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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Reaction to Going Home for Christmas

Although it is not yet the end of the semester like it is at American universities, my school life is still quite stressful right now as the semester winds down and professors begin to talk of finals (ugh). Add to this a loaded work schedule as I try to make up the hours that will be lost during my two weeks of holiday vacation, and you should be able to see why I am pretty stressed out.


Despite my jam-packed schedule, I really wanted to write one last blog post before I jet off to the US of A on Saturday (!!!). So, after drawing a little inspiration from Unlocking Kiki, I figured I would just let a selection of GIFs do the talking for me.

This will be my reaction...

...when I am on the plane, with the German boyfriend next to me, and we are about to land in Chicago.


...when I am riding in the car, seeing all of the amazing Christmas lights on the American houses.


...when Marco and I talk in German in public and nobody can understand us.


...when I open my presents on Christmas morning (instead of the silly German way of doing it Christmas Eve).


...when my mom takes the ham out of the oven for Christmas dinner (and sweet potatoes and apple pie and the list goes on).


...heck, every time I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire 2 weeks I'm at home.


...when Marco and I hit up the mall the day after Christmas.


...and every time we go grocery shopping.


...(but most importantly) when I get to spend everyday with my family and friends.





And in case you do not hear from me before then...


and Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Expat's Stocking Stuffer Wishlist

In case you didn't already know: I AM FLYING TO THE U.S. FOR CHRISTMAS IN LESS THAN 2 WEEKS!

I already sent my mom an email with my Christmas wishlist, but what I have not yet told her is what I would love to have in my stocking. Yes, I am 24 years old and still expect a stocking.

Stocking Stuffer Wishlist | Welcome to Germerica
In my family, our stockings were usually just stuffed with candy, gum, and a pair of socks. Since I have not been in the U.S. for 1.5 years, however, I am more excited than ever for these types of items. So, I figured I would just publish my stocking stuffer wishlist for everyone to see on my blog (and my mother can do with this information whatever she wants... ;)

Peanut Butter Candy

Peanut butter candy is the biggest gap in the German food market, and I miss it so much. Reese's peanut butter cups, Reese's pieces, PEANUT BUTTER M&M's!!! I love it all.

Swedish Fish

I woke up about one week ago thinking about Swedish Fish. I never really thought about them at any point throughout the past year since Germany has lots of other great fruity, gummy candies, but now that I have a taste for them, the craving won't go away. I would actually group Swedish Fish in with my love for red licorice (they are similar, aren't they?) which was on my list of my list of American foods I miss most.

Light Green Tic Tacs

Okay, I just had to look up what the actual flavor of these Tic Tacs is -- Wintergreen. Sounds like an appropriate name for a stocking stuffer :) Anyways, I just have had a taste for these in the past few weeks as well. Although Germany does have Tic Tacs, they only sell fresh mint and orange here. Bummer, I know.


Bobby Pins and Hair Elastics

Okay, this is something that I could easily buy in Germany, but I am sure all the long-haired ladies reading this post understand why this is here. Where do all the bobby pins and hair ties (what do you call these? I don't feel like I know the right word...) disappear to? I am down to one lonely bobby pin these days, and I am treating it like it is made of pure gold lately. We'll see if I can hold out on buying new ones until I am in the U.S. (or until they show up in my stocking, *wink*wink*).


Marco's Stocking Stuffer Wishlist

Stockings are not a Christmas tradition in Germany. I think this is because they have St. Nikolaus Tag, where St. Nikolaus comes on the 6th of December to fill the children's shoes with sweets, which the American stocking tradition probably stems from.

Christmas stocking that I knit for Marco

Since I knitted Marco his own stocking two years ago (pictured above), however, he is now totally in on the tradition and is also very excited to see it filled with his favorite American treats. So, here is Marco's stocking stuffer wishlist:

Slim Jims

Yes, Germany is full of every type of sausage imaginable, but Marco is a sucker for these individually-wrapped spicy little meat sticks (didn't I make that sound incredibly appetizing?).

