How I Travel Cheaply Around Europe

 

A lot of people believe that since I keep on coming back to Europe, not to mention my numerous trips around Asia and the Philippines, then I have plenty, if not unlimited, financial resource to keep this lifestyle. I have corrected this misconception many times and will still answer it now. That is simply untrue. Like everyone else, I save, research, and travel wisely. My trips are always in a budget but without compromising my comfort and safety.

As of this writing, I have traveled to 22 countries. 23 if you count my numerous domestic trips in the Philippines. I know what you are thinking. How I could travel this much as a student? How could I maintain this lifestyle? In today’s post, I will share with you Where Monica Goes’ Hacks on how to Travel Cheaply Around Europe.

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1. Apply for just one visa

As a third-world passport holder, there are many countries in the world that are not easily accessible to me without a valid visa. More often than not, these visa applications require fees, which could still cut me back a couple of dollars from my travel budget. Since I love going to Europe, a Schengen visa is the way to go. Currently, there are 26 member countries and 2 candidates for accession. Just imagine paying for just one powerful visa! UK and Ireland are beautiful destinations, but if they are not yet your priorities then applying for separate visas for these two are unnecessary. For Filipinos, here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to apply for a Schengen tourist visa.

2. Maintain old friendships and create new ones

You may be wondering why this is included in this short list. In my experience, I have a lot of Filipino and foreign friends scattered around the globe. Despite the distance, we still keep in touch and promise that we will meet again someday. Well, some of my old friends are in Europe and you know what it means – free accommodation! Of course, it goes without saying that you should not keep or make friendships solely for this reason. READ: Change the Way You See Friendship.

3. Stay in a hostel, not a hotel

If you do not have friends in Europe yet or they are unavailable, save your travel funds and stay in a hostel. I understand you might have misgivings moving away from hotel accommodations you are used to, but trust my word that staying in a hostel has more rewarding experience. Pay for a €10 dorm bed in a hostel and spend the rest of your money with activities and food. READ: Top Must-try Food in Germany. Traveling cheap and in a budget does not have to be uncomfortable, you know. Hostels in Europe, from my experience, are cool and safe even for single and female travelers. Why pay for an expensive hotel room when most of the day will be spent outdoors? Travel cheaply, sleep cheaply!

Of course, you can also try Couchsurfing and learn the culture from within – instant friends, personal guides and FREE accommodation!

4. Travel with a group

Well, they say the more the merrier! That may be true, but traveling with someone or in a group can also make trips cheaper. Not only do I have someone to share accommodation, food and other expenses with, but my transportation cost can also be lessened. How? In Europe, there are a lot of cities and countries that reduce fare price for group traveling. In Munich for instance, a 24-hour unlimited public transportation for a single person costs €6,40 while a group ticket for up to five adults only costs €12,20. So invite your friends to join you to travel cheaply on your next European trip!

5. Use public transportation

I think it goes without saying that when you are in a foreign land, you should not use taxis unless it is very necessary. If you can help it, walk or cycle around Europe. On one hand, strolling around the continent is free, just wear your most comfortable shoes. On the other, many cities offer one-hour free bicycle use. Rental is also cheap. But if you are covering great distance or simply tired from walking, I highly recommend using reliable public transportation.

One of the things that make me love Europe so much is its fast, safe and reliable public transportation. Of course, fares seem expensive compared to what we have in the Philippines and other developing countries, but I will share you how I was able to travel cheaply around Europe with these important travel hacks.

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I. Train Rides

Back home, I usually don’t take trains. For me, they are slow, always late, overcrowded, and unsafe. In Europe, I love them and they are my #1 choice of transportation. They are fast, efficient, and on-time. They have clean coaches, comfortable seats, and large space. You can even take your bicycles, baby trolleys, and dogs with you! But they are not cheap. After my first-ever trip to Europe, I learned ways how to get train tickets cheaply and did not commit the same mistakes again in my succeeding visits. Here’s how.

ÖBB Sparschiene

Österreichische Bundesbahnen or the Austrian Federal Railways offers Sparschiene (saving rail) or discounted tickets. Instead of paying €90 euros for a one-way trip from Vienna to Frankfurt, I can wait for Sparschiene offers in the company’s website and grab affordable tickets available at €29 or €39. More than 50% off, right?

TIP: Use ÖBB’s main website or mobile app to get Sparschiene tickets. Better book in advance as there is only a limited number of inexpensive offers available per trip. Don’t forget to print your ticket!

