Living and studying in vibrant Hamburg is an increasingly attractive option for students and young people from around the world.
The rich trading history which gave Hamburg its distinctive architecture long predates its emergence as an international economic powerhouse. Today, the city is Europe’s second-largest port (after Rotterdam), a culture and arts hub, and a place many residents refer to as ‘Die schönste Stadt der Welt’: the most beautiful city in the world.
Living and studying in beguiling Hamburg offers educational and academic opportunities and a coveted lifestyle, according to the International School of Hamburg.
Culture meets counter-culture
If the port has historically generated wealth (Hamburg today has more millionaires than any other German city), it has also generated a vibrant culture.
The self-proclaimed ‘Gateway to the World’, Hamburg is much more than cargo containers and cruise ships. “It is a hub of innovation, and a regional centre for art, culture and music” says Shannon Walsh, Science Teacher at the International School of Hamburg. A rich maritime history has created a forward-thinking, cosmopolitan outward-looking society which welcomes overseas visitors with open arms (roughly one-sixth of the 1.8 million people living in Hamburg are foreign) drawn not only to economic opportunities but also its exciting lifestyle.
In August 2017 the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global City Liveability Index ranked the city 10th in the world. ‘Education’ features strongly in the criteria, along with ‘stability’, ‘infrastructure’, ‘healthcare’ and ‘environment’. Leading human resources consultancy Mercer, meanwhile, ranks Hamburg 19th in its 2017 Quality of Living Rankings for global cities.
Education is a priority for the city, starting in early childhood, through primary and secondary all the way college; and the international residents are not forgotten, with top-notch institutions like the International School of Hamburg playing a big role in rolling out the welcome mat for families from abroad.
Hamburg is well-regarded among its peers in Germany, too. Deutsche Post’s “Gluecksatlas 2017” (happiness atlas) survey reports that the city’s ‘life satisfaction’ index rose four places from 2016 to second.
Vibrant college life
While living in Hamburg is widely sought after, it is particularly attractive for students enrolled at the excellent international schools in the city. Offering both an intellectually-stimulating study environment and world-class lifestyle attractions and amenities, there are few cities which can match Hamburg’s study/ life balance.
Hamburg knows how to let its hair down. Cool and edgy, there are said to be more than 100 music venues and clubs, and more than 40 theatres and 60 museums in the city. Its music heritage is renowned: world-famous composer Johannes Brahms was born here in 1833, while the Beatles cut their teeth on the early-1960s Hamburg club circuit before becoming global superstars, prompting John Lennon to declare: ‘I was born in Liverpool but raised in Hamburg’.
Achingly hip, Hamburg has alternative culture down to an art form, not least in the fashionable student hangout of St Pauli. The city is also an architectural gem, typified by the atmospheric Speicherstadt warehouse district, which oozes maritime and trading heritage (recognised by UNESCO in 2015), and now home to uber-trendy coffee shops and bars. The striking Elbphilharmonie opened in early 2017, adding another aesthetic dimension to the urban panorama.
In Hamburg however, water is, arguably, the star attraction. If the mighty River Elbe and port have long provided a living for the city’s people, the extensive network of rivers, canals and lakes (there are some 2,300 bridges in Hamburg, more than Venice!) today provide living of a more literal kind.
“A great place to appreciate this is from a boat on the Binnenalster”, advises Shannon, about the recreational centrepiece of a city boasting more green space than any other in Germany (Hamburg was voted European Green Capital in 2011). From the shimmering water looking out to the imposing sandstone Rathaus (Town Hall), it’s not hard to see why Hamburgers believe their city is indeed the world’s most beautiful.
On a sunny day, it is particularly easy to warm to Hamburg, it’s green spaces and cool waterways. People are happy and healthy. The air is clean. The rowing clubs lining the water teem with young people exercising their competitive spirits. The Botanic Gardens and Jenischpark are resplendent. The city economy is doing well, and there are good job prospects for young people.
Hamburg the free spirit
Vitally for young people studying in Hamburg, the city offers something different. Free-spirited, it challenges convention and conformity but is far from being an isolated backwater. Hamburg is well aware of its place in the world and is rightly proud of its close links with, and connectivity to it. Therefore, to study in Hamburg is to become part of a unique ecosystem.
Importantly for those studying in Hamburg, this great lifestyle does not necessarily come at a price premium. The cost of living in the city is, on average, 12.38 per cent lower than London and 24.66 per cent lower than New York.
Much like the vessels which have long plied the Elbe from Hamburg to the world, the city knows where it has come from and has a clear idea where it is going. There has arguably never been a better time to be a student in a city on its latest exciting journey.
Shannon Walsh, Mathematics Teacher at the International School of Hamburg, is originally from Canada. She has lived in Hamburg since 2016, and one of her favourite pastimes is running around the beautiful Alster Lakes.Embark on a voyage of learning.