Congratulations on your decision to study in Germany!
Embarking on a course of study in a different country takes a lot of planning and preparation. The following information will introduce you to Berlin and its higher educational institutions and help you organize all that needs to be done before you step on the airplane – from arranging your finances and getting a visa, to finding a place to live!
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and a city that is full of knowledge and culture, priding itself on its number of cultural and educational institutions. Berlin itself is one of Germany’s 16 federal provinces, and it is the country’s largest city in terms of area and population, with 3.5 million inhabitants.
With its 42 public and private universities/ Hochschulen, wide range of social events and activities, and low cost of living, it’s no surprise that the city is home to a large number of young people: 41 percent of Berlin’s population is aged 18 to 44. And thanks to its central-European location, Berlin is quite multicultural, with 23,9% of its population having a migrant backround, many coming from Turkey, Eastern Europe, and Russia, as well as Africa and Asia. In addition, international students make up almost 16 percent of the students of Berlin’s higher education institutions.
In terms of land mass, Berlin is very large, with an area of 891 square kilometers or 343 square miles. The city is relatively flat and quite green, with many parks, woods, and nature areas. The climate tends to be warm and humid in the summer, with an average of about 25 degrees Celsius, and cold in the winter, temperatures often falling below zero Celsius and with strong winds from the East. Rain is likely anytime of the year.
Berlin, as well as the rest of Germany, is in the Central European time zone (GMT +1). The country dialing code is 49, city code is 030, and the Euro is the official currency.
Berlin.de is the city’s official website, which contains a wide range of information for both tourists and inhabitants of Berlin. Additional information can also be found from Berlin Online and Meine Stadt.
Travel to and from Berlin
Berlin has two airports. Flights from within Germany and Western Europe usually arrive at the Berlin International Airport in Tegel (TXL), and most flights to and from Europe, Africa, and Asia are serviced by the Berlin Brandenburg Airport in Schönefeld (SXF). Each of the airports is accessible either by bus, S-Bahn, or U-Bahn. Information about all two airports can be found here.
Rail travel to and from Berlin within Germany, as well as from other European cities, is quite convenient. German trains are run by the Deutsche Bahn.
Travel within Berlin
Within Berlin, transportation is provided by the BVG, which runs all subway trains (U-Bahn), busses, and trams. S-Bahn, or interurban trains, also run throughout the city and to the outer suburbs. Semestertickets are available for students and valid on transportation services provided by both the BVG and the S-Bahn.
Berlin is also a very bicycle-friendly city, with paths and lanes specifically for cyclists. A route planner for bike riders is available from BBBike.
Depending on the course of study you wish to pursue, you have the choice between two main types of higher-education institutions in Germany.
- Universities provide study courses in the areas of medicine, engineering, arts and humanities, law, theology, economics and social sciences, agriculture, forestry, and many more. Universities in Germany focus on methodical, theoretical education, and research and study are closely combined, the prime goal being to gain further knowledge rather than practical application.
- Universities of Applied Science focus less on research and more on applicable knowledge that can be directly applied to a particular career field. At one time, Fachhochschulen specialized in the fields of engineering and science; today, however, study courses in the arts and humanities are also offered.
- A number of art, film, and music colleges also exist in Germany.
Since 1999 and the signing of the Bologna Process, the traditional German degrees – Diplom, Magister, and Staatsexamen – are being replaced with the international qualifications of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
You can find more information on the German higher education system from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Study-in-Germany.
Berlin boasts more higher-education institutions than another other city in Germany. Visit one of the public universities or colleges:
- Alice Salomon Hochschule Berlin
- Evangelische Hochschule Berlin (Protestant University of Applied Sciences)
- Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin (University of Applied Sciences)
- Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin (Berlin School of Economics and Law)
- Freie Universität Berlin >> Internationals
- Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" Berlin (Academy of Music)
- Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Berlin (Academy of Dramatic Art)
- Humboldt-Universität Berlin >> International Office
- Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen Berlin (Catholic University of Applied Sciences)
- Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee (University of Art and Design)
- Beuth Hochschule Berlin (University of Applied Sciences) >> International Office
- Technische Universität Berlin >> International Affairs
- Universität der Künste Berlin (University of Arts)
Besides those in an international degree program and in certain postgraduate study programs, students attending a German university are required to have a high proficiency level of German. The TestDaF is the universally-recognized exam that proves one’s language skills for admission to any German university.
Please inquire directly with your university in Germany about their specific language requirements.