Bahn Card (Train Card)

As mentioned, traveling with train is really the fastest way to get from one place to another. However, train rides in Europe are not cheap. In some places, it could be even diamond-expensive! Yeah, I sometimes exaggerate, but you get my drift. For instance, my 3-day pass in Switzerland cost me €195. For frequent train users, I suggest getting a bahn card or train card. Many European countries have this service but in different names. For instance, I have the Austrian Vorteilscard as well as German’s Deutsche Bahn Card. My Austrian card enables me to travel with trains around Austria (and sometimes in other countries) with 50% discounted price while my German card gives me 25% off only.

TIP: I highly recommend purchasing a bahn card if you will stay longer in one country or would really travel around with trains.

II. Car rides

If you want to travel and meet new people along the way, you should try carpooling in Europe. Back home, they have a different notion of carpooling and I hope it will change soon. In Europe, people can travel with strangers if they are going to the same direction. Blabla Car is famous for this. It is a ride sharing website which allows everyone to travel with others and share the cost. For instance, from Göttingen to Berlin costs only €19 per person compared to a train ride with DB of €30.

TIP: Ensure your contact information is correct when you book your ride with Blabla Car. Also, contact your driver and make sure that you understand and agree for the pick-up point.

For a FREE ride, you may also try hitchhiking your way around the Continent. Not sure if it applies all over Europe, but Germany has friendly drivers who can take you in.

III. Bus rides

Recently, this has been my favorite way to travel around Europe. A lot of my foreign and European friends prefer to use trains because they are fast and well connected, so it is only this year that I started taking bus rides. I wish I had done so earlier.

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Flixbus

Aside from hitchhiking, this is the favorite way of my fellow exchange students to travel around – Flixbus. It is a German’s start-up bus company, which now offers 900 destinations in 20 countries. It is very affordable compared to Sparschiene and Bahn card discounts. It takes longer though, sometimes twice the time for a train ride. Well, you get what you pay for. On a positive side, Flixbus offers comfortable rides, free luggage allowance, toilet, snack bar, power outlet, and the most important of all – free WiFi!

How cheap: From Frankfurt to Amsterdam, I got a one-way ticket for €11,11. I booked it during a promo since the regular rate is €25, but it is still cheaper than a train ticket of €120 with Deutsche Bahn. Amsterdam to Brussels regularly costs €9, while Frankfurt to Vienna is only €33.

TIP: Download the app to have hassle-free and paperless travels.

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Hellö

Flixbus seems to have a new rival starting this year – Hellö. This is a very new Austrian bus company under ÖBB. I was lucky to learn about it few days after it started operating this July. It features comfortable and spacious seats, free luggage allowance, mobile apps, power outlets, toilet and a snack bar. Like Flixbus, it offers free WiFI but unlike the former, Hellö has uninterrupted Internet connection after crossing country borders.

Currently, it has a starting promo of having €15 for almost all of its routes! Promo ends in September and until seats last. Some of its routes include Vienna to Frankfurt, Vienna to Venice, Innsbruck to Zurich, etc. It is crazy cheap! Hellö offers €15 for Vienna-Frankfurt while €33 for Flixbus. I wished Hellö were already operating before I went to Venice!

TIP: Try this out until the promo lasts.

PLUS POINT: Student Semester ticket

As I have mentioned in my previous post (READ: Welcome to Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany), the only thing I paid in my German education is the semester ticket. This costs €250 for international students. Is it expensive? You may think so at first. But if you consider not paying any tuition fee in Germany (I paid my full tuition fee in my university back home though), this is really a steal. Also, once I tell you the benefits of this ticket, you would want to offer your Euros in exchange for this.

Basically, a semester ticket allows students from my university to travel around the area of Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund – RMV for free. Yes, we students can take buses, trams, subways, metros, and even IC/EC trains of DB Fernverkehr within the semester and is valid for full seven months entirely free.

For instance, Frankfurt is only one hour away from my university in Marburg, but a one-way ticket for the slowest train possible is around €20. Because we are traveling for free, we can go to Frankfurt at least once a week and do sightseeing and shopping there.

TIP: If you are studying in Philipps Universität Marburg as well, always travel with your semester ticket! Try your best to travel to all cities and locations in the ticket as well.

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These are my major travel hacks on how I am able to roam around Europe with a student budget. Remember, it does not have to be a luxurious trip just so there is something to boast back home or follow where everyone is going. There are numerous ways on how to make a European trip affordable and comfortable without cutting all your savings. I hope these tips help. Come back here for more travel tips, guides, and itineraries in Europe and beyond. You can also subscribe to Where Monica Goes via email to get the latest updates straight to your email.

