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HELP! How to handle a disaster?

chicabuenachicabuena 80 replies29 threads Junior Member
HELP. My daughter is in grad school in Germany, she went because it is free. Ha! Anyway, it has been one thing after another after another, and this latest debacle is...a nightmare.

She began classes in late September. She had her enrollment document, needed to open a bank account (very complicated for US citizens due to FACTA laws.). In late October she finally had a bank account. Because the German Uni system takes ONLY EFTs, no credit cards, no cash, daughter went to her local bank and asked the clerk to transfer $300 from her account and over to the Uni to pay her Semester fees. The clerk did so, and gave my daughter a document showing this was done.

So daughter was in school full-time, with Student ID, Library ID, school email account, etc etc. Two weeks ago she registered on a website that allowed her access to another website, where she registered for finals NEXT week Finally, everything is fixed. Or so she thought.

Yesterday she called me in tears because she had been notified that she was kicked out of the system ("ex-matriculated"). because she did not pay her student fees. She went to the bank with her receipt and was told by the bank supervisor that a mistake had been made, the $300 taken OUT of her account was never sent over to the University! My daughter had no way of knowing this because everything was working fine online, and she had no notice or late fees from the Uni.

So she went to the Uni Registrar and Payment offices and spoke with the clerks there. The clerks are rigid, nothing can be done. Sorry. You are not matriculated for this semester, our computers show you did not pay your student fees on time. Sorry, we know it is not your fault. Sorry, you cannot speak with the Assistant Dean or anyone else. Sorry, no exceptions. My daughter then went to the International Students Office, where she is told, Sorry, this is not our department. You must go back to the Payment office. At the Registrar and Payment offices the Supervisor apologizes, nothing can be done.

Today she tried to see more people at the Uni. Sorry, we cannot help you. Sorry, these are the rules. We know you have a letter from the bank that says it is clerical error, but we cannot change the rules.

My daughter is devastated. All the effort--and money for living expenses, visa, everything! these past 5 months, gone. So she is going to leave Germany, it has been nothing but headaches, and apply elsewhere. She is already looking at other applications and panicking.

Problem: How does she account for this time on her applications to other universities? In Germany it still shows she is enrolled! She has online transcripts! But because she isn't "matriculated" she won't be allowed to request official transcripts. What does she say she has been doing for the past 5 months? What of the question, have you been enrolled elsewhere?

Please, any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.


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Replies to: HELP! How to handle a disaster?

  • happymomof1happymomof1 30032 replies181 threads Senior Member
    @MYOS1634 - Do you have any idea about how this student could go about settling her accounts so that she can get her transcript?
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  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1659 replies22 threads Senior Member
    She should get her academic department involved. They may have more leverage/ knowledge to find cracks in the system.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42380 replies455 threads Senior Member
    I agree, she should see her professors: can they vouch for her presence and help her navigate the bureaucracy?
    The international office: reframe the problem do that it's no longer a problem solely for Payments but an intercultural problem?
    If all fails can she be considered a Foreign Exchange student rather than a regularly matriculated student?
    Is she taking classes in German or in English?
    :-(
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  • katliamomkatliamom 13008 replies169 threads Senior Member
    Is she being "forced" to leave the country due to her status? In that case, maybe a visit to the American consulate would be advisable.
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  • chicabuenachicabuena 80 replies29 threads Junior Member
    She is writing to all her professors today (tonight there), and I just sent off an email telling her to write to the Administrative Assistant to the Faculty, outlining the situation in brief.

    All her classes are in English, as she is in the English department. Good idea about intercultural angle.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8819 replies85 threads Senior Member
    Good luck! What a horrible situation that the school wont remedy the situation since it was obviously a clerical error which she has proof! Can't even imagine the outrage if that happened at an American university. So so sorry for you and your daughter and will pray for good resolution! Please keep us posted!
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  • chicabuenachicabuena 80 replies29 threads Junior Member
    Thank you all so much. No, it has nothing to do with her status, but it took forever for her to get her residence permit, due to the bureaucracy of the system. And there have been so many other things..