German language courses may be available at the university in your homeland or through a language school such as the Goethe Institute, which has centers in over 70 countries. Further information about the TestDaF and learning German is available from the DAAD.
If you are looking for language courses in Berlin, intensive, semester-long, and vacation classes are available through the:
- Language Center of the Freie Universität Berlin
Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin
Tel. (030) 83 85 45 04
- Language Center of the Humboldt-Universität
Dorotheenstraße 65, 10117 Berlin
Tel. (030) 20 93 50 11
- Modern Language Center (ZEMS) of the Technischen Universität Berlin
Sekr. HBS 3
Hardenbergstrasse 16-18, 10623 Berlin
Tel. (030) 31 423 082
- Sprach- und Kulturbörse of the Technischen Universität
Fraunhoferstraße 33-36, Raum 411, 10587 Berlin
Tel. (030) 31 42 27 30
- Volkshochschulen (Adult education centers)
As an international student, the financing of your studies is most likely one of your main concerns.
While the cost of attending a university in Germany is, compared to many other countries, relatively inexpensive, students should still expect to need at least 670 € a month to pay for their living expenses, including rent. Some international students cover their expenses with their own personal savings or from the support of their parent(s) or relative(s). Others rely on funding from a scholarship granted by an organization in their home country or in Germany.
It is very difficult for international students to find scholarships once in Germany. We therefore encourage you to begin your search for scholarships early, while you are still in your home country. The international office of the university in your homeland, as well as the German embassy or consulate(s), may have information on scholarships for students specifically from your country or your field of study.
You can also look into these specific scholarship opportunities and foundations below:
- Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
Berliner Haus, Hiroshimastraße 17, 10785 Berlin
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung provides financial assistance to German and international students in all fields of study. Assistance is restricted to the first phase of study leading up to the initial professional qualification examination. Qualified recipients have above average grades, an extraordinarily mature character, and demonstrated awareness of civil responsibility. Selected international students receive a annual lump sum to cover fees associated with university enrollment and health insurance, in addition to a monthly stipend and money for books.
- Friedrich Naumann Stiftung
Karl-Marx-Straße 2, 14482 Potsdam
This foundation is associated with the German Freien Demokratischen Partei (FDP), otherwise known as the Liberals. The goal of their financial assistance program is to sponsor students who have broad sense of social responsibility. Women, Fachhochschule students, and students of natural sciences and engineering are especially encouraged to apply. Successful candidates are highly gifted scientists with outstanding qualifications in their chosen discipline and have good, responsible characters. They are politically and socially engaged and possess a liberal outlook.
- Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Klingelhöferstraße 23, 10785 Berlin
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation offers financial assistance to students identifying with Christian-Democratic values. As a rule, applications for financial assistance are accepted only as of a student’s second semester of study.
- Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Rosenthaler Str. 40/41, 10178 Berlin
This Green Political Foundation offers financial aid to students, as well as an extended support program which includes, for instance, various seminars. About 70% of the students receiving assistance the Heinrich Böll Foundation are women.
- Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Franz-Mehring-Platz 1, 10243 Berlin
The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is engaged in political education and affiliated with the Left Party, formerly called the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). Since 1999, the foundation has been able to grant scholarships to nearly 900 students and PhD-students from Germany and abroad. Scholarships are granted to undergraduate and graduate students who possess a consistent and far-reaching social and political commitment. Preference is given to socially and physically disadvantaged applicants who demonstrate comparable achievements and qualifications, and the promotion of women is the foundation’s highest priority.
- Cusanuswerk, Baumschulallee 5, 53115 Bonn
KAAD, Hausdorffstr. 151, 53129 Bonn
These organizations provide financial assistance to highly qualified international students professing the Roman Catholic faith. While the Cusanus-Werk's assistance program is generally restricted to German and EU students, the Catholic Academic Exchange Service (KAAD) assists students from other countries who are actively associated with the Catholic Church.
- Evangelischen Studienwerk e.V. Villigst
Iserlohner Str. 25, 58239 Schwerte
Berliner Str. 69, 13189 Berlin
The European Scholarship program of the Evangelisches (Protestant) Studienwerk e.V. funds academically-qualified students of the Protestant faith from EU countries, while the Evangelischen StudentInnengemeinde (ESG) provides scholarships to Protestant students from developing countries.
- Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt
An der Bornau 2, 49090 Osnabrück, Tel. (0541) 96 33 0
This environmental foundation associated with the German federal government provides 60 scholarships a year to doctoral and post-doctoral students from Germany and abroad working in the area of environmental sciences.
