Studying in Germany
My goal is actually to study in Germany. Will "Incoming" help me?
If your motivation for applying for voluntary service is only to spend the year preparing for study, a volunteer placement will not necessarily be an appropriately rewarding experience for you. In such a case you would be better advised to find a support program centred on studying and speaking the German language.
What residency status will I have?
Your residency permit in Germany will be linked to your voluntary service placement.Applicants from countries requiring a visa must apply for their visa at the German consulate or embassy in their home country or the country in which they are presently residing. Please note that the visa application process can take 8 to 10 weeks. It is not possible to change the residency permit you will receive as a volunteer in Germany to a student, tourist or other form of visa.
In rare cases, visas may unfortunately be denied. For the best chance of approval it is of utmost importance that you apply for your visa as early as possible, and that you work together with us in an open, disciplined and cooperative way during the entire visa application process.
1. How do the Friends of Waldorf Education choose from the applicants?
A decision to approve an applicant for the “Incoming” program is based on…
• application materials that give a clear impression of your background and your motivation for social service. Please be clear and frank about your requests or concerns about voluntary service.
• your personal initiative to learn the German language (a language certificate, proof of current enrolment in a German course, e-mail correspondence with us in German, etc.). A telephone conversation is often required to determine an applicant’s German language skills.
• a report on your practical experience to date or your 2-week internship, as well as references from your internship or job placement (e.g. one of our partner organisations outside Germany).
• our communication with you by e-mail or telephone. Reliable and efficient correspondence with our applicants is very important to us.
• depending on the country and possibility, your willingness to meet with one of our partner organisations, a volunteer from Germany or a former “Incoming” volunteer from your country or region.
The Friends of Waldorf Education make the preliminary volunteer selections. The final decision lies with the hosting organisations themselves.
2. When does a voluntary service position begin? Is an alternative beginning date possible?
Most volunteers (approx. 75 people) will begin their service in August/September. A smaller group of about 25 volunteers will begin in January. Voluntary service begins with an introductory seminar at a fixed date; it is therefore not possible to begin service at a time other than the given dates.
3. When can I apply? What is the application deadline?
• Applications will be accepted for the August/September start date beginning with October of the year before the desired volunteer placement. Experience has shown that more than half the available positions are usually filled by January. For applicants from countries requiring visas for travel to Germany, we generally use mid-March of the application year as a deadline, due to the length of the visa application process (usually 2-3 months). Applicants from countries that do not require a visa (European Union, Japan, Korea, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel) may submit their applications until mid-July. It is also possible for applicants to have themselves placed on a waiting list. We strongly recommend all applicants to submit their applications to us as early as possible. This allows us sufficient time to address questions or difficulties that may arise and to prepare your application materials for the hosting organisations.
• For applicants from countries that must have visas, applications may be submitted for the January start date beginning with April of the year before the desired volunteer placement and will be accepted until the application deadline of July 1. Applicants from countries not requiring a visa have an extended deadline until the beginning of October to submit their applications.
4. How long will I have to wait to hear if I have been accepted?
Once we have received your application we carefully review it and clarify any possible questions. This normally requires 4-5 weeks. Afterwards we will let you know if your application will continue to the preliminary selection process. In this phase we initially collect the applications received thus far and send them – usually in one or two rounds – to the hosting organisations. These rounds for the summer placements are at the end of January and the end of March, and for the winter placements in mid-July. After this it takes 3-6 weeks until we receive an answer from the hosting organisations, where the final decisions are made on which applicants will be accepted.
For voluntary placements beginning in January, you will receive a definite answer at latest the end of the preceding September. For the August/September start date you will receive a definite answer in April or at latest May. Please be patient! As it can take up to four months’ time from your initial application until final approval, there is no need to worry if you do not hear anything from us for quite some time.
Upon your acceptance, the volunteer service agreement and official visa invitation will be sent to you in May (for summer placements) or October (for winter placements).
5. Can I work together with my friend/brother/sister at the same placement site?
We make an effort to bring as much variety as possible to our placement sites – in other words, placing volunteers from differing countries and cultures together in our hosting organisations. There are various pedagogical, intercultural and linguistic reasons for this. Thus you should not expect to be able to serve at the same site as a friend or family member, although it is entirely possible to meet them at the accompanying seminars. We recommend that friends, siblings, etc. apply for positions at different placement sites.
