Student life at German universities is usually quite a bit of fun. Students often play a large role in the services and amenities offered on campus, from travel offices to bookstores to cafeterias to pubs. The national student union is politically active and strongly advocates on behalf of German students. As a result, quite a few student services are subsidized by the federal government and students often receive concessions for everything from travel to food.
The amount of social integration you experience as a visiting student will depend on many things, including the type of study abroad program you are on (see the Program Models  section), the size of the university where you will study and the initiative you show in meeting German students and making friends. German student society is quite a bit different from the U.S., and you should expect to need to adapt to it.
To get to know Germans and join their circle of friends, it helps to participate in some structured activities on campus. German students often remain friends with their secondary school classmates who attend the same university, and cracking that social unit can be challenging. German students also tend to be a bit older than American students. Their high school lasts longer than ours, for one thing, and German males usually need to serve a year of obligatory military or social service after that (and increasingly German females are also doing a year of volunteer service before going to college).
The departments where you take most of your classes may have organized student bodies (called Fachschaften) that get together for coffee or drinks to talk and share information. They also organize parties at the beginning of each semester and also throughout the term.
All institutions have groups of students who get together because they share common interests or hobbies. There are student clubs, political organizations, choirs, orchestras, and theater groups. Club sports and sports classes are also very popular and are great ways to meet German students. Familiarize yourself with the teams in the professional soccer league (Bundesliga ) and their star players. Doing so can provide endless opportunities for conversation.
More informally, you will discover that German student culture encourages long, far-ranging discussions on a variety of topics, from politics to entertainment to the environment. Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and pastries) is an afternoon tradition in Germany, as is going to a Kneipe (a student pub) in the evening. Coffee bars and the cafeteria (Mensa) are among the most important facilities at any university. You can meet your friends, have a bit to eat, or read a book over a cup of coffee between your classes. The Mensa offers subsidized meals during lunchtime (the main meal of the day in Germany) with prices ranging from € 1.50 to € 4.00. Some of them are even pretty tasty!
If you are lucky enough to be invited to join a group of students for such events, take advantage of it. You’ll learn more about the culture and develop better language skills to boot.
If you study in Germany for any length of time, you will notice that cultural values are different there. This can lead to some misunderstandings, so it is best to be informed about where the flashpoints may lie.
|American Values||German Perceptions|
|German Values||American Perceptions|
|Directness, honesty||Blunt, rude, tactless|
|Loyal to circle of friends||Hard to get to know|
When in Germany -- A Study Abroad Experience  by Mary C. Selig