Ghayathri Suriyamoorthy quickly realized how useful a good preparation for studying abroad is. Before leaving, she made herself familiar with the university, Germany, its lifestyle and cultural costums and also with new opportunities she might have there by research. She has lived in Stuttgart for two years now and is still open for new adventures – recently, she spent one Erasmus semester in Linköping/Sweden. In the interview she shares her knowledge and also gives helpful advice.
What did you do in advance to prepare for your first days in Stuttgart and your study?
It is important and useful to know at least the basic phrases in German to move around with ease, so I brushed up my German skills. I made a packing list after careful consideration of the weather and availability/pricing of utilities in German stores. I also registered for the international buddy program, which is an airport pick-up service offered by the University to support the incoming students. Additionally, I downloaded useful apps like DB (the German railway company “Deutsche Bahn”), SSB (Stuttgart’s public transportation) and an offline map of Stuttgart.
What were your first steps after your arrival in Stuttgart?
After my arrival, my first destination was the International Office (IZ) to collect the welcome package. It was a comprehensive booklet which listed in great detail the things I needed to do following my arrival and how to get it done. The staff at the help desk also assisted in translating the German documents/letters for those who needed it. The student community in Stuttgart is strong, so I could also turn to the seniors and other new students whenever I felt lost.
How did you learn about the introductory events of the semester which are offered by e.g. the International Office (IZ) and the faculty?
Starting your masters in a foreign country is undoubtedly a life-altering decision, even more so when the whole world is trying to battle a virus. I am, therefore, sharing my learning (both campus-based and online classes) and living experience at the University of Stuttgart in the hope that the prospective students benefit from it. As soon as I accepted the admission, I started receiving useful emails about introductory events with basic tips and suggestions on how to get started with my studies. These also contained information about the international and student organizations at the university. The International Office (IZ) at the University of Stuttgart is extremely student-friendly and they are the point of contact for all non-academic questions that an international student might have. I absolutely recommend signing up for their newsletter. They organize fun and interactive activities throughout the semester, which is a great way to meet and interact with other international students and also to explore the city. Apart from this, each study program has a dedicated program manager who supports the students during the study period and answers all questions related to the program. This information is also usually available on the faculty website.
Regarding support for international students: What was good and what could have been better? Did you know whom to contact at our faculty and the International Office (IZ) for your inquiries?
Although all the details are available on the university’s website, most of the pages are in German and the translated page does not always translate the information accurately. So it could be hard for an international student who doesn’t know German to fetch the correct information. I recommend using google translate on the German page rather than going for the translation provided by the University of Stuttgart. The program manager is a very important link between you and the university. Please ensure you’re in constant touch with him or her. Since M.Sc. Electrical Engineering (EENG) was a new course, that was introduced only in the winter semester 2019/2020, we did not have any direct seniors from the department to get insights or help from. But things got better after the orientation ceremony, where all our questions were answered.
Any important tips for new international students in getting acquainted with the new surroundings, the university and their study?
In Germany, cash is still king (more than digital money). So it advisable to carry Euro notes along to get by during the initial days. Germany is an extremely student-friendly country and offers plenty of discounts for students including free transportation around the VVS region (railway network of Stuttgart) after 6 pm during weekdays. Research well before opening a bank account and find one that’s free for students to open. Be sure to check for the opening hours of any place you are visiting and be on time for all your appointments.
How did you get in contact with fellow and senior students?
To ensure a smooth beginning in Stuttgart, I got in touch with the alumni network to gain their insight about life and studies in Stuttgart. There were multiple WhatsApp groups set up by ourselves where the current students could interact with one another. Apart from this, there are also several Facebook groups to interact with the seniors and alumni of the University of Stuttgart.
Do you have any further advice you would like to share?
Network with a wide range of people apart from your circle. Familiarize yourself with the various study body organizations available at the university and get involved in extracurricular activities and hiking trips to get to know the city and the locals.
Would you like to share your insights in and experiences at the University of Stuttgart, too? Please send an email to the International Service Point of Faculty 5!