay in contact with our fellow Singaporeans since we all need a familiar shoulder to lean on from time to time. This is why we have the SSAG – to promote studying in Germany as an attractive destination whilst providing help to one another in times of need, and of course, to introduce new lobangs when they arise!

Now, instead of continually asking yourself why you should choose Germany, the question should be: why not?