Students studying at the Universität Tübingen will be enrolled directly, working without a liaison university or private program. Housing is provided by the university, but is operated by private and public student accommodation organizations. There are university dining halls, but no dormitory cafeterias, and all food must be bought on top of program expenses. The university itself is decentralized, spread throughout Tübingen. Students are expected to have 2 years of college-level German experience or the equivalent in order to study at Tübingen, as while english courses are offered, the university and the exchange program are directed in German. There is a welcome-week orientation period for international students, but there is no intensive linguistic and methodological prepping as commonly found in other exchange programs. The welcome-week is hosted by StudIT, a program that works to establish ties between international and local German students in order to expedite integration. This program, like most other direct university exchanges, requires independence and the capacity to succeed without the upkeep of a guiding liaison program.
More info can be found at: University Tuebingen International Students Page
Although Tübingen's Deutsches Seminar is currently rated number one within Germany, I was a bit surprised at the ease and overcrowding of the classes. All my courses did provide a great deal of intellectual stimulation and exploration, but the disconnect between faculty and students was stronger than expected. The workload for four courses was quite manageable and I appreciated the opportunity to study topics that hard to come by in the States or just not as popular at Reed (ex: Dutch and German Romantic lyric poetry). My dorm was relatively comfortable, although nowhere near the standards of dorms in the States, particularly Reed. Being responsible for cleaning the bathrooms did surprise me at first. Meals in the Mensa were surprisingly not bad, even the Tagesgericht. The Studentenwerk had a "cafeteria" in my academic building, which was very convenient for small meals and snacks. Food in German supermarkets I found to be relatively cheap. The START Kurs offered by the International Sprachprogramme was quite beneficial, as it offered a nice three week refresher on spoken and written German, as well as contemporary cultural items of a less academic nature. Furthermore, it's much less of a time commitment than the 6 week alternative program, and it provides a nice opportunity to connect with other exchange students. Most importantly, they also walk you through the process of matriculating at the Uni, as well as dealing with registering with the city and obtaining a temporary residency permit. My time in Tübingen has cemented my desire to seek an advanced degree in German. Before coming to Germany, I was much more ambivalent about post-Reed career prospects, but studying in Tübingen has made me want to further my mastery of the German language.
The Aufbau, German language and grammar courses, were helpful although not that challenging. The classes were good, although not as challenging as I have become accustomed to at Reed. Thank goodness I went to the intensive language program before the semester started, as I would a) not have known a soul and not have meet my two best friends and b) have had no clue as to get all of my forms completed and learned as well about Tübingen. There is no campus in the Reed sense. Tübingen bills itself as an university town, and they are not kidding. It is a university with a town built around, through, and over it. This means that the university is spread all over and while there are a core group of buildings, you may have classes all over. I met very few German students that I ended up hanging out with, I met lots of other exchange students, however, a lot of whom were American. There is definitely segregation between the Germans and a lot of visiting students, mostly because of classes and the language barrier. Try to live in a apartment style with a few other students (5-7), that way there is more a chance to meet Germans. This way there is also more of a dorm community. Tübingen is also a relatively small place, but absolutely beautiful. I really value the time I spent in Tubingen. I know that my views about the US and Americans has altered, although I can not quite describe in what way. I loved living with and meeting other people from different countries, and learning their views on many things that I took for granted living in the states.