My name is Andrea and I’m one of the exchanges from Germany. I will stay here for one semester to study and kind of explore the American culture and basically the university system because as you may have thought, it differs quite a bit from what I am used to at my German university.
The main difference is how much money Americans have to pay for their education, living on campus and everything else. My university’s tuition in Dortmund for this coming autumn/winter semester was around 254€ (this is about $286). Plus, you do not have to live on campus, freshman or not. It’s actually pretty rare to even get a spot on campus; it’s more realistic to search for your own flat which will be around 300€, depending on where you live. Even living on campus, if you’re an exchange student for example, will be around the same price. There are no included meal plans but you can still get food all over university for a couple of Euros – or you can simply go to the closest supermarket, which is never too far away. On our campus we have a total of three different places to eat lunch.
One for freshly made pizza, pasta, and snacks; one for a range of prepared meals (plus vegan and vegetarian options); and a last one for french-fries and other fast food stuff. And if you’re a student every meal is about 3€, so quite affordable. But I actually expected this amount of money which I had over here. It’s just a cultural difference, something decided by the government. The actual issue that shocked me the most were the prices for books.