Beef Jerky

Marco loves meat. Beef is a type of meat. Beef is incredibly expensive in Germany. Dried beef is even more expensive. Beef is not so expensive in the U.S. Americans make delicious beef jerky out of this meat. Marco loves American beef jerky.

Hershey's Cookies 'n Cream

This is basically the only American candy that Marco talks about. He has told me before that his favorite chocolate bar as a child was Ritter Sport Weiss + Crisp, and Hershey's Cookies 'n Cream is very similar to this, but with chocolate cookie instead of corn flakes (i.e. better).

What would be on your stocking stuffer wishlist?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving is... Where It Is

First of all, let me start off by saying: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays: family and friends come together in one place, there is no pressure to give people presents, and, most importantly, it is full of delicious food.

Happy Thanksgiving from Welcome to Germerica

As Thanksgiving this year was approaching, however, I realized something: I have not spent Thanksgiving at "home" (meaning with my immediate family at my parent's house) in four years.

My first time being away from home for Thanksgiving was in 2011, when I was studying abroad in Germany during my Bachelor's. The next year, in 2012, my parents went on a cruise, and I spent Thanksgiving at my aunt's house. In 2013, I was back in Germany and had dinner with Marco (you can read about that one here). And this year, 2014, I am still here in Germany, a country that certainly does not celebrate one of my absolute favorite holidays.

Although last year was very nice, and Marco and I had a wonderful meal together, I did decide to invite some people over this year to make it feel a little bit more like a proper Thanksgiving. Still, it got me wondering what Thanksgiving really meant to me now that I have spent so many of them away from what I still consider "home." 

I know many people like to say things like "Thanksgiving means family." And while I do consider Marco a part of my family at this point, I would not consider spending Thanksgiving with only him as "spending Thanksgiving with family" (sorry, Marco).

So, let's be honest: Thanksgiving is... where it is. I love Thanksgiving, and I will never stop celebrating it, no matter where I am. There really is not much more to it than that.

Now let's eat some turkey! Or chicken, which is what we will actually be having. Any poultry will do, really. Heck, I would probably even settle for some ham...

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, how will you be celebrating this year?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Toilet Paper Culture: Germans Fold, Americans Crumple

I have a question for you: when you go to wipe after using the toilet, do you fold or crumple the toilet paper?

I know this is a strange question. Heck, you may have never even thought about it before. However, when watching TV with the German boyfriend recently, a show mentioned that different cultures have different methods for using toilet paper. In particular, they said that Germans fold and Americans crumple.

Toilet paper: Germans fold, Americans crumple

After hearing this, Marco immediately turned to me and asked (with a grimace on his face), "You crumple the toilet paper?!"

"Yeah..." I replied, "Wait, you fold it?"

"Of course!"

Then we both sat quietly in a moment of confusion as we realized that we had both discovered something new about each other that we probably would have otherwise never learned if it had not been for a random news segment on TV...

German bathroom
Where the magic happens in our apartment...

Since that day, I have tried to do some research on the topic, but most of the articles available on the Internet are quite biased and varied in their results. I have no idea where the TV program got their information from.

Yet, even some of these unscientific polls and discussions online do follow the hypothesis that Germans fold and Americans crumple. I actually found one hilarious forum where the Germans were calling anyone that folds their toilet paper a barbarian, and the Americans were replying that folding simply takes too much time.

During my research, I also found this Mental Floss article that says the major argument for folding is that you can refold and reuse the same set of toilet paper sheets. Germans do tend to be more concerned with the environment than Americans, so this could certainly be a potential explanation. Although, the German boyfriend claims he does not refold.

Overall, I would say that this is a field where proper research is lacking (I wonder why...). So, I would love for you all to answer the following question in the comments below:

Do you fold or crumple your toilet paper? 


Also make sure to write what country you are from!

I know you may think it's gross, but I am genuinely curious.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Defer Student Loans When Studying Abroad

If, like me, you are an American that made the exciting decision to get your graduate or post-graduate degree overseas, then you are probably worrying about what to do with those pesky student loans back in the U.S.


