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  • Writer's pictureStacey Chiew

Study Abroad For Free? It’s Possible!

The only dreams impossible to reach are the ones you never pursue. - Michael Deckman

The sharp decline of the Malaysian Ringgit against the US dollar and British Pound has made international education ridiculously expensive. The cost of attending a university is increasing faster than wages. To many Malaysian students, studying abroad can be an expensive affair. The staggering cost of international education has affected many local students to put on hold their overseas dreams. Instead, they chose to attend local universities to save on tuition fees.

Can study abroad be affordable? Is it possible to study overseas for free? The answer is yes! Universities in Germany and Norway offer free or low-cost education to all international students. The free-tuition policies, strong research performance and high standards of education have indeed attracted many international students for years.

Germany tops the list of countries where tuition fees are waived for international students. It is also one the few countries with many Nobel Prize winners. Universities in Germany offer opportunities for undergraduate research and outstanding programmes in various fields at a fraction of the price. Students are required to pay only a small amount of administration fee which costs about 250 EUR per semester. That’s a steal for anyone who would like to get an internationally recognized degree.

Neshi Mavani decided to pursue higher education in Germany because it is the biggest developed country in Europe. The stable economic condition and affordable cost of living are the main reasons Neshi applied for Friedrich Schiller University (FSU). She is currently taking masters in Molecular Life Sciences. She plans to pursue her PhD and hope to embark on a career in infectious disease research. Being a Covid-19 survivor, she understands the importance of science in dealing with the global crisis, especially the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely changed the world.

Right, Neshi Mavani

Why did you choose Germany as your destination for higher education?

While tuition fees in other countries can get very expensive, Germany offers free tuition to international students. Studying at a tuition-free university can reduce my parents’ financial burden in a big way. So FSU is the place to be to pursue higher education and experience German culture. FSU is a forward-thinking university that provides opportunities for students who are interested in venturing into new research fields. For this reason, I believe going to FSU can broaden my horizon and expose me to the latest research ideas as I intend to pursue a career in the sciences.

Many international students praise the cities and cultural atmosphere in Germany. Foreigners enjoy living in Germany as there are countless activities and new experiences for them to enjoy. Germany is one of the most diverse cities in the world. The country also has one of the best education systems in the world. I must say I have greatly benefited from the theoretical and practical aspects of a good university.

How did you deal with the language barrier? Is English widely spoken in Germany?

When I first arrived in Germany, I did face some challenges, one of them is the language barrier. However, the Germans were patient with me. They didn't mind communicating in English with me so that I could get around. The German language course I took and the surroundings had forced me to learn the language quickly and adapt to the new culture. Fortunately, the younger generation of Germans and foreigners who work and live in the cities do speak English. However, the locals usually prefer to communicate in German. In fact, German is the most spoken language in Europe.

Would you recommend Malaysian students to study in Germany?

I would highly recommend Malaysian students to grab the opportunity to study in Germany. Despite being a student here in a foreign land, I have gotten many opportunities to work with experts in my field of study. Great job opportunities after graduation for foreigners is one of the many reasons why international students keep flocking to Germany. Universities in Germany are recognized internationally. Graduates from German universities are well respected by employers worldwide. I strongly believe that the German education system will equip me with the knowledge and practical skills needed to help me succeed in my field.

Is it hard to apply to a university in Germany?

No, it is not hard at all. If you fulfil all the requirements and documents needed, the application process should be simple.

Neshi at Friedrich Schiller University, Germany

How studying in Germany has impacted your life? What are the benefits of studying in Germany?

I have made so many wonderful friends throughout my four years in Germany. They have been my constant support and encouragement. Apart from that, I am given the opportunity to work part-time to finance my living expenses instead of asking my family for more money. Germany is a perfect place for international students. Well, no tuition fees and great job opportunities, I couldn't ask for more.

Studying in Germany has helped me learn to see things from different perspectives due to the cultural diversity of the international community here. The education in Germany has prepared me well to excel in my field. Imagine having the opportunity to study in a university that provides quality education while enjoying the experience of studying overseas with no worry; this is like a dream come true for me.

What is the most challenging part of studying in Germany?

Although I am lucky to be exposed to one of the best education systems in the world, managing a heavy course load is still a challenge for me. I understand good grades require great effort; for this reason, I always do the best I possibly can to excel in all examinations. If you don't know the German language, it might be slightly challenging at the beginning of the semester. Eventually, most students will find ways to adapt to the language and culture here. Adaptability skills are all you need to adjust to a new environment.

What is your advice to those who want to take a similar path?

Apply as soon as possible. You can stand a better chance of getting into the university of your choice if you take early action. Remember, don't be afraid to ask for help. The administrative staff are always willing to assist you in every way.

What was the biggest culture shock?

It was when I found out how punctual, rule-abiding and organized the Germans are. Everything in Germany is scheduled, planned and arranged in an orderly manner. Because of this, I have learned to become more organized, punctual and productive.

Photo courtesy: Friedrich Schiller University Jena

What are your plans?

After finishing my PhD, I would love to continue to pursue my passion in the research field by working as a post-doctoral researcher or a research scientist at a company. My dream is to find solutions through the findings of my research work and solve real-life problems that our society is facing. I am mainly interested in the area of microbiology, plant biochemistry as well as immunology. I hope to make a positive change in this world.

Published in Dreamic Educational Magazine 2021.

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