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Guten Appetit! Top Must-try Food in Germany

One of the most exciting things to look forward to as an exchange student in Germany, aside from drinking the night away with liters of beer in hand, is trying the authentic German cuisine. Although international restaurants have been sprouting in many cities and countries offering most popular dishes, they still could not compete with the real deal – the one complete with perfect German ambiance and merry, but not always drunk, people.

I believe that to learn more about a country, one must be able to immerse into the foreign culture. Food is a great part of history and culture anyway. When it comes to trying new adventures through food while studying abroad, here is my list of must-try food to eat in Germany to have a well rounded and delicious study abroad experience. Do note though that this list is based on my preference (and some of my friends’ as well) and you should not limit yourself to the food mentioned in this article.

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The Land of the Wurst

Whenever I ask friends, the first thing that pops in their minds when asked for any German food they would like to try is (drum roll please) sausage! Well, it is truth universally acknowledged that aside from beer, Germany is known for its sausages or Wurst.

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Meat everywhere. Location: München

Now, there are hundreds of sausages you can get in Germany. I am no expert, but below are some of the most common varieties that my friends and I like to order (with or without beer).

Currywurst 

This is a typical sausage fare with either ketchup and curry powder or a homemade tomato curry sauce, usually with side of fries.

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It is the land of the wurst! Location: Frankfurt

Käse Krainer 

I admit I normally eat this in Austria than Germany, but since the food is almost the same in these two countries, I put this in the list. Käse Krainer is a delicious combination of cheese, usually Emmentaler, and sausage. This is my favorite and I love getting it in a Wurstelstand. Pair it with a dark bread and a can of beer for perfection.

Weißwurst

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Wurst and Bier. You can get rid of stress with these. The best match in the world!” – Jeong Ju, South Korea

A specialty of Bavaria, Weißwurst is simply white sausage. Sounds strange at first, but tastes heavenly. Traditionally, Weißwurst is eaten only during breakfast or as a snack before lunch because it is not preserved or smoked, and thus perishable. Eat it with a warm Brezel, mustard and Weissbier for a very Bavarian meal.

Döner

Next to Wurst, I believe that Döner is another German version of fast food. With Turkish influence, Döner is basically a kebab sandwich, filled with thin slices of meat, usually beef though chicken is also available, topped with various vegetables – lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and yogurt sauce.

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Döner stands can be found literally everywhere in Germany and since it is open until late at night and usually near bahnhof, it is also very convenient. I think I should note it here that one serving is huge and I have never finished one order of Döner. Maybe I just don’t eat a lot?

Auflauf

Nope, not that Olaf from Frozen. Auflauf literally means “casserole” and I think that is simply what it is. It has different versions though – potato auflauf, maultaschen auflauf, Spätzle auflauf, etc.

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“We simply love auflauf!” – Valentina, Lucia, and Federica from Italy

Maultaschen 

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Maultaschen literaly means mouth bags. I find them similar to the Italian ravioli. They are usually square or rectangular in shape. They traditionally filled with minced meat, eggs, spinach, and some spices. You can buy a ready-made maultaschen and simply boil it whenever you want to taste some.

Brezel

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“I will recommend German Original Prezel, which can be a main snack or meal for everyone almost everyday!” – Dongha from South Korea

Bakeshops abound everywhere in Germany and I haven’t seen one that has not offered Brezel. It is loved being eaten throughout Germany. In Bavaria, this is usually paired with Weißwurst and washed down with a white beer. But for a normal fare, you can find Brezel cut with butter, jams, or even Nutella.

Schweinshaxe

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It is roasted pork knuckle, especially popular in Bavaria. We paired it with beer! Don’t be fooled. It may look small in the photo, but my friend and I struggled to finish the entire thing. It is too heavy for my small stomach!

Käsespätzle

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Käsespätzle and Maultaschen

Spätzle is like a noodle or dumpling made of flour, eggs, and salt. As most German cuisine is heavy on the meat, Spätzle usually accompanies a meaty dish. Thankfully, there is also a Käsespätzle which can be a stand alone dish served with lots of grated Emmentaler cheese and fried onions on top. I have tasted the best one in Stuttgart.

There is in fact a wide variety of food to try in Germany though those listed here are my favorite and can really recommend. I hope this list offers an insider’s view on what food to try when studying or traveling in Germany. Don’t limit yourself to this list though. Be curious and try everything. That’s what immersing in food culture is all about! So what are you waiting for? Get that chance to travel in Germany or visit a nearby German restaurant and have a taste. Guten appetit!