When graduating with a Bachelor's degree in the U.S., the average student has approximately $30,000 in student loan debt. I can regretfully say that I am this average American undergrad, which is part of the reason why I decided to get my graduate degree in Germany: German universities are free (even for foreigners).

And although I was able to immediately land a part-time job in Germany, I knew this wouldn't be enough to make regular payments on my student loan in the U.S. while also paying for my rent, health insurance, and other necessities in Germany.

So, I began looking into deferment.

deferment: a period during which repayment of a loan's principal and interest is temporarily delayed

It is fairly easy to put student loans from the government into deferment for reasons such as unemployment or economic hardship. As long as you are studying at a school that is recognized by the Federal Student Aid Office, however, then you are qualified for an in-school deferment.

This type of deferment is very important because as long as your loans are subsidized by the government, then you will not collect any interest while you are studying.


How to defer your student loans while studying abroad:
  1. Call your student loan provider to find out if your university is eligible for in-school deferment
  2. Download the In-School Deferment Request
  3. Fill out Sections 1-3 of the In-School Deferment Request
  4. Find an authorized official at your university to fill out Section 4 of the In-School Deferment Request
  5. Send a copy of the In-School Deferment Request to your student loan providers (by mail, fax, email). 
  6. Wait until your request is accepted.

Lucky for me, about 75% of my student loans are subsidized, so I became very excited at the possibility of not collecting interest on these loans for the next two years.

But how can you know if your school is recognized by the Federal Student Aid Office?

Good question.

I am getting my Master's from quite a small school in Germany. In trying to figure out if my school is recognized, I tried searching for it in the FAFSA database, but my school was not in the system. In fact, there are quite a few official online databases of eligible schools, but I could never find my university.

Finally, I decided to call one of my student loan providers to ask. Amazingly, she was able to find my school within a few minutes, and said deferring would be no problem.

Once you know your school is eligible, all you need to do is provide your loan provider(s) with an "In School Deferment Request."

You can find this document here:
http://www.studentloannetwork.com/downloads/pdf/DLP_In_School_Deferment.pdf

After filling out sections 1-3 by yourself, you will have to find someone at your university to fill out Section 4.

Since foreign universities do not really understand how ridiculous the tuition/student loan situation is in the U.S., do not be surprised if the workers at your university do not really want to sign their name on this document. After being thrown around from one office to another at my university, the head secretary of my program finally agreed to do it (although she kept copies of it for my student file...).

Next, I simply scanned the forms, sent electronic copies to my student loan providers, and waited.

My first deferment was accepted within one week. The second provider rejected the request after 2 weeks. Note, the provider that rejected it was the same one that I called earlier to ensure that my school is eligible.

So, imagine my shock when I call them to ask why my request was denied and they tell me, "Your university is not eligible." I told her to look again, and after 5 minutes on hold, she told me it is eligible, and that someone must have made a mistake. This is what you get when you go to a school with a non-English character in the name (ü).

Although the whole process did take about one month, I am now in deferment until September 2016. In total, this has saved me at least $2,000, and I can still make payments on the principal whenever I want to (we'll see if that actually happens...).

If you are looking to go through the same process, I wish you luck!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Outen the Lights! | Mistranslation Monday

Welcome back to another Mistranslation Monday!

I have been feeling quite uninspired when it comes to this blog lately, which is mostly due to the stress of starting my Master's program in Germany.

Currently, I am working on preparing for two presentations this week (hence why I didn't post anything at all last week). Luckily, one of the presentations is in English, but the other one will be my first presentation in German in Germany in front of a room full of Germans! Wish me luck!

Anyways, back to Mistranslation Monday. After a week-long streak of feeling quite uninspired, I was quite pleased when I stumbled upon this sign over the weekend:

German to English mistranslation: outen the lights!

Was this an honest mistranslation? Was it a joke? Who knows, but I thought it was pretty darn funny.

Hope you all had a great weekend and a Happy Halloween! 

