In Germany the grass is green in the Winter

Four years ago, when I went to Moscow for my exchange semester I met Tatiana, who was back then 21 years old. She was studying medicine at that time and really interested in Germany, because of her dream to work there as a doctor! When we first met, we only spoke russian, but now, when I asked her to tell me her story and of her experience, it was in perfect german.My russian on the other hand, has descended to very basic, unfortunately. 

Tatiana elaborated why she does not want to work in Russia as a doctor. That dream to work in another country evolved when she was in her first semester, but back then she only spoke english and working in the United States seemed too far away. She is a family person, wanted to see her russian family regularly and she did not want to move to the United Kingdom. So she decided to learn spanish and german, but after visiting those countries she decided to focus on Germany. “Spain has the better weather and is perfect for holidays, but Germany is more stable and I could imagine working and living there a lot better. Also it is very different from Russia in the winter. Here it is just grey but in Germany the grass is even green in the winter”, she raves. So Tatiana started with german language classes and whenever she was able she would come to Germany for internships in hospitals to learn more about medicine but also learn the language, get to know the people and see if this is where she wants to spend her life, away from the metropole of moscow, with its 15 million habitants. She explains that there are big differences between the systems. “In Germany doctors spend a lot of time with their patients and everything will be explained. In Russia it is the complete opposite. Often patients don’t ask or are afraid to ask and don’t even know their diagnosis”, she describes. “In Germany the patients know everything.”

Tatiana also mentions that there is a difference between the hospitals between the countries. While in moscow the hospital was well equipped she knows about hospitals which could definitely not keep with the standard in Germany. “In Germany it is normal to offer paid internships, so becoming doctors learn and see the daily life in a hospital. They are able to work as well and learn about procedures and processes. This is not the case at home.”

While in russia universities offer internships, they are not being paid, but the student has to pay. And while here the students are supposed to learn, Tatiana says that in Russia students and young doctors are more treated like helpers, who just execute, but don’t learn in practice.

She finished her studies in 2018 and decided instead of coming to Germany directly to continue with a two years advanced training. A decision she now regrets.

“I would not do it again,” she said.”I would come here immediately, because then I would be already working and now because of Corona I have to wait for my medical licence, but don’t know when I will receive it”. Everything takes a lot longer, because government agencies are not able to work as usual. So at the Moment she is still in Moscow, tries to hold still, work on her german skills and reflects on the past few years. “It was not always easy,”she sums up.”In Germany there is a lot more bureaucracy than there is in Russia. I love it when everything is planned out and ready to execute.” Doable you should imagine with german efficiency, but Tatiana denies it. She explains that there are websites to help you and give information but they are never in detail and the rules change constantly and from state to state. For her it was difficult to know which step followed which one, so very often she relied on people who already have done the procedure once, like coworkers from Ukraine or Belarus. “You know it is about the details if an application gets accepted or not at the office. Like does this state need the documents to be legitimized by a notary or not? The documents need to be translated but there are huge price differences by the translators. Some say it is 1000€, some say it is 200€, but if I make a mistake and my application does not get accepted I lose a lot of time. I went to city hall once and tried to explain that they needed to certify my documents, but they did not understand what I wanted and said they would not do that. At those moments I become really frustrated”!

It is not an unbeatable process Tatiana insists. She recommends not reading too many blogs. “A lot of people there tell their experience there and then you start worrying, but in the end it is easier than you think.” A lot of what you read is exaggerated, like the german exam is way  impossible to pass etc. “That is not true.” 

Just one thing, she thinks is very strange. “How am I supposed to show up at city hall, when they only are open until 4 pm? The shops are all closed on sunday, when am I supposed to shop? I won’t get used to that”.

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