As I prepare for doctoral studies overseas, I plan on offering advice and insights I learn along the way (This page will be regularly updated).
One of the first things I’m noticing as I investigate doctoral programs in Germany is their emphasis on the ancient languages. For example, the NT department in Heidelberg expects you to know Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. If you do not show competency in these, you will be required to take classes to help you learn them. Of course, in addition to these ancient languages, you will need to pass a German competency exam before beginning your studies in Germany (for some tips on learning German, click HERE). Also, look into the possibility of enrolling in a Studienkolleg to prep you for German at the University. I HIGHLY recommend you to look into this option: read HERE for an overview of Studienkolleg.
European universities expect doctoral students to have completed a thesis at the master’s level. This means that you need to have an M.A. in NT studies, a Th.M., or, if you happen to be at an institution that offers such a degree, an M.Div that includes a thesis. You have a couple of options for choosing how you structure your Master’s degree. You can do what I did: complete an M.Div, then while working on your Th.M. in the States you can use this time to work on your German and perhaps publish some essays. Another option is to earn a Th.M. or an M.A. in the U.K. or in a German-speaking institution. I am currently in contact with a student who is doing this at Heidelberg. She is given more leniency in learning German at the master’s level, and is working with the prof. who will later direct her doctoral studies.
Financing your degree
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in studying overseas is finances. Not only do you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for the cost of education, you’ve also got to figure out how you’re going to afford to live in another country on the budget of a poor student. What follows is advice about scholarships, fellowships, housing, and other helpful matters.
When it comes to housing, check with the university to see if there are any ecumenical housing options. What I’m finding with the German schools is that the Lutheran church finances these ecumenical houses as a ministry to international students. The costs vary depending on which university you’re in contact with — some are free, some are 300 Euro’s a month. This cost not only provides you with an apartment, but also with a free transportation pass, two meals a day, and european travel excursions.
There are several you need to know about:
1. The Rotary’s Ambassadorial Scholarship
This scholarship provides students with a one time gift of $27,000 to pay for one year of overseas study. The application process is quite extensive, but should you receive the grant it will be worth it (Note, you can not be the son or grandson of a rotary member, which, unfortunately, I am, so I’m disqualified from this one).
2. the DAAD (Deutscher Akademisher Austausch Dienst/ German Academic Exchange Service)
This is an extensive grant program, offering assistance to college students, masters students, and doctoral students. It also offers grants for summer exchange programs and language school.
For doctoral studies, they offer a grant to cover your studies in Germany. This grant provides with roughly 1000 euros each month, plus it will cover your health insurance costs and assist with travel. You apply for this grant yearly, with a total of four possible years of study provided. The deadline for application is Nov 15.
The eligibility requirements are as follows:
-Applicants should have a well-defined research project that makes a stay in Germany essential. Preference will be given to applicants who have been invited by a faculty member at a German university to study or do research in a particular university department.
-Applicants in the arts, humanities and social sciences should have a good command of German.
-Applicants should have received their last degrees no longer than six years before the application deadline.
-At the time of application, applicants may not be living in Germany for a period of more than one year.
-Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada. Foreign nationals are eligible if they have been full-time students/scholars at an accredited US or Canadian University for at least two years at the time of application.
-Prior recipients of a DAAD grant/scholarship should contact DAAD New York before applying to determine their eligibility.
For more information regarding this grant, see the website for DAAD above.
Many German universities offer fellowships for doctoral students. These provide you with valuable research experience and offer a side income to help cover living expenses. The amount of pay varies. It is best to mention that your are interested in such an opportunity when you meet with your prospective doctoral advisor.
Cost of Tuition in Germany
Are you ready for some good news? There is no cost of tuition. Yes, that’s right. It’s free. You are simply responsible for a registration fee each year. This varies depending on which German university you are attending — Heidelberg’s registration fee is 102 Euros, Munich’s is 500 (Munich is one of the most expensive places to study in Germany: Not only is the registration fee higher, students do not receive the free travel pass, and the city is very expensive). Even still, 500 euros a year for studying in Germany does not seem like much compared to 20,000 a year for studying in the U.K. Furthermore, you get the added benefit of learning a new language in Germany, which you would not have gotten had you opted for the U.K.
Helpful Resources for the Details of German Doctoral Studies
There are a myriad of details to take care of related doctoral studies in Germany. I’m going to briefly summarize these for you and provide you with helpful links to assist you with further investigation. First, let’s talk about a student visa. The fact is that you do not need one if you are from the U.S. Instead, here’s what happens: (1) you arrive in Germany; (2) within the first week you report your place of residence to the proper government office; (3) within three months you apply for a residence permit, for which you will need to prove several things, including school matriculation papers and proof of financing. For proof of fincancing you have to show that you either have a scholarship/grant, or that you have at least 800 Euros a month for one year. More details about the residence permit can be found HERE and HERE. Also, THIS link provides instructions on registering your address, health insurance, and residence permit (LMU).
Another important step is getting health insurance in Germany. You will need to prove that you have done this when you matriculate and when you apply for a residence permit. The good news is that this insurance is fairly affordable in Germany, and usually costs doctoral students around 50 Euros monthly. The DAAD has put together an invaluable resource packet explaining the details of doing a phd in Germany, with specific info about health insurance. This is well worth the read, and can be found HERE.