Do you have any big plans for November?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Write a German Lebenslauf

Resume, CV, whatever you call it -- if you are looking for a job, you are going to need one. And if you are looking for a job in Germany, you are going to need a properly formatted Lebenslauf.

How to Write a German Lebenslauf

Literally translating to something like "life walk-though," a Lebenslauf is the German form of a resume or CV. After a lot of research, I wrote my very first Lebenslauf about one month ago. I immediately sent it off to two employers, heard back from one of the employers two days later, and went in for an interview two days after that. After hearing back that I got the job the very next day, I ended up signing the contract on September 30th and starting work on October 1st.

Note: I also got asked to interview for the second job I applied to, but I had already signed a contract by then.

After that whirlwind of excitement, I though it would be helpful to share what I learned about turning an American resume into a German Lebenslauf.

Here are the main sections you need to include on your German Lebenslauf:


1. Header


Just like with any other type of resume, you need to start your Lebenslauf off with your basic information. This most typically includes your name, home address, phone number, and email address. Here is an example of what mine looks like:

German Lebenslauf Example

The important thing to remember with a German Lebenslauf is that you also must include your photo. Although this would be entirely illegal in the U.S., German employers expect it and will likely throw your Lebenslauf right in the trash if it is not included.

Photographers in Germay are very experienced with taking application photos, just make sure you show up in business casual. Of course, you can probably also take them at home as long as you have some nice lighting and a decent camera (that is what I did).


2. Personal Data


The next section is personal data. For this part, you should include basic information such as your date of birth, place of birth, marital status, how many kids you have, and your nationality. Here is what mine looks like:

Personal information on a German resume

As an American, I found this section quite shocking. Although employers can often guess things such as age by a person's education and experience, it is totally illegal for them to explicitly ask. An employer definitely cannot ask about a person's marital status or whether they have kids. In Germany, however, all of this information is expected.


3. Education


Depending on where you are in your professional life, the next section is either education or experience. Since I am currently in graduate school, I choose to put education first. Here is what that section looks like:

Education on a German resume

Instead of "Deutsche Universität" or "American University," you should obviously write the real name of your specific university or high school. Since I am in graduate school, I normally would not write my high school on my resume, but a high school diploma (or Abitur) is very important to Germans and must be included.


4. Experience


The next section is experience and should include all of the same things that your resume or CV would include. Here is my example for the experience section:

Experience on a German resume

Obviously this section can come before education if you have already been out of school for a few years and would like to highlight your work experience.


5. Skills and Qualifications


The skills and/or qualifications section is another part that Americans and other non-Germans can probably copy directly from their old resume or CV. Here is an example of what this section may look like:

Skills on a German resume

Make sure to include your languages, computer skills, and any relevant certifications you may have. The Germans really love certifications.


6. Interests


Whether or not to include this section on an American resume is debatable, although from my experience, hardly anyone does. If you are looking for a job in Germany, however, employers want to see it. Here is what my hobbies and interests section looks like:

Interests on a German resume

I actually did quite a bit of research on what one should include in this section before writing it because I just found it so weird and irrelevant. During this research, I found quite a few studies stating that approximately 80 percent of hiring managers say that they expect to see a hobbies/interests section on a Lebenslauf. Worst case scenario, the employer doesn't read this section. Best case scenario, it will open up a nice discussion during the interview.

I hope that helps anyone hoping to start their job search in Germany! 

Leave any questions in the comments below!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Astrology is a Science? | Mistranslation Monday

As you probably already know, last week was my first week of graduate school in Germany. One of the courses that I have to take as a part of my Master's program is called Philosophy of Science.

View from the back of the lecture hall

All graduate students at the university have to take this course, which means it is held in a large lecture hall with approximately 200 students attending the each week. What is most interesting about this course, however, is that it is held in English.

On the first day of class, the professor was discussing the basics of the course, and started off with the question, "What is Science?" (...I know).

To get everyone's attention, he began by telling us to raise our hand if we thought that what he is saying is a science.

"Biology," he began.