- Otto Benecke Stiftung e.V.
Kennedyallee 105-107, 53175 Bonn, Tel. (0228) 81 630
The Otto Benecke Foundation was founded in 1965 at the Technische Universität Berlin and operates on behalf of the German federal government. The foundation's humanitarian and educational mission includes the provision of financial assistance to ethnic-German immigrants from Eastern Europe, political refugees, and asylum seekers studying in Germany and under the age of thirty.
- Promotionsförderung des Landes Berlin
The City of Berlin awards a number of scholarships to assist doctoral students. Applicants must demonstrate above-average merit and an academic goal which suggests that they will make an important contribution to scientific research. The applications are to be submitted to the university.
- Studienstiftung des Detuschen Volkes
Jägerstraße 22/23, 10117 Berlin
This foundation is politically, religiously, and ideologically independent. It awards around 1,000 scholarships each year to highly-gifted students, including those in a doctoral program, and currently provides financial assistance to about 5,500 recipients.
Further information about scholarships for study in Germany is available from the DAAD.
German law requires that all students, including those from overseas, studying at a higher education institution in Germany have health insurance either through a public health insurance provider or through a private health insurance company.
In fact, in order to register at your university in Berlin, you will need to submit your health insurance certificate (Krankenversicherungnachweis).
Students under the age of 30 or until their 14th academic semester are eligible for public health insurance in Germany, or if they choose, they may take out insurance from a private company. Please note: once a student takes out private health insurance, he or she cannot change back to public health insurance the course of study.
Public health insurance is offered to students at a reduced rate, around 78 € per month. A network of non-profit companies in Germany work with the State to provide the national healthcare program. You are free to choose the company with which you would like to be insured.
If you have health insurance in your home country, it is possible that this insurance will be valid in Germany:
- If you are from the EU, a European Economic Area country, or Switzerland and are insured by the public health insurance system in your home country, you can have this insurance approved by a public health insurance company in Germany. Be sure to ask your insurance provider at home which documents you will need for this approval. You most likely will need to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, formerly forms E111 or E128). Please make sure that the EHIC is valid for your entire stay in Germany or that you can renew the insurance from Germany before the coverage runs out. Remember that the card does not cover the cost of private health care treatments. Some medical costs may not be covered by your insurance; before leaving your home country, ask your health insurance provider exactly what services you are entitled to in Germany.
- If you are insured by a private health insurance company, please consult with your health insurance provider in your home country before coming to Germany to confirm whether or not you will be covered in Germany. You must provide a certificate proving your coverage when you register for your courses in Germany.
Please note: by submitting this certificate proving your coverage by a private health insurance company, you are giving up use of the state health insurance system in Germany during your studies.
Students over the age of 30 or after their 14th study term are not eligible for public health insurance at the student rate. They may either take out voluntary health insurance with one of the public health funds or they may insure themselves through a private health insurance provider.
Private health insurance costs vary depending on the amount of coverage provided.
Students Participating in a Language Proficiency Course in Preparation for Enrollement in a German University do not qualify for public health insurance in Germany. They must insure themselves through a private company. At the end of the language course, if they decide to begin a full course of study in Germany and are under the age of 30, they can change their health insurance from the private insurance company to a public insurance company.
The Deutsche Studentenwerk concluded an agreement about a private health insurance with the Hanse Merkur Reiserversicherungs AG. Please watch here for more information. Further details are available from the Deutsche Studentenwerk. Your university or Fachhochschule may also provide additional information on health insurance.
The studierendenWERK BERLIN maintains and operates 33 student residence halls (Studentenwohnheime) located across the city. Many international students choose to live in a student residence hall because they can quickly and easily find an accommodation that fits their budget. There are even rooms available for couples and students with children, as well as for disabled students. In fact, international students make up approximately 58 percent of the residents in our dormitories.
In order to better serve international students, resident assistants ("Wohnheimtutoren") are available in some residence halls to offer help and support. Each residence hall also has its own student self-administration, or SSV, whose purpose is to make life in the hall as enjoyable as possible, through the organizing of various associations and parties, and, when necessary, the mediation of problems between residents.
For further information, please visit the studierendenWERK BERLIN's Student Housing department.
Resources for finding private accommodation are also available here. Many students opt to live in a “WG” (Wohngemeinschaft), which is a shared flat.
Some additional useful websites include: