I nearly cried at the embassy

Carlos and I met during his master degree in Heilbronn sometime in 2017 through a mutual friend. The good thing having friends like hers is she is so extraverted she will always introduce you to new people she randomly met somewhere. So it just happened that Carlos and I were at the same events, parties but I have never heard the story of how he actually decided to move to Germany, what issues he had to overcome to study there. He is now back in his hometown Agua Prieta in Mexico, which is located on the border to Arizona. “The border is just about 200 meters from my house. I can see the US everyday, but at the moment it is closed due to Covid. Only US Citizens can enter.”

He works as a freelancer in Digital Marketing for Bechtle, a german IT system house company located in Heilbronn and helps his family in their family owned furniture store. “One of the employees has just quit, so I had to take care of the deliveries this morning” he laughed. 

During the Zoom call he wears a winter hat. At daytime it can have up to 20 degrees but at night right now it has around zero degrees. Comparable to Germany, when he was there for the first time in 2011 in Pforzheim for an exchange semester. During this time it became his dream after finishing his studies in Mexico to live and work abroad. “In college I started to study Italian and I wanted to go to Italy, but I discovered that my University only had double degree programs with France and Germany, so I chose Germany because there the only language requirement was english.” So it was actually an “accident” but he decided to come back when he finished his bachelor and master degree in Mexico for another Master in Germany. “I wanted to do something similar so I decided for a Master in International business which was not so difficult, because I already knew, from my previous stay of the DAAD, the german academic exchange service. They provide knowledge which universities could be interesting etc. So that was actually the easiest step”, he laughed. “The difficulty actually just started”.

 

If you want to study there is three things you have to take care of:

  1. The accommodation in Germany

  2. The visa

  3. The paperwork of the university

 

The university provided him with a list of apartments and landlords who rent their place to students, and because of his stay in Germany in 2011 he had some german skills but you have to ask everyone if they have a flat available and this just takes time. Time which is very valuable which he should later see.

“Go study in Germany, that sounds amazing. But that means a lot of work, which you will only discover step by step. Of course if you have done it once or twice you know how everything works and you get used to it, but dealing with the visa, accomodation, city hall, insurance etc. for the first time was tough.” 

It was exactly this year in 2016 when the german government introduced the concept of a blocked account for foreigners, to provide a specific amount of money they could not touch to prove they have enough money to live in Germany without any risk of needing support from the state. The problem was not that Carlos could not get the money, but for the university it was a new concept.  So when he went to Mexico City to the german embassy with his paperwork to apply for a student visa, the clerk told him about the blocked account. “That was when it became really stressful”, Carlos stated. It takes around one or two weeks if you mail your documents to a german bank and they open your account, but at the same time the window to apply was already closing because the acceptance letter of the university ran late. Carlos really started sweating. “I was lucky because university was already starting, but they understood and told me that it was ok and they would wait. I have heard of people who had the same problem and were rejected, because of things like that. “Just having to wait, not knowing if I will be accepted or if the whole bubble will just blow up and studying in Germany will just slip through my hands was exhausting.” Also 2015 was the refugee crisis, and telling now landlords or possible flatmates that he had no visa yet sounded very suspicious for a lot of people. “In 2016 it was not easy to find a place. I don’t know right now during Corona but back then it was actually pretty difficult.” 

Being asked what he thinks about the 3,5 years in Germany Carlos is full of excitement. He learned a lot, he claims. “If I went again there are a few things I would do differently,“ he says. “First of all become a member of a facebook group. There are so many people who have the same stories like you have and they are usually willing to help you. You need to get in contact with people. It will be difficult to figure out everything by yourself.” In 2016 using digital banking was not as popular as it is today. “Use it” he voices. “Let organizations etc. help you. You will save time and nerves, especially because time is very valuable as  I have seen. Something can always go wrong and if you do everything at the last minute you could end up with nothing, so do it early.” For Carlos that was that he received the acceptance letter late and did not know about the blocked account. “Mail can get lost, somebody forgets to reply, so it is always great to have a buffer.”

 

Carlos Barraza is a Business Developer, Blogger and Entrepreneur. From 2016 until 2018 he completed his second Master degree in International Management in Heilbronn, Germany. About his experiences he talks in this Blog series with Manuel, the founder of squickr.

For more information about Carlos visit: https://barrazacarlos.com/

 

Carlos main tipps:

If you want to study in Germany, go look at the DAAD website.

You will find a lot of information on this website and it is a great start. You can type in which program you are interested in and the search engine will filter for you at which universities the program is available. 

https://www.daad.de/en/

 

If you want to find an accommodation try using websites like wg-gesucht for flatmates, ebay-kleinanzeigen or immoscout for apartments. If you go to a new country it is usually pretty easy to just share a flat for the first couple months. On Wg-gesucht you can just do that. As soon as you are in the country then you get to know people and get to know your surrounding.

https://www.wg-gesucht.de/

https://www.immobilienscout24.de/

https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/

 

For the blocked account times have changed a lot since 2016. Usually a bank will take its time, like Deutsche Bank probably a few weeks, services like Fintiba or Expatrio the process is purely online and the cost is around 5€ per month on top of a one time payment of 89€ for Fintiba and 49€ for Expatrio. 

https://www.fintiba.com/

https://www.expatrio.com/

 

For the University application Carlos used uni-assist. Here you can upload all necessary documents to apply for a german university. They will check the application and validate them for you. Carlos paid 75€ for their service and 20€ for shipping.

https://www.uni-assist.de/

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