Aerial view of the palace and the city, Photo: Travel Germany
Herzlich willkommen in Karlsruhe! You have chosen to study in the only InnoEnergy location in Germany, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Karlsruhe, on the banks of the Rhine in southwestern Germany. Get ready for a year of Flammkuchen, Maultaschen, Hoepfner beer, and construction sites!
The Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof (central railway station) is one of the major railway stations on the Paris-Munich and the Frankfurt-Basel lines. The best international airports to arrive in are Stuttgart airport and Frankfurt airport, although if you arrive in Munich or Paris it isn't too far either by rail. Check out the website of the Deutsche Bahn for schedules and tickets.
The bus is a cheap way of getting into Karlsruhe from other cities. It takes a bit longer, but is usually much cheaper than ICE trains (the express rail). Busliniensuche is one of my favourite bus comparison websites, although there are others.
The tram/train service in Karlsruhe is usually the most efficient way of getting around town. Apart from the Hauptbahnhof, the important stations on the service are Europaplatz, Durlacher Tor/KIT Campus Süd, Marktplatz, and Durlach Bf. The latest network plan can be found here. For schedules, check out the website of the Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund, the public transport association of Karlsruhe and the region.
Bureaucracy is unfortunately a part of life in Europe and Germany, and more so for non-EU/EEA/Swiss students. Apart from the procedures for the university, you will almost certainly need to register with the city (Anmeldung). You can register at the citizens' offices (Bürgerbüros). Usually, you will get a welcome kit which includes a free semester pass for the transport network, along with some coupons which might be very useful.
The Anmeldung is necessary for almost every other bureaucratic activity you need to do, like opening a bank account, or extending your stay in Germany. You need to register within 14 days of moving into a new flat, so do not delay it. Unfortunately, prior to the Anmeldung, you need to have found a place to live, which brings me to the next section.
As in most major cities in south Germany, finding accommodation in Karlsruhe is very hard , often involving numerous interviews or “castings”. Two ways of getting ahead of this problem are:
- Arrive early! The beginning of September or earlier if possible. Initially you may have to do some Couchsurfing or to stay in a hostel, but at least you won't have other matters to worry about.
- Find one beforehand. This is a very viable option for people already living in Europe who can travel to Karlsruhe in July/August to find a flat and return home till the start of the semester in October.
Your lectures will all be in English but your everyday life will be much easier if you can speak basic German (in my opinion, as a responsible resident, it is in your best interests to learn the local language!). However, since the city has a large student population, finding help in English is not very hard. Many Germans are quite shy about speaking English, but they will often understand you perfectly well. Do not be afraid to make an effort in communicating with the locals. They will make an effort if you make an effort as well. It's a two-way street!
Accordingly, there are no shortages of possibilities to learn German. The Studienkolleg of the KIT offers German courses every semester, as do numerous private language schools in the city. In my opinion though, even some lessons on Duolingo are good enough to make some basic inroads in your German knowledge.
Eat and Drink:
Karlsruhe used to be the capital of the historical region of Baden, in close proximity to France, Swabia, the Rheinland, and other regions of Germany. And so, the region offers a good mix between typical German, Swabian and Alsatian cuisine. Of course, for everyday fare, there is a wide range of international food available, just like most major German cities.
- Oxford Cafe/Pub close to the university is one of the most popular hangout for students. Known for its burgers, it offers a wide selection of German and international beers.
- Cafe Emaille at Europaplatz is a similar pub on the main street (Kaiserstr.).
- Stövchen near Stephanplatz is known for its Flammkuchen.
- The AKK in the university is a favourite hangout for students to chill out with a beer after a long day.
- Döner shops are very popular as fast-food places, and they are found nearly everywhere.
In general, everywhere along the Kaiserstraße, you will find lots of places to eat.
A few delicacies of Deutschland, Photo: Germanfoods.
The Schloss (Palace) is by far the most popular attraction in Karlsruhe, along with the accompanying Schlosspark. There is a museum inside worth a visit. Unfortunately, the city in general is littered with construction sites, thanks to the construction of an underground railway line through the city. Nevertheless, the Marktplatz and the Kaiserstraße have some sights of potential interest. The suburb of Durlach is one of the older and more affluent portions of the city, and has a distinctly older German style of architecture, reminiscent of the city centres of Freiburg or Basel.
The Karlsruher Schloss (palace), Photo: Krishna Reddy
The biggest attraction would have to be the Black Forest (Schwarzwald), just 30 minutes away from Karlsruhe by train. The S1/S11 and the S5/S6 trains lead straight into the Forest, and those who love hiking or camping will absolutely love it. Personally, I find it brilliant that I can simply head to the forest after a stressful week to cool off and return the same day.
The Enchanting Black forest, Photo: Hand luggage only
When I was a student, I compiled a FAQ that might be useful for life in Karlsruhe and KIT, available here. It has more detailed information on almost each of the points mentioned above. It might not be fully up to date though, so make sure to keep yourself updated with the latest information.
Information for accepted students
For more practical and administrative questions about your first year, please visit the ENTECH page at the InnoEnergy website.
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