A reader doing her graduate work in Germany sent me this information and asked me to share it on the website, for the benefit of others considering doing the same. Apparently there are a lot of challenges. Proceed at your own risk! Thank you, reader, for taking the time to share.
Your website has a wealth of useful and practical information – I used your grant-writing rubric to submit a proposal to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for a summer of research in Japan. I do wish that I had known, however, that DAAD only offers those scholarships to Germans doing their doctorates in Germany (and the other way around – as an American, you have to be enrolled in an American university at the doctoral level). What about Americans in Germany or Germans in the States? I have been struggling with this; DAAD is a great organization, but I am effectively blocked out of funding from them simply because I chose to pursue my degree in Germany (I had also previously applied for a grant to support me while I was writing the dissertation, and they basically said that I had already made it to Germany, so I was fine – though I spent my savings getting there and didn’t have any income whatsoever.)
There are some more hangups for doctoral students (Americans) wanting to earn their Ph.D. in Germany. I have a 20-hour-per-week teaching and research contract with the university. Visa restrictions dictate that I may only work 90 full or 180 half days per year in addition to having my contract, and if you take on a second job that pays more than 450EUR/month, you get stuck in a horrible tax bracket (number 6) that takes most of what you earn (you can get this back, but only via doing your taxes). The maximum hours you can work total between the university contract and a second job is 40 hours. It’s hard to gain any additional experience, and you’re not paid much – 1500EUR/month before taxes and insurance in Munich, where half or more of your salary goes to rent.
If you decide to quit the Ph.D. program, your visa expires immediately, so unless you have a good job lined up, it’s back to the States (I suspect some people take advantage of the tourist visa, travelling back to the States for a week or two and then being able to return to Germany for 90 days).
Additionally, Ph.D. candidates here are in a special category and have a unique status – they are neither officially students anymore, nor are they eligible for full-time employment. Most part-time employers are looking for students, so if you’re not enrolled as a student – which I’m not, though I am enrolled – you’re not eligible for the job. Internships function under the same principle. It is frustrating to have additional time with which I could be earning money and gaining experience.
If you would be so kind as to post this for any Americans thinking of heading to Germany, I would appreciate it. These are some things I wish I had known before I so impulsively left my cushy Ph.D. program in the States. I was at [East Coast R1] and was doing well, but wanted to live and work in Germany and had for a long time (I had been an exchange student there in high school). I don’t regret my decision to transfer to the University of Munich, but I hope others can make more informed decisions than I did.