6. Can I work together with my spouse or partner at a placement site?
In principle, yes – it is possible for couples to serve in voluntary positions together. There are certain conditions that must be fulfilled, however. For instance, you would require a hosting organisation with larger family living quarters and in which numerous volunteers are needed. Only then would you be able to coordinate your work shifts so that you could share free time together. There may be other criteria as well, depending on the particular institution. In any case, it is especially important that both partners in a volunteer couple speak German well; in most cases they will logically speak their native tongue with each other, but it is vital that each volunteer interact individually with others at the placement site. It is especially advisable for couples to apply early for voluntary service, since the positions that may meet their requirements will be less likely to be available toward the end of the application periods. Before applying we also suggest that couples carefully consider if such an intense experience as voluntary service is something that truly suits their relationship.
1. In which areas of service do volunteers work? Are other kinds of work possible?
The Friends of Waldorf Education offer volunteer positions exclusively in non-profit hosting organisations that share the principles of anthroposophy and Waldorf education. Correspondingly, our areas of service are social therapy (adults with disabilities), curative education (children with disabilities), anthroposophy-based senior care (homes for the elderly), biodynamic agriculture and in Waldorf schools and kindergartens. We do not offer any volunteer positions outside of these fields.
Besides caring for people with special needs, volunteers have the possibility to gain experienced in various skilled crafts and cultural projects, including woodwork, pottery, candle making, weaving and the like. The determining factor is that all projects have a social component. This means that the residents who require assistance receive support and care in these undertakings. You will find a list of links to our hosting organisations at our homepage www.freunde-waldorf.de.
You will receive a list with detailed descriptions of our hosting organisations once you have been accepted into the program. If you are interested in learning more about a specific workshop or a particular form of anthroposophic therapy, please indicate this in your application forms. We can then check what possibilities we may have available for your interests.
2. Can I select an area of service myself? What requirements are there for working in homes for curative therapy and Waldorf schools/kindergartens?
In the institutions for curative education and in Waldorf schools, a good to excellent knowledge of German is absolutely necessary, and the youngest volunteers are typically at least 20 years old. Waldorf schools and curative education centres often accept only applicants with a broad teaching background and who are former Waldorf school students. Although only a few volunteer places are available in Waldorf education, each year we receive a large number of applications for educational positions. For this reason, please let us know if you are also willing to volunteer in another area of service. We especially recommend this in the event your profile does not match an institution’s specific requirements or if all educational positions have already been filled.
3. Where are the hosting organisations in Germany?
The hosting organisations are distributed throughout Germany and are primarily in rural areas. Foreigners often have the impression that Germany is a densely populated country – which it certainly is – but our placement sites are often in villages quite a distance from the “excitement” of metropolitan areas. It may well be that the nearest cities are only accessible by infrequent bus connections or that your working hours are inconvenient for such excursions, e.g. shifts split into both morning and evening hours. And in the cold winter months, there will certainly be less going on than at other times. These are the realities with which most of our volunteers are confronted. Obviously your leisure time during a voluntary service year depends a great deal on your own creativity, activity and initiative. For instance, you may want to join a village sports club or music group or find similar community activities. Regardless of where you are in Germany, riding a bicycle is almost always a good way to get around, so it is certainly to your advantage if you know how to ride one!
4. Can I choose the particular city in which I volunteer?
We receive a large number of requests for the very few placement sites found in cities. Since you will be spending the majority of your time working at your hosting organisation, you should base your choice of institution on your preferred area of service rather than on geographic criteria. Please read our information sheet “Areas Of Service in the ‘Incoming” Program” carefully for further information.
If you do indicate a city of choice, we cannot make any promises that you will be placed there. Only in rare cases can we fulfil such requests. You will need to write a concrete proposal explaining the reasons for your choice. Please also indicate if you would be willing to serve in a rural position or in another city.
Are the living communities Christian? Can I volunteer there even if I have a differing religious background?
People of all world religions are welcomed and respected by all our hosting organisations. Anthroposophy is not a religion. Since Christianity is nevertheless a part of our European culture, Christian traditions do predominate in our institutions: traditional religious festivals are celebrated, residents of the homes visit church services or take part in Bible study. It is important to us that volunteers respect the religious customs of their hosts by celebrating these festivals with their community and by accompanying the people in their care in this area as well.
If a volunteer practices the customs of his or her own religion (traditional fests, a special diet, meditation, etc.), the others at the placement site will take care to show consideration for these beliefs during everyday life. We ask only that you kindly inform us in advance of wishes or requirements specific to your religion (see the application forms).
