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Studying Geography in Germany

Geography deals with the interplay between humans and the environment.
An article by Daniel Kastner. Cooperation from: Gabriele Meister

Studying Geography in Germany
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That is what it’s about

Students explore how the environment shapes people - and how humans shape the environment. They deal with wastelands as well as megacities and investigate human-induced processes - such as climate change - on a local, regional and global level. "Almost every region in the world offers geographers a veritable treasure trove of knowledge," says Werner Gamerith, a geography professor at the University of Passau and president of the German Geographical Society. Students need some understanding of satellite and laser technology, for example to measure elevation profiles of glaciers in the high mountains. For this they also need a broad knowledge, not only of the natural sciences, but also of politics and cultural science, for example to fathom the causes and consequences of migration. Knowledge of art history and architecture can also be helpful. The subject therefore consists of human geography and physical geography.

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This is how the course runs

Human geography deals with the structure and dynamics of societies and cultures and how people shape their living environments from an economic, environmental and political point of view. Topics include global urban growth, migration, mobility, flight and spatial inequality. Classical areas of physical geography are landscape development, natural hazards, and biodiversity. "The consequences of the pandemic are also a research topic that will be with us for a very long time, for example when it comes to tourism, air travel or pop-up bike paths and the digitisation of society," says Gamerith. In practical courses, students evaluate satellite and aerial photographs, among other things. In human geography, they learn how to design surveys and use interview techniques, such as consumer behaviour or environmental awareness. In physical geography, they analyse soil and water samples or the rings inside trees. "Working in nature and in the lab is as much a part of geography as dealing with people and other cultures," Gamerith says. The degree course includes trips and field internships, during which students can, for example, grasp the extent of glacier melt in the Alps or explore how the people of South America deal with the climate phenomenon El Niño. Some field trips take half a day, others a few weeks. The costs for these must be assumed in part by the students. For longer field trips, students can seek scholarships. "When there are no field trips, we work with Open Street Map or Google Street View, for example. But this is only a temporary solution. Digital views cannot replace on-site impressions," says Gamerith.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • Where should the routes of long-distance bus lines reasonably pass?
  • What do desertification and rising sea levels mean for cities and villages?
  • How can urban sprawl and land use be reduced?
  • What are the consequences of increasing urbanisation in developing countries?
  • How do you interpret satellite images?
  • What economic effects can be expected from nature conservation projects?
  • Why do countries with fewer resources often develop better than those with many?

The subject suits you,...

... you want to learn how to combine the different ways of thinking and working in the natural and social sciences. This is not easy, especially in the beginning. The students have more to do with physics, chemistry and mathematics than many expect, for example, when it comes to the heat balance of the earth or weathering processes. Statistical data analysis is also a tool of geography. Good spatial awareness and enjoyment of group travel are also helpful.

Is there a numerus clausus?

More than half of the courses have admission restrictions. Often this is in the two grade range.

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