Voluntary work in Germany

A voluntary year in Germany: FSJ/BFD

By Hamria | Gaining Momentum | 24 Dec 2021


When I seriously started looking for ways to move to Germany I realised that as a male I am in a kind of disadvantage as I didn´t really believe any family would trust my abilities to do babysitting and basic housework. The girls can become au-pairs, but what about all non-girls?
Guys, don´t panic, there is something really nice also for you: a voluntary year in Germany. There are basically two different programmes giving you a chance for a legal visa in the social field: FSJ (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr) and BFD (Bundesfreiwilligendienst), however, not that much of a difference, so let´s move to what´s important: Who can apply and where and what are the main benefits.

So, what are the conditions? First, you need to be between 18 and 25 years old, then, and that´s probably most important, you really need to speak some German. Most orgnaizations say, it should be B1 and trust me, you really need it. There is no way around learning German, when you are serious about moving there. You also need a nice CV in German and a motivation letter where you write why you are interested in the voluntary work in a social field (you like working with other people, you like helping, you like kids, young people, elderly, disabled...). There are really many organizations which offer an oportunity to do the voluntary year with them. When you are looking for them, try "Incoming FSJ". "Incoming" means here that they offer Special programmes for foreigners, also from outside EU, and they know how to help them with visas, that means they have organisations which offer all you need including accomodation. In my case it was a little bit different: at the time I was applying for the voluntary year I had a friend in Germany who offered me the free accomodation, so I was not limited to "incoming FSJ" programmes, but limited to a very small town the friend lived. What´s worse, my level of German was about A1 back then, but I enrolled a B1 course (without having attended A2) in hope that I will somehow make it up very fast, what unforunatelly didn´t happen till I finally got to Germany, mostly probably because I didn´t really believe that I will succeed.  So I was attending the much too difficult B1 course in Morocco without that much hope but I have asked a friend to write for me my CV and my application letter in perfect German and I  have sent them per email to IB close to the place the friend lived (www.internationaler-bund.de).  Additionally, I had to translate my last school certificate into German and I asked my German teacher to write for me a recommendation letter, which I scanned and also included, and on the website there was a questionnaire where I had to tell something about myself, my interests and preferences (again, thank you, my German-speaking friend!).  After about a month I got an email, that a very big organization located exactly in this little town is interested. Two more weeks and I got a WhatsApp message from Germany written by a person who wanted to make an appointment for an online interview. I honestly thought there is no chance my German will get me anywhere beyond "Hello, how are you", but after hearing an extremely fast and complicated question (to my ears), I repeated a few times "Sorry, the connection is very bad" and that was it, but after this world-shortest job interview I got a message that I was accepted.  After three weeks I received per post a contract which is the base for applying for a working visa! What are the benefits of the voluntary year in Germany? You can spend there legally 12 months. In this time you get some pocket money (in my case 400 euro/ a month), help with accomodation (for incoming FSJ) and health insurance. You work with your orgnization and attend about 10 seminars a year (about one a month), where you meet other persons who do the voluntary year too.  You are all the time around other people which is perfect for learning German and you get real insight in the German way of life. It is really wonderful.  My organisation was Lebenshilfe, which helps disabled children and young people. My working place was a class of such children in a public secondary school (from 7:30 till 14:30). It was a great experience as the teachers were very friendly and encouraging and the children simply incredible, my only problem was my very bad German when I first got there. That´s why my most important message is: Learn German while applying for an FSJ. The better your German, the bigger the chances you get accepted and the more you will enjoy the whole experience! Apply and learn German, and you will definitely succeed.

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I am sharing my personal experience and what I have learnt while applying for visas, looking for jobs, trying to improve the language and living and working in Germany.

Gaining Momentum
Gaining Momentum

A blog for all who live outside EU and wonder about legal ways to move to Germany. I am sharing my personal experience and what I have learnt while applying for visas, looking for jobs, trying to improve the language and living and working in Germany.

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