Germany is considered one of the most attractive countries for Egyptian students in the last years. This is visible from the long lines of students waiting in front of the German embassy in Cairo to get a visa. These same lines can be found also at the Goethe Institute in Cairo and Alexandria where students try to reserve courses and exams in German language which has become a favorite foreign language for a wide sector of young Egyptians.
The number of Egyptians studying German has reached 230 thousand, despite its difficulty and the fact that it is not as common as English or French in the Arab countries. The German embassy in Cairo offers around 1800 study visa every year.
Nabil Ahmed, founder of the Association for Egyptian Students in Germany, points out that the German Embassy in Cairo delivers around 150 student visas every month, so 1800 a year. Ahmed explains the motivation of Egyptian students to go to Germany in the fact that studies are free in addition to the need of Germany for these young people to work there after they graduate because of the decreasing number of young people in German society.
Yasser Soliman, assistant professor at the school of languages and translation at the University of Al Azhar, and doctoral researcher at the University of Vechta in Germany, adds that the movement of students towards Germany happened after the 25th of January revolution and the loss of hope in any real reform in the country. Soliman explains that in Germany, Egyptian students are treated as equals, especially when it comes to the free education, which plays an added role in motivating those students.
Hassan Ali, who is currently doing preparatory studies to join the Computer Science program at the Aachen university, says that: “here you actually learn, unlike in Egypt, where you might study at a private university and spend a lot of money and not learn anything, after wasting 4 years of your life.”
In 2014, the German government increased its funding for universities in order to develop scientific research and encourage students to pursue higher education at German universities.
Why are Egyptians going to study in Germany?
What are the challenges of Egyptians students in Germany?
German states agreed to participate in a project to fund universities by third parties. The federal governments aim to have 25.3 billion euros in the future for scientific research programs. This will increase the number of university spots to 760 thousand by 2020 which would guarantee a spot for all new students and help in reducing the lack of access to higher education.
The number of people learning German has increased lately as the key to study and work in Germany. According to a report by the Voice of Germany radio a year ago, the Middle East is one of the regions that has witnessed the biggest increase in numbers of people learning German. Egypt comes first in terms of the number of students with 230 thousand. The report explains that one of the reasons for this increase is the opening of the German university in Cairo in 2003, in addition to a number of German schools. The report also points out to the role of political problems that motivate many to travel abroad.
Obstacles on the way
Despite all the services that are offered by Germany to foreign students, the way for Egyptian students is not very easy, and is rather filled with obstacles.
Despite the fact that studying in Germany is free, students still need to pay for registration fees and for the services they get such as public transportation, food and housing. These expenses are relatively high in Germany. Yasser Soliman, a PhD student at the University of Vechta, explains that the exchange rate after the fall of the Egyptian Pound is a major obstacle for many Egyptian students. Nabil Ahmed, explains that one of the major obstacles is actually the difficulty of German as a language in addition to the cost of living. He adds that some of the students run out of money and go back to Egypt.
2. The preparatory year and the cultural shock
Egyptian students are required to do a preparatory year in order for their high school degree to be recognized. This is a two term year where they receive German classes as well as other topics depending on their specialty.
Hassan Ali, a student at the university of Aachen, explains that one of the challenges for Egyptian students is to accommodate to a new environment, especially after leaving the safety and comfort of life in Egypt. But with time and exposure to German society things become easier.
3. Getting to Germany
Hassan Allam, who is doing his masters in engineering at the University of Ostwestfalen-Lippe says that one of the most common problems is the fear from a new life in Germany. Getting a seat at the university is exhausting, and requires a lot of research that the Egyptian students are not used to. Furthermore, getting a visa from the German Embassy is not easy. Allam also point out the challenge of finding the funds needed to live in Germany.
Challenges and perseverance
Yasser Soliman explains that despite its difficulty, learning German is not a big challenge for the Egyptian students because they have a great motivation to do so, so they can learn the language in 6 month or a year. Egyptian students can get around paying for classes by self learning, and one of the exceptional cases is the Egyptian student Ahmed Imam who taught himself German and is now a student at the Darmstadt Technical university. Hassan Ali considers that as soon as one starts to study and use the language it becomes easier, and this was the case with him before he passed the DHS exam which qualifies him to study in Germany.
Several initiatives have appeared to support the Egyptian students in Germany, and most are by students who had the experience already and want to help newer arrivals.
Mohamed Abdel Salam and Abdallah Ahmed have graduated from the health institute in Egypt and wanted to learn medicine, so they enrolled in a German language course at the university of Giessen to prepare for medical school at the same university. They had a lot of trouble getting to Germany so they decided to help their fellow students. They started an initiative that gives ideas and information for Egyptian students who want to study in Germany on YouTube.
Another important initiative is German4Free which is the name of a Facebook group that offers study material for students who want to learn German.
There is also the Association for Egyptian Students in Germany which was started by Nabil Ahmed and his fellows and offers support and advice for incoming students.