I really need to write these posts earlier in the day. For some reason (really good reasons, actually), I push them to the end of the day and write something-anything to get something for the day. Maybe that’s the idea, I mean, maybe I am succeeding somehow by making myself write something-anything, often. That was, after all, the goal.
However, I also want to be producing work that I can refer back to, and on a day like today, that’s not happening. Today, I am going to share some of the challenges of writing a dissertation in Germany. It actually starts before one has to do any writing.
In many place in the world, students get to apply for a PhD program, look good for a year or two, take courses, and then write a proposal that needs to be accepted. To even start a PhD in Germany, one has to start with the proposal- so, I have to take back that the process starts before one starts writing. One has to do a lot of writing, and reading/research, to find a unique research question that proposes a new foray into knowledge. Then one has to explain how one will go about answering the question and predict what kind of impact this research will make on the world. All this before. the. acceptance. If one wants support in Germany, one has to have a clear explanation of what that support will bring.
Now that I think of it, Germans are merely more careful with their resources, because they have less to waste than universities in the US.
So, a proposal of the project is important for acceptance as a PhD student at a German university. Then, there’s the support by individual sponsorship, if not going the program route. If you have your project, you try to find an interested professor who will sponsor you and promise the university that you are someone who can and will carry out the project to completion.
After that, the doors are pretty much opened. The sponsor, or Betreuer, as they call them here, are the most important part of the application.
Of course, there are the bureaucratic steps. Before one can enroll at the university, one needs to be accepted into the college on applies for. One has to have one’s education, qualifications, and project examined to see if acceptance can be recommended. Once the Zulassung is granted, the enrollment is just a formality.
In short, there are four primary steps to starting a PhD in Germany under individual sponsorship, and they take a lot longer than the mere bullet point suggests:
- Write proposal for project (1-10 months)
- Find sponsor (1-10 months)
- Apply for and receive acceptance into college one wants to defend dissertation in- for me, it is Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft (two weeks)
- Apply for and receive enrollment (1-2 weeks)
Each of those steps involve a lot of small steps, like get sponsor’s signature, get copies of all documents, get translations of documents or certified copies, if necessary. Transfer money, fill out forms, meet with people, ask questions, etc.
If I had to pick the hardest thing I’ve done in my life so far, it was applying for acceptance into a German university to write my PhD. I just submitted the application today and can expect the papers next week. I am celebrating that day- haven’t decided how, yet. I may frame the matriculation paper, though.
If anyone stumbles across this blog looking for help on how to get started here, I would love to help.