Well, everyone who has the opportunity should 100% take the leap and go on Erasmus. It can be a little daunting moving to another country for a semester or two but the benefits completely outweigh all those scary thoughts in the back of your mind! There are many reasons why you should go on Erasmus, from learning a new language, to meeting amazing new people and just learning how to be a better person all round by plunging yourself into the deep end of a new experience, it is a fantastic opportunity that should be seized on.
Now that I have touched off some of the reasons you should do Erasmus (there are too many to write about all of them) let me tell you about some things to know if you choose to spend your semester away in Germany or 'Deutschland', to those of us in the know, which I highly highly recommend.
- The universities in Germany have fantastic facilities which gives you free access to their libraries, archives, labs and equipment.
- The ‘Semester Ticket’ is basically your student card but it also gives you free access to local and regional transport including, busses trams and trains along with multiple discounts.
- Slightly different from the students here in Ireland trying desperately to drag ourselves out of bed for a 9am lecture, the students in Germany actually want to be in college and are always on time!
- Professors are highly respected, so only use ‘Sie’ when speaking to them, NO exceptions.
- ‘Mensa’ is the canteen in German Universities, the food is crazy cheap (pasta of the day €1.60 in most cases) but don’t expect nutrition.
- After any class/lecture/lab, knock the table, it’s strange but do it!
- This is something that anybody, tourist or student needs to be aware of if your are going to Germany regardless if it is for 2 days or a semester. Germans are absolutely anal about punctuality! Being on time in Germany is actually being 5 minutes late so wherever you go or whatever you do, my advice to you is to be 5 minutes earlier than the time you think you should be there!
- Germans are praised for keeping their rubbish piles low and for their commitment to recycling. If you are not an avid recycler at home make sure you brush up on what goes into what bin because you really don’t want to be caught putting plastic into the wrong bin. The death stares are just too much on a Monday morning!
- The minute you land on German soil you will hear the word Pfand. What it is? It is your saving grace when it’s coming towards the end of the month and the funds are running frighteningly low. Pfand is something that Germans introduced to promote recycling. Basically every time you buy a plastic/glass bottle or can you pay a little extra, 25c usually. However, if you bring back your bottles/cans to the shop you get your pfand back and you can put it towards your weekly shop. Now 25c doesn't sound like much, but it adds up.
- Ah cycling, one of the most popular forms of transport in Deutschland. It is a great way to get around but be careful. Cars might stop for pedestrians, but cyclists won’t!
- DB - Call a Bike. This service is used all over Germany. It works similar to the Coca Cola Rental Bikes here in Ireland but rather than paying for membership, students can just sign up for free with their student email and pay as you go. However, students get the first hour free every trip.
- If renting a bike isn't your thing, do not fear as there are ‘Flohmarkt’ almost every Saturday morning in major cities. These are flea markets where you can literally pick up anything your heart desires, even really cheap bikes. But make sure your haggling skills are up to scratch!
Cost of Living
- The cost of living in Germany is considerably lower compared to Ireland. Accommodation can cost anything between €200-450 monthly and that usually includes your electricity/wifi etc.
- Germany is the motherland of Aldi so your weekly shop will be relatively cheap also depending on how much cash you want to splash!
- If you’ve never heard anything about Germany before I’m sure you’ve heard of how fantastic German Beer is, if not then all you need to know is that it’s the best.
- Almost every town has their own ‘Braurei’ which produces craft beer. It’s cheap, cheerful and you can't beat an ice cold stein of beer after a day (or hour) of college!
- The nightlife in Germany is something else. Go to Berlin which is the New York of Europe in my opinion - it really is the city that never sleeps. Unlike being herded out of a nightclub at 2.30am in most Irish night clubs, that doesn't happen until 6/7am in Germany. It is a student’s dream.
- One thing to note to save you many missed lectures and meeting times is the way the Germans tell time.
- If a German says ‘halb einz’ (1.30) to you, they actually mean 12.30. Germans count the minutes until the next hour rather than minutes past the hour.
- Ah sundays, the day of rest. Literally in Germany. Everywhere shuts down for the day so make sure you are stocked up on food. Don’t make the mistake that I made multiple times and be left to eat the dry pasta that is left in your cupboard!
- However, if the weather is nice, get a disposable BBQ, some beers and migrate to the nearest public park to chill and play ‘flunkyball’ a classic German drinking game.
- Last but not least travelling is so much more accessible when you are living in central Europe.
- Germany are known for their super fast super efficient ICE trains. They can take you anywhere in Europe but they can be expensive.
- There are many student Facebook groups that set up trips for students at a lower price and the majority of times you can go to 3 major cities in one trip. You can find some of those Facebook pages here and here.
- FlixBus - if you haven’t heard of this company before get onto it. There are 100s of routes across Europe for super cheap prices. There’s even a ticket you can buy that lasts 3 months for €100 and it covers 5 trips.
I am just back from a semester in Darmstadt, Germany and I have to say that I feel more homesick now for Germany and the people I met than what I did for home when I was there! If that doesn't tell you how much I loved it, I don’t know what will!