Come back here for more lists of what to do, where to go, and what to eat and drink in Germany and other countries. Don’t forget to follow Where Monica Goes, too! 

 

How to Get a German National Student Visa for Filipinos in 10 Days

 

Have you ever dreamed of pursuing your studies outside of the Philippines, in Europe in general? To be specific, have you fancied yourself studying in Germany, watching your favorite football team in the bundesliga matches, munching your delicious currywurst, downing a Maß of dunkel beer while biting your huge schweinshaxe, getting drunk in Oktoberfest, and salivating over those beautiful Benz, Audi, BMW, VW and Porsche cars?

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Are you dreaming of visiting the inspiration of Disney Castle?

If you keep on nodding while reading this and have other fantasies to add, then you indeed are dreaming and very excited to study in Germany. Read: Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad.

Especially now that most German public educational institutions are tuition-free, there are more and more international students flocking Deutschland in search of a better educational system and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But first things first: if you are a Filipino passport holder, you must apply for a visa to be able to study and stay in Germany for the duration of your studies. In this post, I would help you know how you can perhaps possibly also get your German student visa within ten working days.

Who wants to study in Germany? Say, Ja!

I get several emails and private messages with inquiries on how I successfully managed to get a student visa in Germany. Many of them are afraid to apply in that country as Germany is known for being a stickler for rules. To help others know the process as well as not to repeat myself over and over again to my friends, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply for national student visa in Germany for Filipino passport holders and hopefully get it within 10 WORKING DAYS, like how I did it.

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Generally, Filipinos are required to get a visa before entering Germany. Last year, I have written about the process on how to successfully secure a Schengen Visa for Filipino Tourists. However, if you plan to stay longer than 90 days, the rule of thumb is for you to apply for a national visa.

What is a National Visa?

A national visa is a long-term visa issued by Germany to those who are planning to stay longer than the 90-day tourist Schengen visa offers. Unlike the Schengen Visa, the national visa has different and more sets of requirements. Also, national visas can only be issued after the approval of responsible Aliens’ Office in Germany. Therefore, processing time of several weeks to months must be expected and visa application should be done at an early date.

The embassy generally issues national visa for specific purposes: study, marriage, family reunion, employment, au pair, etc. Maximum validity is 90 days with multiple entries. Shortly after arrival in Germany, visa holders should visit the responsible Alien’s Office and apply to get a residence permit.

Who can apply for German national student visa?

To apply for a German national student visa, you must be a prospective student, student applicant, or long-term language course student in Germany.

What are the requirements?
  • Valid passport
  • Two copies of your application forms completely filled
  • Three identical and current passport photos. Check the embassy’s photo requirement.
  • Two declarations signed. Get this form in the website.
  • Certificate of admission (for students) or proof of standard matriculation (for student applicants)
  • CV in tabular form including your education background without a gap. My CV was in EuroPass format. Just Google it and you will be safe.
  • Motivation letter and study plan essay. Just write clearly, briefly, and honestly. Remember what you have written as this may be asked in the interview.
  • Proof of finance of at least €659/month or €7908 per year.
  • Depositing the required sum in a special savings account in Germany (Sperrkonto) with Deutsche Bank
  • Letter of award of an official scholarship
  • Formal obligation of a person who will take over the cost (original with two copies)
  • Confirmation of and registration with the language school if taking a German preparatory course
When to apply

The important thing is to apply as early as possible. Based on what I have read online, many people follow the three months rule. I have never done this, as my national student visa and even Schengen visa (for tourist) applications were never sent more than three weeks before my flight. But that’s just me. Haha! Still, it is better to apply early so if the embassy requires further documents from you, you can still have time to prepare and send them.

However, it is necessary to note here that you must have your school application settled beforehand. If possible, you must already have a Letter of Acceptance, or better, Letter of Matriculation or Enrolment as these documents will greater support your claim to get a visa. The embassy will confirm your application to your selected university and when you have these documents, your chance of getting your passport back with a visa stamp increases.

Where to apply?

Since you are applying for a student visa to study in Germany, then you must apply at the German embassy. In Manila, it is located at:

German Embassy Manila:  25/F Tower 2, RCBC Plaza  6819 Ayala Ave (cor Sen. Gil Puyat Ave)  Makati City  Metro Manila, Philippines

Office Hours:

Monday to Thursday from 7:30 to 15:30 hours | Fridays from 7:30 to 13:30 hours.

