(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring you the experiences of students from different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences, students tell us how life is different in these countries and the things that are. non-academic learning)
In India, I ran a start-up called “The Box Keeper” that made personalized gift boxes for people. But when things didn’t go well (2019), I decided to do a master’s degree. Hi, I’m Sreejit Dutta and I’m doing a master’s degree in engineering and data analysis at the Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München), Germany.
I decided to go abroad for higher education because I wanted to explore new cultures and cities and experience life in another country. The other reason was that the course and university I opted for are ranked among the best in the world. I chose Germany as most technical programs are free even for international students. There is a minimum fee of around 140 euros per semester. One of the main attractions was the exhibition they offer to students. I have almost finished my master’s degree and will be doing my PhD in November at the same university. Also, I will soon be working at the German Aerospace Association.
How to apply to study at German universities?
I did extensive research before I submitted my application to the university. The entire admission procedure was online and was quite simple. I took the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) for my course as required. The necessary documents were:
– A summary of the courses taken by the applicant
-An essay on a specific topic
– A letter of motivation
– CV and
– Curriculum analysis.
My university, Technische Universität München, also has an additional process where the baccalaureate grade is certified by a third-party website called Uni-assist. There were scholarships available, but I was unable to apply because my application process was delayed. The main criteria for most scholarships are academic excellence, along with some other conditions, such as co-curricular or extra-curricular.
You don’t need an education loan; it is germany
I didn’t feel the need to apply for an education loan, as the fee is around 140 euros per semester and most of the living costs can be covered by student employment or part-time jobs, especially in technical field The wages as well as the experience of having a part-time student job in your field are a blessing. It will also help you in the future, when you are looking for full-time jobs.
My experience here has been great so far, but there have been some obstacles along the way, COVID-19 being one of them. I was in Munich when the pandemic broke out. I felt lonely because most of my friends were leaving town and I couldn’t because of leg surgery. The classes moved to the online medium and like every student, we adapted to it. Little by little, things opened up and the people I knew came back, so things got better.
Friends are family
It was hard to adjust at first, but I learned to navigate difficult situations and be more patient. In addition to academic knowledge, living independently also taught me important life skills. Managing my finances is important.
The best part of pursuing higher studies in Germany has been meeting international students and forming a group of friends from different cultures and communities. It has taught me to be more independent, to be open to new experiences and to face intercultural situations.
I suggest that aspiring students try to be culturally receptive, sensitive, and outgoing. As a student of Southeast Asia, I realized how culturally close the subcontinent is and how we relate more to each other than to other nationalities.
Practical knowledge versus theory
Academically speaking, the level (what level?) is completely different. In India, the main focus is still on theory and good grades, but here you are taught how to apply your knowledge. Courses and exams are structured in such a way that you have to learn and there is a strong emphasis on self-study. There is also a higher level of confidence where the responsibility is to attend lectures, exams and get good grades. There is little involvement of the university in trying to get students to study or involve their parents/legal guardians if something goes wrong.
This level of trust also instills a degree of responsibility. Although I think teachers in India were more approachable compared to this place. There can be between 50 and 200 students in a classroom, depending on the course.
It’s always a bit difficult to fit into a new culture, but I think I’m getting there little by little. People are approachable and if you try to communicate in their language, they will be willing to help. I used to be an introvert, but now I enjoy talking to people.
I completed the first semester before COVID and the experience was different. The next to last semesters have been mostly online. Fortunately, everything is opening up now, but I would like to have the opportunity to attend more physical classes.
Food and life
Being a Delhi girl, what I miss most about India is the food, especially the street food like chaat and momos. There are many Indian supermarkets in Munich. The first time I went shopping, I converted everything I bought into INR. But with time I got used to it. After a lot of searching, I found an Indian supermarket that had most of the desi items. I have also started cooking.
Since Munich has a great bicycle system, I mostly cycle for short distances. Otherwise, this place has a good transportation system of buses, tramps, etc. Plus, you get a student discount on your transport ticket. I live in the main city, but my campus is about 40-45 minutes away.
The climate in the city is cold compared to India. The houses here were not built for hot summers. There is no concept of air conditioning, so it becomes a bit difficult. In Munich, it rains 5-6 days a month.
My advice to students: Study abroad only if the university or course you plan to apply to is good. I have seen many students who enroll in universities or courses abroad without doing enough research and finally return home after spending a lot of money. Chalk up your options, aim for the best, and make sure it’s worth it.
The entire admissions procedure may seem overwhelming, but it’s not. It’s designed to be done by you. Paying consultants who charge exorbitant amounts to do this for you is a waste of time and money. Also, be careful while writing your SoP. It shouldn’t read like a resume, but should be about what you’ve done in the past and why you’ve done it.