Moving to a new place and starting a degree program brings with it a whole set of to-do tasks; the list of things you have to do can often be long and confusing. To get an idea of what you might be expected to do as a new student and new arrival in Germany, here’s an informative list to get you started.
As soon as you are 100% sure you will be coming to Stuttgart for your university education, start looking for an accommodation. Stuttgart is notorious for limited places of residence and finding an affordable place can be a real challenge. So the best bet would be to apply for a room in a student dormitory through Studierendenwerk Stuttgart – a not-for-profit social enterprise under public law which manages student dormitories in Stuttgart and surrounding areas. Most of their dormitories are located near the university campuses in city centre and Vahingen, and are also light on student pocket.
As per German laws, everyone living in Germany – be it citizens, foreign students, or visitors – need to have a health insurance. Hence it is also a requirement for university application and enrollment process as well as applying for residence permit. Students can opt for either government health insurance or private healthcare insurance and there are more than 100 companies and their numerous packages to choose from. With the right kind of insurance package, students can avail inpatient care, outpatient care and rehabilitation facilities while living in Germany.
You will need to submit biometric photo when you apply for residence permit in Germany. Since finding places to take photos can be tough in a new place, it is advised to carry a few biometric photos with you so you can use them wherever you need to.
Copies of documents
Make sure you make at least two sets of copies of your documents – academic, identification and others. You will need to submit copies of your documents for enrollment process and when opening a bank account, among other procedures. As with biometric photos, finding a place to print and copy documents when you have just arrived in Stuttgart can be annoying and you can save yourself a hassle by carrying these sets from home.
Learn basic German
Depending on how long you have been planning for your studies in Germany, the more time you spend learning German, the better. Even if your program is in English, nothing beats knowing the local language; from grocery shopping, asking for directions to visiting public offices, you will come across people who can’t speak English and in such situations, few German words and a lot of hand gestures can go a long way.
While you can easily purchase a router from Conrad, Media Markt or Saturn once you arrive in Germany, if you bring one you are already using or buy before you move to Germany will leave you with one thing less to worry about. Additionally, don’t forget to bring an ethernet cable to connect your devices – computer or WiFi router – to the internet.
Internet connection is one of the most important things you need as soon as you move in your new place and pre-planning in this regard will only make your life easier.
Bonus point: Obvious for many but don’t forget to check electric sockets used in Germany and bring appropriate plug adapters to make sure you can connect your devices to power supply.
Do some basic research on different internet packages offered by various service providers before your arrival. If you are living in a student dorm, you can get an internet connection from Selfnet which is a student-run internet service with cheap monthly charges; it provides services to majority of Studierendenwerk buildings. If you plan to get services from commercial providers, then choose an offer you like, check on their websites what speed is offered for your location, fill in the registration form, receive your modems and wait for your line to be opened (which can take upto two weeks).
For SIMs, there are a few major companies like O2, Vodafone and T Mobile and several third-party providers, offering cheap packages based on different needs.
You can order a SIM online or buy one either at company outlets or at supermarkets. The activation process requires verification of personal details and could take a few days.
Register your residence
This will be your first interaction with the legendary German bureaucracy. An essential step to settling in Germany, you are required to register your residence with the government within two weeks of moving in. You have to go to local residence registration office called Bürgerbüro along with your passport, visa, rental agreement and registration form (available at the office). You might have to wait for your turn but the actual process is quick and lasts for five to ten minutes. The certificate you will get as a result of this registration will be the proof of your address and you will need it for many other processes.
If you don’t already have one, you will need to open a bank account to manage your money in Germany. Often, your landlord and service providers ask for bank account details so that they can deduct their charges directly at the start of the month; hence, having a bank account is essential. Many banks have special offers for students and to open a bank account, you will need to make an appoint and take your passport, visa and financial documents.
Apply for residence permit
For those who need a visa to come to Germany, you will have to apply for residence permit because most of the time, the visa expires in 90 days. The residence permit, which usually lasts for one year and can be extended, allows you to stay in Germany for a longer period. During this time, you are also allowed to work for a limited number of hours. To get a residence permit, you will need to go to a foreigners’ office and get an appointment; the office will provide you with a list of documents you have to bring on the day of the appointment and could include your passport, financial details, university admission letter and health insurance documents.
Register for TV & Radio fee
Every household in Germany, whether it owns a TV set and radio or not, have to pay a tax called Rundfunkbeitrag. The money collected through this tax is used to finance the production and broadcasting of content for public channels.
Usually, once you register your residence, you receive a letter from the concerned department – along with a registration form – to sign up for payment of this tax; you simply have to fill this form providing identification and bank details and mail it back. In case of shared living where someone is already in-charge of collecting and paying the tax for the household, you will have to add details of that person in the form. The fee is 17.50 euros per month per household and is split between people living in the house.
Completing the enrollment process formalises your student status and makes you an official part of the university. You get a student card and hence are entitled to use all the services available to students (discount on transport, museums; printing etc.) as well as expected to follow the rules and regulations of the university. To do this, you have to make an online request for enrollment via C@MPUS – the university’s online management portal. The checklist for completing the registration is mentioned in the portal; follow it and make a request after which you will have to visit the enrollment department of the university along with your academic and personal identification documents (photo, health insurance, degrees and certificates, passport, visa etc) and confirmation of having paid the required fees.
Depending on where you will be living, you might have to use public transport to reach university. With your student card, you can buy a discount ticket called StudiTicket either online or by visiting the relevant offices (e.g. VVS office at the main station). The ticket costs around 200 euros and lets you travel in Stuttgart and surrounding areas using all means of public transport (S-bahn, U-bahn, buses etc.)
Register for proper German language course
No matter what your future plans are, living in Germany for your studies gives you a great opportunity to learn the national language which is spoken not just in Germany but also in Austria and Switzerland.
So signing up for a language course should definitely be on the top of the list of things you want to do while studying in Germany. Luckily, as students of the University of Stuttgart, you can enroll in language courses at the Sprachenzentrum for free. The language centre offers courses for almost all levels every semester; students have to make a request to join the course through C@MPUS and wait for the acceptance. Due to a high number of interested students, not everyone gets a place but the chances are high so don’t be discouraged and request for a spot.