As a foreign student, I fully understood the financial hardship during my student time in Germany.
In 2010, I took all my saving with me and flew to Germany alone to enroll in a master degree in a university. The degree was supposed to last for two years, while my saving was only enough to cover the first year expense.
When I saw my bank balance dropping everyday, it was a really scary feeling. There were only red transactions, none was green. I was so stressed out and afraid that if I still couldn’t find a job, I would have no more money to pay rent at some point in time and would need to live on a street.
Fortunately that did not happen. I did manage to earn some money after one year to support my stay. So don’t be desperate!
Below are some of the ways you can think about to earn some money. To avoid being underpaid, check out my other post as well about how much salary you should get in Germany.
As I mentioned in my another article: 5 Reasons why I study in Germany, there are a lot of internship opportunities in Germany, as most of the students would need some internship experience in order to graduate from their university. A lot of internship are not good paid though.
I was lucky to be in a company who paid internship really good. Back then in 2011, I got 1500 EUR net per month. (nowadays they pay 1700 EUR net). I heard that a lot of other companies pay only a few hundred EUR, or even unpaid. For some other big international company, they may pay around 1000 EUR, which is considered to be pretty ok paid.
With that said, internship is definitely a way to earn some money to survive. That was a game changer for me. I was so much more relieved and did not need to starve myself any more after getting my internship offer.
2. Student work in a company
This is a little bit similar to internship. The difference is that for internship, you are working like a full time job (full day and 5 days a week), for a limited period (can be from 3 to 12 months). A lot of university programs include a semester free, to allow students to do the internship during that time. For some other shorter internships (like 3 months), the students can do it during semester break, e.g. in summer or winter vacation between the semesters.
For student work, it is more like a part time job in a company. For example, you can come to the office once or twice a week, for a full day. And the contract may allow you to work for, let say, 50 or 70 days in a year. You will have to distribute these days in a year by coming to office once or twice a week. This allow you to earn some money also during your study semester.
3. Writing thesis in a company
In order to graduate from a university, students are required to write a thesis. You can do this either by yourself, or with a company.
A lot of companies do offer thesis opportunities. Students may want to investigate a specific issue in a company and write about how to tackle it. Or technically, students can also develop a software tool to improve the process of a company, and write a thesis with this topic. This can really be anything as long as the company thinks that adds value.
I did write a thesis in a company after finishing my internship there. Back then in 2011, I got around 2000 EUR from the company for my thesis, which I wrote for one semester. So this is not a lot of money, but it is way better than earning nothing when I would have written my thesis at home by myself.
At first, I was not thinking about scholarship at all. Because scholarship sounded like something totally not achievable. Until one day, I saw a poster in my university: scholarship for outstanding foreign students. This caught my attention as it was especially for foreign students.
I gave it a try. All I needed to do was to fill out an application form, get a reference letter from a professor and attach my academic result. And I did get the scholarship of around 600 EUR. I guess the criteria was probably my academic result. I got pretty good result (but not the top), with grade 1.5 (this may be equivalent to an A?) Or it can also be that not so many people have applied for it. The scholarship was not well promoted. I wouldn’t have known it if I did not notice this poster on the board.
So, take a look around your university. And do try to apply for such things if you see one. You may get a positive surprise.
5. University jobs
Very often, there are part time job offers in the university. Sometimes the professor may need support from the students. This can be helping with a research, or other administrative tasks. And very often this get paid by the university.
So keep an eye on those offers. Have a good relationship with your professors. You may even ask the professors if they have any such offers.
6. Bartender/ waiter
Another common part time job for students are working in a bar or restaurants. Sometimes there is a café in the university, and they probably hire some students from the university to help.
Outside of university, there are plenty of opportunities if you want to work part time in a bar or restaurant. If you are not good at German, Irish pubs are quite a common working place for foreign students. Or you can look for a restaurant with a owner from your own country. For example, many of my Chinese friends chose to work in a Chinese restaurant. The Chinese owner is more likely looking for students who can speak Chinese so that it is easier to communicate.
7. Babysitter, and other jobs from private persons
There is always quite a high demand for babysitters in Germany (I understand it now since I have kid here). If you like kids, and have experience of dealing with kids, it is quite a good way of earning money. Normally babysitter get paid per hour. As a student (and not a professional kid caretaker), you could likely earn around 10 – 15 EUR per hour. Depending on the need of the family, you can also make this working hour quite flexible to yourself and fit it to your study schedule.
Betreut.de is a popular website in Germany for people to look for such jobs.
Besides babysitter, you can also find other jobs in this website, offered by private persons. For example, taking care of pets, gardening, cleaning, cooking, etc.
8. Street performance
Street performance is quite common in Europe. You can see people quite easily doing performance in the city center. The most common one is playing music. Some others do some talented performance.
If you have a talent, or know a musical instruments that you can play well, and not afraid of performing in front of people, this can be something that you can think about. You can earn quite some good money if you are in a busy area and if you are good of course.
9. Work as freelancer online
This was something I had tried but stopped after a while.
I believe there are different websites having such job offers. The one I used was https://www.freelancer.com/
Basically, there are companies who outsourced some of their tasks online.
Because it is more cost effective for them that they don’t need to hire someone with a contract, and anyone can do this tasks online from anywhere in the world.
These tasks can be anything. For example, translating documents, programming, designing, administrative tasks, data analysis, internet research, etc.
I did some translating from English to Chinese. But then I figured out it took me too long to do so and was not really worth the time. But you may have other talents so that you can get other tasks which are better paid. So it may worth for you to have a look to see if anything is interesting.