Studying, working and starting a family as an expat in Germany

Cyriac Tomy Panackal is originally from Kerala, India and lives in Germany since 2017. He first joined the Fintiba team in 2017 as part of the Customer Care team. He was happy to share his experience as an expat studying and working in Germany with us in this blog post.

This is a story about studying in Germany as a family with children. And how we completed two masters with two children born within two years.

It is not a story of self-made success, but a story of kind-hearted friends, strangers and a good society that supports migrants.

It was January 2017 when I and Akhila got married. On the very next day, we started the process of applying for new passports and preparing to take the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). We both wanted to do our master degrees in Germany and decided to take all the steps together. As a former German teacher, I took on the task of introducing my wife to the language. In a short time, we were ready to take the IELTS test and had the necessary transcripts and German language certificates. We went to the German embassy for a certificate and that is when we first heard about Fintiba – the fast, easy and above all fully-digital blocked account provider.

Following the advice of a complete stranger, we went out on a whim and opened a blocked account with Fintiba.

Thanks to the practical guidance of friends, everything went smoothly with the visa application and arrival in Germany. Until we arrived in Germany. In 2017, to access the money from the blocked account, Indian passport holders had to go to the post office and complete the PostIdent identity check. Unfortunately (or in hindsight, fortunately) there was a glitch with the post office computers at the time, so we went to the Fintiba office in Frankfurt to complete the legitimation at their office. Once we had completed the legitimation at Fintiba, I asked: “Are you looking for new colleagues?”. Long story short: at the end of the first semester, I started working as a student trainee at Fintiba and became the first of a long list of Fintiba clients who later became Fintiba employees. Today, legitimation is much more automated and Indian passports are easily verified by post offices in Germany. Lesson learnt:

every struggle on your journey could be an opportunity in disguise waiting for you.

Since then, I have completed an internship at Fintiba, worked as a student trainee for almost two years before taking up the current full-time position with the company.

I am proud to be part of Fintiba’s growth from a blocked account provider to a holistic service provider for international students in Germany.

It is a great pleasure to work in a truly international team that serves clients from more than 190 countries. It really helped me understand and apply everything I learned during my Master’s in Intercultural Communication. My working experience at Fintiba also helped me in my studies – I was able to express opposing opinions to the professors in my courses and still get respect and marks for the new perspective. My Master’s thesis was on the professional integration of international nurses in Germany, as this is a topic that is relevant to Germany and close to my heart.

If you are considering Germany as a place to study, it is worth bearing a few things in mind. First and foremost, do your research and compare other destinations to Germany to find out the reason why decide to come to Germany. This will really help you stay focused during and after your studies. Secondly, start learning the German language and preparing documents, especially certificates. It will be helpful to keep a checklist of documents and steps to be taken until you arrive in Germany and afterwards. The Study Guide in the Fintiba app could be a great help for you. Thirdly, apply for courses that you are passionate about and can envisage a career with after completing the programme. Writing the motivation letter will really help you identify the challenges and opportunities related to the course. Use social media platforms, especially LinkedIn and Xing, to connect with alumni of the university and the course you want to apply for. This will clarify many issues and provide answers to many questions you may have. Next, plan the budget for the first three years in Germany.

Finally, always be prepared for surprises but remember: “In every surprise there is an opportunity”.

I came to Germany with my pregnant wife. We lived in a student dormitory from where we went to the delivery room on a snowy night. Our Indian friends were the ones who ordered the taxi for us that night. When we were looking for a new flat in Advent 2017, an old German couple felt like they were in the Christmas story and offered us the flat we have been living in since our daughter was born. One thing that life in Germany taught me is that

we share a lot in common with people from other countries and cultures than we ever imagine.

I am especially glad to make friends with students from Pakistan, as they were the only neighbours we never met in India.

In the meantime, both I and my wife finished our Master’s. Our first daughter was born during the first-semester break and the second one was born two weeks after the Master thesis defence of my wife. After the birth of our second baby, my wife took one year of paid maternity leave. Now thanks to the family-friendly work and academic culture in Germany both me and my wife work full-time and at the same time can enjoy precious time with our girls. Even at the height of the corona pandemic, we felt safe and optimistic about life in Germany. Once the situation improves, we look forward to resuming our cycle tours and grill parties. In March 2021 I was elected as a member of the Foreigners’ advisory council in Fulda. I hope that my professional and academic experience will come in handy in this new voluntary role serving other expats in the city of Fulda.

Whether you are at the start of your journey to Germany or you have recently arrived here – I wish you good health and prosperity for this new chapter of your life.

One final piece of wisdom I would like to share is – make sure you always take informed decisions.

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