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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Total Cost of My Master's Degree Program in Germany

Yesterday, I made the final payment for my Master's degree program! And since I never had to take out any loans for this degree, that means that the whole program is paid off over 8 months before I will graduate!

Now that the last payment has been made, let's take a look at how much getting my Master's degree in Germany cost in total.

First, let me answer some questions you may have regarding tuition in Germany.

Didn't you once write that Germany doesn't charge tuition?
Yes, I did. Public universities in Germany do not charge tuition (to foreigner students or anybody else). However, there are "semester fees," which students have to pay each semester. These vary from university to university, but are generally between 100 and 350 Euro. When you consider the prices of American public universities (I actually went to a private university for my Bachelor's degree because it was cheaper than the in-state public universities), this is a bargain.

But wait, if a semester fee isn't considered tuition, then what is it? 
Tuition is payment for teaching or instruction. Semester fees do not go towards those things. Instead, (at least at my university) they go to the student union (~30%), administration (~20%), and a transportation ticket for the entire state of Niedersachsen (~50%).

Didn't German universities use to charge tuition?
German states did enforce a tuition at public universities for a time, but this resulted in protests throughout the country. Lucky for me, the tuition fee (which was 500€ per semester) for was abolished in the state of Niedersachsen exactly when I began studying. That's 2,000 Euro saved!

Well, how much did you pay for your Master's degree program?
Take a look at the chart below to see how much I paid in fees for each of my four semesters.

Semester Fee
Winter 2014/15
Summer 2015
Winter 2015/16
Summer 2016

That's right, the total amount I paid for my Master's program is 1,326.39 Euro. Not too shabby, if you ask me (and my university actually has one of the highest semester fees in the country). Now I just have to hope I find a job after graduation in order to pay off my Bachelor's degree.

Do you agree with Germany's higher education system? Should public universities should be subsidized by taxpayers so students can graduate without debt?

Monday, January 18, 2016

How German Are You? | The Müller Meter

I was sitting in a 6-hour class last week, when I heard some of my fellow students talking about much "Müller" is in them. For a second, I thought they were talking about genealogy. But no, they were talking about the Müller Meter.

ZDF, a German TV broadcaster, created the "Müller Meter" - a 15-question test to see how people compare to the average German. 
Wie viel Müller steckt in Ihnen?
Sind Sie die/der Durchschnittsdeutsche?
Since I was the only foreigner in the room, everyone thought it would be pretty funny for me to take the test as well. The other students were about 50-60% Müller, so they were all surprised when I told them my result.

My Müller meter
That's right, I am 70% Müller! And people always worry about foreigners integrating. I fit the German stereotype more than many of my friends.

The funniest part of the quiz for me was the German living room. Did you know the average German has a coffee table, a floor lamp, a shelving unit (or entertainment center? I'm not sure how to translate Schrankwand), an orchid, curtains, and woodchip wallpaper in their living room?

We have four of the six items, including the horrible woodchip wallpaper (Raufasertapete), but I think it's next to impossible to find an apartment in Germany without it.

average German living room
The day after my class, I was hanging out with my friend from Lithuania, who moved to Germany around the same time I did (we actually met in German class). Curious about how a fellow foreigner would do, I had her take the test as well.

Adele's Müller meter
She is even more Müller than me! Crazy to think that a country's population can be so heterogeneous, that a 15-question quiz isn't an accurate representation of all its citizens (/sarcasm). Still, it's fun to try :)

If you know a little German, you can take the test here:

And make sure to tell me how much Müller is in you in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Costs of Studying in Germany (and how I afford it)

Public universities in Germany are (almost) free. Just about everyone knows that by now. Even foreigners are eligible to study for free in Germany. Even if you only have to pay a couple hundred Euro per semester for school, however, there are still other costs to consider before applying to German universities.

To help people figure out just how much studying in Germany costs, here is a look at my finances and how I afford to live in Germany while getting my Master's degree.

The BBC published an article in June 2015 about how American students finance their studies in Germany. Here is the their breakdown of 3 students' monthly expenses:


As you can immediately see from the first row, rent varies A LOT from city to city. So, you should always research rent prices for any city you are considering. Beware: many of the post popular cities for studying (e.g. Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg, Heidelberg) also boast the highest rent prices in the country. 

In general, both smaller cities and cities in Eastern Germany will have lower rent prices. So, if you choose to study in a small city in Eastern Germany like Cottbus, then you can get away with paying only €200 for rent. If you choose to study and live in Munich, a city boasting the highest rent prices in Germany, then expect to pay at least €500 per month (read about Alex Butts costs of living in Munich). The average monthly rent for a student living in a shared apartment, however, is about €300.

