Not everything goes smoothly all the time when you are studying at university, nor is it always as straightforward as expected. And sometimes it’s obvious from the outset that there will be challenges. So here are a few tips for finding help and support.
In principle, people with a disability or chronic illness should have equal access to a degree programme. This is firmly anchored in the higher education laws of Germany’s federal states. Nonetheless, difficulties are often encountered in practice. Help is available, however.
When you apply for a place at university, you may be able to submit a special application to have your average grades raised or waiting times shortened; in cases of particular hardship you may even be given a place immediately. Generally this will require medical reports and proof of your status, so you should ensure that you have these ready in good time.
Compensation for disadvantages is available in Germany if your disability or chronic illness means you are unable to meet particular requirements for your degree programme or exams or if you require more preparation time. Apply to the examination office if this is the case.
Some higher education institutions have service centres for barrier-free access; they can provide you with any technical aids you may require.
At nearly all universities and student service organisations you can seek information from the advisers for students with disabilities and chronic illnesses. You can find the address on the university website or via the Higher Education Compass (click on the button “Instituional unit”).
To get the support you need, you should contact your university’s advice centre well before beginning your studies.
The website of the Deutsches Studentenwerk has a link to a handbook entitled “Studium und Behinderung” (only in German) that contains lots of important information.
The good news is that most student service organisations offer childcare for students at or near to their higher education institution. And opening hours are tailored to your study times. The childcare centres are also able to look after small children under the age of one year.
If you are from an EEA country or Switzerland and have already been living in Germany for some time, you are entitled to regular financial support in the form of child benefit. If your partner is an employee subject to social insurance contributions or has a settlement or residence permit that allows them to work, you may also be granted child benefit even if you are from another country.
The same applies to parental benefit, which the parents of babies and infants can receive even if they had no previous income and are studying. The basic parental benefit is at least 300 euros per month and depends among other things on how much income you have.
Child benefit and parental benefit are not provided automatically, so you will need to apply for them. Your individual entitlement will be checked.
Check with your Familienkasse (Family Benefits Office) whether you are eligible for support (in German only).
It may seem a long way off, but it’s a good idea to give a bit of thought to what you will do once you have successfully completed your studies.
As a university graduate, your career prospects in Germany are very good. Germany has a stable economy and companies always need well trained and highly qualified staff.
If you come from a third country you will have 18 months after graduation during which to find employment in Germany that reflects your qualifications. As usual, you will need to apply to the foreigners’ registration office to have your residence permit extended while you seek employment or set up a business of your own. Incidentally, you can also do any other type of work during this time.
Once you have worked for two years after graduating in a job for which you are qualified, you can even be granted a permanent residence permit for Germany.
If you come from the European Union, the freedom of movement principle applies, so you can live and work here.
International Office: this is the first and most important point of contact for international students. You will get all the information you need for your first steps in Germany here. The International Office can be found on your university’s website or via the Higher Education Compass.
Student service organisation (Studierendenwerk): this is an important point of contact and support when it comes to finding a place to live, childcare, social issues, psychological advice or financial problems: www.studentenwerke.de.
Student representation (Studierendenvertretung): the general student representation body (known as AStA for short) generally offers a wide-ranging programme of advice and support for people experiencing difficulties in their lives, and can also provide legal advice. You will find it on your university’s website or via the Higher Education Compass.
(International) student-run groups: these groups address higher education policy and are a place to meet like-minded people. They organise joint events and get-together events, especially at the start of the semester.
Good mental health: together with the international non-profit organisation Irrsinnig Menschlich e. V., a number of universities offer (online) forums on the subject of mental health: www.irrsinnig-menschlich.de.
Buddy programme: Buddies can help you get to know the university, advise you on everyday problems and (depending on the higher education institution) may help you deal with official formalities. To find out whether your university has a buddy programme, contact the international office.
Online community: the latest information and testimonials, useful tips and interesting recommendations from and for international students can be found at Study in Germany.
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