The German university system is pretty different from that of the US, especially when compared to Rollins, so I figured I would share some of what I learned in the hopes that future students will have a better idea of what to expect.

  1. The kinds of classes.
    • At Rollins, some classes have labs, but most classes count for the same amount of credits and have the same basic structure. In contrast, at the LMU there are many different types of classes, or Veranstaltungen (literally events in German). For some classes, you may even have to attend multiple events, so it is good to know the difference between them. Personally, I attend classes in the three major categories, though there are other small distinctions that I am not really familiar with.
      1. Vorlesung
        • These classes are what we would call lectures in the US. They are held in large auditoriums with lots of students (I’m taking two each with about 200 people in the class) and seem to generally be required courses for a specific major.
      2. Seminar
        • In the humanities, each Vorlesung is accompanied by a Seminar. These classes are more like Rollins classes. They tend to have thirty students or fewer and be discussion-based rather than lecture-based. In the politics department (and I think the rest of the humanities), each Vorlesung is accompanied by a choice between like five or six Seminars, and they are tested together in the Vorlesung at the end of the semester. However, as a guest student, you do not have to abide by these conventions and can take the classes separately if you like. I personally much prefer my Seminar class, but it definitely requires more German skills to follow along and actively participate in a discussion.
      3. Übung
        • These classes, which translate to Exercises, are common in the STEM fields. They are ones in which example problems are worked, and students are able to ask questions in a smaller class setting. Usually, an Übung has around 20 students. In my physics Übung, we go over the week’s homework problems and review things that might be useful for the next week’s problems. Some classes also have a Zentralübung (or central exercise) which is held once a week for all students but is taught by a TA instead of the professor, like an Übung. These classes cover the same content as the accompanying lecture and do not count as a separate grade, but you can’t expect to do well without attending them.
  2. The level of rigor
    • I have found that in general, my classes here are more advanced in specific areas than those at Rollins. Specifically: the theory. In my physics class, there is much more focus on deriving information and the students here are clearly more used to doing complex math than I am. Similarly, in my political science class, the students are much better acquainted with specific philosophers and theorists than I am. This doesn’t mean the classes are necessarily much harder, it just means I feel like I am missing some background information and have to work a bit more to catch up.
  3. The amount of time spent in class
    • Most classes here only meet once a week for an hour and a half, with the notable exception of my physics class, which meets four times a week. In general, this means that there is much more free time to hang out in a park or explore the city. However, it also means that there is a higher expectation on the student to work outside of class and make sure they are keeping up with the class even when they are not actually in class.
  4. The number of assignments
    • There are significantly fewer assignments here than in the US, which means your grade does not really have a buffer. In my physics class, the only grade is the final exam, while the only grade in my politics class is a paper due at the end of the semester. The lack of assignments combined with the lack of class time makes it easy to slack off or procrastinate on work, though this will lead to serious problems at the end of the semester. I recommend being proactive and getting started on work as early as possible.

While this is by no means an extensive this of the difference between college in the US (specifically Rollins) and Germany, it does represent the major differences I have observed in class, and I hope it is interesting/useful for anyone looking to study abroad in Munich or just interested in the topic.

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