My path towards the University of Stuttgart
Chi-Shiang Liu from Taiwan joined the University of Stuttgart as an international student to study Electrical Engineering. For “career start bw” he writes about his study start in Baden-Württemberg.
Hi, I am Chi-Shiang Liu. I graduated from National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology and my majors were Applied German and Electronic Engineering. As a result, I am capable of speaking not just Mandarin, Taiwanese dialect and English fluently, but also German for daily conversations.
Applying for the Master Program in Electrical Engineering at the University of Stuttgart
The application for the Master Program is really different from the one in my home country: I had to list all the courses I took during my Bachelors and describe their content. I am a double-major student, so it took a while for me to finish the list word by word. What also surprised me is that the university didn't ask me to provide a recommendation letter. Only documents like graduation certificate and transcripts are required.
Applying for a visa
Applying for a German visa in Taiwan requires patience. The system is not fully digitalized, therefore, students must book an interview online and go to Taipei in person. It is almost impossible to receive an appointment before the semester in Germany starts, since you can book it only three months in advance. Hundreds of students in Taiwan try to book an appointment from June to September. What made the process even harder for me was that the required amount of money in the blocked account was increased during my application for the visa. I had to send extra money to the blocked account. However, the staff of the Germany Institute Taipei is friendly and professional. Luckily, the required documents are listed on the website, which makes the preparation very simple.
Finding a dorm
About the dorm: When I was a college student in Taiwan, the university provided every freshman with a dorm. But here in Germany, the students have to apply for one. The good thing was that the International Office of the University of Stuttgart provided future international students with sufficient information about the accommodation and I applied for it early enough online, so I got a room at a very low price (284 Euro per month) compared to the average price in Stuttgart (around 450 Euro per month for a room in a shared flat). Moreover, the caretaker (Hausmeister) is very professional and prepared it very well for me: He gave me the key along with the bedding even though I arrived out of office hours .
To enroll at the University of Stuttgart, the process is rather simple and can basically be done online. If you don't want to do it online, just bring the required documents including graduation certificate and transcript to the office during opening hours. The staff there is friendly and willing to help students to solve their problems with enrollment. It is also efficient to write an email or call them. I wrote an email since I didn’t know when I would receive my student ID card. To my surprise, the staff replied to me within 30 minutes with detailed instructions to solve the problem.
Why I decided to study at the University of Stuttgart
As a kid born and raised in a traditional Asian family, it is actually a big problem for my parents that I didn't decide to of go to any of the "best universities" in the QS or Times Higher Education Ranking. In Mandarin, there is a saying called "萬般皆下品，唯有讀書高", which means "everything leads to failure, only study leads to success." Just because I can speak English, I should go to MIT. Even if I planned to study in Germany, I should only prepare to study at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). However, I do personally believe that there is no best university only the most suitable university. Take myself as an example: My major is power electronics. The two major prospects of this field are electrical vehicles and green energy. There is no doubt that Stuttgart owns the best resources for car business. Moreover, Germany planned to close all the nuclear power plants and one of the last ones is located in Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg has a similar size like Taiwan, 35751 km² and 36197 km² respectively. Taiwan is also closing the nuclear power plants. I think it’s good how Germans react to the change and how the green energy system supports the power consumption. Therefore, I only applied to the University of Stuttgart for a Master Program in Electrical Engineering. The good thing is that the list of master programs at the University of Stuttgart can easily be found on the website.
How I prepared myself for my studies in Germany
I decided to study in Germany when I was a sophomore and my university (NKUST, Taiwan) is the only public university that has a German department. How I learned German is very simple. I applied for a double-major and took a language course as a second degree. But eventually I applied for a degree in English at the University of Stuttgart, because TestDaf is expensive and I knew students at the University of Stuttgart can enroll in any language course they want to.
Concerning the finances, I had heard that some apply for student loans, especially since international Non-EU students have to pay tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg. In my case, I worked in Taiwan right after I graduated from college. On the one hand, I knew I had to pay 1,500 Euro for tuition each semester and about 11,000 Euro to the blocked account for my living expenses. On the other hand, I did not want to study for a Master degree without practical experiences in the industry. I worked for 15 months in TronfutureTech Inc., the best aerospace company and the top phased array radar provider in Taiwan. This work experience helped me to know what kind of technology is popular right now.
My first week at the University of Stuttgart
I arrived in Frankfurt am Main on 14 October 2022 by plane and reached Stuttgart by train (ICE).
I have to say that things were not ideal before I came to Germany because everything had to be last minute. The semester began on 17 October, but due to the late application date of visa, I received my visa only on 12 October. I did not dare to buy the flight ticket before getting the visa, so I bought it right after I had received the visa and the flight was just two days after. Moreover, I had not packed anything. But I finally managed to complete everything on time before the flight. What I learned from this is that what seems impossible at first can work out in the end.
It was not that troublesome to get to my dorm without internet because I do speak German and I knew the German motto "Fragen kostet nichts", which means "asking questions doesn't cost anything“.When I left the dorm for the first time, a Chinese woman asked me in Mandarin if I had time to join their BBQ party. It was about time for lunch so I joined them. It turned out that they were a group of Chinese Christians and they were having a party for freshmen to get to know the university and the surrounding better. Everything was so wonderful and I even joined their trips, visited the Mercedes-Benz-Museum and joined a hike in Black Forest. It was a privilege, as an atheist Taiwanese, to have nice trips with them and they were always so friendly and willing to help me with any problem I encountered. I think Stuttgart is such a culturally diverse city with people speaking different languages and having different backgrounds. It doesn't matter which country you are from, what language you speak or what religion you believe in, there is always a place in Stuttgart for you.
Being a stranger in a new place: Funny encounters
In R.O.C, we have a saying called "馬路如虎口", which means the roads are like the mouth of a tiger. Normally, as pedestrians, we will wait for the cars to pass because we know it is very dangerous for us. But in Germany, every driver waits until there is no one on the pedestrian's way. What seems to be very awkward but actually funny for me is that I once saw a bunch of cars driving really fast and I was about three steps away from the corner. It was so natural for me to take out my smartphone and wait for the cars to pass. To my surprise, the cars stopped so suddenly in front of me and the driver shouted at me saying things like "What are you waiting for? Just cross the road." As a person with a bachelor degree in language, I have to say that the metaphor was funny, but ironic. I did not feel insulted. This situation also shows on the other hand that it is extremely safe to walk in Germany.
What I would do different next time
It is fine now, but during the first week of my stay in Germany, I was worried of not having a better farewell with my family and my friends. It was my first time leaving my country for more than a week and actually the first time flying abroad alone. It would have been nice if I could have had a meal with any of them before I left. But thanks to communication technology, it is not that hopeless. At least I can see them through video calls. The internet in Germany isn't too bad.
Support at my new university in Baden-Württemberg for new international students
There are different preparation sessions the International Office and the department of my study program offered before departure. But I was late with everything, so I missed them. Even if you are late like me, it is always helpful to write an email. I actually applied for the international buddy program organized by international affairs, which welcomes international students on arrival in Stuttgart and on campus and provides initial assistance in getting started the right way with the new life at the University. But I didn't provide sufficient information about my arrival and decided to do things on my own.
Accompany Chi-Shiang Liu through his first year at the University of Stuttgart and watch our three-part movie series about his study start here.
Author: Chi-Shiang Liu