Going out of your comfort zone and helping others – how to succeed as an expat in Germany

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you love and believe in. With enough energy and persistence, you can conquer all!

Hi, I’m Vikas and I come from Mumbai, India. Currently, I work at Fintiba as a project manager. However, I first came to Germany as a student back in November 2017 to pursue my master’s degree in engineering at Hochschule Wismar. In this post, I would like to share with you my story from being a student to joining the Fintiba team this year.

Why did you decide to come to Germany for your studies?

The trend of Indian students going abroad for higher education is ever increasing and I was one of those motivated by the idea and the vision of gaining international exposure and experience. As a huge football fan I wanted to particularly explore the German football culture ever since I saw Mario Gotze hit that winning goal in the 2014 football World Cup finals.

After a lot of research, in the final year of my bachelor’s I made up my mind to study in Germany. The decision was based on the fact that education and life in Germany is cost-effective, university fees are rather symbolic (e.g. EUR 200-300 per semester) and German degrees have high recognition worldwide.

Also, the idea of the European Union fascinated me – one can travel across Europe and choose to work and live anywhere in the EU after their education. I began learning German, prepared all my university applications and started applying. However, I quickly realised that it’s not going to be easy for me as German universities demand a high GPA. I was rejected from all universities I had applied for in my first attempt, but I was not disheartened! Instead, I decided to apply again for the next semester.

Realising all the mistakes I did in my first application process; I made a lot of changes in my approach and this time I was accepted by two great public universities.

What are some tips you have for the university application, visa process and settlement in Germany?

I realised the mistakes I made during my first application round and would like to share the main learnings I gained from my own experience:

  • Make sure you select the right programmes and universities for your background. The course content selection is very important when applying for a master’s degree at public universities in Germany. The subjects that you are going to study in the selected Master programme should be in line with the subjects that you have studied in your Bachelor.
  • Don’t just focus on the popular universities try to do the university selection based on your profile. It’s okay if your profile does not match the requirements of the most popular universities. There are many other good universities where you can study. In Germany, the popularity of a university is not the main focus for employers, but rather the study programme you choose and your performance.
  • Focus on improving your overall profile. If your GPA is low, internships, work experience and extracurricular activities can boost your profile. A good motivation letter and a CV in the German standard format can also help give your application a boost.

As soon as you have an admission from your desired university list, book a visa date. Getting a visa date in some countries is difficult, hence make sure you book yours as early as possible. In case you get a very early appointment you can choose to postpone it.

When you have finally decided in which university you are going to study, start looking for an accommodation in that city. Be aware that depending on the city, where you are headed, getting an accommodation can be a difficult task. I was lucky enough to have a few contacts in Germany who helped me find accommodation before I moved here. One big recommendation I have is to learn basic German before your arrival. As I already had a good level in German, when I came to Germany finding a part-time job and making new friends was not very difficult for me.

Share about your passion and experience for helping international students to come to Germany

With the learnings from my own application experience and the additional research I did about all aspects related to university applications, visa process and other intricacies of the journey to Germany, I started helping other students make their dream come through as a German educational counsellor in India.

It slowly became my passion and I continued helping students on their way to Germany even after coming here to start my own master’s degree. I was also inspired by a friend who helped me with many questions along the way. Coming to a completely new country with a different environment and culture was one of the most important and challenging steps I have taken so far, and this is true for most other people who choose to study or work outside of their own country. During this journey, everyone wishes to have an experienced companion who can help them navigate through their journey and make them feel more comfortable in their new life. With this in mind, the Fintiba team came up with a new initiative called – the Fintiba ambassador programme. The purpose of this programme is to help internationals find a peer who can support them on their way to Germany. All expats who went through the journey of coming to study and/or work in Germany and have the motivation to help other internationals can volunteer to participate in this programme. I personally decided to join as an ambassador since I consider it important to extend my knowledge and help others. Just like I had my companion who helped me, I wish to support many others who would approach me for help through this programme.

One such experience I had a few weeks back was when someone from Afghanistan approached me via the ambassador programme. He had some bureaucratic issues to open a blocked account and was not able to find proper information that could help him get further in the process. His situation and questions were clear to me and helping him to overcome his challenges was something that I could do easily, and it did not take me too much time. On the other hand, it had a big impact on him and his situation, as he was able to successfully apply for a visa.

Thus, if you are facing a difficult situation on your way to Germany and need some advice, don’t hesitate to contact one of the many Fintiba ambassadors, who will be happy to help you or will at least share their own learnings and experience. And if you have already lived in Germany for some months or even years – join as an ambassador and share your knowledge. Not only you would get the satisfaction of helping others, but you will also get to meet some great internationals. And who knows maybe even establish new friendships for life.

At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful… What you’ll discover is yourself.

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