Nicholas - Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

B. Information Technology / Arts
Semester 2, 2014

Academic experience

I took 5 courses in Tübingen, all completely in German, and all really worthwhile- a 3-week intensive language course before the semester started, an advanced grammar and style course, Contemporary German Literature, Intercultural Competence Development and a maths course (Numerical Analysis). The biggest challenge was definitely my maths course- while it was cool doing a course with actual Germans instead of exchange students, I’ve never found a course more difficult in my life. The fact that the lectures were all in German certainly helped my language skills, but meant I had to do a massive amount of work to understand.

To be fair, it was worth about twice as many credits as each of my other courses because of the workload, which is a difference in the German system. They also have an thing called a 'Seminar': a tute-sized class based on discussion or group work, but taught by a lecturer and sometimes a course in its own right. 
A disappointing thing for me was the lack of information available when choosing courses outside of the German-as-a-Foreign-Language department. It was a nightmare trying to find an appropriate maths course, because at least in the maths faculty they don't have course profiles and often don't even say how many credits a course is. It turns out some additional information does exist, but it wasn’t at all easy to find. But once I had my courses chosen, I mostly enjoyed all of them quite a lot.

Personal experience

I think the biggest things I got out of my exchange were increased independence and confidence. I was constantly being thrown into situations where help wasn’t readily available and forced to rise to the challenge, which was definitely painful at times, but made me grow so much as a person. This also meant I developed some unexpected skills-my flatmates complimented me on my cooking several times, which has never happened in Australia. On top of that, I was blown away by how much and how quickly my German improved, as well as my understanding and appreciation of the differences in other cultures. That was probably helped by actually meeting people from other countries- another thing I took back from exchange is a global circle of friends. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to travel much, but I did have the privilege of visiting places bursting with history like Berlin and London, and took a sobering walk through a concentration camp- something well worth doing if you're in Europe, even if it's not really a fun day out.


Like most students at my uni, I lived in student accommodation, and that was a great experience for me. Although a lot of exchange students ended up living with other internationals, I was lucky enough to live with four Germans, and while that was a little difficult at first, they were all really nice and it did wonders for my conversational skills! We were off campus, but the places I had class in were 15 or 20 minutes away by bus, so it was really easy to get around. Although we shared a kitchen and bathrooms, I still had my own room, and I also found it really valuable to have a little section of Germany that was my own space, even though I was so far from family and friends.


View from the Sächsische Schweiz (mountain range in Saxony)
View from the Sächsische Schweiz (mountain range in Saxony)

I think in the end I spent around €3600 while I was actually in Germany (~$5200). Rent accounted for just under half of that, though transport was easy because Tübingen has semester bus passes for students- something like €70 for the whole semester. Food is generally cheaper than in Australia, and they have government-subsidised university cafeterias called 'Mensen' ('Mensa' when singular) where you can get a filling lunch for €2.85, which was pretty awesome, cause they're a great place to just eat lunch at with friends.
I didn't manage to travel all that much, but it can be pretty cheap as long as you book several weeks in advance and don't mind youth hostels! I got a bus from Tübingen to Leipzig for like €10, and you can get trains almost anywhere in Germany, though they're a little more expensive.

Professional development and employability

Even though increased employability wasn't a factor of exchange that I'd even considered, I think I unintentionally learnt several relevant skills, like perseverance, time management and independence. My main reason for doing exchange was to learn to speak German properly, and I’m still astonished at how much I’ve improved. Although I generally achieved good grades for German at UQ, conversational speaking was always a massive challenge to me. In Australia, it was so easy to switch to English whenever I wasn’t sure how to say something, but in Germany, I pushed myself not to do that, and it paid off. Finding out about other cultures has also given me a much broader perspective on my studies.


A German friend I met in Brisbane last year invited me to have Christmas with her family in a village near Leipzig. It was a wonderful experience and one I feel privileged and blessed to have had.

Top tips

  • Exchange is expensive, so think about why you actually want to do it. If you want to learn a language (which is the reason I went) or expand your horizons then I honestly can't recommend it enough- my German would never have got to this level in Australia. 
  • DO THE START KURS. It's a 3-week intensive German course before the semester begins, and as well as being heaps of fun and a good way to make some friends, they help you jump through Germany and the uni's large array of bureaucratic hoops. 
  • Get a TANDEM language partner and try not to speak English all the time- it's tempting, cause most students can speak English pretty well. But don't stay in your comfort zone. That's a good general tip actually- doing exchange means leaving your comfort zone, and embracing that while learning your limits is the best thing you can do. 
  • Find some friends and book travelling several weeks in advance- way cheaper.
  • Stay in the normal student accommodation, it's a great way to meet people. 
  • Try hard to make friends with Germans, not just internationals. Culturally they may take a little longer to warm to you, but a friendship with a German person means a lot.
  • When it snows, grab your friends and have a snowball fight, the snow often melts off quite quickly.
  • Study hard, have fun and don't worry about what people think of you!
Nicholas - Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen