How I prepared myself to study abroad in Germany
if you are new here, my name is Jun and I am a Master student studying microbiology in Germany. I apologize for not being able to post for a while. I have been pretty swamped with labs and exams. Now I am in summer break taking an intensive German course along with exams and labs.
This is going to be a fairly long post about how I prepared to study in Germany. I have divided this into three parts and feel free to skip around the post if you feel like it.
If you don’t feel like reading long content, guess what! I have also made a youtube video! There are also timestamps in the description section. Enjoy!
2016 was one of my transformative years. I got discharged from the Korean navy and transferred to a new university in the US (from public to private college). My brain was saturated with thoughts especially about my future: what I want to specialize in, where I want to stay after college, and so forth. I looked back at my pre-military journey. I realized that I had enjoyed exploring and learning about other cultures. Plus, I had grown substantially whenever I put myself out in a new environment (new language and culture). Based on my research and after considerably long pondering, I tentatively placed Germany in my top list of places I want to spend after my graduation.
I started doing fairly concrete research: googling, browsing around the websites, reading blogs, and even books. I consumed anything that could be informative. I was able to gain an overview of requirements for prospective international students and an idea of what I have to do in college to prepare for my next journey after college.
Enrolling in a basic German language class is the first thing I did when I went back to college after military service. This is because learning another language was one of the main reasons why I wanted to spend my post-graduate years outside of the USA. In this way, cultural immersion comes handy along with academic immersion, just like it did in the US and Japan. This language class was a tremendously more life-changing experience than I thought it would be. It had so many complimentary programs in which I can participate including German club, German events, German coffee hour.
After taking two basic German courses, an opportunity to go to Germany for a month for language and cultural immersion came up. I ended up joining this wonderful journey with my German professor and 6 other US-American friends where we participated in an intensive German language course at Goethe institute and explored many cities in Germany from a variety of perspectives: art history, politics, history, and so on. It was a lot of fun to learn German with other international students and to interact with my host family.
I had an idea when I was in Germany. “Since I am thinking about doing my Master here, why don’t I visit several universities and talk to the students and admission offices?” Thus, I ended up visiting and touring universities in Bonn, Munich, Heidelberg, and Berlin. In the plane back to the States, I was fully determined to go to Germany for a Master’s program.
I started doing more research about the universities and requirements in Germany. It turns out many German Master programs want to see a bachelor thesis from a student (not strictly required). Although it’s not required for my bachelor program, I sent an email to a professor if I could work in his lab and write a thesis. Thankfully, I had ended up having a wonderful laboratory experience in my senior year which greatly helped my admission and acceptance to universities and scholarships.
Next, I would like to share a little bit of the workflow of my grad school application. I listed little more than 10 universities with an English microbiology program along with a deadline. Because I wasn’t as modern as I am now, I wrote them down in my notebook. Nowadays, I use an app called “Notion” for personal knowledge and project management including my Ph.D. school list. If you haven’t tried notion, give it a shot! It’s awesome and free if you are a student.
Anyway, I finished listing the master programs around 2 years before my admission to German schools. I also looked into scholarships in Germany because I figured that I still need to fund my living in Germany. As always, I started with googling random scholarship and was able to narrow down. In Germany, there aren’t as many scholarships available as in the US and other countries in my opinion because their tuition is significantly lower. But don’t be discouraged by that. There are still quite a few if you look very closely.
I started applying to schools and scholarship programs in my senior year in the US. I put a lot of my time and effort in my motivation letter, which I will probably discuss in my future post. But one thing I want to point out is to make sure to proofread multiple times and have second and third eyes read your draft. I found this step very pivotal because not only it helped with my scholarship application and university admission, but it was also a great foundational outline of my academic plan in Germany and even afterward.
The admission deadline can vary to a great extent. In my case, it ranged from February to September, which is why I had to keep working on my application even after I graduated from my bachelor’s program. Furthermore, more research and studying were needed such as dorms, more scholarships, German language, and Germany itself. After getting accepted to several schools, I started narrowing down my options and looked more closely into the website to make a final decision: the University of Göttingen.
This is all I want to share in this post. If you like my content and want to know more about student life in Germany, feel free to browse around my other posts on this website!
Thanks for taking your time to read my blog. If you have any questions and comments, please jump into the comment section! I’ll see you in my next post. Bleib gesund (Stay healthy).