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University in Germany

(28 Posts)
Trippingthelightfantastic Sat 05-Oct-13 10:57:53

My DS wishes to combine his incredible ability at physics with his passion for German and although going to apply to Cambridge and IC is also seriously thinking about Germany. Any thoughts recent experiences?

fussychica Sat 05-Oct-13 14:49:22

No experience but DS recently returned from an internship in Hamburg and really enjoyed his time there.
Lots of threads on international study, including Germany here

PicardyThird Sat 05-Oct-13 14:54:47

TU Munich has a good reputation for all things scientific. Or there's RWTH Aachen, bit nearer to home and in a lovely lovely area (and a lot less expensive to live and easier to come by student accommodation than Munich!). Or one of the Berlin universities, all of which have a great reputation. Most places/people will welcome him with open arms.

Student life in Germany has the big bonus that fees are much less than in the UK. You need to be very independent and organised - students are left to their own devices a lot more than in the UK in terms of organising their studies - there is also a lot less student accommodation available, with most students living in flatshares (but rents mostly very reasonable). Student jobs are reasonably easy to come by, and most students work for at least part of their studies.

Trippingthelightfantastic Sat 05-Oct-13 23:26:11

Very interesting thank you. He's at boarding school at the moment and has always been ambitious highly motivated and self sufficient when it comes to studying/school work although he can't cook anything more complicated than scrambled egg! He's researched German universities and some are in the top 15 globally for physics. Do any one know if he can just study physics or like the US system (his other option) have to take a broad range of subjects he doesn't want to do this. He's really only wants to study physics and maths (not for me) but use his German. How long is a German degree someone told me 5 years.
Thanks again for advise.

Bluestocking Sun 06-Oct-13 22:08:13

Hi OP, your son should check out the DAAD website ( - the DAAD is the official organisation promoting German education and the website has a special section for foreigners thinking of going to Germany for university. I'm not sure where you/your son are, but they have a London office if you felt like talking to a real person about his options.
Good luck to him - he sounds like an admirably focused young man!

PicardyThird Mon 07-Oct-13 07:33:00

He could study a single subject.

German degrees have recently been reorganised - they have made an attempt at a bachelor/master system but it hasn't quite transferred properly - a bachelor degree takes 6 semesters (= 3 years) but many employers don't consider you to be a 'proper' graduate after that so most go on to take a masters (another 4 semesters), although places are limited and for quite a few programmes you have to get above a certain grade average, though if he is as high achieving and motivated as you say, that shouldn't be a problem.

Students are encouraged to take one or two semesters off during the course of their studies to do internships - there are lots of amazing companies and institute in Germany doing really high-level work which offer interesting internships - though if he is keen to use his German he will need to be really careful that he doesn't end up being recruited for things specifically because of his English and thus not getting to use a word of German grin

Trippingthelightfantastic Mon 07-Oct-13 08:56:47

Fantastic help I'm so grateful. His school obviously want to help and seem to know quite a lot but they are very Oxbridge/Ivy League orientated for their high achieves.
I've already looked at the DAAD website which is helpful and will contact them for advise.
The idea of an internship is fab.

claraschu Mon 07-Oct-13 09:02:14

Just wanted to say that US universities vary a lot in their requirements, so if he is also interested in the US, don't assume he will be forced to take many classes he doesn't want to. (Brown, for example, will let you design your own programme completely.)

kelda Mon 07-Oct-13 09:04:54

My DH studied IT at Aachen for a year and loved it.

Trippingthelightfantastic Mon 07-Oct-13 10:09:29

We haven't ruled out US universities but there are funding issues $60 000 pa is really more than we can afford. I am aware that a handful are needs blind to even international students but these are fiercely oversubscribed I've been told about 35 000 for about 2500 places at MIT.
He loves German but is also passionate physics feels that the best place to become fluent in German is in Germany and the idea of combining this with physics really appeals.
He also likes to walk a different path to others, go his own way, be different. He listened to a recent talk by some top US universities he was rather unmoved by the excellent sales pitch!

ZZZenagain Mon 07-Oct-13 10:37:03

I think the easiest way of doing this would be to study in the UK but spend a year abroad on the DAAD scheme or go to Germany for postgraduate studies (masters which as someone said above is the Point at which most German companies would consider it a completed degree). They have introduced BAs but they are not yet widely accepted as a full degree. So a degree = 5 years in total to MA Level provided you don't mess about and stay on the ball. Can also take longer. Once he is at a UK university, I am sure someone in his department would be able to recommend a relevant place to apply to in Germany. I am not sure how far he would have to be in his studies in order to be eligible, you'd need to check the DAAD website. I think if he goes via DAAD, they help with accommodation.