    For example, when she finalized her enrollment in person she presented them with her original undergrad diploma, written in Latin. They said they needed it translated into German by a certified translator.. So she went online and paid for a certified translation service do it, then took it back to the office. Wrong! It had to be a certified translator located in Germany. So she found a certified translator in Germany online and paid for him to do it. Wrong! It had to be an official, court-sworn Latin to German translator who can do it, and he/she puts the official seal with ribbons on the attestation. Well, there are only 2 of these people in Germany, so my daughter got up at 6 am and took a 7-hour train ride to Berlin to present her original diploma to one of the two court-sworn translators, so he could see it with his own eyes, then she turned around and made the 7 hour train ride back to her flat. Several days later and something like $400 poorer, she finally had the right document in hand.

    Her entire stay thus far has been like that. She says it has been a Whack-A-Mole game. Because there is a severe housing shortage in this community (there have been cases of students sleeping in tents!) she has had to move 3 times in the past 5 months. Everything is such a struggle. For her Residence Permit she was up at 3 am to stand in line outside the immigration office.

    But the saddest part is that she has suddenly started growing white hairs!

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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2830 replies65 threads Senior Member
    What a nightmare! I don't suppose a German attorney could help?
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  • katliamomkatliamom 13008 replies169 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2019
    @chicabuena - that sounds so frustrating! And, frankly, un-German. I thought they had their act together better... your daughter's experience sounds like something foreign students experience in France of Italy or India ;)
    edited January 2019
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42380 replies455 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2019
    It really depends on the university, the city, the program, etc. But yes typically German programs are organized better.
    Knowing the culture and the language helps, too.
    Has she been able to learn some German from it?
    Might she be able to "transfer" to another German university or program so that she can at least benefit from living in Germany and from all the work put into her visa, moving, etc?
    Just for the record, there are English Master's in France which are free, too (well something like €470 for tuition/fees). And Sciences Po, a VERY good university in Paris, teaches in English and has good support, but it's not free (something like €12,000 tuition and of course you have to pay Parisian rents, so something like €800 for a studio plus food... University restaurants are €3.75 a meal).
    Is she an English major? Was she a German major in college? What's her background? Had she studied abroad before going? (Culture shock is real, cultural differences are very big roadblocks, and international office's support in navigating these issues is very important).
    edited January 2019
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  • chicabuenachicabuena 80 replies29 threads Junior Member
    edited January 2019
    Update: daughter just received a response from Faculty administrator. Basically, sorry, nothing we can do, you must take it up with the Billing Department, which is what she has already done. I think this was the final straw.

    1. She does know some limited German. All her interactions have been in English as she has been in an English-speaking program. English / Cultural / Transnational studies program.

    2. She has studied abroad 1 semester in Istanbul, 1 semester in Barbados. She has lived a year alone in Mexico, teaching English (she speaks Spanish). She spent several months in Portugal on a workaway, same in France (Paris). She is 25 and self-confident.

    3. Cannot transfer to another university because visa only allows for a student at the original university.

    4. She is exhausted.. I can't blame her. I was in Europe on business and was able to spend a week with her and observe the system. Even then she was spinning her wheels trying to accomplish tasks that in the US (and the other schools she has studied in) would take a half hour or one visit to the office. In Germany it might take 4 office visits over the course of several days. Unlike in other places, administrative offices aren't open 9-5 M-F; in Germany they might be open from 11-1 on Monday, 2:30-4 on T W TH and closed on Friday (German labor laws are very pro worker!).

    So: today she made the decision to cut her losses (she is already down $5,000+ in personal savings) while she can and apply elsewhere. She is open-minded to other countries with affordable tuition rates. As she knows intermediate Spanish she can certainly survive in Spain.

    Please, more information about France. She loves Paris and speaks enough French to get by.



    edited January 2019
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  • compmomcompmom 11152 replies78 threads Senior Member
    We went through some similar things in the Netherlands.

    Why not pursue a funded program in the US? If she is going for a master's, the UK has many one year programs. Seems like there are many options.

    I hope she can get her matriculation ended.
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  • compmomcompmom 11152 replies78 threads Senior Member
    We went through some similar things in the Netherlands.

