Living in a country where you can have both a good life and a career is a dream for many students. To make this happen, they plan their higher studies accordingly.
In recent years, Germany has become a popular international study hub, mostly for its tuition-free policy and excellent education quality. An increasing number of Bangladeshi students are pursuing their higher studies in the European country.
Tabib Ibne Mazhar, currently pursuing MSc in data science at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, said, "It is a very student-friendly country. Also, the quality of education is very high here."
According to student data published by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD—DeutscherAkademischerAustauschdienst) and the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science, the number of international students in Germany rose from 282,201 in 2013 to 374,583 in 2018 – an increase of 33 percent.
According to a report published in the media, the number of Bangladeshi students studying in German universities increased by 34 percent in 2018.
Easy application procedure
"There are two ways to apply to German universities. Students can either directly apply through the university website or uni-assist – a platform assessing international student applications for approximately 170 German universities," said Bangladeshi student Sheikh Minhaj Liaqat who is doing his masters in micro and nano systems at Technische Universität Chemnitz.
Generally, two to three semesters of study in the student's home country, coupled with, in some cases, work samples or aptitude test scores are sufficient to secure university admission in Germany, if the applicant is non-European.
Besides, universities require a decent International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score, at least a total band score of six, or German language skill test scores.
"As far as I have seen, Germany accepts graduates from almost all Bangladeshi universities," said Minhaj.
Need to study hard
"The standard of education is very tough here. One cannot pass just by cramming one or two weeks before the final exam. If you want to pass, you have to be attentive from day one of a new semester.
"Besides, a Bangladeshi student requires to study harder as we already lag behind European and German students due to our poor education standard," said Mazhar.
However, students can overcome this hurdle by following a routine life, and balancing between their job and study, assured both Mazhar and Minhaj.
Language, the only barrier
Minhaj and Mazhar said language could be a barrier to studying in Germany as one needs to know German to get odd jobs or work in shops in supermarkets.
"In supermarkets," said Mazhar, "all product names are written in German, and I had to face difficulties just to find salt."
"Hence, it will be the best for you if you have some basic knowledge of the German language."
The German government, however, has taken some initiatives to reduce the language barrier as it limits the pool of potential international students in Germany. The number of English-taught international study programmes has skyrocketed since the mid-2000s, mostly at the graduate level.
According to an official database of academic programmes provided by the German Rectors' Conference, between 2007 and 2013, the number of English-taught master's programmes jumped from less than 100 to more than 700 in 2013, before reaching 1,268 in 2019.
However, undergraduate programmes taught in English are still uncommon. Merely 233 such programmes were offered in Germany in 2019.
"Living expenses could vary depending on your lifestyle and where you live. In a big city like Berlin or Munich, the cost will be higher but is still affordable. Overall, the living cost is reasonable here compared to that in the US or Canada," said Mazhar.
"For instance, I live in Aachen, a city near Germany's borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, where you can get by with 100 euros a month for food if you cook your meals at home," he added.
Minhaj said, "I live in the eastern part of Germany where one can manage within 500 euros per month. In the western part of Germany, it will take 750-850 euros per month."
Tanzia Islam, an architect and one of the admins of the Facebook page named Bangladeshi Student and Alumni Association in Germany which has more than 95,000 members, strongly suggested avoiding agencies.
"People fall into traps and face troubles after coming to Germany if they come through agencies," said Tanzia, also a brand ambassador for germanprobashe, a blog where Bangladeshi students in Germany write about academic issues in the country.
Minhaz also recommended avoiding agencies and said, "There are several Bangladeshi groups on Facebook where people help students with any kind of queries for free. So, why should you waste money when you have a choice like that? Besides, the application procedures are straightforward."
"Through our group, we help students by providing advice and assist them with networking so that they can come here without hassles. Also, anyone can have answers to most of the commonly made queries by visiting the blog germanprobashe.
Germany is a very safe and secure place to live, particularly for women.
"My wife catches the bus at 4am to go to her workplace, but she never experienced anything unpleasant," said Mazhar, adding, "You just have to avoid a few places where drunk people hang out."
"Racism exists all over the world. Germany has the problem too, but not that much. It will not have a severe effect on you mentally or physically," he said.
Rules for working while studying
Students from outside the European Union member states are permitted to work for either 120 full days or 240 half days per year.
Self-employment is permitted only upon request and on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the immigration office – Ausländerbehörde – approves. Without this, non-EU students cannot indulge in gainful employment or freelancing during their studies.
The rules, however, are stricter for students who are in language or preparatory courses. They are only allowed to work during lecture-free periods, and only if they obtain permission from both the Federal Employment Agency and the Ausländerbehörde.
Students after graduation can stay in the country for up to 18 months and have gainful employment without restrictions.
Those that land a job in a field related to their degree – and that pays a minimum wage – are entitled to get the EU Blue Card, a residency permit that since 2012 has been available to international graduates and highly skilled workers in Germany.
It is valid for four years and allows holders to bring their spouses and children to Germany and apply for permanent residency after 33 months. It also opens pathways for citizenship and migration to other EU countries.
An applicant, however, must demonstrate adequate German language skills and find well-paid skilled employments for that.
Some notable scholarships for Bangladeshis
There are some scholarships for international students that offer tuition-free education in the country. The most popular among them are DAAD, Erasmus Mundus, and Deutschlandsti- pendium.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers international students a variety of scholarships or funds. Bangladeshi students can apply for this scholarship at the postgraduate level. Depending on the scheme, various benefits are available, including a monthly stipend. Students can quickly take a look at the DAAD scholarship database to check where they are qualified to apply by visiting this address: https://www2.daad.de/deutschland/stipendium/datenbank/en/21148-scholarsh...
The Erasmus Mundus scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships offered in Europe. All expenses, including the air fare, is covered. However, you need to apply for specific programmes that are covered by the scholarship. The European Commission provides this and Bangladeshi students can avail this at the post-
graduate level. To check out the courses, students can visit here.
Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellowship
The Einstein Foundation Berlin offers this fellowship, which is primarily a research-based scholarship and, as such, is renewable up to five years in different fields.Those who have already received the necessary funding for their studies can also apply for this fellowship. The details can be found in this address.
Heinrich Böll Scholarship
The Heinrich Bölll Foundation provides this scholarship where Bangladeshi students are eligible to apply, but knowing the German language is a prerequisite. Students can apply for master's programmes just before the starting of a semester via this address. For more details click here.
Carl Duisberg Scholarship
This fellowship programme is for those who are thinking of doing research in the fields of medical science, medical engineering, medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, and health economics. Anyone with a research project at the master's and PhD levels can receive this fellowship. Also, the Bayer Foundation offers a few more scholarships in various fields of science. The details can be found here.
The Dutch Stipendium can be applied for any subject from undergraduate to postgraduate level. It is a merit-based scholarship, and a recipient gets a stipend of 300 euros per month. The details are here.
Kofi Annan MBA Scholarship
Only students from developing countries, including Bangladesh, can apply for this scholarship for the MBA programme at the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin. This scholarship is given to five people every year. In addition to tuition fees, a monthly stipend is provided under this scholarship.
The details can be found here.