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How is the life of Indian students in Germany?

Updated: May 11, 2020

In one word : TOUGH.

Having met sufficient number of Indian students, I have realised that this is a common theme in the initial years of coming to Germany.

Let’s take the case of a middle class student in India, named Rahul.

Rahul did his bachelors from a decent Indian college. College was fun, all about making friends and relations, going to parties and spending time on social media, enjoying the freedom of college life he always dreamed of. Courses in the college have been same for years, if not decades. The seniors told what questions will appear in the exams and hence, the exams were a breeze. Rahul had the time of his life in college.

Like most of his peers, he aspires for a great career after his degree. In the final year though, the reality starts to set in. Placements dont seem to be going too well. Even if companies come for placements, the salaries are not good enough. Starting salary of 30k-40k INR per month can not sustain the dream of the life Rahul had.

Looking around, Rahul notices a lot of ads about education abroad. With promises of hi-tech campus, smiling students and a promising “International degree and career”, this looks like a sure shot bet.

Some months later, (usually with some “guidance”), Rahul lands admission in a college in Germany (mainly due to free education there).

This is where the reality hits.

  • Language : Rahul was guided and hence took admission in an English taught course. It was too much of effort to learn the German language from India (he might have done A1 or A2, which keeps him pumped). Landing in Germany, Rahul realises that this a very basic level and does not help him too much to enjoy German life.

In the class, its a breeze since most of the students are International. This means that Rahul does not focus on learning language, rather starts looking for short cuts (explained below). The entire duration of course (1 or 2 years) passes by without substantial improvement in German language,

  • Money/Finance : Although Rahul came with a blocked account and some funds, its not enough to live the life he wants. Rahul is allowed to works specific hours to earn some living expenses. This is huge setback for Rahul. He assumed that he will be able to work enough in order to pay for education, live the life of his dreams and then save some. Most of his peers in other popular student destinations are doing this. This makes life a little more tough for Rahul in Germany. Due to this Rahul starts looking for shortcuts to earn money.

This means, that instead of focusing on learning German and improving his skills, Rahul is looking for shortcuts to make money. Rahul starts working odd jobs without a contract for cash, getting exploited (despite the fact that some students have been on the verge of being deported for working more than allowed hours).

  • Network : Rahul was just too happy to be in Germany. He ignored the language and the need to interact with the students, either from Germany or other countries. It was all about Indian food, friends parties and movies. This close group gave him a feeling of comfort of not missing his family and Indian friends. Sharing accomodation, classes and other interests made him realize that there is no need to move out of his comfort zone.

It is always nice to have a familiar people around, some that you can trust. But, Rahul did not realise how important it is for him to be professionally networked. Most of the networking events in the college and city were ignored in the interest of travelling n having a good time.

Lack of network hits hard in the next point….

  • Jobs : The one thing that Rahul came to Germany for. And this also turns out to be pretty difficult to get. No one told Rahul that there is not concept of campus placements in Germany. Also, the college Rahul enrolled in, does not have a good network with the German companies. Due to this, very few companies are invited for the career day. Also, all these companies come and talk only in German. Most of the jobs he wants to apply online for are also asking for German language proficiency.

Rahul notices that his classmates who worked hard to learn German, are starting conversation with the recruiters. Most of his classmates are introvert and lack the language skills. Due to this, there is a growing sense of frustration among Rahul about his career. More so, since he paid a good amount of fees and living expenses for this education and degree.

  • Culture and climate : Rahul comes from part of India, where winters are not so severe. Germany winters are something new for him. Rahul is surprised that its not day till about 8.30am in winters and becomes dark by about 3.30pm. There is a lack of sun for most of the winters. Due to climate changes, snow is also not falling, which usually makes the winters bit better than the usual grey, cloudy ones.

This weather takes a toll on Rahul as he is towards the ends of his education with no job offers in hand. He has done internships and been a working student in different companies, but none offered him a full time job. This is not the life he imagined when coming to Germany, having seen all those smiling students in the advertisements.

While the name of the character is fictional, the facts are not. I recently heard from a student that almost 40% of the students go back to India after failing to find a job in Germany.

There is nothing wrong in aspiring for an international career. Keep in mind that it requires sincere and consistent hard work. There is nothing wrong in being close to Indians in your city. At the same time, do not completely ignore the locals and other international students. There is nothing wrong in speaking your mother tongue with your friends, but learn the local language as most of the jobs are in German.

At the end of the day, do not expect high level knowledge of your subjects will get you through a job interview. German interviews are focused on depth and knowing the subject matter. Hiring managers will not hire anyone if they do not find the suitable candidates.

Be realistic in your expectations when coming to Germany to study. As a fresher student, with generic skills, you do not have much leverage when it comes to jobs.

It always helps to have a mentor, who has worked and lived in Germany for some of the best brands. For personal consultation with Arun Mahajan, book a time with him.

Not for Reproduction without authorisation

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