    Why not pursue a funded program in the US? OR Canada? If she is going for a master's, the UK has many one year programs. Seems like there are many options.

    I hope she can get her matriculation ended.
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  • chicabuenachicabuena 80 replies29 threads Junior Member
    edited January 2019
    Wow, CompMom, glad to hear someone else had similar issues. Well, not glad you had the issues, but you know what I mean.

    Actually, daughter has a few friends from her undergrad who have done the 1-year UK Master's route and they are encouraging her to go. Her undergrad is a public honors college which translates in the UK to a 1:1 /top honors, and that means she can get into a very good school quite easily.

    The drawback is the $40,000 for tuition + living expenses for 1 year, which is why she chose free-tuition- Germany. But her friends, all of whom took out loans, said the UK was worth it, and they have all been able to get good jobs right away, both in Europe and the US. They argue that the intial outlay is more, but they are back in the workforce faster.

    Unfortunately the US funded path and Canada path is closed now (deadlines & GRE exams) which means she couldn't start until 2020. She is wanting to start in 2019 and the European application period is still open.
    edited January 2019
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  • compmomcompmom 11152 replies78 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2019
    For grad school we did only funded programs ( the Netherlands did not work out; health insurance was big issue too; and there were banking difficulties....)

    It took a lot of research. Although programs that had a master's along the way to a doctorate tended to be funded more than terminal master's, we did find some terminal master's programs that were funded.

    My kid had that "gap year" after the Netherlands and is blissfully happy now. No long term effects :)

    The young people I know who went to Oxford for English lit were disappointed. I know someone who went to Scotland.

    McGill is a great school as you know. Some schools do use grad students as TA's in a master's program. BU, state U's, Brown, maybe others.
    O
    ur position always was to avoid loans. I know others feel differently but that was our bottom line.
    edited January 2019
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  • chicabuenachicabuena 80 replies29 threads Junior Member
    Thanks, CompMom. I hear you! The EuroZone is difficult for a US student, and in fact, my daughter learned it was easier for a citizen of Nigeria or China to go to Germany and be a student. Our US banking and tax laws, as well as lack of insurance coverage abroad, makes it really onerous to study overseas, independently.

    Agreed about the debt thing. Although I can see my daughter being really, really tempted by the UK, I think her frugality is going to be the winner and she is going to apply to Spain, maybe France. Both have complicated visa processes, but nothing like Germany.

    For this past semester, how should she handle her gap semester at age 25? I have a friend in academia who said she should put it down as time spent in German university as an Audit student, with samples of work completed, while working part-time online as a copywriter (which is actually what my daughter does for income).
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  • GarandmanGarandman 224 replies9 threads Junior Member
    I spent three years in Germany in the Army.

    On my last night there, a German friend took me out to dinner to thank me for teaching him how to be flexible. Your example demonstrates why this is unusual in that culture.

    Best of luck to your daughter.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35243 replies399 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2019
    When we lived there, on a post-grad, navigating all this was frustrating. (I remember we needed one document to get another, but couldn't get that other without the first.) We needed sponsors and an attested reason to be there, to get all the right papers. As I recall, we had to reverse the process, to officially leave. DH had a grant, so had the sponsoring German org, plus he needed to be authorized by the U (though he took no classes.)

    I'm sorry, but have no advice. I'd guess any fine print documents were written in German. What we got when we auto transferred money was a written receipt (after the transaction completed) via mail.

    She should have no issue explaining she took courses during the interval. She was a student. I'd print the online transcript (asap, before it disappears) and save it multiple ways (including paper, maybe send one copy home.) This won't be "official," but she'll have something in hand while she pursues the official.

    Had she asked about how to freshly matriculate for this semester?

    This is an issue when relying on others' English skills. Does she have a native-speaking friend who could ask questions for her? Like, what DOES a person do, when disenrolled or de-matriculated?
    edited January 2019
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  • rosered55rosered55 4165 replies124 threads Senior Member
    I lived in Germany for a year at the beginning of my marriage. I enjoyed the experience but I do recall the very bureaucratic nature of certain aspects of German life. You and your daughter have my sympathy.
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