Grace - University of Tubingen

B Journalism/Arts
Semester 2, 2022
There were many difficult and frustrating moments but I survived each one by myself and came out the other side independent and capable.



I knew I wanted to go to Germany as I had been studying the language since high school. In 2020, after much googling, I decided on the University of Tübingen. The photos of the quaint, colourful houses along the river (which I now know to be called the Neckar) combined with the fact that it is a small university town felt like the perfect opportunity to experience life in another country without getting overwhelmed by another city. Then the pandemic hit, and my exchange was cancelled. It was devastating, especially after years of dreaming of living in Germany. But three exchange applications later, I was finally approved to go in Semester 2, 2022. It took a lot of perseverance and hope to not give up on my dream. I was motivated by a desire to see the world after having formative years restricted by the pandemic. I wanted to improve my language and learn to function as an independent adult in another country.


Personal Development

Before I left for exchange, I had just undergone a difficult period in my mental and physical health. As someone with diagnosed anxiety, I had concerns about leaving everything I knew to start from zero in a foreign country. But surprisingly, this six months away from home was the best thing I could have done. I proved much stronger and more resilient than I thought. There were many difficult and frustrating moments but I survived each one by myself and came out the other side independent and capable. I found however that being away from my loved ones made our bond even stronger, and I felt closer than ever to them despite being on the other side of the world. I reconnected with my second language, Japanese, as I made several Japanese friends in Germany. As a result, my Japanese improved nearly as much as my German. I went from barely being able to hold a conversation in German to performing in a German-language theatre production. I saw so many new sights and experienced new cultures. Having this opportunity has been such a privilege and has equipped me with skills and self-confidence to take into my future.


Academic Development

My academic performance has always been a strong priority for me in my life. But on exchange, I wanted to focus on developing as a person and letting the studies come second. I took five courses during my exchange: three German language courses, a political science course, and a film course in English. The German language courses were very helpful and I made good friends through them. The political science course was very challenging as it was a masters course, but it was also incredibly informative. I found the workload manageable and still had time for plenty of travel and occasionally accidentally sleeping through my classes. November was very assessment heavy, but once that was over I did not have many assessments to worry about. The main difference with the German system is that attendance is mandatory and more than two absences means you fail the class. I enjoyed how the university was the town, so to speak - many of the historic buildings in Tübingen were also used for university classes so I was able to explore the town a fair bit.


Professional Development

During my exchange, I acquired many attributes that will be beneficial in my career. Being able to speak three languages will be useful moving into an increasingly globalised job market. I also reached out to a news organisation for work experience during my exchange and built professional connections. I worked with the producer of Deutsche Welle's 'Inside Europe' podcast to produce a short audio piece on the energy crisis for students in Germany. I have already used this piece in my portfolio to demonstrate that I have published journalism experience outside of Australia. Having lived in Europe and taken a political science course there, I now better understand the mechanics and nuances of life there. It has opened my eyes to how complicated and full of history the rest of the world outside Australia is. Thanks to my exchange, if I chose to move to Europe I would be able to find work through my connections. In terms of soft skills, I am much more resilient, self-assured, perseverant, and independent.



I had the unique situation of having my exchange cancelled three times due to the pandemic. The silver lining of this was that I had many years to save up money for it, so I had around $7000 that I deposited in a new bank account for my exchange. However, I was very lucky in that I received $2000 from UQ and also received the Baden-Württemberg scholarship which totally transformed my experience. The BWS scholarship connected me with a network of other scholarship recipients, organised paid-for excursions and activities, put me up in the nicest accommodation in town, as well as provide me with a monthly stipend of 450 Euros. It was without a doubt the best part of my exchange; the people I met and experiences I had through absolutely made my exchange. For any student going on exchange in Germany, I highly recommend going for this scholarship. I also wrote down every purchase I made in my notes app so I could keep track of my spending. I found that a weekend trip away (I did Strasbourg, Munich, Cologne, Berlin) might cost between 200-400 Euros. The Flixbus is the cheapest way to travel if you don't mind long hours on a bus, I got to France for 8 Euros and three hours, and Berlin in eleven hours for around 40 Euros. I like to cook a lot so my grocery shops were more expensive than most at around 50 Euros a week. My accommodation was free thanks to my scholarship, but most other students would pay over 300 Euros a month for student accommodation in the outer parts of town. Coffee is a lot more expensive. All in all, with the money I had saved up and received from scholarships, I probably spent around $14 000 for the semester. However, I was fairly liberal with my spending so you could do it cheaper. One thing to keep in mind is that Germany is very much a cash-dominant country and 80% of your purchases will be in cash.



