Spend a semester in Berlin -- the dynamic and multicultural city at the heart of the EU’s economic and political powerhouse. Begin or expand your study of the German language and explore your academic interests by enrolling in courses taught in English alongside other international students. Discover contemporary German life and immerse yourself daily in the city’s remarkable history!
Welcome to the Berlin Consortium for German Studies! The BCGS was established in 1995 and is proud to have over 850 alumni who have studied at the Freie Universität Berlin, some of whom continue to live, study, or work in Germany or in a relevant field.
The BCGS was established in 1995 and is proud to have over 850 alumni who have been fully immersed by studying alongside degree seeking students in regular university courses. With two years of college-level German or the equivalent, they have attended the AY or the German fall or spring semesters.
For our English Language Program (ELP), which is offered since 2021 on an U.S. spring semester, we partner with FU-BEST. This partnership aims to provide students of beginner and intermediate levels of German -- including those with no German background -- the opportunity to study alongside other international students and to participate in cultural activities and trips that provide a deeper understanding of the local customs and culture. The program provides an intensive and diverse study abroad experience through combining three essential elements: German language instruction, a varied menu of subject courses in English, and the concept of the “extended classroom.”
Pathway for Continued Engagement in Berlin
Once you are living and studying in Berlin, you may find yourself wishing you could extend your stay. If you find yourself in this situation, you can work with the BCGS team to determine which pathway may be the most supportive to further your academic interests.
The Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS) was founded in 1995 by a group of U.S. universities in partnership with the Freie Universität Berlin (FU). In Spring 1996, the BCGS sent its first student group to study in Berlin. The BCGS provides a framework that supports and helps students, as needed, to live in Berlin and to navigate the German university system. The BCGS also facilitates the annual exchange of FU students who spend the year studying at one of the member institutions. Members of the Consortium are:
University of Chicago
Columbia University and Barnard College
The Johns Hopkins University
University of Pennsylvania
in association with the University of Notre Dame and Vassar College
The BCGS welcomes qualified students from other institutions to apply and regularly has visiting students as part of the program each term.
COVID-19 Related Program Updates
Below please find information and links to resources about how COVID-19 might impact your upcoming study abroad experience so that you can remain informed as the situation evolves. Please note that these planning protocols as well as participation policies are still being finalized and may be modified at any time prior to your departure or while you are in-country.
Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS) Vaccination Policy
- BCGS requires the COVID-19 vaccination and booster (if eligible) for all students participating in the program.
Flights and Arrival
- Students wishing to enter Germany are subject to all restrictions and recommendations that the German government has put in place in regards to COVID-19. Students are responsible for understanding these restrictions and regulations. Please check with the German Federal Foreign Office for the latest entry requirements.
- Students should follow CDC guidance for those traveling to Germany.
- All students should abide by local COVID-19 protocols set forth by the Governing Mayor of Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin.
- BCGS is currently not requiring mandatory regular testing but students will be expected to do daily symptom self-monitoring and obligatory observing of pandemic risk mitigation policies. PCR testing is available at many testing centers and self-tests are available for purchase at most pharmacies and department stores. Students would be financially responsible for these costs and should check what costs are covered by their individual insurance.
- Any student suffering from respiratory illness or problems (flu, cold, or cold-like symptoms) should not come to Freie Universität Berlin: FU-BEST / BCGS, even if they have not tested positive for COVID-19.
- If a student tests positive for COVID-19:
- You must-self isolate yourself for ten days from the first symptoms or the date of the positive test. After five days, you may leave isolation under the following conditions:
- You take a PCR or antigen test and it is negative and
- You have not had any symptoms for 48 hours
- You must-self isolate yourself for ten days from the first symptoms or the date of the positive test. After five days, you may leave isolation under the following conditions:
- Students are expected to notify BCGS Resident Director in case of a positive COVID-19 test. If they require urgent medical assistance at any point, they should call the German / European emergency number 112.
FU-BEST COVID-19 Contingency Plans for the Spring 2023 Semester
Please thoroughly acquaint yourself with FU-BEST’s SARS-CoV-2 Preparedness policy here: https://www.fu-berlin.de/en/sites/fubest/health-and-safety/covid-19_Spring23/index.html
Eligibility & Application
Submitted applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis up until the date noted at the bottom of this webpage. Please note course registration is provided on a first come, first served basis and can fill up quickly.
