Moving to Germany to study can lead to wonderful things. You'll challenge yourself in new ways, get to know people from around the world, and acquire a language that will open doors for the rest of your life. But that's only if you avoid some of the most common mistakes Americans make when studying in Germany.
Skipping German Class
The opportunity to learn German is one of the greatest reasons to complete your degree in Germany. More importantly, though, without it most American students have trouble integrating into their communities. After all, your fellow students will almost all speak German as a first language, and most of your fellow internationals will be studying in German. Don't get lazy as the weeks pass in your first semester; make going to German class one of your first priorities.
Never Watching TV
One of the best ways to integrate yourself into a new culture is by watching local TV. You can see how Germans interpret the world by watching Tagesschau, Tatort and all the best German trash TV. Everyone has to pay a fee that supports Germany's public broadcasters, so you might as well hook up a TV.
Avoiding the Local Cuisine
German food can take some getting used to, but its an essential part of living in the country, and there is enough variety to appeal to most palates. Even if you ultimately find that it's not to your tastes, don't let the years go by without getting it a try. You'll regret it if you do.
Arriving with no Savings
This is ones of the biggest and most potentially disastrous on the list. On average, American students spend around $8,500 per year, a figure that many forget because public universities don't charge tuition fees. Now, it is possible to work up to 20 hours per week as a student, and with a minimum wage of 8.50/hour, it's definitely possible to support yourself while studying. But you're not guaranteed to find a job, so it's essential to arrive with enough savings to support yourself.
Forgetting the Exchange Rate
The exchange rate is constantly shifting, and a 5-10% change can make a big difference for people with savings in a foreign currency. Once you start earning money in Germany, you won't need to worry about the exchange rate anymore, but until then, don't treat your dollars like Euros.
Waiting too late to Start Studying
Most courses in Germany end with a final exam that determines your grade for the course. This makes it easy to ignore your responsibilities for the majority of the semester. Be careful to avoid this, especially in the first semester; many courses are designed to "weed out" students who lack the motivation to complete their coursework.
(Only) Sticking with other Americans
This is especially true for students who study in big expat centers like Munich, Berlin or Heidelberg. It will be tempting to stay in your comfort zone and only hang out with other Americans. But avoid this impulse as much as you can. Getting to know local German students will be intimidating for many at first, but you'll be glad you did it.
Traveling too much (or not at all)
One of the best things about studying in Germany is the opportunity to travel. But many students take this too far and end up spending all their time on the road. Don't forget what you came to Germany for. But, at the same time, don't swing too far to the other side and limit yourself to the boundaries of your town.