"At that moment, it finally hit me that I was in a different country with very different culture and language.I felt excited for what my journey there would belike for the next 6 months, yet I also felt a sense of insecurity as I was in such an unfamiliar setting." -David Tang, an exchange participate from AIESEC UBC who has taken a six months internship in Cologne, Germany.
To be frank, the 6 months of my GIP experience in Germany have been extraordinary that I’m not exactly sure where to begin to share my adventures with you. I can confidently say that it is the biggest highlight of my life thus far. What started out as an application to be an AIESEC GIP (Global Internship Program) exchange participant, turned into a phenomenal and unforgettable experience in Europe.
Firstly, I’d like to take this time to express my deepest gratitude to AIESEC UBC and AIESEC Cologne(The AIESEC local committee in Germany) for making this experience possible and enjoyable. I would also like to especially thank Victoria Yeung, Director of Outgoing GIP of AIESEC UBC, for her full support throughout my entire application process. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel around Europe if it was not for her motivation, support, and assistance along the way!
I still remember very vividly the day that I arrived in Cologne main station (Köln Hauptbahnhof), as if it was just last week. AIESEC Cologne was very kind to have one of their members, Laura, receive and welcome me at my train platform. If it wasn’t for Laura, I would’ve been completely lost! She took me to the flat that I would be staying in. We were going from one metro line to another and walking from one street to another. At that time, I had no idea where I was going and couldn’t understand a word on the signs on the streets as they were all in German. At that moment, it finally hit me that I was in a different country with very different culture and language. I began to have mixed emotions. I felt excited for what my journey there would be like for the next 6 months, yet I also felt a sense of insecurity as I was in such an unfamiliar setting.
The first month in Cologne was an adjustment period for me. There were quite a few things that I had to get used to. For example, basically everything is closed on Sundays in Germany, except convenience stores (Kiosks in German), hospitals, and certain pharmacies (Apotheke in German). Grocery stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, and retail stores – you name it – are all closed on Sundays! In where I’m from – Canada and Hong Kong – everything is opened on Sundays; in fact, Sundays are regarded as a shopping day with family and friends. However, I gradually got used to the process of doing things there. There are three very important tips that I must share with future GIP participants to Germany for their transition into Germany to be easier and more enjoyable:
- You must first register your residency (German: Anmeldung) at a city office (German: Kundenzentrum) as soon as possible after you have arrived. Note that registration of residence and address is the very first paperwork task to be done after you arrived in Germany. Please ensure that you bring your passport to do so.
- Apply for health insurance coverage. There are various health insurance companies – public and private. Please consult with your employer for this matter for further details as the company may provide insurance already. I personally recommend TK Insurance as it is a popular and well-established corporation with great coverage.
- Apply for a German residence permit (German: Aufenthaltstitel) at a local Foreigner’s Office (German: Ausländeramt) as soon as possible if you are a non-EU. Individuals who hold a Canadian passport are permitted to stay in Germany, and everywhere else in Europe, for up to 90 days without a residence permit. Should your stay last longer than 3 months, it is mandatory to apply for and obtain a residence permit. Please do not wait till the third month to do so as it may take a few weeks to obtain your permit after you submitted the application. Below are the required documents for this application:
- Two passport photographs of yourself
- Employment contract
- Rental or any residence contract
- Proof of health insurance