Emden: Studying with a view of the ocean

Far up in northern Germany lies a small seaport that offers ideal conditions for studying: In Emden, you can live inexpensively, find the peace and quiet you need for studying and try out all kinds of sports in your free time.

by Sebastian Rothe

Harbour Downtown  © Sebastian Rothe
Harbour Downtown . © Sebastian Rothe

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
305 €
Play a match of "Bosseln" outdoors.

Welcome to Emden

Emden has a distinctly maritime character. Canals and "Tiefs" (small channels) criss-cross the town. Many residents take rides in their own boats, or go for walks, bike or jog around one of the harbour basins. Every day many tourists board a ferry and take the two-hour trip to the island of Borkum.

Waterways © Sebastian Rothe
Waterways . © Sebastian Rothe

At the west end of town stands a statue of Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (1620-1688), better known as the "Grosser Kurfürst" (Great Elector). The inhabitants of Emden erected the statue in his honour because it was his support of maritime trade that made Emden a wealthy city. And Emden still benefits from its seafaring history. You can sense it as soon as you arrive.

The economy is also driven by its shipping business. The German car manufacturer VW operates a gigantic production facility in Emden, and located right next door, a dockyard from which its cars are transported to every corner of the world. Other automotive suppliers have also built facilities next to the VW plant.

Maritime trade not only influenced Emden’s seaside district, but also the atmosphere in town. Wherever you go, you’ll find pubs where seafarers used to drink their beer long ago when they had time to go on land. Unfortunately, this unique charm no longer exists at most pubs, but Emden’s residents can tell you where you can still find it.

Tourism has become increasingly important for Emden. In addition to day tourists travelling to Borkum, the city attracts a large number of cyclists and sailboaters. Since the region around Emden is so flat, you can easily tour the region by bike. It’s also worth taking a sailing trip through the "Dollart" (a large bay). However, it’s best to avoid sailing out into the North Sea during rough weather. Strong winds and heavy rain can make it very dangerous.

Harbour Downtown  © Sebastian Rothe
Harbour Downtown . © Sebastian Rothe

But even in bad weather, Emden has a lot to offer. For example, you can become acquainted with the humour of Emden’s inhabitants. Northern Germans have a very special sense of humour which is well-known far beyond the borders of Lower Saxony. Two of Germany’s most famous comedians come from Emden: Otto Waalkes and Karl Dall. You can get a taste of northern German humour by visiting the Otto-Waalkes-Haus located directly opposite of the Emden city hall.

Life in Emden

Thanks to the maritime atmosphere in town, you can find plenty of opportunities to relax on sunny days and forget the stress of university life. The harbour basins are ideal for taking long walks, and the many trees along the so-called "Stadt-Wall" provide welcome shade on hot summer days. Downtown you can enjoy the fresh sea breeze outside of restaurants and bars, or you can explore the small alleys and discover the history of the city.

Harbour Basin © Sebastian Rothe
Harbour Basin . © Sebastian Rothe

Emden isn’t as large as Bremen, Hamburg or Hannover. That’s why it’s less expensive for students to live in Emden. All of the important places in town are within walking distance, and for longer trips, you can easily get around by bike.

My tip

"Bosseln" is a traditional game played in the region around Emden. The aim is to fling a ball as far as possible with an arc-throwing movement of the arm. At a Bosseln match, not only do you learn the game, but you can get to know the people and how they live.

If you enjoy playing sports, Emden offers perfect conditions. Many people in Emden are members in sports clubs and spend their free time jogging or playing football. If you’re interested in water sports like sailing, surfing, or stand-up paddling, you won’t have to look very long for an opportunity. There are more clubs and course offerings than "fish in the sea"!

Running is also a very popular sport in Emden, as you’ll notice three times a year. The best-known running events in the city are the "Matjeslauf" (usually at the end of May) and the "Silvester-Lauf" on New Year’s Eve. And then there’s Germany "flattest ultra marathon", the "Ems-Jade-Lauf", which stretches from the Dollart all the way to Wilhelmshaven.

Interview with Susu from China

Susu Shi is 23 years old and comes from China where she studied Computer Science for two years. She is now enrolled in a three-year bachelor’s programme in Computer Science in Emden.

Susu Shi from China © Sebastian Rothe
Susu Shi from China . © Sebastian Rothe

Why did you decide to study in Emden?

At my university in China there are three partner universities, two of which are in Hannover and Emden. So I looked at how the degree programmes were structured, and I liked Emden’s the most. What’s more, Emden lies directly at the sea, and I love the sea.

What should students do to prepare for their trip to Germany?

Definitely learn the language. In my degree programme, all the courses are taught in German and none in English. And you have to be independent. You’re responsible for organising a lot by yourself and you have to be able to do it.

What kind of accommodation do you have in Emden?

I live with three other students in a flat share in a student hall of residence. One of my flatmates is a Chinese girl, but she studies a different subject than I do.

How do you pay for your living expenses?

I work at the university and offer language courses in Chinese. Many Germans want to learn my language because they want to go to China.

Jantje Vis © Sebastian Rothe
Jantje Vis . © Sebastian Rothe

What’s your favourite place in Emden?

I really like taking walks along the canal because from there you can look out over the sea. And right behind you is a forest where it’s nice and quiet.

What do you do in your free time?

The International Office offers many activities for foreign students, such as trips to Bremen, Lübeck or the island Borkum. We also meet with other students and sometimes cook meals together.

What do you like about Emden?

I like that it’s so quiet and small here. You have quiet places to study, and when you go into town, you always see people you know and say hello to each other. It’s not as anonymous here as it is in a big city like Hannover.

What surprised you about Germany?

The surroundings, for one thing – the buildings here are so different and nature, too. And secondly, the people – in China there are so many people everywhere. Here there are less. Oh yes, I was also surprised that the stores were closed on Sundays. I didn’t know that before.

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