Study Abroad in Germany
Frequently Asked Questions
Arrival Day at The Goethe Institute
The first day of the course is "arrival day." That day, you'll be interviewed for placement into your class, move into your room, and in general get situated. It's sometimes pretty chaotic with all the students coming and going, but just keep a good sense of humor and strike up some conversations. Actual classes start the next day.
If you plan on arriving before this day, you will need to make your own arrangements for staying in a hotel or youth hostel. You should have received some information about hotels with your confirmation.
The first day listed for your city is arrival day— the last day is departure day. You may be able to extend your housing for a few days (definitely if you are taking an eight-week course—there are a few days off in between four-week sessions) after your course is over, but it's not guaranteed. You'll need to request that once you arrive. After the departure day, you cannot be guaranteed a room.
Families who rent rooms are very carefully screened by the Goethe Institut. In all the years of sending students from Carnegie Mellon and from other universities, we haven't had any problems in this regard. However, if you find yourself in an unpleasant situation (e.g., you have a difficult roommate), don't hesitate to ask the people at the Goethe Institut for a room change. They are very accommodating.
You will not know your address until you arrive. The assignments are made on arrival day.
Classes at the Goethe Institute
Classes are held five days a week. Your instructor will let you know the exact schedule. If you find yourself in a class that is too easy or way too difficult for you, please make sure to speak up and ask to be moved up or down a level. You want to be challenged but not overwhelmed. Usually during the first few days, there is some switching around in the levels.
Instruction at the Institut is divided into A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. Please note that these levels don't correspond exactly with our semester system. Second, third, and even fourth-year students often test into B1. The only thing certain is that you'll be in A1 if you've had no German at all!
You will take one level during your stay in Germany. Your class will be taught by one or two native-speakers of German.
Program Costs/PaymentsThe program cost DOES NOT include your travel costs or accommodations prior to arrival day or after departure day. It does not include meals either. Be prepared to pay for travel, food, and entertainment while you are in Germany.
A printable list of program costs is available [pdf]. Please make sure to make your check out to Carnegie Mellon and give it to Nancy Monda in Baker Hall 160 by the deadline.
Taking travelers' checks is not advised. There's a substantial fee to cash travelers' checks and, contrary to what you might have heard, not every bank will take them and you cannot use them like regular checks in stores, etc. You must exchange them first. It's not worth the extra fees. Also, you CANNOT use US-American checks. They are not accepted anywhere.
Taking your ATM card will enable you to withdraw money from a bank machine. You can use your card at most bank machines. Please check with your bank about possible transaction fees. Also, be sure that you have your 4-digit PIN.
You'll want to take a credit card as back up. A Visa or MasterCard (NOT Discover or American Express) would be a good choice for significant purchases or as a back-up source of cash. But don't rely on your credit card for all transactions. Unlike in the U.S., credit cards are not accepted everywhere in Germany. If you are limited to your credit card, you may be limited in your choice of places to shop and eat.
How much money should you take along? We suggest about $1000/month. If you plan to do a significant amount of traveling, you may want to have extra money available.
The cost of the program DOES NOT include your flight to Germany. You need to make your own arrangements. Some websites to check for flight options:
(This is not an endorsement of any airline or company)
Getting to the Goethe InstituteYou should have received directions with your confirmation. Please check into this before arriving though.
Travel During Your Stay
The Institut usually arranges supplemental excursions. You will receive a schedule after you arrive. Many students meet others in their city and make travel plans with them on their own. Your weekends are for you. Take advantage of your time in Germany. Get out of the classroom as much as you can!
Traveling by train is an excellent way to get around Germany and to visit nearby countries. If you choose to travel by train while staying in Germany, you can either buy individual tickets or purchase a German Rail Pass. A German Rail Pass will enable you to travel on all scheduled trains operated by Deutsche Bahn within Germany for the number of travel days purchased; take high-speed ICE trains to Liege and Brussels; travel on an IC Bus from select cities in Germany to cities including Krakow, Copenhagen, Brussels, and Prague; and travel on Deutsche Bahn/Austrian railways EuroCity trains to various cities in Austria and Italy.
You have the option of buying a flexible pass, which lets you travel for 3,4,5,7, or 10 days within a month (on the days of your choice), or you can buy a pass that lets you travel for 5,10, or 15 days in a row. Additional fees apply if traveling overnight on the City Night Line or DB Sprinter.
Keeping in Touch
Phone and Internet Access
You can purchase phone cards from Western Union. Another option is getting a cell phone (Handy) once you arrive in Germany. Explore cell phone options.
Wi-Fi is available in Germany, but often for a fee. According to an online article posted by Deutsche Welle, “Germany has around a million Wi-Fi hotspots, but only around one in six can be accessed freely.” At the Goethe Instituts, access to the internet should be free of charge in all locations.
In general, it's less expensive to call Germany from the U.S. than vice versa. When calling Germany from the U.S., dial 01149 before the number. If the German number you are dialing has a zero at the beginning, omit it. When calling the U.S. from Germany, dial 001 and then the area code and telephone number.
Packing for your Trip: What to take
- Money/ATM Card/Credit Card
- Goethe Institut Address and Confirmation
- Overnight bag for Travel during stay
- Book/Magazine to read while traveling
- Journal to document your trip (you'll be glad you did)
- Umbrella (can be purchased in Germany fairly inexpensively)
- Hygiene products
- Change of clothes in carry-on bag
- Notebook, pen, German dictionary for class
- Book bag type bag for class
- Extra room for souvenirs/gifts
Before you leave, you are required to fill out and sign a Study Abroad Transfer Credit form that you will have received at the study abroad orientation. Do not fill out the courses section yourselves. Email the form to Prof. Eichmanns Maier and she will help you fill it out. The SATC form does not guarantee you credit. Yet another form will be prepared after you return. You will receive a certificate from your instructor, which will be used to calculate the actual transfer credit. The SATC form is simply a record-keeping device for the university. It is now required for all study abroad students—even those studying during the summer. You must fill it out and then give it to Prof. Gabriele Eichmanns Maier to fill out the courses section and sign it (in her capacity as transfer credit advisor for German language courses) in order to get the transfer credit later.
Transfer credit DOES NOT give you a grade for the course, just credits. It is assumed that you've done C-work or better in the course if transfer credit appears. If you want a grade for the course, you have to pay Carnegie Mellon summer tuition. I wouldn't advise that - it's much more expensive. Without a grade, the classes still count towards your minor or major or your elective credit, depending on your situation.
PassportIf you do not have a valid passport, please apply for one as soon as possible. It can take up to six weeks for applications to be processed.
VisaIt is not necessary for American citizens traveling to Germany to apply for a visa when staying for three months or less. If you are a citizen of another country, please contact your Foreign Student Advisor in the Office of International Education for information and guidance.
Health InsuranceContact your health insurance company to see what kind of coverage is provided while overseas, and remember to take along some proof of insurance. If you have questions about health insurance for study abroad students, or need help finding an insurance provider to cover you while overseas, please contact the Office of International Education: (412) 268–5231.
International Student ID
An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is not really necessary for study at the Goethe Institut, but it can get you discounts on accommodations, food and drink, entertainment and more, so you may want to consider ordering one.