So, without further ado, here are six websites I wished I had known about as soon as I moved to Mainz:
Believe it or not, it took me six months to find this website, which I now use multiple times a day. It’s the go-to place for everything involving public transportation in Mainz: bus, trains, rental bikes, streetcars. The most helpful feature, in my opinion, is the application that allows you to see which buses are departing from a particular stop at any given time. No more waiting for the bus for twenty minutes in the pouring rain! You can also view plans for every bus or tram line in Mainz, and, if you aren’t sure which buses go where, you can simply enter two locations and the website will tell you what lines run between them.
One of the most amazing aspects of living abroad is being able to communicate with others in a foreign language. If you want to practice your German skills or even start learning the language outside of the classroom, check out tandemparterns.org. After making a profile that states which language you want to learn and which language(s) you offer, you can browse profiles of people in your area with similar goals. Working on my German accent with my tandem partner once a week for an hour was one of the most beneficial things I did on my language-learning quest-and, over a year later, she is one of my dearest friends in Mainz.
When I moved to Germany, I thought the only way to travel inside of Germany as a car-less person was by train. The Deutsche Bahn is fast and convenient when it is on schedule, but completely agonizing when it is not. Plus, tickets prices are often far outside of my student budget. Now, when I am travelling anywhere outside of the Mainz semester ticket range, buses are my go-to choice (five-25 Euro/ticket to pretty much anywhere in Germany!). Busliniensuche.de helps you compare all bus lines departing from your city, and allows you to buy your ticket immediately online. Plus, it lets you compare train prices (often at a discount) as well as a ride-share program, if you are looking for more options for your upcoming trip.
This site, which is actually a Facebook group, is the perfect place to start if you are looking for friends outside of class. It has thousands of active members from all walks of life, and is my go-to place if I need inside information about Mainz: where’s the best place to get a hair cut? Where can I take my gluten-free friend out to lunch? If you are looking to join in on or organize a pick-up soccer game, cookout, or hike, or even spend a cozy afternoon in a café with new friends, just write a brief post or create an event and you are sure to find others who share your interests.
Fremde werden Freunde (Foreigners become Friends) is a fantastic program run by the university’s Student Office. It pairs international students with host families in Mainz and offers a full cultural and social program-day trips, tours, hikes, an international Thanksgiving, parties featuring different countries, etc. As a participant in the program myself, I have loved the chance to get to know people outside of the university. My host family, along with other couples I have met in the program, have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome in Mainz: they have helped me move, given me a place to stay over Christmas, taken me with them on camping trips, and provided hours of advice and helpful information. Fremde werden Freunde may well be one of the things I will miss most after I leave Germany.
Last but certainly not least, the International Student Office-a vital source of practical information about everything relating to your studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-University. Find resources online or ask questions in person about housing, registration, working on campus, paperwork requirements, etc. The group actually won a prize from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for their excellent work with international students-definitely worth a visit!
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