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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.


Everyone raised their hand.


Everyone raised their hand.


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:


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!


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...


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


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.


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!
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