Visiting Hours:

Our general visiting hours are Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 11.30 hours. Please note that an appointment is necessary for passport applications and civil status matters.

Contact the visa section:

Phone: (0063 2) 702 3001 | Fax no.:(0063 2) 702 3045 | E-Mail: visa@mani.diplo.de

How much does it cost?

The application fee costs €60 but must be payable in Philippines Pesos at the current exchange rate. There is no refund if the application is rejected.

However, in my experience last February, I was first asked to ready my payment but after answering questions whether I have been to Germany before or if I had Schengen visas prior to the application, the staff suddenly told me that I no longer need to pay. I forgot to ask her why so up to this day, I still do not know.

STEP-BY-STEP APPLICATION GUIDE TO GERMAN NATIONAL STUDENT VISA APPLICATION FOR FILIPINOS

Here, I am now giving you a step-by-step guide on how to prepare and apply for your German national student visa based on the German embassy website’s instructions and my experience.

Prior to Application

  • Get the list of all required documents mentioned above and prepare them. Also fill-up the student visa application form found here: http://www.manila.diplo.de/contentblob/3618550/Daten/6193697/MB_student_jan13.pdf
  • If you are a self-supported student (does not have a scholarship), you must open a Sperrkonto at the Deutsche Bank. Download the form in its website and answer as many items relevant to you.

A note of advice here: you can only apply for your account in the main Deutsche Bank located in Hamburg and for you to do this, you need to present your application form in the embassy and have it signed. Then, have your entire bank application mailed to Germany. I used FedEx in Zuellig Building, Makati for this. When you are finally advised that your account is active, you should start depositing the required amount for you – a semester, year, or two year’s worth of required money. You can also deposit an amount higher than what is required. When you finally reach the minimum amount required, Deustche Bank will inform the embassy that you fulfilled the necessary application requirement, and therefore your visa application will proceed. The amount deposited in your account can only be withdrawn in Germany and only at maximum of €659 per month or a specific amount you may have mentioned if you have deposited higher than what is required.

When you already prepared the required documents or can already estimate when the rest of your papers will arrive, book for an appointment in the embassy for your visa application. It is better to regularly check the appointment database as slots can be easily filled.

Application of National Student Visa at the German Embassy

  • Bring all your documents – application forms, photos, supporting documents and exact cash. Do not forget a printed copy of your appointment schedule. Ensure that you have every forms filled completely and double check the information you have provided.
  • Arrive on time
  • Have yourself checked by the security team then hand in your mobile phones, tablets, and other gadgets in a locker provided for you by one of the guards.
  • Get your queue number. An embassy staff will ask for your application purpose and will then give you a color-coded card number.
  • Proceed to the waiting area and wait for your number to be called.
  • When it is your turn, give your application forms and required documents.
  • Please answer all the interview questions given to you clearly and honestly! If you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask. Your interview will be done right there and then at the waiting area in front of the consular staff.
  • Follow instructions when you are directed to the digital fingerprint machine.
  • Submit your request to open a Deustsche Bank account to a separate counter mentioned by your interviewer.
  • When all of your application documents have been submitted, your interviewer will return your passport and say that you will be contacted when your application for national student visa has been pre-approved.
  • If you need the national student visa in a specific time, inform your interviewer about it so he/she can note it down.
  • When you finally get an e-mail notification from the embassy (or maybe a phone call), go to the embassy and hand in your passport. If there are additional or supporting documents requested from you, give these to the staff as well.
  • You will be given a slip of paper with a schedule on when your passport will be released. Go to that specific date and time. Never be late.
  • When you finally received your passport, and hopefully with a national visa stamp, the consular staff will read the details in your visa to check if everything is correct.
  • Double check this, especially the spelling of your name and travel dates.
  • The consular staff may or may not give you instructions on what to do after arrival in Germany, i.e., visit the Alien Office to register your address and get your residence permit.

Too many things to prepare and keep in mind, right? Here are also 10 Tips on Preparing for Your Student Exchange Program. I know it is a lot to take in now and it can be overwhelming, but just imagine yourself being here.

If you keep on nodding while reading this and have other fantasies to add, then you indeed are dreaming and very excited to study in Germany.

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TIMELINE ON MY GERMAN NATIONAL STUDENT VISA APPLICATION

Long term visas, including those for students, can only be issued after the approval of responsible Aliens’ Office in Germany. Therefore, processing time of several weeks must be expected and visa application should be done at an early date.

