Most people moving to new cities are filled with excitement plus a tinge of anxiety. My first feeling upon coming out of the train station at Göttingen was instead that of arriving home. This place can have that effect on you. A cozy and welcoming university town, Göttingen is the quintessential European campus housing students from around the globe. Irrespective of the town’s affability, my first few weeks here were demanding, just like any new city. From adjusting to the food and the weather to handling German bureaucracy, and doing it all while looking for friends, the initial days proved to be quite a challenge. Here are the top 5 things I wish I’d known beforehand to ease my move to Göttingen.
The Semester Ticket
While a student ID is generally taken to be an access point to University, at Göttingen it also serves as a ticket to life beyond it! Your Göttingen University student ID doubles up as a semester ticket, which in turn is inclusive of a train ticket, a bus ticket, and a culture ticket. While the bus ticket entitles the holder to free travel in all of Göttingen’s city buses, the culture ticket allows for reduced or free admission to cultural events throughout the city including music events, sports, theatre, museums, and so on. Finally, the train ticket allows for free travel on regional trains in the whole state of Lower Saxony. Indeed, it is considered to be the saving grace of all exchange students in particular as they can travel for free to Hamburg, Hannover, and even The Netherlands!
You can find more information on the semesterticket here.
Living in small German University town certainly has its own charms; of which being able to bike everywhere is perhaps the best of all! Göttingen’s lifeline lies not in the serene Leine flowing lazily through the city, but in its many bike paths. While the University is centrally located right next to the old city centre, some of the university dorms as well as the North Campus are still further away. Owning a bike however puts everything in the city at convenient 10 minutes distance. So if you don’t know how to bike yet, now would be a good time to learn! But even if you are short on time, the University Sports Centre also offers bike-riding lessons; which just goes to show how important the biking culture is in Göttingen! Even if you are only planning a short stay here you can choose to rent out a bike as opposed to buying one. There are many shops offering bicycles on rent all over the town, and also some online private providers which deliver your bike right yo your doorstep. If you are renting out a second-hand bike, make sure to check if it is in proper working condition first!
Germany’s infatuation with fitness takes physical form in the University Sports Centre. The sprawling complex offers over 100 different athletic activities and 350+ sports classes every week including a swimming pool, gymnasium, and a rock climbing wall. The Centre’s Healthy Campus initiative also offers free cooking workshops, health consultancy services, and health promotion and nutrition courses, some of which can even be accredited! My highlight of the year at the Sports Centre was the DIES Academicus. A day-long event of the most innovative games I’ve ever come across, it’s one of the things that make studying at Göttingen a truly unique experience. If you plan to attend, make sure to register for the games with your teams in advance, as they get booked out very quickly. With so many different activities and games on offer each week, it is no wonder that even the most heavy-footed students find a new spring to their step.
Whether you’re a resident of nearby Kassel moving here to study with your school-gang or flying across the seven seas to attend university at Göttingen, one can always benefit from making new friends. The University’s comprehensive buddy system offers just this opportunity. Be it an exchange student looking for an exchange buddy to help with the most basic questions like “Does it rain a lot in Göttingen?”, to degree students looking for study mates, there is a system in place for everything, and it is all easily available on the university website. Don’t hold back from asking any sort of questions to your buddies here. Making a big move to a foreign city can be a daunting task, and these guys are here to help you! Both my buddies – exchange and study, were very helpful to me from before my arrival to Göttingen which helped ease my new move to the city.
The three ABCs Germany is known best for are Automobiles, Bureaucracy, and Currywurst. There’s plentiful of all three in Göttingen too! New students, especially the foreign exchange students, should be prepared to tackle a slew of formalities to be finished in their first few weeks in Germany. From getting your student ID printed to getting a residence permit from the townhouse, most of these formalities are mandatory and can seem daunting. However, the administrative system here is very smooth and efficient, and given due diligence, you can finish all your formalities in a single week! To print their student IDs, students would need a German public health insurance (mandatory for all internationals) and proof of payment of semester fees. The University in its introductory week offers all students an opportunity to buy insurance from campus, but incase you miss that, there are many insurance offices spread all around the city, with one situated right next to the central cafeteria. Getting your bank account fully set up and functional can take about a fortnight, so plan ahead and carry enough cash to last that long. The final most important task here in Göttingen as a foreigner would be to register your place of accommodation at the townhall and if applicable, apply for a residence permit. For the latter, make sure you secure an appointment via email beforehand.
So there you have it! With these 5 things safely tucked away in your pocket you’re all ready to take on Göttingen, and to become a true Göttinger!