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How to Study in Germany Even If You Don't Sprechen Deutsch

Study in Germany

What do fairy tale castles, beer in large metal steins, the Black Forest, and Oktoberfest all have in common? You guessed it, Germany! So put on your lederhosen and get ready to enjoy some of the “wurst” food you could imagine while you have a stellar study abroad experience in Deutschland.

What's that? You don't speak any German except for the occasional "Nein!" or heap of "schnitzel"? Fear not, non German speakers! For those students who aren't confident in their German language skills, there are plenty of programs taught in English all over this beautiful country. You'll just need to be a little more picky when you're selecting which program in Germany to study abroad with.

Check out the factors to consider when studying abroad in Germany without knowing a lick of German!

Language of Instruction

Let’s face it, not everyone goes to study abroad to perfect their language skills. Going for the cultural experience and life in a new place is just as important. Using a study abroad program allows you to tailor a program to fit what you want and make sure that learning in English is a priority. Finding a program that offers the majority of its courses in English is a great first step. Check out these study abroad opportunities in Germany to find one that meets your language-learning needs.

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You can also visit your school’s study abroad office to find out about partner universities in Germany. For even more options, you may be able to find another university in the U.S. that will provide the coordination of your study abroad experience.

Further, many German universities provide different options for varying levels of German-language abilities, including English instruction for absolute beginners; you can even choose whether to take courses alongside local German students or other international, English-speaking students. With a little extra research, you'll be able to find the perfect program that pairs survival German classes and other subject courses taught with English instruction.

Remember that there is no best option when it comes to choosing a study abroad experience; just choose the best one for you.

Your Housing Options

Let's not forget that the majority of the time that you spend abroad will actually be outside of the classroom instead of in it. While you may be tempted to find a program with courses in English and then halt your research, hold your horses. Choosing a comfortable living space, especially linguistically, can make or break your experience studying in Germany.

If you aren't hoping to gain longterm German language skills when abroad, it is probably in your best interest to avoid participating in a homestay. Homestays are reserved for students wanting an immersive language learning experience. And while you may miss out a whole slew of other benefits (including making longstand relationships with locals and deepening your understandings of their culture!), you can luckily cultivate similar friendships with your university peers or other German friends you'll pick up along the way.

Blutenberg in the wintertime

Choosing a dormitory, apartment, or house with other English speakers will make a good fit for you. Some study abroad programs will opt to let you choose between living with other American students or international students (where your common language will be English). If you're wanting a more culturally diverse experience, an international living arrangement is ideal. For those who are a little nervous about making friends or are hesitant to step too far out of their comfort zone, feel free to stick with your American cronies.

Living in a German dorm on campus is also an excellent way to meet locals your own age and have the international college experience. University life will be at your fingertips, and it will give you even more opportunities to get involved. The type of dorm will depend on the school, and it’s important to check whether you will be placed with only international students or mixed in with German natives. If you have to find an apartment on your own, a great option is a private shared flat (called Wohngemeinschaften in German, or just WG). Several students share a flat, including kitchen and bathroom, although each has his own room.

Program Location

Where does one live in the land of Bavarian beauty? Note that larger cities will be a more comfortable living environment than ones that are "off the beaten path" or set further afield. The more cosmopolitan the city, the more likely you will find familiar amenities, including other folks who can speak English comfortably.

Best Cities in Germany for Non-German Speakers
  • Berlin: As one of the largest and most affordable cities in Germany, Berlin provides the perfect backdrop for a study abroad experience. There are plenty of museums and cultural activities to keep any art and music lover busy for months. With an easily navigable public transportation system, it is easy to take in the entirety of the city during your semester abroad. Most international students in Berlin choose to focus their studies on Management, Administration, and International Business.
  • Munich: With a backdrop of the Bavarian Alps and the official home of Oktoberfest, Munich is a stunning and lively place to live (and a popular study abroad destination!). This is Germany at its finest. High tech and tradition meet in one city with an excellent job market which makes it a great place to get a foot in the door professionally. Study Media and Communication in Munich, and lessen your worries of things getting lost in translation. Plenty of English speakers to befriend here!
  • Hamburg: A slightly smaller city that still boasts an environment friendly to non-German speakers. If you are a fan of the water, this city is for you. With beaches and canals to paddle down in a boat, you can’t go wrong in Hamburg. Its close proximity to Denmark makes it a fantastic launching point for travel all over Europe. It’s a port city and a worldwide trading center full of great shopping spots, nightlife, and plenty of cultural attractions. Go to Hamburg to study Engineering, Management, or Media and Communications.

With its central location in Europe and ample access to English programs at universities, Germany is the perfect country to spend a summer, semester, or even a year. However, don't forget: part of living abroad is meeting new people. By living with German natives or interacting with students from other countries, you will gain access to elements of the culture that you may otherwise never see (and have a circle of friends right away!) Choose a city and program that pushes and challenges you in unexpected ways. Any program you choose will provide a wealth of cultural experiences and one of the most memorable times of your life. What are you waiting for?!

Psst! If you'd really like to make learning German your #1 priority while studying abroad, feel free to peruse our guide to studying German abroad!

Photo Credits: IES Abroad, Wikimedia, Gertrud K., and Erik Drost.
Erin Dowd

Erin is a New Jersey native who has spent time on 6 of 7 of the world's continents, some of which as a volunteer in both Tanzania and Honduras. Learn more about her travel adventures at Dowd Travels, Amster Dowd, or on Twitter @eedowd27 and Google+.