We strongly encourage you to submit your “Course Selection Form” as soon as possible to secure your preferred courses.
Must be a currently enrolled as an undergraduate student in good academic and disciplinary standing
Minimum 3.0 average language GPA (if applicable)
Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
HOW TO APPLY
Want to apply? Click the “Start Your Application” button at the top of this page. If the button doesn't appear above, the program is not yet accepting applications. You will be asked to set up a short profile, which will allow us to send you relevant information about your application. Once you’ve created a profile, you will see a checklist of items that you will need to submit. These generally include:
At some point prior to departure, an advising meeting with director of German language program at your school or with Columbia's language representative for visiting students
Home school approval/clearance - prior to starting an application, please meet with your home school study abroad adviser to confirm your school will allow you to apply to this program.
Application fee (if applicable)
Based on your German language ability, you will enroll in an appropriate intensive FU-BEST German language course. Furthermore you will choose FU-BEST academic courses taught in English.
Below, please find class schedules, based on German language levels. Please note that the choice of electives taught in English and German can be customized depending on your individual academic interests and preferences. It is required that students take 1 Intensive language course and 3 academic courses, for a total of 17 recommended credits.
Intensive German Language; 5 credits
Intensive Beginner 1 (A1) + Intensive Beginner 2 (A2), prerequisite: none
Intensive Beginner 2 (A2) + Intensive Intermediate 1 (B1); prerequisite: 1 semester of German
Intensive Intermediate 1 (B1) + Intensive Intermediate 2 (B2); prerequisite: 2 semesters of German
Intensive Intermediate 2 (B2) + Intensive Intermediate 3 (B3); prerequisite: 3 semesters of German
Prior to final placement in the German language courses, you will complete an online placement test, after admittance to the program, but prior to your arrival in Berlin. Upon arrival, you will also complete an on-site interview to ensure adequate placement. For further information, please review FU-BEST Intensive German Curriculum.
FU-BEST Electives (in English); 4 credits/each
See Course Selection Form in the “Eligibility and Application” of this webpage for more information
FU-BEST electives are taught in English alongside other FU-BEST students who are international students. For a list of courses, please refer to the FU-BEST website.
Have you already completed 4+ semesters of German? If you are an advanced language student (4+ semesters of German), please click on the BCGS website for higher level German language opportunities.
The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.
GRADES AND TRANSCRIPTS
Grading & Credit Policy
Click here for the Columbia Semester/Academic Year program grading policies.
For the BCGS grading and credit policy, please click here.
All courses taken on the program are converted to an American grading scale and transmitted to students as follows:
Columbia students: Grades appear on SSOL and your transcript as semester grades from courses taken at Columbia. For more information, please see the section on Academic Credit in Steps to Study Abroad.
Barnard students: Grades appear on eBear and your transcript as any semester grades from courses taken at Barnard. For more information, please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Barnard Students on our Barnard student pages.
University of Chicago, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Vassar students: The program sends grades directly to these institutions for direct posting on the home school transcript. Please review the home school's guidelines on grades and credit.
Non-Columbia students: Grades are entered into Columbia's system and you will need to request a transcript to obtain your final grades. Please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Non-Columbia Students on the Non-Columbia student pages.
Please view this video Introduction to the Freie Universität Berlin.
“This film offers a glimpse into the founding history of Freie Universität, as well as an impression of the diverse research and academic programs of one of the most prestigious universities in Germany. The film portrays several students and scholars and gives an overview of the history of Freie Universität, from its founding in 1948 on the historically significant Dahlem research campus, to the 1960s student movement and the changes following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, on to its success in the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments.”
For a campus tour, please refer to the video below:
FU Campus Lankwitz
All FU-BEST classes take place on the Lankwitz campus of Freie Universität Berlin, which is easily accessible by public transport and located in the southwest of Berlin, surrounded by a primarily residential area.