If he is going to go it alone and complete his entire degree in German in Germany, perhaps a smaller town is better, simply because German degree courses are not very structured and the smaller the set-up, perhaps the easier it is to find your way - also to get to know other students. Bigger cities like Berlin tend not to have a clear campus but buildings spread over town. Most of the TU Berlin's buildings are I think located in the same basic central area near Zoologischer Garten train station. At least AFAIK the mathematics and physics buildings are both at Ernst-Reuter-Platz. The FU Berlin is quite different and you can find yourself having to catch a bus or UBahn to get to your next course.

You do need to sort out for yourself what to do and when to do it. There is little to no guidance so he really needs to be a self-starter or you need to both give this some thought. You buy a Studentenhandbuch with a list of courses/lectures in it, figure out your time-table for the semester, check the boards for changes to the programme which may have come up after publication. There is also no real tutorial system although some courses are run by tutors and called tutorials, it is quite different to the UK, so ds would attend lectures and seminars he has chosen, collecting Scheine as he goes for the courses he has completed. Sometimes a paper is required for this, sometimes an exam is sat. With physics I presume a lot of it is exam-based but maybe they get Scheine too for practical work. These need to be picked up at the end of the semester, stored carefully and handed in together with a list of the courses/lectures he has attended proving he has the requisite number of hours before he can sit exams to complete his undergraduate degree.

If he is looking at the Technische Hochschule Aachen, they have a week long orientation set-up at the beginning of the first semester so that would be a help with finding his way around and knowing what he has to cover. Every university has a Studienberatung for foreign students (Studienberatung fuer auslaendische Studierende or similar).

Here's the page for Aachen for instance:

with an overview of things he'll need to sort out - registration with the authorities (needs to be redone every time you move), health insurance, Studentenausweis (needed to get the reduced fare on public transport), accomodation, opening a bank account (can require some patience all this ).

The universities have Studentenwohnheime with rooms (communal kitchens and bathrooms) or 1 room apartments with kitchen niche and own bathroom. However, you must get in very early to have a hope of getting one of these. For accommodation help, you need to contact the Studentenwerk.

ZZZenagain Mon 07-Oct-13 10:42:24

If however ds gets a place at Cambridge, I would take it. Any German company would give serious consideration to a physics graduate from Cambridge with or without German IMO. He would also stand a good chance of getting a research position to do a phD with a reasonable stipend attached.

PicardyThird Mon 07-Oct-13 10:48:42

Great post from ZZZ. Would just add on Berlin that most of the FU buildings are quite close together (in a lovely leafy swanky area of Berlin). The HU is split but only in the sense that the humanities are in the middle of town and the sciences are further out, but on a very lovely new purpose-built campus/'Wissenschaftsstadt' (Adlershof). I would also recommend Aachen though, because of the proximity of cities like Cologne as well as Holland and Belgium, and it really has an excellent reputation.

I should think that courses these days are mostly going to be organised in a modular way and allow you to collect European credit points. But it's true that you have to get the Schein for the courses specified to you and the university is relatively indifferent as to how and, to a degree, when you do that. You do get oversubscribed seminars and lectures and queues outside the lecture hall at 8am on the first day of semester, but I think it's less bad than it was, and class sizes in practicals etc are reasonable, I think.

'Tutorials' are supplementary or revision courses run by older students. if you want one-on-one time with an actual tutor (= lecturer, prof) you have to make an appointment with them, usually only 15 min or so, although IME the academics do make an effort to be available.

Trippingthelightfantastic Mon 07-Oct-13 12:04:59

Thank you so much advise.
He currently favours in the UK IC were rural and London is a big draw!
It's such a shame he can't combine both German and physics in the UK although I agree the idea of the DAAD scheme is a good one and not something we'd thought of.
I've been on their website and looked at the ranking for physics/universities in Germany and some appear to offer better support to students than others. He's primarily interested in theoretical physics what ever the hell that is, he's currently no interest in experiments as he thinks their pointless and he's also very keen nuclear physics in particular fusion rather than quantum physics (both leave me cold) so he is keen to find the right university where he can pursue his interests.
We shall keep thinking about it!
Any more thoughts will be gratefully received.

