Preparing For The Program
There are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the program. The more you know about Germany and the better you know German, the more you will get out of your time there. Take as many German courses as you possibly can before departure and try to read German during the summer so that you do not forget what you learned during the school year. In addition, read about German culture, history and politics. It will also be to your benefit to know as much as you can about American culture, history and politics. Germans are extremely well informed about European current events and know a great deal more about the U.S. than Americans generally know about Germany. Germans like to discuss contemporary issues and will probably ask you your opinion of NATO, environmental policy or racism in the U.S.
Preparing to Leave
Passports and Visas
It is important that you have a valid passport when you enter Germany. You do not need to apply for a visa since you will be allowed to enter Germany with just your American passport. After your arrival, the program staff in Munich will process your visa application. If you are not an American citizen and do not belong to a Schengen Country (European Union), you will need to apply for your visa ahead of time. Contact the local German consulate and submit your passport along with your acceptance to the University of Munich and the “Bestätigung” form, which is available at the Overseas Programs office. You will need to get a “Nationalvisum” not a “Schengenvisum”.
If you wish to send some of your things ahead of time you may use the address of the Institute. Allow six to eight weeks for surface mail. Unless you are willing to pay heavy customs, do not specify the contents or exact value of the contents. Instead write “Used Clothing” or “Candy,” etc. No medicine, not even aspirin, should be specified. The same procedure applies for Christmas or birthday packages sent by your family. The custom formalities at UPS are somewhat complicated, thus regular mail is preferable. Unless the content of the package is extremely valuable, do not insure it. It is very difficult to pick up insured packages and impossible for anyone but yourself to do so.
Mail and Phone
You will learn your exact address as soon as you arrive in Munich. Most students choose to purchase a mobile phone once in Munich. If you wish to give friends and family an address before you leave, give them the address of the institute. This address can be used as a mailing address for packages throughout the entire year. Expect airmail to take up to two weeks.
You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements to and from Munich. The program in Munich begins on September 2, 2014. You may arrive between August 30-September 1. The program director will send you an email in May 2014 to ask for your arrival date. A program assistant will pick you up when you arrive. If you plan to arrive before August 30, you will need to make your own arrangements.
International Student ID
The International Student ID is extremely useful. It gives you discounts on travel, museums, cultural events such as theater tickets, and historical sites. You will find it easily pays for itself during the program. The cost is $20 and it can be purchased through the Overseas & Off- Campus Programs Office at Lewis & Clark College or through a travel agent.
Eurail Youth Pass
If you plan to travel in Europe before or after the program, you may wish to consider the Eurail pass for train travel. You can purchase a Eurail Youth Pass for varying lengths of travel. This pass must be purchased in the U.S. and is available through most travel agencies. Another option within Germany is the BAHN CARD. For €60 you receive a 25% discount on all German trains for one year. There are German rail passes similar to the American Eurail passes that allow you to travel throughout Europe. The railway system in Europe is a clean and efficient way to get around!
You will be expected to carry your own luggage, sometimes for considerable distances along train platforms, so it is important that you choose lightweight yet sturdy luggage. You may not take more than two pieces of luggage on the airplane. A sleeping bag is not necessary for the program. A day pack or travel backpack will definitely come in handy for weekend excursions or personal travel.
Some students have brought skis, guitars and bicycles with them. The airlines provide packing for such items, however, it is possible to buy second-hand or new equipment in Munich and sell it after the program. Students often purchase new or used bicycles in specialized stores or flea markets, and you can always rent skis. It is not recommended that you bring a lot of bulky equipment.
The weather in Munich in the winter is cold. It is sometimes sunny, but winter temperatures are often in the 20s and 30s, so warm clothing is necessary. Germans wear lined boots and heavy coats during the winter, items that you might want to purchase after you have arrived. You can find everything you need in Munich if you should forget or run out of something.
A reminder: Do not bring bedding, lamps, stereos or boomboxes. Travel lightly by packing only what you absolutely need. If you find you can’t get along without another sweater, you can buy one in Munich. You do not need to bring a year’s supply of medication. Your insurance in Germany covers all medical costs including prescriptions.
The most effective way to transfer funds during your time abroad is through a debit card because you can withdraw funds using ATMs located throughout the world. Funds are issued in local currency, thus avoiding fees for conversion, and can also be withdrawn in appropriate amounts, which eliminates the need to carry large sums of money.
German banks will not accept personal checks, so don’t ask your parents to send you money that way. Since you will be in Munich for a year, we recommend opening a personal bank account at the Deutsche Bank 24. There you can have money sent to you in the form of an international bank draft drawable on a German bank and deposit it in your account. Credit cards are also accepted in Europe, but not as widely as in the U.S. For example, grocery stores and smaller stores (such as bookstores) do not accept credit cards.
Health and Insurance
No immunizations are required for travel in Europe. However, get a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the last 10 years. It is also a good idea to bring a small medicine kit with you. Some suggestions for items are: band-aids, aspirin, vitamins, and any prescription medication. If you wear glasses or contacts, take a back-up pair and a copy of your lens prescription.
Complete health insurance is provided through the program, starting immediately upon arrival in Germany. Insurance covers all necessary medication, hospitalization and treatment. It is, however, recommended that you see your dentist before you leave.