FU Campus Dahlem
While FU-BEST is your everyday academic and administrative center in Berlin, the BCGS will also play a vital role in your semester abroad. You can always contact us with any questions or concerns that may come up while studying and living in Berlin. We are very much looking forward to hearing and seeing you at our BCGS center.
The BCGS team will be your liaison to FU-BEST and to your U.S. home schools. We will advise you, collect your applications/student materials, and coordinate billing and payment. For all courses based on BCGS tuition, we will engage with FU-BEST and your home institutions and provide a smooth transition for credit transfer.
A couple of weeks after the FU-BEST on-site orientation, BCGS will hold an info session and administer your course registration. We will also introduce you to the Dahlem campus and to additional resources. You are always welcome to visit us during your stay. The BCGS will also provide you with information and access to the Original BCGS program, if that is of interest as well.
We encourage you to watch the videos below for a closer look at the campus (the subtitles can be converted to English.)
Student Service Center: https://www.fu-berlin.de/en/studium/beratung/ssc/index.html
Freie Universität Berlin - David Ausserhofer_Philological Library Campus Dahlem
Life in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city and the largest city in Germany. The city has become known for its art scene and entrepreneurial environment. Berlin is home to world renowned Universities, museums, orchestras, and entertainment venues. This city, rich in history and historical monuments, will provide endless cultural outlets for city dwellers and visitors alike.
Since the city's reunification in 1990, Berlin has been characterized by change and invention. The dichotomy between old and new provides a constant reminder of Berlin's complex history. After the fall of the Berlin wall, Berlin emerged as the cultural and economic capital city of Germany, alive with a sense of transformation and progress. A vibrant nightlife, exciting art scene, and myriad cultural venues contribute to Berlin's status as one of Europe's most cosmopolitan and sophisticated urban centers.
Visits to museums, galleries, cultural and political institutions, and historic sites and landmarks all contribute to providing a deeper understanding of Germany's past and its current role in the European Union and global affairs.
The program has a number of housing options for students, which include The Student Hotel, The Student Village or Homestays. While The Student Hotel offers a single bedroom and a private bathroom, the Student Village shared accommodations with other students. Homestay options are also available, which provide housing experiences with locals from the community.
To learn more about additional housing details, visit the FU-BEST website.
Please note that due to the evolving nature of the pandemic there may be limitations on the choice of housing options, based on BCGS and home school policies.
Berlin is a great food destination. The high ethnic diversity of its citizens contributes to the vast variety of its restaurants and food offerings from all over the world. There is a strong movement towards organic and regional produce as well as vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Nevertheless, the famous Döner and Currywurst still have their place among the new trends. You will have easy access to your favorite food at fresh food markets, supermarkets, street vendors and on campus. On the Campus Lankwitz at the Freie Universität, there are cafeterias and a major dining hall. However, please be aware that there are no meals included and there is no meal plan for BCGS students.
FU-BEST offers many activities that will help you engage with the cultural life of Berlin. The program features an elaborate set of learning supports and cultural experience activities. Participation is mandatory for some events, others are optional.
Trips & Excursions
FU-BEST organizes a series of excursions and cultural activities in and around Berlin as integral parts of the academic program. These trips are intended to offer an insider's look into Berlin and Germany, and they often provide access to people and places that you might otherwise not have.
Students in recent years have participated in volunteer work throughout Berlin. Opportunities have ranged from teaching to social, cultural and ecological projects. The “Freiwilligenagenturen,” non-profit agencies, help to coordinate volunteer work in the Berlin districts. Examples of volunteer projects include organizing grass root activities, mentoring kids with learning disabilities, helping LGBTQ+ organizations, support refugees in the process of integration, and supporting homeless people.
FITNESS AND WELLNESS
Just like any major city, Berlin offers you many different options for staying active during your stay. Below you’ll find a few options.
The Lankwitz Campus has a sports facility, the UniFit, which is the official gym of Freie Universität Berlin. You can purchase a membership for 18€ per month when signing up for three months. https://www.hochschulsport.fu-berlin.de/en/sportprogramm/UniFit/index.html
If you are looking for a larger gym, you could consider purchasing a membership with SuperFit, a branch of fitness studios all over Berlin. SuperFit gyms are open 24 hours. Aside from their yearly based memberships, SuperFit offers a subscription for around 33.90€/month that you can cancel monthly. Find more information on their website: https://superfit.club/.