ZZZenagain Mon 07-Oct-13 13:02:07

I'm sorry I don't know which university would be best for theoretcal physics. One thing ds could do to prepare for a degree in German might be to get an A level revision guide (Abiturwissen) to get some of the terminology sorted before he starts, also to see what is different in maths (symbol usage etc , there are some small differences).
You can also get Lernvideos for these type of books.

He can use the look inside facility and see how he finds it. Personally I find it scary.

He can register for a degree in physics as an undergraduate from the word go but he will have some compulsory credits to get in related subjects, presumably maths and I am not really sure what else but he will not be required to take humanities or anything like that.

claraschu Mon 07-Oct-13 13:09:49

I just mentioned the US because I think there are a lot of misconceptions about the system over there (and the funding). Studying in the US can be a fantastic option for someone who has several interests. If your son wasn't actually that attracted towards it, then that's another story.

ZZZenagain Mon 07-Oct-13 13:25:55

sorry back again after a quick internet search. It seems that some universities offer theoretical physics from 1. semester. One of these is Frankfurt which also has an institute for theoretical physics. It might be possible to find out which other universities do this if he is sure about what he wants to do. From what I gathered, Heidelberg has a good reputation for theoretical physics but for this reason has masses of students which means you get lost in the crowd. I should think really any German university would have a decent physics dept.

What I also read is that 1 in 3 physics students drops out after the first 2 semesters. The problem being maths where you have to do a great leap forward from school maths. Seems some universities offer a Vorkurs Mathe for first year physics students before the actual semester starts, however you are not told this when you register, you need to ask about it yourself. Seems to be a couple of weeks long and for maths whizzes perhaps not essential but probably worth doing since for ds it is all in another language.

Bonsoir Mon 07-Oct-13 13:27:06

Are there no suitable degrees at British universities with a year abroad in Germany?

LibraryBook Tue 08-Oct-13 09:41:08

Bristol has a 4 year physics undergraduate course which includes a year abroad (Germany is an option).

annasophia Tue 08-Oct-13 13:59:32

My ds is also interested in studying in Germany, possibly Engineering. Does anyone know how A-level grades are converted into Abitur grades and also whether there are specific subject requirements (as the German Abitur requires many more subjects than the 3-4 Alevels in the UK)?

Op, has your ds considered ETH in Zurich? It has a great reputation in particular for Sciences.

Trippingthelightfantastic Wed 09-Oct-13 08:30:46

I'm stunned at so many helpful replies I thought Id be lucky to get anything.. Thank you.
Libary he will consider Bristol but its a rather close to home, not exactly broadening his horizons/trying something new.
*anna8 yes we've done a bit of research into ETH accommodation is apparently a significant issue but we're not ruling it out just trying to get a feel for what around. Do look on the DAAD website there's tanking for all the universities for each subject and you can choose how you want them ranked e.g. student support by staff DAAD have also sent me lots of information there are "universities of applied sciences" which offer a "scientifically based education tailored to the demands of a professional life" and include internships. As far asIm aware UK qualifications are accepted. You do have to obviously prove you level of German is sufficient. If he seriously decides go ahead with this would fund a gap year in Germany prior to going.
ZZZ I have also discovered the maths is often regarded as problem. His maths is very good and he really likes maths he's been assessed and found to have an extraordinary ability in maths although physics remains his passion He's significantly ahead of most state educated children, His German exchange (whose English was embarrassingly good) student couldn't do his maths when at his school. So we're not so worried about the maths component.

kelda Wed 09-Oct-13 08:53:37

I wish your son all the best!

I live in Belgium and have gained a degree which was completely in dutch. Studying in a foreign language definitely gives you a different perspective on the language and subject, as does living in another country.

If he wants to enter the academic world then studying at a foreign university is a great benefit. Just look at the acheivements of Higgs and Englert and their fellow scientists - from different countries and all working together.

Trippingthelightfantastic Wed 09-Oct-13 09:13:35

Thank you kelda for your encouragement I have long suspected he will enter the academic world because this is where he feels comfortable and happy. He definitely wants the different perspective of living and studying in another country! and being completely fluent in anther language he'd also like to be fluent in French but he just cant fit it all in. His cousin does physics at Oxford and thinks Germany is the place to go and German the language to have.

BlackMogul Wed 09-Oct-13 23:28:46

Why do you think your son is way ahead of most state educated children in maths? Why did you even have to say this? Do you think state educated children cannot possibly be as good because they are all under achievers? This is a very patronising slur and you don't know this is the case, do you? If your son was a genius he would already be at university. Stop boasting!

StopDoingThat Wed 09-Oct-13 23:37:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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