Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS)

Language of Instruction: German
Term: Academic Year, Spring, Fall

Become fully immersed in Germany’s culturally rich capital city while participating in an intensive academic program 

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Note about COVID-19: While we prepare for in-person programming during Spring 2022, please note that the program may be modified to address evolving COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. As a precaution, you are encouraged to make a back up plan in case you are unable to participate in your chosen program. If you have any questions, please make an appointment with the program adviser listed at the bottom of this page. We encourage you to stay up-to-date on your destination of interest. Columbia University students should monitor the UGE Spring 2022 Resource Page and the Covid-19 Resource Page for relevant updates about international travel, while visiting students are encouraged to check in with their home school study abroad office.

Spend a semester, or better yet, a full academic year studying at Berlin's top university in the EU’s economic and political powerhouse. Explore your academic interests through this fully customizable program by choosing from a broad range of German language, BCGS, and/or local university courses. Discover contemporary German life and culture in a dynamic, multicultural city with a vibrant arts scene. Learn from Berlin's advanced knowledge of environmentalism and new technologies. And immerse yourself daily in the city’s remarkable history!

Program Overview

Welcome to the Berlin Consortium for German Studies! The BCGS was established in 1995 and is proud to have over 800 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. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to live and study while immersed in the dynamic city of Berlin. Not only will you continue to master the German language, but you will also have a chance to choose courses from a diverse range of disciplines. The BCGS is based at the Freie Universität (FU) Berlin, a premier German university that offers courses which will not only pique your intellectual curiosity, but also help to meet your home school requirements.

The first 6 weeks of the program are designed to support you as you adjust to your new life in Berlin. You will take one intensive course with the other program participants to help you prepare academically for the additional coursework that follows. The course also introduces you to Berlin through weekly cultural activities that take you out and about in the city.

A highlight of the program is the unique opportunity to engage with the local community. Past students have participated in volunteer opportunities, students organizations at the FU, local choirs/orchestras, and club sports. If you enroll in the academic year program, there are even more opportunities for both language and cultural immersion. It especially opens up the door for the ability to participate in an internship with local companies and organizations.

Fall 2021 COVID-19 Planning

Here you will 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 policies may be modified at any time prior to your departure or while you are in-country.

PDF icon BCGS Fall 2021 COVID-19 Preparedness (as of September 8, 2021)

PDF iconBCGS Fall 2021_COVID-19 Pandemic Protocol (as of September 8, 2021)

The Consortium

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
  • Cornell University
  • The Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Princeton University
  • 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.

Eligibility & Application

  • Must be currently enrolled as an undergraduate student in good academic and disciplinary standing

  • Must have completed at least two years of college-level German or the equivalent.

  • Minimum 3.0 average language GPA

  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA


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:

  • Application questionnaire(s)

  • Letter(s) of recommendation - language and academics

  • German writing sample

  • Official Transcript

  • Diagnostic Language Evaluation and meetings with director of language program at your school or with Columbia's language representative for visiting students

  • Home school approval/clearance

  • Application fee (if applicable)

Calendars & Pathways

Depending on the term and your academic interests, there are several different calendar options for you to consider. If you can follow the German calendar, you will have a broader range of courses from which to choose. If you choose the Fall Term Program that follows the U.S. term calendar, you will be enrolled in a pre-set program of study.
Please see below for further details:
BCGS Calendar visual
Have you completed less than 4 semesters of German? If so, please review the BCGS English Language Program to learn more about your options.


You will begin the program in an intensive German language course called the German Discourse and Culture (GDC) course for 6 points. You will then enroll in 3 to 4 electives each semester for an additional 9 to 16 points. Those electives include:

  • BCGS Courses: specially-developed courses, taught exclusively for the program by instructors that use the city of Berlin, its past and present, to showcase relevant topics

  • University courses encompassing most undergraduate disciplines including STEM courses, taught primarily in German

  • University courses taught in German for international students

Graduate students known as the writing consultants (see full description under people) will provide extra support to help you adapt to the German University system.

As you will see below, the program has a great deal of flexibility. For students at a more advanced German level, there is the option of full immersion with all classes being taught in German taken alongside German students. For students at lower German levels, there are options for partial immersion (i.e. classes taught in English or classes designed for international students).

