Ask anyone who's spent a semester abroad in Germany, and they'll tell you college students here are different from their American counterparts in many ways. Although this is definitely true, there are also some stereotypes that define students across borders. Check out our list of the five most common types of students we've met on campus in Germany to see some of the traits we've observed.
This is one that you'll recognize from back home. The kid who got a 1590 on his SATs and was disappointed because he didn't get a perfect score, worked Saturday nights in the second semester of senior year to make sure he was valedictorian, and never took his foot off the gas. In Germany, this will be the kid who's already staked out their favorite spot in the library in week one. When everyone else is blowing off lectures, they'll in the first row, taking notes and asking the professor questions in office hours. Learn the lesson of the hard-charger - in Germany, you're the master of your destiny during college. The more you work and prepare, the better you'll do. And the sooner you learn this, the better, because it's the only thing that will save you in your first semester.
The Party Animal
Germany doesn't have a Greek system like we do in the States, and there's no equivalent to the freshman year debauchery that goes on at many US campuses. Still, there's plenty of time for fun, and a lot of students focus more on filling their social calendar rather than their course schedule. Be wary of the loose attendance rules and independence or you may find yourself turning from a Langzeitstudent (see #5)
You'll see them in class and ask them if they want to meet up afterwards, but they'll shake their head with regret and say they need to get on the road. They'll make it to campus events during the week, but disappear on the weekends. These are the commuters, the students who live at home and drive in to campus for classes. Some live far enough that they'll have an apartment in town during the week, but they'll still drive home every weekend. You'll find that you're more integrated into the community where you than many of the commuters and likely know more about it, but getting to be friends with a few commuters will give you a great chance to get to know the Germany outside your little corner of the country.
Germans currently have visa-free access to 177 countries throughout the world, more than any other nationality. And they take advantage of it. You'll quickly find that many of the students you meet on campus have already traveled to places you would have only dreamed of visiting, and they did so with their families or on school trips. But there's a special group, maybe 5-10%, who take it that much further. They've spent a year in the Indonesian rainforest working on water purification projects, helped the relief effort after the earthquake in Nepal, taught English to Tajik villagers in the Pamir Mountains. You'll see the at all the events for international students, likely sharing a bowl of lintels that they made using a recipe taught to them by their host family in Lebanon. Seek out the world-citizens when you arrive on campus; they'll be reliable and helpful resource for the transition to life in Germany. But be careful. World-citizens tend to be mainly interested in learning about your culture, rather than sharing theirs. Integrating yourself into German student life is essential, so make that you get outside of the international student bubble.
The Langzeitstudent is one that's definitely unique to Germany. There are some students in the States who fit this description, but the cost of continuing your education for years on end is usually prohibitively high. The combination of low tuition fees and open enrollment policies in many programs (Protestant Theology, anyone?) allows the aimless to avoid applying for regular employment for years. One Langzeitstudent in Cologne took a total of 63 semesters to finish his degree. Watch out for the directionless students in your midst; as an Auslander, you don't have the option to continue studying endlessly like your German and European friends. Just grumble a bit, shake it off, and be thankful that you were able to go to college in a country that loves its children enough to let them study forever.
If you're interested in finding out more about how you can meet the different types of students in Germany by becoming a degree-seeking student here yourself, contact us to set up a free initial consultation. We're happy to answer your question and give you a better sense of whether Germany is the right destination for you.