Ulm : A city full of history and innovation

Ulm lies in the heart of southern Germany, a modern city with a rich, historic tradition. Students in Ulm can enjoy all of the benefits of a university town, taking walks through the historic city centre, relaxing on the bank of the Danube River, and taking exhilarating excursions into nature.

by Janine Funke

Panorama © Jean-Claude Baron Dardenne
Panorama . © Jean-Claude Baron Dardenne

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
329 €
In the “Tiergarten” you can view the Danube River from below!

Welcome to Ulm

As you approach the city of Ulm, you are sure to spot the 161.53-m tall spire of the Ulm Minster from afar. The backdrop of the city is dominated by this famous landmark, which happens to be the tallest church tower in the world. The square in front of the minster is a popular meeting place for residents of Ulm. It’s also the location of the marketplace which sells fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms several times a week. The construction of the church tower was completed in 1890 which is why Ulm was commemorating the 125th anniversary of its landmark in 2015.

The streets of downtown Ulm radiate away from the minster in a colourful mixture of historic buildings and modern architecture. Walking through town, you’ll pass several historic sites, like the Schiefes Haus (Crooked House), the Metzgerturm and the Schwörhaus, before arriving at the city library. With a glass façade in the form of a pyramid, the library’s futuristic style adds some spice to the atmosphere of the city. Continuing onward, you’ll soon arrive at the Fishermen’s Quarter. This part of town used to be inhabited by craftspeople in the Middle Ages. You should definitely spend some time here enjoying the historic atmosphere with a coffee or a cool beverage.

Ulm Minster © Heike Stangl
Ulm Minster . © Heike Stangl

If you live in Ulm, there’s no way you can miss the “Ulm Sparrow”. You will find the bird displayed on street signs, at bakeries and even as statues on some buildings, painted in various colours. The sparrow is a symbol of Ulm and can be found, for example, at the entrance of the Ulm Minster. Bakeries sell a pretzel-like pastry in the shape of a sparrow called “Laugenspatz.Even the football team of the Ulm Sports Club 1846 calls itself the “Ulmer Spatzen” (Ulm Sparrows), so it’s a word you should definitely remember!

Living in Ulm

City Library © Noack/DAAD
City Library . © Noack/DAAD

Ulm used to be an important city in the Middle Ages as it lay at the intersection of several land and sea trading routes. Today Ulm serves as a connection between major cities in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. From here, you can quickly travel to Stuttgart, Munich and Nuremberg by train, and just a bit further to Lake Constance or the Alps. You should reserve several weekends to discover all that southern Germany has to offer, for example, on a trip to the Swabian Alps.

Ulm’s close relationship to other cultures is expressed in numerous festivals, like the Danube Festival with representatives from all of the countries through which the Danube River flows, and the French Wine Festival. If you’d like to get to know the local culture of the city better, you should attend one of these festivals during the summer.

My tip

Take a trip to the Ulm “Tiergarten” (zoo). They have an extraordinary aquarium there, in which you can walk through a Plexiglas tunnel to view the Danube River from below!

If you need a break from studying, you can take advantage of the large selection of sports offered at the university, such as rock climbing in the Boulder Hall or jogging along the Danube. Many students go out to numerous bars downtown in the evening, for example, Rosebottel, Café Rosi and Stiege. One of the year’s cultural highlights is the Ulm Summer Theatre Festival. Popular open-air musicals and theatre productions are staged at the Wilhelmsburg every year. There are other open-air events held in various parks around town, such as the Glacis Park Neu-Ulm.

Interview with Sarah from Egypt

Twenty-three-year-old Sarah Faltaous comes from Cairo and is working toward her Master of Science in Cognitive Systems.

Sarah from Egypt © Noack/DAAD
Sarah from Egypt . © Noack/DAAD

Why did Germany appeal to you as a place to study?

I studied at the German University of Cairo where I had already come in contact with the German language and culture and lifestyle. After my bachelor’s, I wanted to get my master’s degree abroad. The universities in Germany are very good and there are no tuition fees, so that appealed to me very quickly. And the application process is relatively simple.

How did you prepare for your stay in Germany?

My preparation was a little stressful. I received the notification of admission very late and I only had one week to move to Ulm. That was a big step for me because I wasn’t familiar with the German system and hardly had any assistance. Once I arrived in Ulm, I went to the International Office and they helped me tremendously. Through the university I was able to find an apartment later. I also received help from some friends from Egypt who were already living in Germany. We’ve built up a real network of international students here, where everyone helps one another. I had taken several German courses when I was in Egypt, but I still couldn’t speak very well. I plan on taking a leave of absence for a semester so I can just take German courses and learn the language really well.

What surprised you the most about Germany?

I had heard a lot about German punctuality before I came, but I never imagined that everything runs by the minute. The bus comes in 43 minutes, not in 40 or 45. And sure enough, the bus arrives in 43 minutes. I experienced a real culture shock at the supermarket check-out. In Egypt there’s an employee who packs your bags for you, but in Germany you have to pack everything yourself and as quickly as possible, so that you can pay without holding up the queue. I found that quite stressful at first.

Is Ulm a good place to study?

Absolutely. The city is exactly the right size. There are plenty of supermarkets, bars, a cultural programme and lots of nature. People here are very friendly and helpful, I like that a lot. At first I thought the Germans were very serious, but it’s not true at all. People here have a great sense of humour. Finally, the university is very good and that’s the most important thing in the end.

How do you finance your studies?

I finance my studies on my own. There are many jobs available, I found one at Daimler. Living in Germany is very inexpensive and since I don’t have to pay tuition fees, I only need to work a few hours part-time to cover my costs.

Do you want to stay in Germany after you graduate?

I haven’t made any plans yet. My master’s programme runs one more year and then I’ll have to decide. It also depends on whether I find a job. But I could definitely imagine it. But first I have to learn to speak better German!

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