I. PREPARATION

13 January – Request for documents from home and German universities, Philippine banks, and health insurance provider. Download and filled up the application forms. Took passport photos, etc.

14 January – first attempt to set an appointment schedule. All slots full. Earliest at mid-February. Contacted my German university and informed them about my situation

15 January – German university directly requested the German embassy Manila for a special appointment slot for me

18 January – reserved for the earliest slot given to me

II. APPLICATION TIME

26 January– Appointment schedule -> application and interview (window 5)

1 February – Received a phone call from the German Embassy. My visa has already been pre-approved after only 4 working days! Consular staff informed me to submit my passport, travel date information, and travel insurance.

4 February – Submitted required documents. Consular staff told me to return after two working days to get my passport and visa.

8 February – Chinese New Year holiday

10 February – Went to the embassy and got my passport with a German national student visa stamp. Yay!

TOTAL DAYS OF PREPARATION – 9 working days

TOTAL DAYS OF VISA PROCESS IN THE EMBASSY – six working days for the process, ten working days including time to submit supporting documents

TOTAL DAYS USED – 15 working days

Notes: I only counted embassy working days (Mon-Fri) and excluded counting 8 February as it is a national holiday.

HOW I GOT MY GERMAN NATIONAL STUDENT VISA IN 10 DAYS

First, let me begin by saying that what I had is a special case and perhaps won’t happen again the next time I apply for a national visa. The result was probably mainly due to the circumstances I had that time which the embassy recognized and therefore tried its duty to serve me as fast as they can. Normally, friends and people I met along the way told me that national student visa application normally takes more than one month of just embassy processing, so not including the preparation process. As seen in my timeline above, my entire visa processing took only 10 working days while with preparation is only 15 working days.

So how did I successfully manage to get it so fast? Here are my tips – none of them is illegal, by the way! J

  • Gather as much information as you can about the embassy, its office and visa hours, address, etc. You do not want to waste precious days and hours going there when you are not even allowed to.
  • Read, read, and read. Anticipate what you will need in the application. Always go to the embassy website for its updated requirements for the national student visa.
  • Always duplicate or triplicate printing and copying of your documents. Some items in the requirements must be in twos or threes, so always ensure that you have enough copies done. My rule is to always have the required number of copies, one copy for myself, and at least one extra copy for emergencies.
  • Try to book an appointment as early as you can.
  • While waiting for your appointment, try to finish collecting all the required documents and forms.
  • If you are running out of time, i.e., your semester will start soon, ask your German university coordinator if he/she can contact the embassy and inform your situation while asking the possibility to expedite your visa application process.
  • Write in your application form how soon you need the visa or when you must fly to Germany.
  • During the interview, inform your interviewer about your circumstances. Mention your situation so the consular staff can at least note the urgency of your application

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There you go. I hope this post help current applicants and aspiring students to apply for German national student visa. Everything that I wrote here is based from my experience and information from the embassy. Things may changed without notice, so I highly recommend that you still check the German embassy’s website for updated requirements. Again, this is simply a guide to help out fellow Filipinos who would like to pursue their education in Germany. Let me know if this helps. Good luck and pursue your dream to study in Germany!

Welcome to Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany

In the About Page of Where Monica Goes, I have mentioned that I am currently an overseas graduate student in Germany and this new website would be an online chronicle of my life abroad as well as my travels around the world. After my previous entries about the Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad and 10 Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program, I believe now is the perfect time to share information about my host university. As it is my first time participating in a student exchange program, I am very excited with this new experience and would like others to understand my happiness in being here. I am studying here for five months now and I can confidently say that I love every minute of the program.

Whether you are an existing student or an excited overseas exchange who is digging the Internet for more information about your future university, this website is for you! Without further ado, let me introduce my host university, Philipps Universität Marburg.

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Welcome to my university!

Philipps Universität Marburg: An Introduction

Established in 1512 by the Magnanimous Landgrave Philipp I, the Philipps Universität Marburg is the oldest Protestant university in the world and one of the oldest educational institutions in Germany as well. That is how old the university is! Overtime, it has become a non-secular state university.

For more than five centuries, the institution was proudly a place for research, teaching and learning. A variety of academic disciplines are represented in the university, except engineering. Before, only Medicine, Philosophy, Theology, and Law were offered, but this has expanded to 17 departments encompassing physical and social sciences. The university is especially known for its scientific fields and is home to the country’s traditional medical faculties.

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Elisabethkirche, one of the earliest purely Gothic churches in Germany

Location: Where is Philipps Universität Marburg?