Everyone raised their hand.

"Chemistry."

Everyone raised their hand.

"Physics."

Everyone raised their hand.

"Astrology."

Everyone except me raised their hand, and I looked around confused.

"Umm... Astronomy."

Less people raise their hands, and you can hear the sound of murmuring increase.

"Yeah, I figured everyone was confused about that last one. Well, let's just move on."

At least I have one course that I am sure to pass this semester...

Friday, October 17, 2014

My First Week of Grad School in Germany

It's official: I made it through my first week of grad school in Germany! So, I figured it now it is the perfect time to give you my first impression on how it will be to study in Germany.

No, I am not going to grad school in the mountains (unfortunately).















To help organize my thoughts after this whirl-wind week, let's look at each of the parts of student life:

Classes

For my Master's program, I have to take 6 classes each semester for 3 semesters. Then, my fourth semester is dedicated to writing a Master's thesis. In general, the classes are structured much like mine were in the U.S., with the exception that there is no homework or midterms. In fact, the entire grade depends on a single paper or exam in most cases, and I have already had many of my professors say that they wish there just were no grades at all, because they find them a poor measure of learning. If only...

Final Exams

Since I study humanities, not natural sciences, most of my final exams are term papers (just like it was for my Bachelor's degree). Lucky for me, however, some of my classes do have a final exam. "Theoretische Kontexte der Kulturwissenschaften" is one of these courses, and I am dreading this exam already. Luckily, you always get a second chance (and maybe even a third, fourth, etc.) to take the exam if you fail the first time. Yay!


Professors

As I have already said, my program is in German, and I am (as far as I can tell so far) the only non-German in any of my courses. This definitely means that I am at a bit of a disadvantage, especially since my courses focus on the writings of famous German academics (who I have never heard of, but everyone else in class seems to have). Oh well...

Campus

If you read my post last week, then you know that going to college in Germany is free (even for foreigners like me). So, it is no surprise that college campuses here do not have quite as many bells and whistles as American universities. This means no computer labs, no free gym, no buildings dedicated to providing lounge areas. But I am willing to give these things up in order to not graduate with five-figures of debt again!

Natural garden on campus

Students

I don't know if this is because all of my classmates are German or simply because it is a Master's programs (probably a bit of both), but everyone just seems so damn eager. In one of my classes, the professor did not have the syllabus ready, and the other students just about lost it. "When will have the syllabus ready?" "What are we doing next week?" "What should I be thinking about as I read the text?" Yes, those were all real questions asked in class, even the last one.

Books

In the U.S., I think I spent an average of $500 per semester on books. The poor natural science kids spent much more. Well, not in Germany, because all of the professors just scan the texts that they want us to read and upload them online. Score!

All in all, so far so good. I will keep you guys updated on how giving presentations and writing papers in German actually go, as that will inevitably be happening within the next month (ugh).

If you are interested in doing an English-language international Master's program in Germany, then you should also check out Alex at Speaking Denglish's post about her first week of class.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Car Gram | Mistranslation Monday

A few weeks ago, the German boyfriend and I went to his biannual family reunion in the Austrian Alps. This reunion was quite different than when I went two years ago, mainly because of how much my German has improved over the past two years.


So, unlike last time, Marco's cousins no longer spoke English to me, and I was able to keep up with the Swabisch dialect begin thrown around pretty well.

One of the only times English was spoken the entire weekend was when we were testing Marco's youngest cousin, Dominik, on how well he could speak English.

He started off by asking me about living in Chicago and if I had ever met any celebrities. Soon, however, he asked me something I did not understand.

"Have you ever gotten a car gram?" he asked.

Luckily, another one of Marco's cousins (and Denglisch Master) Florian was able to translate "Car Gram" into what Dominik really meant: Autograph

Here is the logic that Dominik used:

Autogram = the German word for "autograph"

Auto = Car

Gram = Gram

Autogram = Car gram!

You certainly can't blame him with logic like that...

