For the average Indian student, considering a career switch as late as after your undergraduate can be a little overwhelming, but in my experience, if you’re careful about how you go about it and make the choices that are right for you, it can be hugely rewarding. I took five important steps to ensure the process was smooth and my decisions sound. Here they are:
I was interning in the Merchant Navy when I realized I wanted to switch career fields. I was pretty adamant that Robotics was my true area of interest. With that in mind, I started looking for courses. After considering my options, I decided that I wanted to study in Germany. The academic processes followed by the German educational system convinced me that it was the right choice.
There are two kinds of educational institutions in Germany, namely the University and the so-called Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences). The courses are planned by university professors themselves and submitted not just to the University, but also to a central body associated with the government, which only approves the course for teaching on the basis of its relevance in the job market.
Whereas universities are more inclined towards research and studies, the Fachhochschuleis more focused on the practical implementation of the studies according to the current industry situation. I prefer to study in an institution, not inclined towards profit, but clearly focusing on quality education.
Although initially, I enrolled in a private consultancy for help on research for the application process, I soon figured that it was completely unnecessary. Everything I needed to get through the research process was available on the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) website.
DAAD has a lot of information in terms of courses available to international students—everything from the course fee, eligibility, requirements, the deadline for application, course program, job prospects in the field. But, the research required is time-consuming—you can’t complete it in half a day. It takes patience and attention to detail. I plotted all the information on an Excel table, which helped me streamline the application process.
The course I finally decided to go with—International Graduate Studies in Mechatronics from the University of Siegen—had bright opportunities in terms of a career. You can end up with jobs in embedded systems, control engineering, and automation and robotics, which worked well for me! I am currently pursuing an International Graduate in Mechatronics at the University of Siegen.
While the tuition fee for my course is almost negligible (as it’s a public university), I mainly needed to arrange for finances to block my student visa.
To acquire a student visa in Germany, international students are required to block an amount of €10,236 (around ₹8,46,947), which can be used for living expenses for the first year of their stay in Germany. For the second year, students can arrange the amount by working a part-time job along with their studies.
This would, of course, vary from student to student—whether you take a student loan, get financial backing from your family, or work after your undergraduate studies to save money to block the student visa.
The most tedious job during the application process was figuring out housing options. In smaller cities, housing options are more pocket-friendly but limited. In bigger cities, the rent can be quite heavy on the pocket.
To budget and sort out my living expenses and figure out what’s a fair price to pay on rent, I used a combination of two things: this useful website, which let me compare the cost of living in different cities; and Studierendenwerk, which is a state-run non-profit organization for student affairs in Germany that helps students to find housing options. Other than these sources, I found that this website and this website also gave useful listings.
One thing I made sure to do was to begin learning German during the application process itself. The lessons were easy to follow, and I could reach Level B2.1 of German in just 6 months.
The advantage of learning German is that looking for part-time jobs during your study becomes so much easier. My German, for instance, is not at a level where I can take a course taught in German, but it makes me more comfortable in being able to communicate with people here, and also apply for a part-time job that requires the German language as a skill.
If, like me, you’re planning to study German in India before going to Germany, remember, the only language certificate considered valid in Germany is from the Goethe Institut. Many fraudulent private organizations claim their certification is valid. The right way, if you want to learn from a private institution is to register for the Goethe examination externally, to qualify. Or you can just study at the Goethe Institut, as well.
In the time between my application and acceptance to my university of choice, I also got on Facebook and Linkedin to speak to university alumni about their experiences just to make sure; I was moving in the right direction. This is one of the best ways to make contacts in a university or in another country, who are from the same field as you are. I found so many helpful people who gave a lot of valuable information.
Now that I’m here, I find that life in Germany is full of promises of opportunities and a safe future. Every student here needs to work hard for it, but the results are worth fighting for! I find that with a little persistence, focused vision, and a will to learn, you can make a good future for yourself in this country.