Apart from the obvious differences of languages and German universities being almost free, there are quite a lot of nuances in the systems that make for a whole new experience.
One of the best things about doing a year abroad is experiencing a different culture. I was looking at my year abroad posts the other day and I noticed that while I've mentioned things here and there in my updates, I haven't written specifically about the differences in daily life between Germany and England, so I thought I'd write a bit about how the two countries compare.You may not think it, but there are actually quite a few variations in the culture - I didn't even think there'd be a culture shock when I moved here but oh, there really was. Experiencing a different university was so interesting and looking back I'm so glad I chose to split my year abroad and study for the first half.
The way courses are structured and run are very dissimilar, but then university and courses can vary even within the same country, so I'm going to talk more about the more general 'student life' differences, but if you have any questions about uni in Germany and what to expect, please feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to help!
If you're going on a year abroad in Germany soon or are just curious about how a German and British university experience is different, then this post will hopefully interest you.
Knocking on the desks at the end of a lecture
I remember being told about this in one of my GCSE classes way back then, but honestly it still took me by surprise when at the end of one of my lectures everyone started knocking on the tables. It's the equivalent of clapping at the end of a lecture in England, except they seem to do it a lot more often here.
Different semester times
I actually didn't really experience this, as Mannheim is very similar to British uni term times in that the first term is finished before Christmas. In every single other university in Germany though semesters start later (like October time) and carry on over Christmas until around February. They finish much later in the summer too. Generally, there are 2 long semesters as opposed to 3 slightly shorter terms like in Britain.
No Student Union as you know it
This is the one thing that I think really stood out and changes the whole dynamic of student life between the two countries. That's a big statement I know. The SU is a big part of most British universities. There's usually a large, dedicated building with restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, advice centres, clubs, you name it. They also enable societies (does Warwick still hold the claim of most societies at one uni? Who knows) and organise a lot of events. There are similar 'organisations' in Germany, like VISUM at Mannheim which organises socials and trips for international students, but there's no societies as such. Sports clubs tend to be run by outside organisations and not by students. So there's definitely a diffence but there are still lots of opportunites to meet people in German unis (if you look out for them)!
British universities should have these. I know we have restaurants/cafes in the SU but they're not quite the same. The mensa is like a school cafeteria, not the most amazing food quality but soo cheeaap and great for meeting people for lunch.
Free travel cards
I don't know about your uni but Warwick certainly doesn't give out free public transport season tickets. Petition for a free Stagecoach pass? Anyone? Mannheim and many other universities give out a Semesterticket for students so they can travel on public transport in the region of the University. This probably saved me more money than the semester contribution itself! (The only thing you have to pay at German universities – around €70 a semester – they still can't get over our fees in England)
Classes start earlier
Imagine classes starting earlier than 9am. There would be an uproar at Warwick that's for sure.
Germans have less reservations about putting their hand up in a lecture
I think there's still some sort of stigma in England about answering questions in lectures. Maybe it's the fact that as a country we are generally more introverted, or maybe it stems from the childhood fear of being the teacher's pet/boffin/nerd/whatever other names there are. German's just don't seem to worry about this, which is nice, as it definitely makes lectures less awkward when the questions are actually being answered. There is also the fact that for a lot of classes you are graded on participation...
Grades are done differently
German's have a different grading system to what we're used to. It's more similar than the American system, but definitely not identical. There's no letters in the German grading system. The best grade conversion table I found was here though there's still not the British 1st, 2:1, etc class system on it, but you can work that out from the percentage. I'm still chuffed with my 1.3 for my Brand and Product Management module and a 1.0 for a presentation for Practical Marketing *insert nail flick emoji*. Because there's a bigger range of results, I get the impression that Germans take their grades much more seriously.
I think the biggest difference between British and German university is the attitudes of students and student culture. I'd be so interested as to how this compares again with American university! Students in Germany seem to take their work MUCH more seriously, never skip class etc. University to them means education. In Britain there is much more of a 'student life' - it's not justabout lectures and exams, but the sports clubs and societies and living in halls and socialising. Even though I really enjoyed my time at a German university, I'm looking forward to returning to my uni in England!
Have you ever experienced 2 different unis? Did you notice a difference?