(This letter is part of a series from The Indian Express where we bring you the experiences of students from different overseas universities. From scholarships and loans to culinary and cultural experiences – students tell us how different life is in these countries and the things they are learning other than academic)
In India, I ran a start-up called “The Box Keeper” which made personalized gift boxes for people. But when things didn’t work out (2019), I decided to pursue a master’s degree. Hello, my name is Sreejit Dutta and I am pursuing 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 because most technical programs there are free, even for international students. There is a minimum amount of approximately 140 euros per semester. One of the main attractions was the exhibition they offer to students. I have almost completed my masters program and will continue my PhD in November at the same university. In addition, I will soon be working at the German Aerospace Association.
How to apply to study at German universities?
I did extensive research before submitting my application to the university. The whole admission procedure was online and was quite simple. I passed the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) for my course as required. The documents needed were:
– A summary of the courses taken by the candidate
– An essay on a given topic
-A cover letter
–An analysis of the curriculum.
My university – Technische Universität München – also has an additional process where the bachelor’s mark is certified by a third party website called Uni-assist. There were scholarships available, however, I was unable to apply as my application process was delayed. The main criteria for most scholarships are academic excellence, as well as certain other conditions such as co-curricular or extracurricular programs.
No student loan required; this is germany
I didn’t feel the need to apply for a student loan as the fees are almost 140 euros per semester and most of the living expenses can be covered by getting student or part-time jobs, especially in the technical field. The salary as well as the experience of having a part-time student job in your field is a blessing. It also helps in the future when looking for full-time positions.
My experience here has been superb so far, however, there have been a few hurdles along the way, COVID-19 being one of them. I was in Munich when the pandemic first hit. I felt lonely because most of my friends were leaving town and I couldn’t because of leg surgery. The courses have moved to online support and, like all students, we have adapted to it. Gradually things opened up and people I knew came back, so things got better.
friends are family
It was hard to adapt at first, but I learned to navigate difficult situations and be more patient. Apart from academic knowledge, living independently has also taught me important life skills. Managing my finances is important.
The best part of pursuing a higher education in Germany has been meeting international students and forming a group of friends from different cultures and communities. It taught me to be more independent, to be open to new experiences and to manage intercultural situations.
I suggest aspiring students try to be culturally responsive, sensitive, and outgoing. I realized as a student from Southeast Asia, how culturally close the subcontinent is and how much more we relate to each other than to other nationals.
Practical knowledge versus theory
Academically speaking, the level (what level?) is completely different. In India, the emphasis is always on theory and good grades, but here they teach you how to apply your knowledge. Courses and exams are structured so you have to learn and the emphasis is on self-study. There is also a higher level of trust where it is incumbent on attending classes, exams and getting good grades. There is little involvement from the university to try to get students to study or to involve their parents/legal guardians if something goes wrong.
This level of trust also instills a degree of responsibility. Although I think the teachers in India were more approachable compared to this place. There can be between 50 and 200 students in a lecture hall, depending on the course.
It’s always a bit difficult to integrate into a new culture but I think I’m getting there slowly. People are accessible and if you try to communicate in their language, they will be ready to help you. Before, I was introverted, but now I like talking to people.
I completed first semester before COVID and the experience was different. The following semesters until my last were mostly online. Luckily everything is opening up now, but I would like the opportunity to attend more physical classes.
food and life
Being a Delhi girl, what I miss most about India is the food, especially 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 over time, I got used to it. After much research I found an Indian supermarket where most desi items were available. I also started cooking.
Since Munich has an excellent bicycle (bike) system, I mainly cycle for short distances. Otherwise, this place has a good transportation system of buses, tramps, etc. In addition, you benefit from a student discount on your transport ticket. I live in the main town, but my campus is about 40-45 minutes away.
The weather in the city is cold compared to India. The houses here were not built for intense summers. There is no air conditioning concept, so it gets a bit tricky. In Munich, it rains 5-6 days a month.
My advice to students: only study abroad if the college or course you are considering applying to is a good one. I have seen many students apply to universities or courses abroad without enough research and finally return home after spending a lot of money. Define your options, aim for the best and make sure it’s worth it.
The whole admissions process may seem overwhelming, but it is not. It is designed to be done by you. Paying consultants who charge exorbitant sums to do it for you is a waste of time and money. Also be careful when writing your SoP. It shouldn’t read like a resume, but should be about what you’ve done in the past and why you did it.