Oh, and here are a couple more pictures from where we stayed in the mountains:





Friday, October 10, 2014

Do German Universities Charge Tuition to Foreigners?

This past week, I have been seeing articles like this about how Germany has abolished tuition fees be shared all over the Internet. Often, however, these articles are accompanied by comments asking if studying in Germany is also free for foreigners.

A nice example of the memes going around on the Internet right now...

As an American getting my Master's in Germany, I can tell you that the answer is yes. But there is a little bit more to it...

I got my Bachelor's in the U.S. I know it is expensive. I have the crushing student debt to prove it. So, I would be lying if I said that money was a big factor in my choice to study in Germany.


When I moved to Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) in 2013, however, they actually did still charge a tuition fee. But this "tuition" fee that many states in Germany used to have was only 500 Euros per semester (about $650), which is chump change to anyone that has studied in the U.S. So, all those people shouting "Wow, I should study in Germany!" that Germany has always made it a priority to invest in students.

Lucky for me, Lower Saxony got rid of the tuition fee at the exact time that I started my Masters degree. However, this does not mean that I did not have to pay the university any money. All universities in Germany do still charge a fee each semester that includes administrative fees and the semester ticket (a pass for all public transportation within the state). This is usually around 300 Euro (about $400).

The best part about this is that Germany does not make any exceptions when it comes to tuition fees. All students that are admitted to a public university are entitled to study there for free. This is quite unique to Germany, as many other European countries charge foreigners extra tuition fees.

But does this mean that Americans should start coming to Germany to study? No.

Although Germany does have many English-language programs, I believe that only those that are truly interested in living in Germany, assimilating to the culture, and learning the language should come here to study. For those that just like the idea of living it up abroad, try checking out a study abroad program first.

Now, my question for you is:
Do you think Germany should charge tuition to foreign students?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The 3 Types of Student Visas in Germany

Germany offers foreigners the opportunity to apply for three different types of student visas: the language course visa, the student application visa, and the student visa.


After receiving a student visa last week for my Master's studies, I have now officially had each of these three types of student visas sometime within the last year. So, since I am now a professional German student visa applicant, I figured I would share some of my knowledge with you.

Here are each of the three types of German student visas and how to get them:


1. Language Course Visa


The language course visa is the perfect option for those that want to spend time in Germany as they learn the German language. 

    German language course visa

    To apply for this visa, the following documents are required:
    • Passport
    • Health Insurance
    • Proof of Finances
    • Biometric Photo
    • Fees (60-100 Euro)
    • Proof of Enrollment in a Language Course

    Officially, the language course must meet for at least 20 hours/week. However, I was able to get this visa by being enrolled in a course that only met for 3 hours/week. Therefore, it is best to ask at your local Foreigner's Office (Ausländerbehörde) for the specific requirements.

    For more information about this visa, read my full post about the German language course visa.


    2. Student Application Visa


    If you think that you want to study in Germany, but are still trying to find the right program, then you are allowed to stay in Germany on what is known as a student application visa (Studienbewerbervisum).

    German student application visa

    To apply for this visa, the following documents are required:
    • Passport
    • Health Insurance
    • Proof of Finances
    • Biometric Photo
    • Fees (60-100 Euro)

    This is a relatively easy visa to get since you do not need to prove enrollment in anything, you just have to have all of the standard documents. If the people at the Foreigner's Office give you problems in trying to get this visa like they did to me, just show them paragraph 16 from the German law on foreigner's permits. The visa is only for 3 months, but it can be extended two times for a total of 9 months.

    For more information about this visa, check out my full post on the German Student Application Visa.


    3. Student Visa


    Once you have already been accepted to a German university, and you have officially enrolled, then you can apply for a German student visa. 

