Abroad in Mainz | University Life in Germany and in America

Studium, Internationales
Sarah F.

During my time here in Germany, I have seen and dealt with multiple experiences at the university that are so different from my experiences at the university in Memphis. Through course registration as well as through exams, I have dealt with both the positive and negative sides of the university life here in Mainz.


In Mainz, course registration for exchange students is via paper and not online for most departments. Students have to go to different departments if they choose subjects that are not within the same subject. However, it can be quite a problem to figure out which person to go to get the forms approved. 

The first semester wasn’t as bad since most of my courses where in the Journalism department while others were in the Linguistics department. This semester, on the other hand, was a bit of a struggle since I had to go find the right person to approve the non-journalism courses. But I managed it through. In my case, besides the Journalism department, I had to go to the British Studies Department to get my other courses approved and registered.

In Memphis, both international and domestic students register online. There isn’t too much paper signing unless you are taking an overload of classes which is typically over 18 credit hours. 

Also, that is another thing. Classes in the states count for contact hours and not for the amount of work you do. In Memphis, photography course is three credit hours; however, the amount of time spent in the class is about three hours per class meet and that is not including the work afterwards. Whereas here in Mainz, that course might be more than three credit hours due to the amount of work and contact.


In Memphis, I typically pay over $4,000 per semester, not including the semester and living fees. The tuition here in Mainz is about $300 per semester. Most Americans use loans, scholarships, out-of-pocket and grants to pay for university. Trust me, there are a lot of tears and memes about the loan debt since most Americans use loans to pay for university, which is quite a problem because most of the loans don’t cover the whole tuition.


Depending on your courses in America, the way classes are arranged can be quite different. In Memphis, I typically had class about twice or thrice a week. These classes typically last about an hour to an hour and a half if the class met twice a week.

Now, in Germany, if the class is intensive, then the class tends to meet every day for about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the class. There are also weird scheduling classes where the class meets once a week but it is three hours long or classes that meet on the weekends. 

In the states, most classes give out homework for every class meeting, similar to most classes in Germany. Now in both countries, students are supposed to complete them. In the states though, there is a bit more homework assigned than in Germany unless it is an intensive language course.

There are also class discussions in most American courses like in my courses here in Germany. However. most of my courses here in Germany typically don’t have much deep discussions.

Book Costs

Germans don’t know how lucky they are in terms of textbook costs. They are so inexpensive here! In Memphis, for my beginner Russian course, I had to pay nearly $250 for both my textbook and workbook while I paid only $60 or about 50 euros here. It’s worse when it comes to science textbooks. It is common for an American student to pay nearly $600 for textbooks for renting and/or used.

Syllabus, Grades and lovely Exams

In the states for most classes, the professor gives the students a syllabus in order to give them what the course will be about, what books will be needed, the breaks, and when exams are. The syllabus is like a contract between the teacher and the student. Most of the information is on the syllabus and teachers can change the syllabus but it is normally the schedule that is changed. 

Not having a syllabus was the strangest thing I encountered while being here. For most of my courses last semester minus the journalism courses, I typically didn’t receive one. It wasn’t until I started taking British literature courses and journalism courses this semester I started receiving them.

In America, students typically receive grades for most or almost everything they do. No seriously, we have homework and participation grades. Most of my courses here in Mainz rely on my final exam while in the states, the final exam isn’t as deterimental.

Exams in Mainz are either on the computer or essays while in America, most exams are either a written multiple choice, an in-class essay, an out of class essay or a take-home exam. The main type being a multiple choice exam for most lower level classes and the take-home or essay format for upper level classes.

Places to Study

In Mainz, I study mainly in Starbucks in the train station. For me personally, it is easier to get work done because I can focus my attention on the task at hand. Then again, I do tend to come here due to the British Wi-Fi, not the best quality, but I do get to look at vids on YouTube that tend to be blocked in Germany. 

In general, it is quite normal for American students to study in different places besides the library, their rooms or a study area, mainly because of the excessive amount of homework. In Germany, I believe most people study at the university, their dorms, and sometimes at a café depending on the hour of the day in Mainz.

Where I am now

Well, I am halfway done with the semester while at the same time getting ready for the next semester back in the states. It is a bit chaotic. During this whole month of May, I participated in Journalism and Public Opinion with Prof. Hrach, a journalism professor at my home university, with students from my home university and it was quite nice. It felt like a piece of home came over. Now, that was rather sappy. 

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