For examples of how the BCGS customizes curricula for the students, please click here.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.

German Discourse & Culture

German 3335 OC, 3405 OC, and 4335 OC: German Discourse and Culture, 6 points

Instructor: Detlef Otto

This six week course is required of all incoming fall and spring students and is taken during the orientation period prior to the start of the German semester. Students are placed into one of the two or three levels depending on the semester and their language abilities.

This course combines extensive language study with an introduction to the discourse of German academic culture, both spoken and written. The goal of the course is to prepare students for successful study in the German university system. Special attention is paid to practical vocabulary for both academic and daily living applications.

At the conclusion of this course, all students will take a language placement exam. Satisfactory completion of this course as well as a satisfactory mark on the language exam are required as a condition of enrollment in courses taught in German at the FU.


Each week, the course focuses on a specific topic relevant to life and study in Berlin. The professors use current newspapers, blogs, podcasts, and relevant videos to support the study of the topics. Past topics have included:

  • Berlin: its city districts, neighborhoods, and inhabitants; current urban debates (including gentrification and how to deal with it)

  • German History from 1918-1990; History discovered in literary texts from Haffner to Sallmann

  • Germany’s political institutions

  • Germany’s Education System

  • Germany’s Economy with topics such as Brexit, trade wars, and free and fair trade

  • Socio-political issues such as migration, the New Right, Jews in Germany today

  • The Humanities: Art & Theater in Berlin

  • Exploring German Cultural Heritage outside of Berlin: Dessau, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Neuruppin, Schloss Branitz bei Cottbus


Each week, a cultural activity in and around the city of Berlin is organized in association with the course and the week's topic(s) of study. Examples of past activities include:

  • Guided tours through Berlin districts such as Kreuzberg, Mitte, and Prenzlauer Berg and museums such as Berlinische Galerie, Gemäldegalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Jüdisches Museum, Martin Gropius Bau, Alte Nationalgalerie, Altes Museum, Bode Museum, and Neue Nationalgalerie

  • Performances at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Komische Oper as well as at theatres and off-theatres such as Maxim-Gorki-Theater, Berliner Ensemble, Volksbühne Berlin, and Heimathafen Neukölln

  • Visits at Berlin and federal institutions such as Deutscher Bundestag, including a political discussion with a politician or administrative representative, attendance at a plenary session, and a tour of the dome and Bundeskanzleramt

  • Day trips to Dessau (Bauhaus), Neuruppin (Fontane, Schinkel), Potsdam (castles such as Sanssouci and Cecilienhof), and Lutherstadt Wittenberg


Students who do not receive satisfactory marks on the language exam at the end of the GDC course are required to take an additional German language course at the FU. Check with your home institution about whether you will receive credit for this course. Columbia and visiting students have this course listed on their transcript, but they do not receive credit for it.


Depending on your language level, you will select your remaining courses from the options below. At the end of the German Discourse and Culture Course, BCGS staff assist you in finding appropriate courses for your language level and academic interests. This allows for the course customization for all BCGS students.

Please refer to the grading policy section for the credit amounts for each course type. The policy can also be found under the Grading & Credit Policy drop-down on this webpage.

BCGS Program Courses

Selected topics in German studies, 4 points each

BCGS courses take advantage of Berlin and its resources to inform the coursework. Past topics have covered history, art history, literature, theater, and cinema.

Enrolling in one of these courses is highly recommended and strongly encouraged (and only offered to BCGS participants). See below for current and past offerings.

Spring 2022:

During the spring term, a course taught in German on German-American relations is also offered by the Resident Director.

German Studies 3600 OC: U.S. Perceptions of Germany and the Germans from Bismarck to Hitler (taught by Carmen Müller, Resident Director)​:

This course explores the role of national stereotypes in the context of German-American relations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The US American public had a reservoir of positive and negative stereotypes about Germany and the Germans at its disposal. On the one hand, Germany was admired as a country of cultural and technical progress and of romantic and picturesque landscapes and castles. On the other hand, it was despised as a country of aggressive and inhumane militarism. US American perceptions of the Germans ranged from peaceful, industrious, thrifty, law-abiding, and well-educated to arrogant, violent, submissive, and even barbarian. Because of the geographic distance to Germany, the average American predominantly relied on politicians, commentators, and foreign correspondents for a definition of the German situation and character.

