For almost four years now, we have been accompanying international students on their way to Germany. Relocating, although often challenging, is an amazing experience which proves to be very rewarding for many young people. However, in particular, financial difficulties often present small and large obstacles in their way. Germany is one of the most popular destinations for studying abroad, for its low tuition fees, yet many students still have to save money periodically or are dependent on financial support from their families or friends, especially when it comes to raising the money for the required blocked amount. We at Fintiba are often asked by students what kind of scholarship opportunities are available to them in Germany. That is why we were thrilled to launch our Fintiba Scholarship in October 2019. This initiative has already enabled us last year to provide financial support to six students and to help them realize their goals and dreams.
The year 2020 has made it increasingly difficult for many international students to enter Germany and put even more hurdles on their path, with embassies and visa offices being closed or due to long delays in issuing the relevant documents. It was therefore of high importance to us to again have the opportunity to support young, ambitious people, to award them for their outstanding contribution to international exchange and to world society, and to support them financially with the Fintiba scholarship.
Financial Support for international students aspiring to study in Germany is very scarce. With our scholarships, we provide opportunities for the bright and young minds, who would otherwise struggle to realize their dreams. And of course, we do not want Germany to miss in terms of skills, talent, diversity and personality these students bring with them”
says Jonas Marggraf, COO of Fintiba.
It has absolutely amazed us to receive hundreds of deserving applications but at the same time, it has made our decision very challenging who to select as the final scholarship holder. We are more than impressed by all the dreams, achievements, goals, and stories of every single applicant. Out of all these remarkable applications, we finally could choose one international student whom we will award with the Fintiba scholarship worth 3,000 € and 30 others whom we will support with an annual subscription to the German learning magazine Deutsch perfekt to help them boost their German language skills.
The final scholarship holder is Rida, a 26-year-old student of journalism from Pakistan. To learn more about Rida, we spoke to her on the phone and talked with her about her background, her dreams, and her experiences of starting studies in Germany at the time of the pandemic. You can read the full interview with her in the following. On the 16th of December, you can also meet her live on Instagram and ask her your questions. Be there, get to know Rida personally and learn more about the journey to Germany with Fintiba.
Who are you and what does it mean for you to study in Germany?
My name is Rida, I am 26 years old and I am from Karachi in Pakistan. I am a journalist and have I already worked in Pakistan for 3 years. I am now doing my master’s in journalism, media and globalization, for which I was in Denmark one year and now I am in Hamburg Germany. I studied German back in Pakistan during my bachelor’s and since that time on I had the idea to visit Germany. I really like the language, so I wanted to know more about Germany and I really wanted to come here. I also heard Germany is very welcoming for internationals and offers a lot of opportunities, but I have not done my research properly, so I did not know what to do and then I found this special program. It allowed me to do the Master of Media across cultures with one year studying in Denmark and one year in Germany. When I eventually arrived here, I was so happy. Hamburg is a really nice place. I like living in big cities, it feels like they offer a lot of opportunities.
What was the first thing you thought when you arrived in Germany? And what do you like most here and maybe something you miss most?
Okay, I am not saying this because this is an interview about my scholarship but honestly, the first thing that came into my mind when I entered Germany was “How will I afford to live here? Because I had a lot of trouble because of COVID-19. I was working as a cleaner in Denmark and then I was working in another restaurant to collect enough money to survive a few days in Germany but because of COVID-19, I was unable to find something. I was applying for jobs even before I entered Germany but when I entered, I haven’t had a job yet, so I was super worried, and it was a very stressful month. My focus was on how to survive here. And what I like here the most, I mean I really like the city of Hamburg. It is very beautiful and in terms of the landscape, I like the Elbe river and the Alster lake the most. About being a student here, I like that there is a lot of diversity in the city. In fact, I really do not feel like an outsider in Germany. I feel more like part of the international communities here, which I like a lot. What I miss most, actually I miss a lot of things, I miss most my parents and I think from Denmark, where I was nearly one year, I kind of miss the Danish life I had, I had some friends there and what I miss is to be in the classroom physically and to communicate with people face to face.