If you are a fan of maximum flexibility, the Urban Sports Club might be a good option. With this membership you are able to visit up to 3,000+ venues and you have the possibility to choose from 50+ sports, from fitness to yoga, swimming to climbing, team sports to wellness. A membership can be cancelled monthly; pausing your contract is also possible. Prices range from 33€/month (for an S membership) to 149€/month (for an XL membership). You sign up online and can pay with credit card, debit card or via Paypal. Recommendable is the M membership for 66€/month. They often have promotion discounts, so check out their website for more information: https://urbansportsclub.com/en.
If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to talk to FU-BEST staff who will be happy to help.
Berlin is the perfect city from which to explore – both physically and mentally – Germany, Europe, the world, and yourself! Luckily, I was born here and I have been using it as my actual and intellectual home base ever since. I studied North American Studies and Communication Science here at Freie Universität Berlin and received my M.A. in 2002. After that, I lived in Hamburg for a year, working with the Körber Foundation for their Transatlantic Idea Contest USable. I returned to Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin to pursue my Ph.D. in History (with an American research topic), which I received in 2007. I then worked for an organization offering guided city walking tours with a historical and sociological perspective on Berlin. In 2008, I joined FUBiS (Freie Universität Berlin International Summer and Winter University), FU-BEST’s short-term sister program, as Program Coordinator, and came to FU-BEST as Academic Director in 2011. This somehow merges elements of all my former jobs, interests, and fields of expertise. Plus, it is a great place to help young people become Freie Universität alumni, part-time Berliners, and explorers, too!
Born and raised in Berlin, I always shared a close bond with the United States. After acquiring my German high school diploma, I continued my fascination with the U.S. by enrolling in the BA North American Studies Program at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institute at Freie Universität Berlin. In 2008 I had the chance to spend a semester abroad at Tulane University in New Orleans. These months not only provided me with an excellent academic experience but also caused me to fall in love with this unique and multicultural city. After my return in 2009, I instantly started working for FU-BEST (and briefly for FUBiS) in order to help provide international students with the same kind of experience I had during my time abroad. In 2011 I finished my BA in North American studies with a concentration on disaster sociology and received my MA in American Studies from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2016.
Carmen Müller has been the Resident Director since the program's inception. A native of the Southwest of Germany, she moved to Berlin in 1988 and experienced the fall of the wall and its aftermath first-hand. As a master’s degree student, she spent an academic year as a Fulbright fellow at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Dr. Müller received her Doctor of Philosophy from the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Freie Universität Berlin and is a historian specializing in 19th- and 20th- century European and German history, German-American relations, and methodology. Dr. Müller also teaches a course during the spring semester and loves the vibrant life of Berlin.
Assistant Administrative Director
Assists the Resident Director in program operations and student affairs.
Nikolaj Blocksdorf has been working with BCGS since 2012. As a genuine Berliner, he offers the students unique insights into the rich diversity of his native city. Mr. Blocksdorf is also familiar with the students’ perspective of educational exchange: He stayed with a host family during his high school year in Orange County, California. Later, when studying North American Studies and Islamic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, he left his comfort zone to live for seven months in Damascus, Syria.
Many students use a combination of federal student aid and home school grants to fund their undergraduate studies. Many, if not most, of these funds are applicable to studying abroad for a semester or academic year. The costs of studying abroad during the semester or academic year are frequently comparable to those of staying on campus.
All students should work with their home school financial aid office to determine what aid is available for studying abroad.
Please see below for the cost breakdowns for detailed information on all program-related expenses:
- Cost Breakdown for Columbia Students
- Cost Breakdown for Consortium Students
- Cost Breakdown for Visiting Students
Please Note: Tuition and fees are subject to Board of Trustee approval and may change*
Financing Your Studies in Berlin
Students may apply for the following scholarship applicable to this program:
For more information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:
Resources for Accepted Students
- Passports and Visas
- Health and Safety
- Identity and Diversity Abroad
- CU Course Registration and Housing
- Gender Based Misconduct Resources
- Cultural Awareness