How can one account for the existence of such completely contradictory images of one and the same country and nation? Were they only reflections of real changes within Germany and/or of the changing political, economic, and cultural relations between the two countries? How did the government system and economic structure of the United States influence the public perception of Germany? Did such projections foster mis-perceptions and distortions of the German reality?

  • Das Humboldt-Forum: Science, Culture, and Controversy (Fall 2019, Professor Volker Schröder, Princeton University)

  • The Grimms and Their Tales (Spring 2020, Professor Volker Schröder, Princeton University)

  • Das Kulturforum: Microcosm of a changing Berlin (Fall 2018, Professor Aden Kumler, University of Chicago)

  • Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie: the art of painting and the art of “slow looking” (Spring 2019, Professor Aden Kumler, University of Chicago)

  • Berlin in Film: A Survey of a City (Fall 2017, Professor Ian Fleishman, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Queer German Cinema (Spring 2018, Professor Ian Fleishman, University of Pennsylvania)

  • The Berlin Wall: Divide Stories in Literature and Film (Fall 2016, Professor Andrea Krauss, Johns Hopkins University)

  • What is Enlightenment? (Spring 2017, Professor Andrea Krauss, Johns Hopkins University)

  • Too Much to See? Literary Culture and the New Vision in Weimar Germany, 1918-1933 (Fall 2015, Professor Patrizia McBride, Cornell University)

  • Berlin Stories: History, Storytelling, and Urban Life (Spring 2016, Professor Patrizia McBride, Cornell University)

  • Berlin/Istanbul: Turkish-German Fiction and Film (Fall 2014, Professor Mark Anderson, Columbia University)

  • Literature, Photography, Architecture: A Short Cultural History of the German Democratic Republic (Spring 2015, Professor Mark Anderson, Columbia University)

  • German Contemporary History and the German Historical Debates (Fall 2013, Professor Domingo Gygax, Princeton University)

  • German Perceptions of Classical Greece (Spring 2014, Professor Domingo Gygax, Princeton University)

For course descriptions of any of the above, please email

FU Courses

You will enroll directly into a maximum of 3 courses in the German university system per semester. Based on the results of the placement exam taken at the end of the German Discourse and Culture Course, BCGS team will assist in finding appropriate courses for your language level and academic interests. This allows for the course customization for all BCGS students. See below under the Freie Universitat section to learn more about the subject areas available.

Below are the types of courses available at the FU that you will decide between:

  • Courses taught in German, fully integrated with FU students

  • Courses taught in English, fully integrated with FU students

  • Courses for international students taught in German for non-native speakers.

    • FU Block Seminars are specially organized intensive courses that take place from October-December. They are taught in German at the B1 or B2 level specifically for FU international students who are non-native speakers of German. Past offerings have included:

      • Migration and Religion in Berlin and Germany

      • Germany: An Introduction to Politics, Society and Culture

      • “The Jewish Berlin"

fall term program (FTP)

If you can only study in Berlin following the U.S. fall calendar (September to December), you should apply to the Fall Term Program.

At this time, you would enroll in the following courses:

German Discourse and Culture, 6 points

See “German Language Curriculum” text above for further information.

*Three (3) FU Block Seminars, 3 points each

FU block seminars are specially organized intensive courses that are taught in German, from October to December, at the B1 or B2 level specifically for FU international students who are non-native speakers of German. Past course offerings have included:

  • Migration and Religion in Berlin and Germany

  • Germany: An Introduction to Politics, Society and Culture

  • “The Jewish Berlin”

*Additional Fall 2022 courses may be added by February 2022. Please check back before you apply. Other electives taught in German are not available to you because they follow the German calendar which ends in February.

Freie Universität

Berlin's top university, Freie Universität Berlin is a leading research institution and was established in 1948 under its founding motto, "Truth, Justice, Freedom."

Freie Universität is a full-spectrum university, comprising twelve academic departments and four central institutes that together offer more than 150 different degree programs in a broad range of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The university offers programs toward any academic degree, from bachelor’s and master’s degrees to state exams, doctorates, and habilitation. The university’s extensive professional and continuing education offerings, ranging from individual classes to continuing education master’s degree programs, supplement the academic options available to prospective students.

