Firstly, why study in Germany?
There are a wide range of public and private universities. The German education system is excellent, and the quality of the degrees are excellent.
If you want to study abroad, Germany can be an excellent choice. Many of these university courses are offered in English as well as German.
Here is an expat interview with Sindy, who moved to Germany on a student visa.
At 24, Sindy decided to change her life. She applied for a Master’s degree. One small detail – she was living in Hong Kong, but she wanted to live in Europe. A Germany study visa allowed her to live to Germany. And, that gave Sindy the pathway to fulfil her dream of living in Europe. And, she’s living in Europe today. You can follow Sindy’s journey but visiting her blog.
Hong Kong is my home town. I was born and grew up there. Since Hong Kong was a British colony before, it is an international city. Hong Kong is a part of China now, but it runs a different system.
Where are you living?
I lived in Hong Kong until I was 24 years old. At 24, I decided to quit my job and enrolled in a master’s program in Berlin to study in Germany. I was lucky to get a job offer after my graduation. I have stayed in Germany since then. At the moment, I live in the Munich area with my husband, our toddler and two cats.
What led you to immigrate to Germany?
When I was young, I never wanted to leave Hong Kong. I thought Hong Kong was the best place on earth to live. During my bachelor’s study in Hong Kong, I had an exchange semester and spent 6 months in Prague, Czech republic. I fell in love with Europe. I went back to Hong Kong after my exchange semester, but I was unhappy in Hong Kong. All I wanted was to find a way to return to Europe. I was sure I’d find the best country to live in for me.
There are different reasons that I love Europe, mostly because of the culture. I think there is a much better work-life balance in Europe. People enjoy life. In Hong Kong, people live to work. In Europe, people work to live. European cities are beautiful and people spend a lot of time travelling around. I realized that this is the life that I want. I kept looking for ways to return to Europe.
In the end, I found a master’s program in Germany which was perfect for me. While I hadn’t intended to study in Germany, this was a way for me to live in Europe. It was a hard decision for me to quit my job in Hong Kong at that time and move to Germany. But this was one of the best decisions I made in my life.
What visas did you use to immigrate to Germany and was it difficult or easy to sort your study visa out?
I had a student visa when I arrived in Germany. Getting my Germany study visa was a stressful topic. I had to go to the German embassy in Hong Kong to sort it out. That part was not too complicated. However, after arriving in Germany, I had to go to the foreign visa offices many times due to different issues of the visa.
The challenging thing was that nobody from the office could speak English. It was a nightmare to go to the visa office in Germany and the staff was not that helpful. Luckily, I had all that settled with the help from my university and some other local friends.
What was the first impression of your new home?
I moved into a shared flat with a few others when I first arrived in Berlin. It was my first shared flat experience and I loved it. I think a shared flat is good for people who do not know anyone else in a new city.
I got to meet new friends, spent a lot of good time with my flatmates, and we supported each other in Germany.
Did you know many people in your new country when you moved there?
I moved to Germany all alone without knowing anyone before. Luckily, since I was studying my master’s program there, I got to know other people from the same university. My master’s program was in English, so there were many other international students like me.
That was good in terms of meeting new friends. Besides, I lived in a shared flat, and also joined German classes outside my university. That was how I met new friends.
However, it was more challenging meeting local friends since I didn’t speak German at the beginning. I found it hard to integrate into the local community. This can be a challenge for those who immigrate to Germany.
How did you settle in at the beginning?
The hardest thing when moving to Germany was to find a flat. It was unbelievable how difficult it was! In a big city like Berlin, many people want to move in there but there is a shortage of flats.
I lived in a hostel at the beginning for 2 weeks until I found a flat to move to. I was stressed out during the flat-hunting process. The fact that I couldn’t speak German made it more challenging.
After moving into my flat, I felt like I had settled down in my new home. And, I could start enjoying my new life in Germany.
How do you support yourself abroad?
I worked in Hong Kong for two years before moving to Germany. I used these savings to support my first year of living in Germany.
After my first year, I was lucky to get an internship opportunity in a company and I wrote my master’s thesis there. This helped to support my living during my study period in Germany.
Since my graduation, I have a full-time job which supports my living in Germany.
How do you spend your free time?
I spend a lot of free time travelling with my family. Germany is in the centre of Europe and it is easy to travel to different countries. I enjoyed road trips a lot. In the summer, there are a lot of great locations for hiking or biking. Besides travelling, I also love cooking and spending time with friends.
How did you meet people in your new home?
Now that I am working in Germany, I met most of my friends from the same company. I work in an international company and there are a lot of Expats like me. It is easy to connect with others.
Besides, I have a toddler and so it is easy to meet other moms in the playground or from the kindergartens. We have play dates with other families and that is a good way to meet new people.
Were you homesick? How did you manage that?
Yes, especially at the beginning. I had a lot of hardship in Germany because I could not speak German. I felt very lonely and I missed home, where my friends and family were.
When I was homesick, I called my best friend at home, and we could talk for hours. That helped a lot, as I could talk in my native language. My friends gave me a lot of encouragement to hang on there.
What do you miss from your old life?
The thing I miss most is to be close to my parents. They live in Hong Kong. I visited them at least once a year. I try to call them a few times a week. But it can be difficult due to the time difference.
What do you have in your new life that you never had in your home country?
Work-life balance. In Hong Kong, my whole life was working or studying. There was no time to relax. It was a super competitive environment. In Germany, I can be relaxed. I have time to think about what I want in life. It is much less competitive and money is not everything.
If you could go back in time to before you became an expat and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t worry too much. It is not possible to prepare every single detail ahead of time. You can deal with the challenges and tackle them one by one when they come.
What have you learned about yourself in this new life?
I have learned to become a more confident person. If I think about it, I made this all by myself. Finding a master’s program to study in Germany, moving to Germany, finding a flat, and a job.
No agency. No financial support from others. I am proud of my adventure. I realized that if I want something, I will try my best to go for it and I will make it.
Tell us about some of your highs and lows of being an Expat in Germany
The good thing about being an Expat is that I met a lot of new friends. I knew people from different parts of the world. I learned so much about different cultures from my international friends. It is not just about Germany.
The challenging thing about being an Expat for me was the language. German was not easy to learn. It was painful at the beginning when I couldn’t figure things out by myself due to the language barrier.
What do you miss most about home?
Chinese food. I know it is subjective, but I think Chinese food is the best food on earth. It is probably because I grew up eating it. There are not that many good Chinese restaurants in Germany.
Is there anything else you’d like to share for those with a wish to immigrate to Germany?
I met the love of my life in Germany, and we have a small family together. I have never thought that I would move to Germany, have a German husband and settle down in Germany. So, never say never. You never know what will come in your life.
What would you say to anyone considering an international move?
If going abroad is what you want, go for it. Don’t wait. If you wait, you will end up going nowhere. There is never a perfect time to move. Choosing to study in Germany changed my life forever. Check out our Guide to Moving to Germany for all the information you need to follow Sindy.