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My flight over to Frankfurt was uneventful (horrible food, semi-cramped quarters). However, I did get upgraded to economy comfort because of the lymphedema in my right leg! After arriving in the Frankfurt Airport, I immediately bought a SIM card for my iPhone and proceeded to the trains (Frankfurt Airport has a train station underneath it…super convenient!) I managed to figure out my trains, make it to Heidelberg, get my apartment keys from a friend, and proceeded to take a 4 hours nap. Afterwards, I met for drinks with some people from my program. Super chill and low-key night. Below I’ve documented my first days in Heidelberg!
I’ve spent the rest of my week attempting to get all the right documentation for the city, country, and university. Here is everything I need and all the red-tape I need to go through to get it!
- register with the city (Anmeldung)
- get health insurance (long story short, it is super complicated to use USA health insurance in Germany and it is just easier/more convenient if I get German health insurance)
- open a bank account
- matriculate at the university
- buy a bus pass (semester ticket for students)
- get a visa (they call it a residence permit – Aufenthaltstitel)
The first thing I needed to do was register with the city. This was pretty straight-forward and cost no money. I just needed my passport and rental contract. The only difficult part is that they wanted to know where I lived in Germany before (the exact address) and I totally forgot so I had to look through my emails while in the office.
After receiving my registration (Anmeldung), I attempted to get a bank account. I was told I needed my rental contract, passport, Anmeldung, and letter of admission. However, when I went to the bank, they told me I needed my Aufenthaltstitel (residence permit), which I don’t have! However, it can take a few weeks to get this permit and I need my bank account ASAP in order to pay uni fees and health insurance.
I next went to the health insurance office to ask them what documents I needed to get health insurance. Instead, they just signed me up right then and there! The lady was super helpful and gave me all her contact information in case I have/had additional questions. Even though I signed up, I can’t pay yet because I don’t have a bank account because I don’t have my residence permit (see my frustration with all the red tape?!?!) Luckily I have until October 15th to pay so crossing my fingers everything works out (they won’t let me pay with cash or a credit card…arghh!)
I received all the paperwork, filled it out, and emailed the lady to set-up an appointment to get my residence permit…however, she is on vacation until the middle of next week! Fortunately, a bunch of my American friends just told me of a bank that doesn’t require a residence permit to sign up so I’m going to check it out tomorrow!
I also matriculated at the university. That required me to present them with the original of my college and high school diploma, transcript, health insurance, passport, and passport photo. The lady was really friendly but stated that because I attended another German university before (University of Tuebingen on a study abroad), I needed paperwork to prove that I had ex-matriculated from that university (seriously? that was 2 years ago!). Fortunately, she still registered me but told me that I have to bring that paperwork back. I might be making a day-trip to Tuebingen to get that information!
Getting a bus pass was super easy. I just showed them that I registered with the university and I was able to get a 6 month semester ticket for only 145 Euros! I was able to pay directly in cash, which is most convenient for me. Even though I don’t have a bank account, I was allowed to pay my uni fees with cash as well.
Can’t believe that orientation starts in a week! As my parents told me on the phone, I’m someone who just likes to “get things done ASAP” so I think it is bothering me that it is taking me over a week to get everything in order. However, I’m super lucky because 1) I’m almost done 2) I have housing (and a lot of people are still struggling with that!) and 3) I’m able to get into this country (some people in my program are stuck in their home countries due to visa issues. The USA is one of the few countries that can get their visas AFTER they arrive in Germany…and we have a 90 day window!)
I’m also really impressed with how much German I still remember and how quickly a lot of words/phrases are returning to me. I’ve been able to communicate in German with the train company when my train was delayed, register with the city, get insurance, figure out all the documentation I needed for a bank account, etc. Furthermore, I’ve had some Germans already question my nationality because of my name. Yes, my first name is not German and yes, my middle and last name are very German and yes, my ancestors came from Germany. This one lady got super excited and wanted to talk all about my family history in Germany with me and how I needed to go explore it while I was here! Overall, I’ve had very few communications barriers and hope that with more time here, my German just keeps improving!