    German student visa

    To apply for this visa, the following documents are required:
    • Passport
    • Health Insurance
    • Proof of Finances
    • Biometric Photo
    • Fees (60-100 Euro)
    • Proof of Enrollment at a German University

    As long as you have official proof of enrollment at a German university, getting this visa should be quite simple. If you have already been living in Germany for awhile and are currently on a different visa (such as the student application visa), then they will simply stamp it "invalid" before giving you your new student visa, just like they did to mine:


    To read about my experience in getting a student visa, check out the following posts: Confusing Process of Getting a German Student Visa, Student Visa Update, Day of German Bureaucracy

    To read more on living and studying in Germany, make sure to follow me on Bloglovin' and Facebook. You can also leave any questions in the comments below.

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Welcome to Germerica

    In case you haven't noticed already...
    Courtney the Ami

    is now
    Welcome to Germerica

    I first created this blog nearly two years ago when I was first preparing to move to Germany, and at that time, I was more than happy to be known as "the American." Now that I have been living, working, and studying in Germany for over a year, however, I have realized that I do not want to be branded with this label by all of my friends, classmates, and coworkers. And as someone that studies digital media and works in marketing, my blog does tend to come up in conversations every once in a while.

    Instead, I thought I would focus on the mash of cultures and languages that is now my life. Although I am still very much American, my life is also heavily influenced by Germany. So, I thought that "Welcome to Germerica" would be the perfect name for my little corner of the internet where I write about what is like to do things like study in Germany, date a German, and apply for German visas as an American.

    Let me know what you think in the comments below!

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    A Day of German Bureaucracy

    After finally receiving confirmation that I can pick up my student visa this past Saturday, I knew I would have a full day of dealing with German bureaucracy on Monday. So, I decided to document my morning in photos to give you all a peek behind the curtain of expat life in Germany.

    7:30 a.m.



    My alarm goes off, and I start getting ready. Okay, I may have actually laid in bed until 7:38 and then started getting ready.


    9:00 a.m.




    I leave the apartment to head to the Bürgeramt, where my visa should be waiting for me. Marco kindly offers to drive me (otherwise I would have walked, which takes about 30 minutes).



    9:15 a.m.



    I take a ticket and notice that my number is next to be called, which makes sense since there was only one person in the waiting room. So, after waiting about three minutes, my number comes up, and the woman stamps my student application visa ungültig (invalid) and gives me my new student visa.


    9:30 a.m.


    Excuse my chipped nail polish.

    I go back to the car where Marco is waiting for me, and we drive back home with my new visa in hand.


    10:00 a.m.



    Now I walk to the university to show student services my new visa. Right now, I only have a temporary student ID that expires on October 14th. They said I should receive my new ID in the mail.

    Trying to kill two birds with one stone, I also asked if they could sign my paperwork for deferring my student loans. They said I have to come back on a Thursday between 10 and 12 to be able to speak to the correct person (you see what I am dealing with?!).


    10:20 a.m.



    After receiving a job offer from the university last week, I am also in the middle of trying to sort out all of the paperwork so that my work contract can start on October 1st. So, I have to head to the personnel service next to talk to the people there.

    I hand over five different signed documents, but of course I was still missing a few. Don't worry, though, they say that they will start writing the contract with what they already have. I also give them a copy of my college transcripts, student visa, student ID (remember I only have the temporary one, so I have to come back with my new one as soon as I get it), and proof of health insurance. Whew! They also said I need a Sozialversicherungsausweis, which is kind of like a social security card. We will see how many hoops I have to jump through to get that...


    10:45 a.m.



    I head to my place of (future) employment to tell them that everything is looking good with my new contract. Germans are sometimes weary about hiring foreigners due to all the headaches associated with it, but I am lucky to have found a great new place to work as I get my Master's degree.


    11:00 a.m.



    I finally get home after a very long two hours. Here is my bag (from my awesome cousin Jannette) that I carried around all day filled with my paperwork and some snacks.

    So, here is a run down of what happened today and what is still left to do.

    What I accomplished:
    • Got my student visa
    • Requested my non-temporary student ID
    • Got the ball rolling for my new work contract

    What I still have to do:
    • Get non-temporary student ID
    • Sign work contract
    • Defer student loans
    • Get a Sozialversicherungsausweis

    Anyone else dealing with crazy bureaucracy like me, I wish you the best of luck!
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