The more you know about Germany and the better you know German, the more you will get out of your time there. Take as many German courses as you possibly can before departure and try to read German during the summer so that you do not forget what you learned during the school year.
It will also be to your benefit to know as much as you can about American culture, history and politics. Germans are extremely well informed about European current events and know a great deal more about the U.S. than Americans generally know about Germany. Germans like to discuss contemporary issues and will probably ask you your opinion of NATO, environmental policy or racism in the U.S.
The International Student ID is extremely useful. It gives you discounts on travel, museums, cultural events such as theater tickets, and historical sites. You will find it easily pays for itself during the program. The costs are around 20 Euros and usually it can be purchased through your college or through a travel agent.
The most effective way to transfer funds during your time abroad is through a debit card because you can withdraw funds using ATMs located throughout the world. Funds are issued in local currency, thus avoiding fees for conversion, and can also be withdrawn in appropriate amounts, which eliminates the need to carry large sums of money.
German banks will not accept personal checks, so don’t ask your parents to send you money that way. Since you will be in Munich for a year, we recommend opening a personal bank account at the Deutsche Bank. There you can have money sent to you in the form of an international bank draft drawable on a German bank and deposit it in your account. Credit cards are also accepted in Europe, but not as widely as in the U.S. For example, grocery stores and smaller stores (such as bookstores) do not accept credit cards.
No immunizations are required for travel in Europe. However, get a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the last 10 years. It is also a good idea to bring a small medicine kit with you. Some suggestions for items are: band-aids, aspirin, vitamins, and any prescription medication. If you wear glasses or contacts, take a back-up pair and a copy of your lens prescription.
Complete health insurance is provided through the program, starting immediately upon arrival in Germany. Insurance covers all necessary medication, hospitalization and treatment. It is, however, recommended that you see your dentist before you leave.
You will learn your exact address as soon as you arrive in Munich. Most students choose to purchase a mobile phone once in Munich. If you wish to give friends and family an address before you leave, give them the address of the institute. This address can be used as a mailing address for packages throughout the entire year. Expect airmail to take up to two weeks.
If you wish to send some of your things ahead of time, you may use the address of the Institute. Allow six to eight weeks for surface mail. Unless you are willing to pay heavy customs, do not specify the contents or exact value of the contents. Instead write “Used Clothing” or “Candy,” etc. No medicine, not even aspirin, should be specified. The same procedure applies for Christmas or birthday packages sent by your family. The custom formalities at UPS are somewhat complicated, thus regular mail is preferable. Unless the content of the package is extremely valuable, do not insure it. It is very difficult to pick up insured packages and impossible for anyone but yourself to do so.