Relocating to Germany for your MBA: Life in Leipzig

When one thinks of Germany, the first cities that spring to mind are probably Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt…but rarely Leipzig. Yet the city has seen extraordinary population and economic growth since the 1990s, establishing itself as one of Germany’s most exciting and innovative cities. Stefanie Sanches, Program Consultant at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, explains why the city has become such a magnet for students, professionals, and companies.

“Leipzig is our well-kept secret,” she says. “It’s a fantastic city, it’s vibrant, it’s the most dynamic, fastest-growing city in Germany. There are a lot of artists and students, so it’s a very young and energetic city where you can enjoy everything you’re interested in – culture, history, music, sports. Whatever you’re interested in, Leipzig offers it.” (10:54)

Besides the cultural offering in Leipzig, it’s also growing economically. That means there are job opportunities aplenty for graduates. Stefanie’s message is clear: Leipzig is very much open for business.

“In Leipzig, the industry is growing very quickly,” says Stefanie. “We have a lot of companies with big regional hubs here – Amazon, DHL, BMW – and what’s also exciting is all the startups we have here. So if you’re interested in entrepreneurship or working at a startup then Leipzig has a great offering.” (12:55)

Living costs in Germany

International students arriving in Germany must prove they have the financial resources to stay in the country during their program. They can do this by opening something known as a blocked account. Contrary to what the name suggests, students are allowed to withdraw from blocked accounts during their time in Germany. The only stipulation is that they can only withdraw a limited amount per month. 

Anne Marie Bergmann is the Student Affairs Manager at HHL Leipzig. She’s responsible for supporting students during their time in Germany, and she explained the blocked account system to us in a little more detail. 

“In general you have to plan with around €861 per month, and this adds up to about €10,332 which you have to put in a blocked account,” she says. “This is [applicable] to every student that comes to Germany. Then if you come to Leipzig for example, we have living costs of approximately €700 – depending on the accommodation you choose.” (05:02)

Essentially, students must deposit the stated amount (€10,332) into their blocked account as proof of their financial resources. They’re then allowed to withdraw a maximum of €861 per month from it. Alongside the blocked account, students are allowed another account to store their remaining savings. Besides the standard living costs, it’s also worth mentioning that access to the public healthcare system in Germany differs depending on your age.

“We have a difference between public and private health insurance in Germany. All students below 30 are free to choose public health insurance, and students over 30 go into private health insurance. It might sound a little complicated, but we have good contacts and partners here that we work with and we’re always here to help you out,” Anne explains. (06:07)

Prepare yourself for culture shock when moving to Germany for your MBA

In the aftermath of Brexit, many international students are turning to Germany as an alternative to studying in the UK. But they’re probably not going there for the sunny weather.

“A shock that a lot of students get moving here, especially from warmer countries, is the climate,” Stefanie tells us. “It gets cold here, it gets very dark early in winter but stays light really long in summer. A lot of our international students get psyched out by that!” (06:54)

One of the other culture shocks you’re likely to experience is a little more pleasant, however. Stefanie explains that German people take work-life balance very seriously.

“Work-life balance is a real thing here in Germany, which is great if you’re looking to move here and start your job. We actually have holidays that by law we’re required to take, and you have things like parental leave. There’s a widespread mentality of respecting work-life balance,” she explains. (09:39)

Post-MBA visas in Germany

Around 90% of HHL MBA students remain in Germany after graduating. That’s a high figure – especially when you consider that the same percentage of the class are international students. As Anne explains, the visa options for MBA graduates in Germany make staying in the country a distinct possibility.

“Once you complete your MBA program, you have three different possibilities that you can take. The first one: if you haven’t found a job yet then you can apply for an 18-month job searching visa. You just go to the Foreign Authority Office and tell them that you completed your program. You’ll get a document or certificate from me [to prove it],” Anne says. (19:49)

“Another option is in case you have already been able to secure a full-time job during the last steps of your MBA,” she adds. “You can then apply for a work visa with the same procedure. And sometimes there’s the possibility to apply for the EU Blue Card. It’s a little bit similar to a work visa but you need your MBA certificate, plus you must have an average income of a certain sum.” (20:19)

There’s little doubt that Germany is emerging as one of the leading study destinations in the world. Brexit has helped, but you can also point to the reasonable living costs, strong economy, and post-graduate visa options as reasons why international students are flocking to the country. Will you be next