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What awaits me?

Preparation

You receive intensive training for your assignment both from the sending organisation in your country and from the host organisation in Germany. The seminars give you a realistic picture of the living and work conditions you can expect to see. They make it clear how important it is to be gentle with other people and treat them with respect. They sensitise you to judgement-free treatment of other cultures, provide you with current political information about Germany and inspire you to approach the host country in all its diversity without any prejudices. They introduce development issues. Furthermore, they provide tips and answers to your practical questions. As a rule, the preparation also includes a language course.

For a trip to Germany, you need a German visa ('nationales Visum-D'). Your sending organisation will support you in the application for the visa.

Living and working in Germany

Photo: Engagement Global, Thomas Ecke
Photo: Engagement Global, Thomas Ecke

After your arrival in Germany, you will start by having an orientation period in which you will learn about your accommodations, the local area, typical circumstances in the country, safety issues and other rules. For the most part, you will become familiar with your local contact and the host organisation during this time. Often, you will be put in contact with other volunteers and former volunteers in your vicinity who have already completed volunteer service in your country. If you do not have sufficient knowledge of German, a language course is also part of your preparatory training. If your visa was issued for less than one year, it must be extended at the Registration Office for Foreigners (Ausländerbehörde). Your host organisation will help you. Furthermore, all volunteers must report to the Registration Office for Foreigners (Ausländerbehörde).

During your stay in Germany, the focus is on joint work, daily learning from each other and cultural exchange. A high degree of independence and flexibility is expected from you. A lot of things will not go as you thought. Be patient and try to understand why things are different.

A work schedule is prepared

It is normal that you will start by helping colleagues at your place of assignment before you receive your own tasks. Usually, the work schedule is only prepared after a period of time. It may be that the responsibilities are different than you expected. Often the host organisations also take into account your experiences and personal interests in the specific planning.

Working hours and holiday

Your weekly working hours usually total 39 hours and are focused on the requirements in the project. Some projects require work on weekends or in the evening. Your right to holiday is also based on the rules in Germany, but totals at least 24 days per year.

Accommodations and meals

During the assignment, you will receive pocket money from your sending organisation. You will also receive free accommodations and meals. This may involve a room in a guest family, your own room or an apartment with other volunteers. You will probably have to adjust your diet, since products you are used to will not be available or are too expensive. In general, the cost of living in Germany is high.

Support during assignment

Beside professional training and support, your host organisation will provide you with a mentor. This person is usually not involved in the same project. He or she will pick you up from the airport or train station, will familiarise you with your new environment, accommodations and workspace.

Furthermore, you can turn to your host organisation in Germany. It offers accompanying seminars during your assignment. These help you reflect on your experiences and master problems that arise. In crises and emergencies, it also puts you in contact with your family.

Volunteer reports

Every three months you send a report to your sending organisation in your homeland. It provides a summary of your experiences in the project as well as daily life. The reports provide your sending organisation with information about progress and problems during the assignment and should be also be available to the host organisation. The report can be presented in different formats, for example, as a written report, blog or video.