Health Insurance
German public health insurance for students is about €80, which is actually a great deal. If you are American, it may take awhile to get used to regularly visiting the doctor and not paying a dime in co-pays and whatnot.

Semester Fee
Although public universities do not charge tuition, they do still charge a semester fee. The amount varies according to university, but it is generally between €100 and €400 per semester, including a transportation ticket. Although the table above says the amounts include transportation, I highly doubt that. Divide €250 (the average semester fee with transportation ticket) by 6 (a semester lasts 6 months), then you would have about €40 per month. 

How far the transportation ticket will get you also depends on your university. However, it will at least be good for taking the local buses and trains. Since my university is in Niedersachsen, for example, I can take any public transit within the state of Niedersachsen with my student ticket.

Obviously this amount varies according to the person, but €150 per month is about average.

Obviously, a lot of things are missing on this list (i.e. phone bill, books, gym, etc.). For people that already live on their own, however, you should already be able to roughly estimate these miscellaneous costs. Just remember to take everything into account.

My Monthly Finances
Rent: €300
I live in a smaller city (pop. 100,000), where rent prices are a little bit lower than average. €300 is the average monthly rent for a shared apartment here.

Health Insurance: €80
Not getting around that.

Semester Fee: €55
The semester fee is relatively expensive at my university (€330 per semester). But like I said before, it does include the transportation ticket.

Groceries: €150
Note that I generally only shop at discount grocery stores, so that helps keep this number down.

Phone: €5 + €11
I pay €5 for my landline, which includes a free international calling. I also pay €11/month for my 2-year cell phone conttract. This contract included my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini), 200 MB data, 100 minutes, and 100 text messages.

Total: ~€600
My total cost of living per month comes out to about €600. If you read my post about working as a foreign student in Germany, you will know that this is also about how much I make per month by working 15 hours/week at the university. There are obviously miscellaneous costs that come up each month as well, but this is why I worked and saved in the U.S. before making the choice to study in a foreign country. 

Although it's not easy, it is possible to work alongside your studies to finance your education in Germany. However, a student job is not always easy to find, and you cannot rely on finding one. Therefore, I highly suggest doing your research and making sure that you can afford to live and study in Germany (even without a job) before committing to a program. 

Remember, Germany will subsidize your education, but they won't pay your rent. Do your research and be prepared.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My New Year's Eve in Germany

Now that 2016 is here (YAY!), the holiday season is officially over (BOO!). Although this was my second time spending Christmas and New Year's in Germany, I was still able to experience a few traditions that I missed out on the first time around.

Just like New Year's Eve 2013, our final evening of 2015 started with Raclette and a bottle of Prosecco.

Beginning on December 29th, just about every store in Germany sells fireworks for Silvester (New Year's Eve). Being from Illinois, it still shocks me to see everything that is legal to buy here (even if it is only allowed to be sold for 3 days per year). 

When buying fireworks, the German fiancé told me he also wanted to do Bleigießen with me. I had no idea what he was talking about, but we bought a little set anyways. 

Bleigießen technically translates to "lead pouring." However, upon looking it up on Wikipedia, I found that it is actually known as Molybdomancy in English, which is a "technique of divination using molten metal."

Our Bleigießen set had 6 lead figures, so Marco and I each used 3 to make our shapes.

I started by melting the 3 lead pieces in a spoon over a candle flame.

Once the lead is completely melted, I quickly poured the metal into a jar of water.

The person that poured the metal then has to interpret the resulting shape. This interpretation then serves as a prediction for the new year. What do you think my lead figure looks like?

I saw a sword, which (according to means "perseverance is necessary" (Schwert= Durchhaltevermögen ist nötig).

Next, it was Marco's turn.

Here is his resulting figure. What do you think it looks like?

I claimed it was a feather, but Marco said he saw a whale. Well, (at least according to Marco needs to go on a diet (Wal Diät machen). If he had picked feather, like I said, his divination would have been to "remain steadfast" (Feder Standhaft bleiben). 

Both of our predictions were pretty lame and general, basically like reading a horoscope. I think the action of pouring the metal and interpreting the shape is way more fun than actually finding out what it supposedly means.

Shortly before midnight, Marco and I headed outside with arms full of fireworks. There were already several groups in the street, shooting off fireworks in every direction. After setting ours off, we danced around in the street for a while, enjoying the sounds of explosions and ambulance sirens.

Afterwards, we went back inside to shoot some bottle rockets off of our 3rd floor balcony. The first few went great!

Then Marco accidentally shot one off horizontally, and it exploded directly in front of a window on the neighboring building. Oops. We took that as our sign to go back inside and call it a night.

Happy New Year's!
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