universities in germany
Housing and integration mar the international student experience in Germany. Source: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

An increasing number of students are signing up to universities in Germany. New data by DAAD – a funding organisation for German students, international students and researchers – reveal a four percent increase in enrollment in 2018 compared to the year before.

Hosting a total 374,583 international students, this means the country has surpassed the target set by DAAD and the Joint Scientific Conference of the federal government and states (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz) to host 350,000 international students by 2020.

While this shows the growing popularity of universities in Germany, challenges remain for international students, a survey by DAAD shows, with broad impact on their study progress and success rates.

Are universities in Germany part of your study abroad bucket list? If so, take note of the top three problems faced by international students in Germany:

1. Difficulty finding accommodation

Close to half (47 percent) reported great difficulty in finding accommodation, according to the survey. This is the most frequently reported difficulty outside of the university setting. It trumps problems with financing their studies, visa or residence permits, work permits or health insurance.

universities in germany

Rent in Berlin soared by 21 percent in 2017. Source: Shutterstock

The survey notes that this could be due to the “substantial increase in rent prices of the last ten years”.

Since 2010, the cost of student housing in Berlin has risen 67.3 percent, 2018 data from the German Economic Institute show, with rent prices for flats in university cities throughout the country increasing between 9.8 percent to a whopping 67.3 percent. Property prices in Berlin, as a whole, soared almost 21 percent in 2017, a 2018 report by property consultancy Knight Frank found.

2. Communicating in German

Not being proficient in German can tarnish students’ study abroad experience at universities¬†in Germany. Source: Norali Emilio/Unsplash

Integration is another major issue among international students. Around a third (33 percent) reported great difficulties communicating in German. A similar proportion  cited it was tough establishing contacts with the population (30 percent) and with German students (28 percent).

So what’s an international student to do? For one, be good at German.

Less integration problems were found among those who are proficient in German. Only 12 percent cited serious difficulties communicating in German whereas among students with limited German skills, that figure is 76 percent. Those who are proficient in German also had fewer problems finding accommodation (42 percent vs 55 percent), applying for their residence permit (17 percent vs 24 percent) and receiving their work permit (12 percent vs 24 percent).

3. Navigating the education system

Study-related problems are usually among the least reported issues for international students at universities in Germany. Saying that, the biggest issue was reported with regard to orientation in the German higher education system, where one-quarter of respondents reported major difficulties. Other study-related problems included performance requirements during academic studies (18 percent), recognition of previous school and study performance (15 percent), contact with university teachers (13 percent) and admission to university (12 percent).

“Students from North America and Latin America and from North Africa and Middle East particularly often refer to orientation problems,” the report said.

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