I have this post in my drafts folder entitled “Where To Begin”. It details all the chaos (some good, other bad) that has occurred in my life since you last heard from me December 21, 2014. I cannot believe it has been six months. It is really difficult to find the right words to come back to a space I loved (and still do) and then just abandoned without explanation. Posts regarding the chaos will come with time, but I have finally found the words thanks to an article published by Franz Strasser on BBC entitled “How US students get a university degree for free in Germany”. Several people shared this article with me (thank you for thinking of me, by the way) and I was eager to read it, interested in hearing what others have to say about my current academic pursuits. As I read through the article, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the financial inaccuracies reported. The article did not have a comments section (although I just found the author’s Twitter and he is certainly a sight for sore eyes, but I digress…) so I am here to set the record straight.
For those unfamiliar with me and my blog, I want to briefly mention my credentials to discuss this topic. Namely, I am a masters student funding my own studies at the Technische Universität München, a public institution in the heart of Munich, so I have first-hand knowledge about the costs of pursuing an education in the city.
I took a screenshot (below) of the table in the article for your reference, which sums of the reported costs of living in Germany. Since I am a student in Munich at the same university as Hunter, I will be specifically referencing his column.
Let’s begin with row A, rent.
There are several things wrong with this picture. First, it shows here Munich costs less than Freiburg. This is completely inaccurate; it is well-known that Munich is the most expensive city to live in in Germany. Hunter’s video briefly shows that he pays “€280 for an apartment in Garching, Bavaria”. Garching, home to TUM Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics und Informatics, is a town located north of Munich and this is a key fact that should be emphasized. Hunter does not live in Munich, he lives in Garching, where he studies. I am also going to go out on a limb here and say that Hunter does not pay that for an “apartment”, but rather student housing. Student housing is certainly an affordable option, which you can likely get into after applying and waiting a semester or two (but as a masters student steer clear).
A more accurate monthly rent to strive for as student in Munich (not Garching) is €500. This will get you a room in a WG (shared flat) in the city. For the sake of transparency, I pay €580/month.
We can skip health insurance, as €80 is accurate and it is pretty killer health insurance.
On to row C, semester fee*.
It says clearly in the article that Hunter pays €111/semester and this is correct. However, this amount does not include transportation costs. The MVV semester ticket costs an additional €146.50 per semester. This is still a fantastic deal, but it is not included in your semester fees.
I also cannot go without mentioning, as my friend Jay Malone does in the following, that Germany universities are completely state-supported and therefore pretty “bare bones”. You will not have your on-campus state-of-the-art gym and swimming pool like you were used to at your bachelor’s university (but you’ll get over it).
I cannot comment on miscellaneous at €100 as this varies too individually.
For planning sake, living on €620 per month in Munich is very ambitious and I would say damn near impossible. The woman in the video studying in Freiburg says she plans to live on €400 per month, which is also absurd. I recommend budgeting €1000/month for your expenses in Munich (and about €800 for Freiburg). This, for me, is a pretty tight, but livable budget. €1000 also happens to be about exactly what you can earn after-tax working 20 hours/week at at decent student job in Munich.
Other Costs to Consider
An additional note I want to make, which was not mentioned in Strasser’s article, is regarding the residence permit (visa), which is required for your stay while studying in Germany. The permit is relatively easy to come by once you have the paperwork together, but you will need €8000 in your German bank account as proof of financial resources. While this money does not have to be directly spent, you will need it sitting in an account somewhere and print an account statement to bring to the local Ausländerbehörde in order to obtain your residence permit. The actual visa, which goes in your passport, will cost you €60.
Other costs to consider: Internet (€5 – €15/month), cell phone contract (€15 – €40/month), third party liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) (€5/month), class materials (no need to buy books, but some classes will require buying cases, for example), purchasing a bicycle, and long-distance travel expenses.
Yes, studying in Germany is extremely affordable. When you compare it to the United States, it does even seem free. The costs of studying in Germany are incredibly low, so I found it unnecessary to reduce them even further. Therefore, I wanted to share the actual costs of studying in Germany to squash any false perceptions in case you are saving to come study in Germany.
While your education will surely be world-class (available in the US) and significantly cheaper (not available in the US), do not forget that your flight home for Christmas will not be cheaper 😉
If you are interested in studying in Germany, the DAAD is the best resource I can offer.