The university is located in Marburg, in the state of Hessen, 100 km north of Frankfurt, heart of Germany. Marburg is a small, charming medieval town popular for its gothic churches and castle. Adding to its enchanting appeal are the cobblestreets, 17th and 18th century timber houses, and Elisabethkirche, one of the first purely Gothic churches ever built.

How to get to Marburg?

From Frankfurt Central Train Station (Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof), take a train in the direction of Kassel and alight at Marburg Main Train Station (Marburg Hauptbahnhof). The ride takes roughly one to one and half hour depending on which train you get – ICE, RE or HLB.

Student body

Marburg has 86, 000 residents, 25 000 of them are students. The majority of the student body comes from all over Germany. Among these, more than 12% are from all over the world, making the university the institution that has the largest foreign students in the entire Hessen state.

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School cafeteria

It is common to see and hear a saying here that goes, “Other towns have a university, but Marburg is a university”. Wherever you are in the town, you are part of a vibrant academic community. Therefore, Marburg is the proverbial “university town” or Universitätsstadt in German

School Fees

Like many German public educational institutions, studying in Philipps Universität Marburg will not require a matriculation or tuition fee. Instead of paying for a lofty sum, the university only requires students to pay for the semester ticket (semestertiket), a student contribution. It costs €150 for Erasmus students and €250 for exchange and free-mover students. The semester ticket enables students entirely free transportation service within the semester ticket area of Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund – RMV whether buses, trains and even IC / EC trains of DB Fernverkehr within the semester and is valid for full seven months. So if you like traveling, this is perfect for you!

Noted alumni

T.S. Eliot, Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm, Hermann Cohen, Christian Wolff, etc. The list is actually long, but based on my experience here, Marburg is exclusively the Grimm brothers’ town. If you are a fan of their wonderful stories, then you are in for delightful fairytale walks around here!

How is the weather in Marburg?

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This, I believe, is especially true in Marburg. It is normally colder in Marburg due to its location. Especially when you live in Studentendorf where you are surrounded by woods and forest, temperature can drop quickly. Even in summer, temperature can sometimes be as cool as 17 degrees. How can my friends in warm Vienna do sunbathing while my fellow exchange students still wear cardigans? Haha!

Where to stay in Marburg?

As a student, there are many options for accommodation in Marburg. If you are an exchange or overseas student, Studentenwerk Marburg offers affordable student dormitories and flats. In my experience, the university searched and assigned a room for me in a WG or Wohngemeinschaft (shared flat) so I didn’t have the hassle to do it for myself.

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My room in Studentendorf

Aside from this, private accommodation and homestays are also available. I will share more about this in my future posts.

Philipps Universität Marburg is a wonderful and charming university to attend to and if you are considering to take your overseas program here, then you are in for a treat!

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The ball has just started rolling for this blog and this is simply a short overview about Philipps Universität Marburg. More information on Marburg, its town highlights, and overseas students’ survival guides and tips will be uploaded regularly on Where Monica Goes. Stay tuned!

 

10 Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program

Preparing to join a student exchange program can be pretty exciting, especially after you have received those admission and invitation letters from your host university. However, when the initial excitement finally went down, the images of tasks ahead can be overwhelming and exhausting. It requires a lot of researching and meticulous planning especially if it is your first long-term trip away from home. Also, it usually comes with long lists of required documents, appointments, and tests to be done and passed. I hope that with determination to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, these administrative and bureaucratic requirements would not deter you from reaching your dream.

As a current exchange student myself, I would like to share stories and experiences while I am on this journey. This post would be a part of a regular series where past, current, and would-be exchange students can read and learn from each other various survival tips as we leave the familiar back home and plunge to the exciting unknown.

To aid you on having a smooth transition to your new life, I am providing some tips on how to prepare for your student exchange program adventure. The list seems basic, but you would be surprised to know how many students and even seasoned travellers forget one or some of these. It won’t hurt to have a guide, right? All in all, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to be in a foreign country merely because you overlooked a simple requirement.

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So without further ado, let me present my Ten Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program. Do note though that these tips are only for those who have already passed the admission requirements by their partner/host educational institutions.

1. Prepare, double-check, reproduce, and bring your documents. We still live in a paper-based society where not everything can easily be scanned through smartphones, so yes, paper documents are necessary. I highly recommend to duplicate or triplicate all your documents, so you would always have a copy with you, at home, and your new accommodation.

