Clausthal-Zellerfeld: The university with two winter semesters

Clausthal-Zellerfeld used to be a mining town. But times have changed and so has the city. Thanks to its University of Technology (TU), it has become known for innovation, openness and internationality.

by Sebastian Rothe

Picturesque old house facades meet students in Clausthal-Zellerfeld. © Sebastian Rothe
Clausthal-Zellerfeld . © Sebastian Rothe

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
305 €
Take a ride on the "Tagesförderbahn" which is operated by the Bergwerksmuseum.

Welcome to Clausthal-Zellerfeld

The mining and university town of Clausthal-Zellerfeld is situated on a high plateau in the Harz region, a place where the weather plays a significant role. You will often encounter a blustery wind and more rainy days than elsewhere in Germany. Because the winter is so long and snowy, students often joke about it. They say that the TU Clausthal is the only university that has two winter semesters!

The main building of the University of Technology in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, which many international students visit. © Sebastian Rothe
TU Clausthal . © Sebastian Rothe

But don’t be daunted by the weather statistics. There are plenty of sunny, warm days in summer and autumn when you can take a swim in one of some 60 lakes in and around Clausthal-Zellerfeld. Or take a walk through the two parts of town, Clausthal and Zellerfeld, and discover the history of this once divided city. The historically important sites are marked by the so-called Dennert Pine. On these signs you’ll find information about the city’s past and its famous residents.

The yellow
"Dennert Pine" . © Sebastian Rothe

Even beyond the borders of Lower Saxony, Clausthal-Zellerfeld played an important role in history. The town was known for its mining operations for several centuries. Although the heydays of coal mining are over, the city still has a close relationship to mining. For example, there is the Oberharzer Mining Museum where visitors can go down into two former mine shafts.

The TU Clausthal plays an important role in the city’s future. Each year hundreds of students from around the world study at the university. Some decide to remain after graduation and have started their own companies or research institutes which work closely with the university. Many companies located at the Innovationspark Tannenhöhe and Am Pulverhaus were founded by university graduates in the past 20 to 30 years.

The annex of the University of Technology in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, where the Mineralogical Collections are located. © Sebastian Rothe
TU Clausthal . © Sebastian Rothe

Life in Clausthal-Zellerfeld

Life revolves around the university. Many students enjoy taking a stroll down the shopping street (Adolph-Roemer-Strasse) during their breaks, meeting for coffee or getting a bite to eat. And many see it as an advantage that the city isn’t very large – it makes it easy to start a conversation and arrange to meet up later. The city is also a popular destination for tourists who start their hiking and cycling tours from here.

My tip

Take a trip on the old mining train! The Oberharzer Bergwerksmuseum in Clausthal-Zellerfeld offers visitors the chance to visit the old Ottiliae mining shaft. Be sure to inquire in advance about when you can hop aboard, because the "old lady" doesn’t make the trip that often!

There is an extensive system of bike paths in the region surrounding Clausthal-Zellerfeld. There are paths for casual bikers who like to take it easy, and there are specific routes suited to mountains bikers. Inquire at the Tourist Information office or the bookshop on Adolph-Roemer-Strasse for bike touring maps of the region.

You can easily reach many of the nearby lakes by bike. Most of them look very natural and pristine and are perfect for a taking a dip. You can find a supervised sunbathing area and boat rental shop at the Oberer Hausherzberger Teich. And if you suffer from asthma or allergies, you’ll be happy to know that because of its clean air and numerous lakes, Clausthal-Zellerfeld is an official climatic health resort.

Summer isn’t the only time of year you can play outdoor sports: In the winter you can take advantage of a large network of cross-country ski trails in the region. There is a small slope in Zellerfeld where you can even go downhill skiing and sledding.

More pictures

Interview with Mehdi from Iran

Mehdi Tavakoli comes from Iran where he previously studied Mechanical Engineering. The 30-year-old student is now pursuing his master’s degree in Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

Portrait of master student Mehdi Tavakoli from Iran in Clausthal-Zellerfeld. © Sebastian Rothe
Mehdi Tavakoli from Iran . © Sebastian Rothe

Why did you decide to study in Clausthal-Zellerfeld?

I come from Iran where I had already got my bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. The programme was very theoretical and what I needed was practical experience. I knew that I could get that in Germany. After doing some research, I came across Clausthal-Zellerfeld and read about the good reputation of the University of Technology.

What do you like about Clausthal-Zellerfeld?

I really enjoy being in nature – if possible, every day. And Clausthal is the perfect place to find it. What I like about the university is that it’s easy to reach your professors: You don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment; usually you can stop by their office. The academic advising service here in Clausthal is really good, especially for foreign students.

How should students prepare for their stay in Germany?

Definitely learn the language! And I don’t mean just the words and how you pronounce them. Language is much more – language is culture. There are a lot of clichés and stereotypes about Germany – just like there are about every nation. What I mean, for example, are questions like: "How do you say 'cheers'?" or "How do you make contact with Germans?" The International Office at the university offers lots of courses on intercultural competence – in German and English

The chairs and tables of a café in front of the market church
Market Church "Zum Heiligen Geist" . © Sebastian Rothe

How did you find your room or flat in Clausthal-Zellerfeld?

I live in a room in a student hall of residence – like lots of students here. The room isn’t very big - just eleven square metres, and there’s a common bathroom and a common kitchen. It costs me 230 euros a month.

How do you pay for your living expenses?

I found a part-time job at the university very early on. There are lots of jobs at the institutes. I translate presentation slides into English for the professors. Now I’m giving English courses at the International Office.

What do you do in Clausthal-Zellerfeld in your free time?

I spend a lot of time outdoors and playing sports – like basketball or volleyball. There are numerous sports courses offered at the university, and students also organise a lot on their own. Sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays I go to "Querschlag" – it’s a student pub which is run by students.

The Adolph-Roemer-Strasse in Clausthal-Zellerfeld is very popular with students for its gastronomy. © Sebastian Rothe
Adolph-Roemer-Strasse . © Sebastian Rothe

What’s your favourite place?

That would be "Anno Tobak" – another student pub. The beer is cheap and the music is better than at "Querschlag". There you can meet with friends and play cards, backgammon and other games.

Why is Clausthal-Zellerfeld a good place to study?

Here you have the right conditions to concentrate. You can find quiet places to study and professors are easy to reach. Everything is close and in walking distance. Compared with other cities, it’s very inexpensive to live here.

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