Speaking of that, how did you experience the situation to start studying in a new country in this special situation with COVID-19? Did you start the semester online? How do you connect with your student fellows?
When I arrived here, I was lucky to come here from Denmark, because if I were to come from Pakistan, I would have been required to be in quarantine for fifteen days. But because I was coming from Denmark, I was not required to do that. Otherwise, because I was all alone it would have been a nightmare. So, I was lucky in that term, but it was very weird because we only had our first classes physically, so the first session of every course was in the class but all with masks on and windows open which was more torture than an exciting time because it was too cold with the windows open and the masks on and as I also usually wear a hijab, it was not very comfortable for me. After that, we had all our classes online. However, I would say my university, the University of Hamburg, has been using different platforms for the online sessions and the professors have now become very efficient and professional in using these resources, so there is very good interaction between the teachers and the classmates, we do have good communication, so it is really going well with the online sessions, but I also really miss going out. I can meet still my fellow students but there are only a few people I can meet due to the restrictions and because some of my friends are stuck in other cities or countries.
With the Fintiba scholarship, you will now be supported with a fund of 3.000€. In which projects or personal goals would you like to invest the Fintiba scholarship money?
I think the major part will go into paying my semester fees. I still must pay 4.000 € for a semester so this money will kind of cover my entire semester almost, it is really a big relief because otherwise, I was almost at the point where I decided, as it is only my last semester, maybe I should stop and go back because I cannot do that. So, this is the most important thing and the money wool go entirely into my fees. When you called me, I was so excited because that was beginning of December and the day where I had to pay all the fees like insurance and rent everything all together and I was so worried that day, so I was so surprised to receive the call on that day, so it mattered a lot to me.
How did you become aware of the Fintiba solutions?
Actually, our professors in Germany informed us a little bit. We then asked different students and I asked my Pakistani friends. So, I had a lot of options but Fintiba was the favourite option for the other students. And I was kind of scared to do an online thing because I have never sent so much money online but as I trust the people who told me about it and the way the identity check is done the identity it convinced me to go for that option. I think I will also tell other people that it is trustworthy. I had other options like Deutsche Bank, but it seemed to be so complicated so Fintiba was much easier.
How was the experience with our services and how was the overall visa process work for you?
The experience was far better than I had expected because I was not sure about the online service. But everything went very well, very smooth. I could apply very quickly. If I had any question, I just sent an email to the support. My visa process was also much easier as Fintiba sent all the documents right away. I was also very glad that I chose the Health Insurance option. Because I thought I do not even need a health insurance. But when I was travelling and Fintiba has provided me with the German insurance I had to go to a doctor in an emergency and that was very good. So, in any ways Fintiba had been very lucky for me.
Do you have any feedback or suggestions for us, on how to improve our support for international students?
The only thing I can say, which comes straight into my mind is that I would suggest doing more Marketing activities especially in countries like Pakistan as I can only speak for myself and I did not know t about needing a blocked account and that there are online solutions for these kinds of requirements. I personally did not know about it and it was a shock for me that I need a blocked account and there are so many options for these services but also for scholarships. Because there are also especially a lot of other women who want to go to Germany. First, there are not allowed to go and when they are allowed to go, they don’t have a lot of money. So, if they know about all the options this would be really helpful.
What would you advise other students who want to study in Germany – do you have any personal hints?
I would say especially for students who have money issues: Keep an eye on all possibilities Germany offers for international students and start looking for all scholarship and funding options. Germany allows a lot of opportunities to apply for different options. I did not do my research properly before I went to Germany. I had rather done it afterwards, but I would recommend doing it before.
What are your dreams and plans for the future?
I really want to work as an international journalist. Right now, I am really looking forward to work for “Deutsche Welle” for instance. My dream job is being an international journalist in a German organization.