  • Check whether your passport is still valid and have several required remaining pages. More often than not, your passport should be valid more than six months before you travel. If yours would be expiring soon, better have it renewed while you are still in your country.
  • Get valid visas. Your host country (and the countries you might be traveling to while studying) might require visas, so do check this as well and prepare the necessary requirements.
  • Make several copies of your letter of admission and matriculation for safekeeping purposes. Also, there are instances when these need to be translated in your native language, so please bear this tip in mind.
  • Bring your language proficiency test results if you have any.
  • Take note of your embassy’s contact information for emergency purposes.

2. Visit your physician before leaving. Health is important, but it is always sad to know that many travellers take this for granted. In a foreign land, it is recommended to be prepared for all emergencies that may arise.

  • Get a certificate attesting to your good health and a copy of your medical record.
  • List down all of your known allergies and bring required prescription drugs, as you will never know if your host country has them. It would also be helpful if you have the translated versions of this.
  • Take the required shots and bring your immunization records when you travel.

3. Be insured. No one knows what may happen and it is wise to be always covered by insurance policy. There are already a lot of international travel and health insurance providers out there, but choosing what is best for your situation requires careful research.

  • Check if your insurance policy is recognized in your host country. You can just look up at the embassy page or send an email to your coordinator in the partner university to inquire this.
  • If required to get a new insurance coverage, research which offers the best and worth the money.

4. Book your tickets in advance. Whether through plane, train, or ship, it is always best to get your reservations ahead of time when prices are cheap and good seats are still available. The longer you wait, the more expensive the price can get.

  • To get the most out of your bookings, do not forget to use your frequent flyer information. Sometimes, typing these little details can get you free business class upgrade for instance.
  • If you are traveling by train, always use your discount cards. In Europe, DB (German), ÖBB (Austrian), and SBB (Swiss) have train cards that can give you up to 50% discount of the original fare.

5. Know how you can access your money abroad. There are banks that require you to have your account unlocked so you can use it outside of the country. Know this ahead of time and better contact your bank if you have no idea whether your cards are eligible to use overseas or not.

  • If you haven’t one yet, create an online banking account so you can easily monitor transactions you make while abroad.

6. Study or refresh foreign language skills. Chances are you would be spending your semester abroad in a country, which does not speak your native tongue, so I recommend studying the appropriate foreign language prior to your departure. Although most beneficial, you do not have to get to a formal class for this. Just hit on the Internet for most common and useful words and expressions so you will not feel at lost as soon as you arrived at the airport. Watching films and TV shows, listening to songs, and buying a pocket dictionary can help in overcoming those first few days while you are still adjusting.

7. Know the culture. Be aware of what are acceptable and not in your host country. Slurping while eating your noodle soup is normal and okay back home but does not automatically mean you won’t be frowned upon when you do this abroad. Read and research. You do not want to make a fauxpas on your first day.

8. Stay in touch. Don’t be a stranger to your family and friends as soon as you left your home country. Of course you want everyone to know every wonderful moment you are enjoying in your amazing student exchange program.

  • If required, have your phone unlocked then get a local SIM card from your host country. Research the best local network provider. You should look for those affordable bundles like 200 local calls and texts plus 750 MB for several Euros.
  • Create a Skype account and/or other messaging platforms that offer free voice and video calls. Family and friend chat groups are also good.
  • Set up social media accounts if you don’t have anything yet for easy updates from you to your friends and family.

9. Pack light. I wish I could highlight this more. I know many exchange students who bring their entire home with them (me included)! If your program has a suggested packing list, stick to it. If there is none, do your research or ask current students in the university. Please check the weather and temperature of your destination, as packing thin clothes for Europe in February is just plain silly. Leave things you can easily buy in your host country e.g., shampoo, body wash, etc. Take your chargers, travel adapters, and gadgets. Bring several photos and other mementos with you to help cope those homesickness moments.

10. Be mentally prepared. Saying goodbye to your family and friends, albeit temporary, can still be tough. However, this is part of the experience. When you are finally in your host country, expect the unexpected! You will be out of your comfort zone and the world will be your one giant classroom. You will meet people from around the world who have different customs and perspectives from yours and you should be open-minded and not judgmental about this. The same differences will later enrich your student exchange experience and understanding of various culture and people.

Alexander Graham Bell once said that preparation is the key to success and I strongly believe in that. To have a successful and enjoyable student exchange program, being prepared is necessary. I hope that these tips can help you achieve that. All the planning and preparation can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking at first, but believe me that all of these would be worth it. Just imagine yourself being here!

Are you an upcoming exchange student? Already have an experience spending a semester abroad? Share your thoughts and questions.