The broad range of degree programs and disciplines offered at Freie Universität allows students to tailor their studies to their individual interests. Primarily located in Berlin-Dahlem, the campus includes offices and classrooms housed in villas, some large lecture halls, parks, and wooded areas. In addition to many research institutes, the FU Berlin also has a large library system, computer facilities, a center for recreational sports, and a wide array of student organizations. Like most European universities, it is not a residential university, and its student body commutes to the campus from all over greater Berlin.

Subject Areas

To browse the course catalog at the FU, click here.
The Freie Universität Berlin offers courses in the following subject areas:
  • African Art History

  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

  • Ancient Studies: Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology

  • Ancient Studies: Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

  • Ancient Studies: Classical Archaeology

  • Ancient Studies: Egyptology

  • Ancient Studies: Prehistoric Archaeology

  • Arabic Studies

  • Archaeology - Egypt

  • Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

  • Art History: East Asia

  • Art History: Europe and America

  • Biochemistry

  • Bioinformatics

  • Biology

  • Business Administration

  • Byzantine Studies

  • Catalan Language and Culture

  • Chemistry

  • China Studies/East Asian Studies

  • Chinese

  • Classical Archaeology

  • Comparative Literature

  • Computer Science

  • Digital Media and Technology

  • Dutch Language and Literature

  • Economics

  • Education Science

  • Egyptian Language and Literature

  • Egyptology

  • English Language and Literature

  • Equine Sciences

  • Film Studies

  • French Language and Literature (with or without prior knowledge of the language)

  • French Studies

  • Galician Language and Culture

  • Geographical Sciences

  • Geological Sciences

  • German Language and Literature

  • German-French Literature and Culture Studies

  • Greek Language and Literature

  • Greek Literature in Translation

  • Hebrew

  • History

  • History and Cultures of the Middle East

  • Iranian Studies

  • Islamic Studies

  • Italian Language and Literature (with or without prior knowledge of the language)

  • Italian Studies

  • Japanese

  • Japanese Studies

  • Japanology and East Asian Studies

  • Jewish History

  • Jewish Studies

  • Korean

  • Korean and East Asian Studies

  • Korean Studies

  • Language and Society

  • Languages of Classical Antiquity - Greek

  • Languages of Classical Antiquity - Latin

  • Latin American Studies

  • Latin Language and Literature

  • Mathematics

  • Media and Communication Studies

  • Medieval Latin Language and Literature

  • Meteorology

  • Modern Greek Language and Culture

  • Modern Greek Studies

  • North American Studies

  • Philosophy

  • Physics

  • Political Science

  • Portuguese-Brazilian Studies (with prior knowledge of the language)

  • Prehistoric Archaeology

  • Psychology

  • Religious Studies

  • Semitic Studies

  • Social and Cultural Anthropology

  • Spanish Language and Literature with Latin American Studies (with and without prior knowledge of the language)

  • Theatre Studies

  • Turkic Studies

STEM Courses

Each semester, a number of BCGS students in high academic standing and with an advanced level of German successfully enroll in STEM courses at the FU. In order to best prepare to enroll in STEM courses, students are encouraged to plan their courses in advance (as early as the application process). There are no BCGS subject tutors, but FU group tutorials will accompany STEM lectures to help students pass exams. In addition, the BCGS writing consultants will help students in dealing with the technical vocabulary.

Below are lists of STEM Departments and course titles students from the BCGS have enrolled in and successfully completed from 2012-2019.

  • Chemistry
  • Computer Applications
  • Computer Science
  • Earth Sciences
  • Economics
  • Economics & Management
  • Geosciences
  • Mathematics
  • Operations Research & Financial Engineering
  • Physics
  • Psychology
Course Titles:
  • Analytical Mechanics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Behavioral Public Economics
  • Biological Psychology II
  • Code Semantic
  • Complex Analysis (Course in English)
  • Computer Architecture
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Distributed Systems
  • Economic Growth (Course in English)
  • Elec. Data Processing I
  • Environmental Economics
  • Financial Crises & Monetary Systems
  • Game Theory
  • Government Economic Policy
  • Health Psychology
  • International Trade & Policy (Course in English)
  • Introduction to Labor Market Theory
  • Intr. Human Geography II
  • Investment & Finance
  • Linear Algebra I
  • Markets/Competition/Consumers
  • Organic Chemistry Empiric Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry I
  • Paleontology & Earth History
  • Practice of Clinical Psychology
  • Probability II
  • Research in Clinical Psychology
  • Semantics of Programing Languages
  • Social Psychology
  • Socialization & Learning
  • Stress and Health

Special Interests/Cross Registration

Cross Registration at other Berlin Institutions of Higher Education:

Students with special interests may enroll in courses at local institutions such as the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, the Technische Universität Berlin, the Universität Potsdam, and the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee. Non-studio courses are available at the Universität der Künste Berlin and the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler."

