We asked our Editors to write about their experiences of grad school and advice they'd give to grad students on resources and getting help.
This is one of their responses here:
I’m writing from my own experience and the perspective of being a grad student in Germany. I only have a limited view of the grad school structures in Germany. To me it seems to be quite heterogeneous/patchy from uni to uni, department to department... So I’m not sure how many of the resources actually exist at a specific place! But also, there might be more that I haven't encountered so far.
For grad students, I see resources to get help on different levels:
WORKGROUP AND FACULTY
On the lowest, work group level, aside from the supervisor, there might be someone from the permanent staff that coordinates the PhD students in the group and who ideally would be trained to support you or direct you towards suitable services.
On the faculty/department and grad school level, one can reach out to either the program coordinator or (especially if no grad school is established yet) the staff of the deanery for issues linked to the PhD program directly.
GENERAL UNI SERVICES
In general, I would recommend checking if the local students union (Studierendenwerk) or student service centre (allgemeine Studienberatung) offer a counselling service concerning studies/courses, personal and also financial topics. Usually, there should be such a service from at least one of those two, and they should be free for enrolled students. There might also be the option to get help anonymously.
OUTSIDE OF UNI
Grad students in Germany usually have compulsory health insurance if they are employees of the uni/institute. (To my experience this is the norm at least in the STEM field.) Most health costs including therapy are covered by this insurance, although it can be time-consuming to get a therapy spot. The counselling services mentioned before or the GP might be able to help with this task!
Laura Klask is a physicist specializing in nuclear physics and biomedical techniques based in Cologne, Germany. After receiving her master’s degree she started and quit a PhD program because it turned out it wasn’t the right thing for her - a difficult but good decision. For PhD Balance, she is the Content and Editing Co-Lead!