I have decided to write about my experience and provide you with the secret tips and tricks so that you don’t have to experience the troubles I went through. Consider this article as the Holy Grail of finding an accommodation as an international student in Germany.
Register at your University recommended Student Dorms
First things first: get a student dorm (cheapest option), you have to register a semester before your “starting semester”. In other words you have to register 6-7 months before you arrive. You are then placed in a waiting list which is long enough that it takes 7 months before your number finally arrives. So, as soon as you get your acceptance letter from your University, start applying to these dorms directly. Mail your University regarding the contacts that you should refer to for accommodation. It is a general notion for everyone that as soon as you get your University acceptance letter, you start your visa application process. I personally made the mistake of thinking of handling the accommodation process after my Visa arrives. Do not make that mistake! Accommodation process first followed by Visa or simultaneously. Once you have sorted the registration process of applying to the dorms and contacting the other accommodation contacts provided by your University, it’s time for you to check for WGs or shared apartments, which is where you are most probably going to spend your first semester.
Do not copy and paste text when replying to apartment ads
Head on to the website of “WG-Gesucht” and start replying to the ads. Make sure you read the ads properly as oftentimes the ads contain a number amidst the whole text which you are required to mention at the beginning of your text so that the owners who are renting the room can filter out the “copy paste text” students who usually do when they reply to an ad in the website. I know this because I replied to every ad in the website with the same text by copy pasting it with just a one or two liner explaining a bit about myself. Do not make this mistake! When you reply to an ad, make sure you completely describe yourself,attach pictures of you and for extra points also attach a video of you introducing yourself and of course make sure you mention the hidden number in your reply if there is any.
Bonus tip! You can also put up email alerts whenever a new ad comes on the site, so that you can make sure that you are the first or if not first, you are amongst the earliest that replies to an ad. The landlady of the WG that I am living in right now told me, “The ones that reply straight away after I post an ad are the potential serious and desperate tenants.”
Do not give up! You will receive a lot of rejection texts from WG-Gesucht. A lot as in 90% of the texts that you receive will be rejections but that’s an issue faced by everyone. When I had my room castings in person/online, I asked everyone who was renting the apartments how many more wanted this apartment. They said, “I am receiving 100s of applications and it is really difficult for me to choose one because it is really sad to let the others know that I didn’t choose them.” The housing scenario is so brutal that one of the owners told me that he just opened the website “random number generator” and selected the applicant number that the website generated.
Important Note: Do not try to offer an extra amount! If in the ad, the rent is 300 Euros, never say that you are willing to pay 350 (50 euros extra). That’s a big red flag to the owners. I know this because I did that and it didn’t turn out well.
Download the Semester Ticket map which shows the cities/towns covered by your semester ticket for free transportation.
Choose the town which is farthest away from your University or choose a town which is between 20-30 minutes away by train that is covered by your semester ticket. Check for shared apartments in “WG-Gesucht” in that town. The chances of you getting an apartment here exponentially increases as everyone is busy looking for “the perfect apartment” in the University town. Learn to settle for a bit less, life doesn’t always go in your favor. “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” is a quote used by the US marines. You got to do the same. You might complain that it is going to be difficult to go to the University everyday if it’s 30 minutes away. Well, try to wake up 30 minutes early! It would be beneficial in the long term too.
In this epic hunt for an apartment in Germany you lose something to earn something. If the apartment is a bit far away from the University, it also gets cheaper. Or the WG would be more comfortable with better facilities at the given price. My WG is 45 minutes away from the University but I basically live in a castle like a king. Want to bake a cake? You got the gear. Want to invite 20 friends for a party? Say no more, the WG has a huge lobby room. Want to do barbeque? The WG has a garden with an Apple tree, the list goes on. Infact, when I visit my friends living in the same town as the University who pays the same rent as me,I see them living in tiny rooms, clumsy apartments, and a noisy environment, making me wonder if I should really consider taking the dorm provided by my University or not. But cheaper rent always beats everything isn’t it?
Install the app “Bumble”, get its premium a month before you arrive in Germany. Change your location to the city of your University which is only possible with the premium version of the app as your location wouldn’t be in Germany being an international student since you haven’t arrived yet. Start swiping people from the “BFF and Bizz” section (not the Date section, that is a waste of time). Make as many friends as you can, German locals are really kind and the most helpful people I have ever met! This way you can meet locals and get familiarized with them before you arrive in Germany. Once you both get comfortable talking to one another, tell them your housing problem scenario and ask them for help. In most cases, they will offer you a place to stay in their own house until you get a room for yourself thus saving you hundreds of Euros which would have been spent on hostels or hotels. You could also ask them to search for a place as they are locals and will have more experience in finding a place asking folks in their town.
Email your professors to give you the contacts or the group links of the students of your department. Since the students are already living in Germany they could also provide you with a free temporary place to crash until you get an accomodation. Many students do part-time mini jobs where they meet people who could be looking for tenants. Their recommendation would directly get you a place.
Conclusion: So, these are my tips, my experience and the steps that I wish I would have done earlier instead of doing it after arriving in Germany. I hope this article makes your lives easier. I hope you all get an accommodation easily!
Dhritishman Hazarika (DMAN)
Masters in Particle & Astrophysics
HR, DEGIS Tubingen