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 credit amounts for each course type, please click PDF iconhere.


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.

Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, 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.

IMPORTANT: Often, grades are not received from your FU professor(s) until late April if you studied in Berlin for the fall semester and late October for the spring semester. If you are a Columbia/Barnard, or Visiting Student, your grades are entered as received and you are automatically notified at your Columbia email address. For consortium member schools, once we have received all of your grades, a grade report will be forwarded to your home school and they will enter the grades on your home school transcript. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you need to have grades posted earlier, please talk to your university professors about submitting grades to the BCGS office as early as possible.

Global Columbia Collaboratory

All participants in the BCGS program will have access to the Global Columbia Collaboratory, a non-credit virtual exchange experience that helps students learn more about global challenges, enhance their global competencies by connecting and cooperating across a global network, and empower students to make a difference in the world as global citizens. In the Collaboratory, students can engage with fellow students and the broader Columbia network to:

  • Participate in regularly scheduled theme-based global seminars from faculty and experts drawn from Columbia’s global networks;

  • Exchange perspectives and engage together in reflection on the global challenges framed by the global seminars; and

  • Engage in collaboration and ideation on projects and ideas that impact today’s society.

Life in Berlin

Curious about the student experience? Be sure to read Student Stories on our website and check out additional student testimonials on GoOverseas.


Please note that the housing options, noted below, are for students participating in the BCGS program.

Historically, the BCGS offered a one month guest stay option at the beginning of the program experience. More details will be shared, shortly, regarding this potential option for spring 2022.

Pre-arranged Apartments (Recommended by BCGS)

To ensure proper social distancing and quarantine requirements, students are encouraged to select the pre-arranged housing option for the duration of their stay. These pre-arranged apartments provide students with access to single bedrooms and private bathrooms.

Students who wish to live in a pre-arranged apartment must commit to this option, prior to the start of the program by following the FU dorm application deadlines (late November for spring students, beginning June for fall students).

To learn more about the housing details and the application process, visit the FU website.

In particular, it may be helpful to consider the housing options at Neon Wood, THE FIZZ or The Student Hotel.

The prices and conditions are similar to Neon Wood.

The prices and conditions are similar to Neon Wood.


Dormitory living (which includes the Studentendorf Schlachtensee/Student Village) is also available to BCGS students. Please see details below:

The price for Studentendorf Schlachtensee is ~450 euros/month for a single bedroom but shared bathroom and kitchen facilities


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 infamous 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. At the Freie Universität, there are several cafés, cafeterias, and two major dining halls, one of which is exclusively vegetarian. In addition, there are a few private restaurants and cafés around campus. However, please be aware that there are no meals included and there is no meal plan for BCGS students.


The program offers many activities that will help students engage with the cultural life of Berlin.


Academic year students who are motivated to apply their German in a professional setting and gain experience in a particular field can apply for an internship. The BCGS staff provides assistance in finding internships, but students must be proactive in pursuing and securing placement with their chosen organization. Past internships have included:

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP) (foreign policy think tank)

  • Mayor's office (Division for Protocol and International Affairs)

  • Plan B Communication (public relations and marketing firm)

  • Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung (Berlin government office for urban planning)

  • Komische Oper (Opera House)

  • Benjamin Franklin Krankenhaus (FU hospital)

  • Schwules Museum (Museum for LGBT history and culture)


  • BerlKönig (ride-pooling service)

  • Start-Up Companies

  • Art galleries

Spring semester students that are interested in interning can consider interning during the months of January or February. However, to do so, the visa process would be separate from the BGCS visa process. In order to research options for internships in Berlin, students are encouraged to use the resources of their home institutions career services office.


