So, here are several things that I have found out recently that seem very helpful for learning German, given how dangerously English-friendly Heidelberg can be – don’t wait to sign up for these if you are planning on studying in Heidelberg:
1) A language ‘tandem partner’ is a great way to cut out the time it takes to make German friends when getting started in a new city – I suggest to go straight to it! Speak a little bit of English, und dann Deutsch! You can even get credit for this!
2) Check out these tutorials on academic writing in German – I wish I had made it to this possibility in time for this semester (there are not many places, so don’t wait!). I presume it will help for exams and essays – more so than general language courses.
3) Join a ‘Lesekreis’/student reading group. This is a great way to meet German speakers and get to work on German texts in German. I am taking part in a few at the moment, and it is proving to be a great, more relaxed and casual way of getting used to discussing ‘academic’ stuff in German.
For instance (the philosophy faculty’s list): http://www.philosophie.uni-hd.de/initiativen.html
Google-ing ‘lesekreis heidelberg’ would also be a good way to search for this outside of the philosophy faculty.