Proselytising during the voluntary service is not permitted.
1. Is my German good enough?
The ability to make yourself understood in German is a prerequisite for a voluntary placement. All seminars throughout the course of the year will be conducted almost exclusively in German. At the hosting organisations, the exact language requirements will vary.
For those working in the fields of curative education (children with disabilities) and senior care (homes for the elderly), a good to excellent knowledge of German is a must. In the other areas of service fluency in German is sometimes necessary as well. Accordingly, your German skills are crucial to your selection as a volunteer.
If your German is at level 2, 3 or 4 of the internationally recognised language framework, we will need to see a language certificate, your school marks or other official certification. Applicants at levels 1 or 2 will need to submit confirmation of enrolment in an intensive German course. It also expected that you show the initiative to improve your German both before and during the duration of your voluntary service.
2. Am I too old or too young to volunteer?
You must be at least 18 years old to work as a volunteer. The average age of our volunteers is about 23, and there is no maximum age. In our program we have several volunteers between 30 and 50 and occasionally some over 60. However, placing volunteers who are older than 27 brings additional challenges and responsibilities both to us and to our hosting organisations that we unfortunately cannot always meet. Such decisions on accepting older applicants are made on a case-by-case basis.
3. Why is an internship necessary beforehand?
An internship, job placement or training program of at least two weeks is the most vital preparation for your volunteer placement in Germany. It is to your personal advantage if you have already completed an internship in an institution for disabled persons in your home country. If you have never spent time with people with disabilities, it may well be more difficult for you to overcome certain social barriers and thus build a relationship with those you will be caring for. Especially at the beginning, you may find yourself overwhelmed by so many unfamiliar experiences: new responsibilities, new culture, and new people. During an internship in your own country, you can seriously examine your motivation for serving, and whether a voluntary position is right for you.
Even if you have not carried out an internship, you may still send us your voluntary service application. However, you need to show us clear proof that you are planning an internship or equivalent experience. Exact details for planning and carrying out your internship can be found in the application forms. Please read the detailed instructions in the “Incoming” application forms for planning your internship. If we have a partner organisation in your country, you should schedule your internship there if at all possible. We will be happy to assist you in making contact with our partners as well as organisations that fulfil our criteria.
4. Can I apply if I do not have a passport yet, or if my passport expires within the next 18 months?
The German visa authorities require that your passport be valid until at least 6 months after the end of your voluntary service. Only if this condition is met should you enter your current passport number on our application forms. We have repeatedly had problems in the past with applicants applying too late for passports or giving us passport numbers for their official invitations that had in the meantime expired. In these cases a visa cannot be issued. Therefore we can only accept applications if you possess a valid passport that meets the criteria above or if you have applied for a new one. In the latter case you must send us your passport number as soon as you have received the new passport.
5. Do I have to enter a telephone number and an e-mail address even if I do not have my own e-mail account or telephone?
During the volunteer selection and your preparation for voluntary service, we are absolutely dependent on quick and efficient communication with you. We need to have a reliable means of direct contact with our applicants. If you do not have your own e-mail account, please use the Internet connection or e-mail address of a third party close to you.
You will need your own e-mail address at the very latest when you have been accepted for voluntary service. This will also be very useful to you during your stay in Germany! Please make an effort to see that we can reach you by telephone as well! If you do not have a telephone connection, please give us the telephone number of a third party close to you, and indicate which language(s) this person speaks.
6. Do I need a driving licence?
The hosting organisations determine whether a driving licence is required there or not. Most of the institutions in rural areas request that their volunteers have a licence, which makes planning their daily routine and leisure time easier. Thus applicants who can drive may be preferred in some cases. Depending on your nationality, you may need to also apply for an additional international driving licence in your home country in order to drive in Germany (allow two months processing time before your departure).
7. Can I participate in voluntary service if I have small children?
We appreciate the initiative and engagement that adult volunteers of all ages bring to our program. But we have learned from experience that volunteers who leave small children behind during the voluntary year have difficulty managing this separation. They have trouble integrating fully in their new environment, since they naturally worry about the care of their family back home. In such cases the voluntary service has always been broken off by the volunteers themselves. For this reason we no longer accept applicants who have children under the age of 18. It is not our desire that anyone should have to face such a trial for the sake of a volunteer year abroad. It is unfortunately also not possible to bring your children with you to a voluntary placement.