Travel Advice for Germany
Students learn more about Germany through the balance between academic studies and cultural activities, while advancing in their professional career. While immersed in German culture, students can visit festivals, taste different foods, enjoy the nightlife, and travel to many different destinations in Germany and throughout Europe.
Day-to-day life in Germany actually is not all that different from life in the United States, but there are some difference. For example, Germans are very big on recycling and conservation in general, which isn't typical for Americans. Germany (and most of Europe) also has a terrific public transportation system, so owning a car isn't really necessary. Many people use bicycles to get around town, and those who do not own a bike will ride a bus (or streetcars in certain German cities). Getting from city to city is almost always done by train. Germans don't really eat the same way as Americans; they put a lot of importance on everything being fresh and healthy, which means things like TV dinners and junk food are pretty difficult to find. Stores in Germany tend to hold short hours, which means things will close at about 7pm during the week, at 4pm on Saturday and be closed on Sunday. In general, however, you'll find that Germany isn't as different as you might think.
Rain gear is essential in Osnabrück, since it tends to rain consistently; aside from that, you can expect weather a lot like Rochester(with the notable exception of much less snowfall). Bring enough regular clothing for about two weeks, plus some extra warm clothing. A nice outfit or two in case may also be needed, if you attend the "University Winter Ball" or formal restaurants.
Bringing a laptop computer is of course the best solution, but if this is not possible, you could use the computer labs provided by the university. Even if you or your apartment mates don't purchase Internet access while in Germany, having a computer to work on programming assignments will make your life much easier. Also, if you're going to bring a computer with you, make sure you've got a plug adapter for European outlets. If your computer works on 120V and 240V power, then you'll only need a plug adapter, and if not,you'll need to get a voltage converter as well.
It's a good idea to make photocopies of your plane tickets, passport, etc. before you leave and carry them with you. You could also choose to scan these items and burn them to a CD, but this is entirely up to you. Having copies of these items on you at all times will not only make replacement easier but will also help to identify you, since the only universally accepted form of ID in Germany is your passport.
The official currency of Germany is the Euro. You can view current currency exchange rates at www.xe.com
. Contrary to what you may
believe, most stores in Germany DO NOT accept credit cards. Also, traveler's checks are not accepted in stores, but you will be able to cash them at banks. One way to get money overseas is to have someone transfer money to your American bank account so you can withdraw it at an ATM in Germany, and deposit it into your German bank account. This is not the only solution, but it seems to be the one which incurs the fewest fees. We recommend you notify your bank of expected use of your card in Germany so they do not put a hold on your account.
You will probably want to open a bank account while you're in Germany, and there are plenty of banks to choose from. As a reference point, banks are traditionally only open during the week. Among the available banks, Sparkasse seems to be the most ubiquitous around the country, but you can also go with Deutsche Bank or something similar. If you're living in any of the student housing such as Salzmarkt or Jahnplatz, the rent money can be taken from your account automatically each month, as well as the money required for health insurance.
Cell phones can be purchased for a flat fee, with talk and SMS time being purchased on calling cards in 15 euro increments.
Your student I.D. may be the single most important document you receive while in Germany. It will get you free bus travel around the city, free train travel to a number of destinations, and it will let you eat at the student Mensa. You'll want to get this laminated, which can be done a copy shop (like the Unikat behind the music store in Neumarkt) for a nominal fee.
The Mensa is the student cafeteria located both downtown and at the Westerberg campus. You can get lunch there for around 3 euro and the quality is very good. The Mensa in Osnabrück has been voted best in Germany on more than one occasion, so you can expect that the food will always be good and inexpensive. With this in mind, don't be surprised when you have to wait twenty minutes in line to get food. Getting lunch at the Mensa is serious business around Osnabrü:ck.
Westerberg is the scientific/technical campus for the university, located in the northern part of the city, your cognitive science classes will be there. You may encounter the situation where you have to get from one campus to the other in between classes, which is why all classes unofficially start at quarter past and end at quarter before the hour. You
can get to Westerberg by taking buses 11, 12, 13 and 21 towards the northern part of the city and getting off at Sedanplatz.
The Auslandsamt is a university office where you can go if you have any concerns about housing, your adjustment to the country or with any other questions you may have. Lots of trips and activities are planned for the international students through the Auslandsamt, so keep yourself updated on what they're offering. The Auslandamt produces a very helpful guide to life in Osnabrück.
Before you start traveling around Germany, we recommend that you sign up for a BahnCard. This card will get you 25% or 50% off the price of train travel anywhere in Germany, plus if you sign up for the Rail Plus option, you can get 25% off in other countries as well. They vary in price (between 100 and 200 euors, approximately), depending on whether you want the 25% discount card or the 50%, but either one is worth the price.
Accommodations While Traveling
Youth hostels are always the most economical way to go. They can be researched and booked from any number of sites on the Internet. Some hostels (A&O Backpackers in Berlin) are much nicer and more accessible than others (A&O Backpackers in East Berlin), so research carefully.
Destinations in Germany
Your student I.D. will get you free train travel to Hanover, Bremen, and Münster, all of which are worth a look. A bit further away are Köln, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin, all of which you could spend a few days in and have plenty to do. All the way to the south are München and Stuttgart, which could be a little expensive to get to, but definitely worth visiting, especially if you want to see them on your way to Austria, Switzerland,
Destinations in Europe
The possibilities are very open here. You can find student-priced airline tickets for much less than you'd pay elsewhere. You can get tickets from the Münster-Osnabrück airport round-trip to Rome and London for €70 - €100,sometimes even less. Night trains to Paris are around €140, and since your student I.D. gets you to Bad Bentheim (the station at the border with the Netherlands) for free, you can get to Amsterdam round-trip for about €40. If you're staying in Germany over the winter break, planning a longer trip
to one of these places is definitely worth it.