The BWS scholarship was phenomenal and gave me financial freedom during my exchange. It meant I didn't have to worry about rent, and also gave me 450 Euros each month which I used to go on trips to different cities. It also provided me with a community of other exchange students who I lived with and became close friends with. Some of the activities the scholarship put on were pretzel making, visiting the hot spas, seeing a German opera, eating traditional Schwabian food, and going to medieval Christmas markets. Those experiences were arguably more priceless than the cash. The money from UQ was also very useful and helped me pay for my insurance, bond, and other administrative fees. I highly recommend applying for any funding or grants available, as that money can really make a difference when you're living independently in a foreign country.



In Tübingen the main student accommodation is called WHO, a 15-minute bus ride from the centre of the town. I applied for rooms there, but people with the BWS scholarship were allocated to the Prinz Karl dormitory. Prinz Karl is an old hotel in the middle of the Old Town of Tübingen, meaning its cobblestones, thousand-year-old churches, bells and cafes all around. It was very convenient as the lower level was one of the university's cafeterias so I could go downstairs for a cheap lunch (4 euros). All my classes were in walking distance, and there were plenty of bars in the vicinity as well (I recommend the cocktail bar Asmara). The main station was also a ten-minute walk away which made travel away from Tübingen quite convenient. I was living with other BWS scholarship recipients: each floor had about 7 students with one German student who acted as our 'tutor'. We had our own rooms with a sink, and shared a kitchen and bathrooms. The size of the rooms varied significantly, my room was very large whereas my friend's room was about half that size. I became quite close with the people on my floor and the floor below and I would often use the kitchen as a study space or social area. Each floor has a 'Putzplan', a cleaning arrangement which changes every week, however there were also cleaners that came every fortnight. Having such a comfortable space without paying for rent was amazing. To future students, I'd once again recommend getting the scholarship as the accommodation is unbeatable. If that isn't possible, I would recommend getting a room in WHO as it is closest to the student club and is where most students live. There you would also probably live with German students and get more of an authentic German living experience.



The highlight of my trip was making such wonderful friends from all around the world. I am so grateful for them and they made my experience so full of laughter. I can't choose a single highlight, but going on weekend and day trips with these friends were a lot of fun. We once took four buses to the Black Forest to go to the Christmas market there but didn't realise it was snowing. Half of us weren't wearing snow-ready clothing and our shoes were too thin. It was absolutely freezing, but one of my friends suggested putting plastic bags on our feet to stop snow getting in. The one problem was that Germany is a very eco-friendly country and there aren't many plastic bags around. After much asking around, I found a Chinese restaurant that gave us heaps of plastic bags and we bagged our feet and got on with our day in the snow. It was so much fun, and we had heaps of Glühwein and sausages. On the way back, we were all so exhausted we fell asleep instantly on the first bus. When we woke up an hour later, we had gone in the wrong direction. It took us five hours and another four buses to get back to Tübingen. This was just one of the many wonderful days I had on my exchange.


Advice/Top Tips


I would recommend the following:

  • Apply for the Baden-Württemberg scholarship.
  • Save up at least $6000
  • Gtart the application process EARLY! Do lots of research to make sure you don't miss key dates like applying for accommodation
  • Get used to using cash
  • Be aware that German bureaucracy is a paper nightmare
  • Bring a power bank with you everywhere
  • Use Aldi Talks gift cards as a SIM card company, don't connect your bank account (I learnt this the hard way and lost 80 euros)U Be aware when travelling, keep valuables secure
  • Get involved in any and all opportunities that are presented to you!
  • Many Germans speak English, but learn the basics to be polite. The most useful phrase is "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"