5 Tips for Getting Through Your First Week in Germany
1. Take care of your registration as soon as you arrive
Whenever you commence studying at a German university, registering and filling out forms is sure to be part of the process. From registering as a resident, to enrolling for courses at the university of your choice, there can be quite a lot to get through before classes begin.
Some people hate admin tasks like that, but they can actually be helpful when settling into your new home. Most universities will have special offices where international students can register, often with English speaking staff. Registration staff are also a great source of advice about what to see, where to eat, accommodation options, and other first week essentials. And you might make new friends in the queue to register as well.
2. Hit the ground running by planning your accommodation
Enjoying a hassle-free first week in Germany actually starts well before your plane touches down. Essential tasks like finding somewhere to stay can often be planned in advance, giving you a big advantage when you reach Germany.
For instance, before you can rent a room, you'll need to register with the local authorities. This means having health insurance already, which you can organize before leaving your home country. That's also something Expatrio can help with, so check out our health insurance pages to make registration as easy as possible.
Instead of sorting out health insurance or starting a blocked account when you arrive, that kind of thing can be handled elsewhere. That way, you can head straight to the Ausländeramt (Foreign Residents Authority) with the right credentials, and start house hunting immediately.
3. Take care of your financial affairs
Before you start studying, you'll also want to make sure you have access to funds whenever you need them. This means creating what is known as a blocked account (Sperrkonto), which proves to the government that you have sufficient funds to live in Germany for one year.
But it goes beyond that. When you have created a Sperrkonto, you can also start conventional bank accounts, or use mobile-based providers to make cash available at short notice. Banks like N26 and Monese offer accounts that accommodate smartphone payments and are designed especially for students. They also have English-language websites, which is great for foreign visitors.
4. Make contact with your future classmates
During your first week in Germany, it's not healthy to spend all of your time filling out forms or waiting at government offices. In fact, socializing should be a priority as soon as possible, and there are various ways to do so.
Firstly, pay a visit to your university's International Office. Most universities will have one on campus, and they often function as gathering points for new students. If no-one is around, staff will know about bars, cafes, social events, and freshman fairs - so don't be afraid to ask them.
Aside from that, take a walk around campus. Join in soccer matches on the green spaces, sip coffees with fellow new-comers, and remember: most of the people there are new, away from home, and looking for friends.
5. Spend a day getting to know your local public transit system
This tip is more important than you might think if you come from a country with a poor public transport system. Most German cities have excellent, wide-ranging bus, tram, train, and subway networks. Even better, students receive subsidies to ride public transport via their Semesterticket (a good argument for enrolling as quickly as possible).
Devote a day to riding a few bus routes, and you'll quickly get a feel for the city's geography. Ride all of the subway lines, take a walk in various districts, and you'll discover how diverse German cities can be. And you'll also be prepared for house-hunting, shopping with friends, visiting sports facilities, and generally mastering the geography of your new home.
In any case, try to stay active. Focus on important tasks, but socialize as well. And get to know your new hometown. You'll soon feel like a native, we guarantee it.