Going abroad can be a big challenge, especially if you are going on your own. There are always some problems, which may appear during your stay in a foreign country, some are very common while others can be less common. Below we listed a number of problems that may come up during your time as an Erasmus student, as well as solutions for these problems.
By Leyla Gallego
1. Learning agreement: This is one of the lengthiest procedures you will have to do during your exchange. The learning agreement is done between the three parts: the student, the destination university and the home university. In it you have to indicate which subjects you will be undertaking at the visiting university. Before leaving you should have prepared one learning agreement with your coordinator at your home university. When you get to Germany, you will meet your local coordinator, the h_da will assign you one. With your local coordinator you can review the learning agreement and correct or improve anything that needs amendments; it is important that you two keep in touch for potential further changes or questions.
2. Finding an accommodation: The International Office will help you find an accommodation and applying for the Studentenwerk Darmstadt. Because there are just a few rooms reserved for exchange students, you may have to look for another option. You can always apply for a shared flat if you prefer. If you definitely prefer try to find a shared flat you are free to do it. If you have a room provided by the Studentenwerk you should leave it after one semester and find a private accommodation for the next one. There are Facebook groups for housing in Darmstadt and different websites like wg-gesucht.de or immobilienscout24.de where you can look for a flat.
3. You don’t speak German: If you have a good level of English, you may not need a German certificate. Many universities in Germany offer a lot of courses taught in English. A lot of people in Germany also speak at least a couple of words in English. Therefore, if all your classes, or most of them are taught in English, you don’t necessarily have to speak German before your exchange, but it always helps to learn the local language as much as possible so you get the most out of your exchange experience.
4. I don’t like my accommodation: Sometimes your expectations outweigh the reality. We recommend you to try to stay at least a month in that place before making the decision to move. There are many university residences in Darmstadt so it will not be a problem.
5. Opening a bank account: This is a mandatory step when you arrive to Germany, because you will need an account to pay for your rent every month. During the first week, a group of tutors will organise an appointment at the bank and help you with this procedure.
6. Feeling home sick: At first, it may be difficult to adapt to your life abroad. You will miss your family and friends and may even feel the need to go back. Take your time and give this new experience a chance. You will get to meet a lot of people from different cultures, see amazing new places and learn a lot of useful things. If despite of everything, you feel the necessity to go back home, you are always in your right to do so, just ask the international office and they will help you with the process.
7. You don’t like the courses you enrolled in: During the first week of the semester, exchange students have the possibility to get a taste of all the courses and decide whether or not they are convenient for you. If there are some courses that you don’t find convenient, ask your local coordinator for alternatives.
8. Get sick: In case of illness during your stay abroad, you should be prepared and have organised for medical insurance. If you come from a European country, you just need to get the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), so in case you get sick you are can go to hospital, or to a GP, to get examined free of charges. Moreover, we will give you a list of some doctors who speak specific languages.
Less common problems:
9. Getting pregnant during your stay: This isn’t one of the most common situations but it happens. This is a really delicate and personal case, so you will need to take your time to decide what you want to do. The international office advisors will help and support you in cases like this. They will also assist you in deciding if you should continue your exchange program, or go back home.
10. Lose your documents: The first thing to do if you lose your documentation abroad is to file a lawsuit at the nearest police station. In it, the officers will give you an extract that will be necessary for the embassy of your country to issue a new passport or a safe-conduct to return to your country. The consulate has also the authority to issue a safe-conduct to help you return home.
11. Be fined in the public transport: If you are traveling without a ticket in public transports you may be fined up to 60 Euro. If you only forgot your semester ticket, don’t worry you won’t have pay the total fine. Go to one of the DB offices and show your semester ticket, you will then only be asked to pay six euros.