Students in recent years have participated in volunteer work throughout Berlin. This is much easier for Spring semester students to participate in (instead of an internship). Opportunities have ranged from teaching to social, cultural and ecological projects. Students interested in socio-political issues have found ways through volunteer work to contribute to the German “welcome culture,” helping refugees integrate in German society. 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 LGBT organizations, integrating refugees, and supporting homeless people.

Trips & Excursions

The program organizes a series of excursions and cultural activities in and around Berlin, which is integrated into the academic program. These trips are intended to provide an insider's look into Berlin and Germany, and they often provide access to people and places students might not otherwise have.

Cultural Program and Field Trips

During the first six weeks of the program, a trip is organized on a weekly basis. Examples of past activities include:

  • Guided tours through Berlin districts such as Kreuzberg, Mitte, and Prenzlauer Berg and museums such as Berlinische Galerie, Gemäldegalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Jüdisches Museum, Martin Gropius Bau, Alte Nationalgalerie, Altes Museum, Bode Museum, and Neue Nationalgalerie

  • Performances at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Komische Oper as well as at theatres and off-theatres such as Maxim-Gorki-Theater, Berliner Ensemble, Volksbühne Berlin, and Heimathafen Neukölln

  • Visits at Berlin and federal institutions such as Deutscher Bundestag, including a political discussion with a politician or administrative representative, attendance at a plenary session, and a tour of the dome and Bundeskanzleramt

  • Day trips to Dessau (Bauhaus), Neuruppin (Fontane, Schinkel), Potsdam (castles such as Sanssouci and Cecilienhof), and Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Study Trips

One-day trips to destinations to cities in Brandenburg will be available to student participants. Example cultural programs and day trips are noted above.

Daily Living and Schedule

The German University system is very different from the US University system. Students can expect for their classes to meet just once a week for 1.5 hours at a time. During the first 6 weeks of the program, the German Discourse and Culture course meets 4 days a week from 9 am until 1:15 pm. In general, Wednesdays are reserved for cultural excursions. In the fall semester, there are usually only two levels of German since there are fewer students and in the spring semester, three levels are usually offered.

Part of the academic day will be spent commuting to the FU campus. Like most European universities, it is not a residential university, and its student body commutes to the campus from all over greater Berlin.

Fitness and Wellness

There are countless possibilities to enjoy your free time in Berlin. The Freie Universität offers a vast variety of sports programs, health sports, dancing and more. To explore these options visit this site. Furthermore, there are some 2,500 sports clubs in Berlin offering more intensive training in virtually any field. There are also continuing education centers, the so-called “Volkshochschulen,” and music schools to learn something new or improve your skills in languages, dance, Yoga, fine arts, drums, politics and cultures, cooking, etc. While keeping you mentally fit, all of these opportunities also open up Germany society, allowing you to get more immersed during your time in Berlin.

Past BCGS students have spent time learning how to sail once a week on the big lakes, travelled through Germany with their rugby team, “advance-lunged” into fencing lessons, moved up to second league with their soccer team, or sung in the “Collegium Musicum,” the joined universities’ choir for the Queen of England. The possibilities to stay fit both mentally and physically while you are in Berlin are endless!



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.

Freie Universität

The BCGS facility is located on the main FU campus in Dahlem and functions as a home base for program participants. The building houses administrative offices for the BCGS staff; a small library of books, magazines, and newspapers; classroom space where students convene for the Selected Topics courses; and limited computer facilities where students may check e-mail and W-LAN access for their own laptops.

Please find two video introductions to the Freie Universität Berlin here: Campus Tour and A Short History.

The second 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.”



Resident Director

Responsible for program operations, development and oversight of the academic program, student affairs, and administrative and financial management.

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.

Writing Consultants

The BCGS has several writing consultants who will be available to assist the students during the German Discourse and Culture course and throughout the regular university semester until the BCGS's final deadline for turning in all assignments. The consultants are German graduate students who provide support to the students in their academic work, especially in the preparation of oral presentations and written assignments.


BCGS Visiting Professor

On a rotating basis each academic year, the BCGS member institutions often send a faculty member to Berlin as the BCGS Visiting Professor to oversee the academic program and teach courses on selected topics in German Studies.

Previous BCGS Visiting Professors:

  • 2019-20: Volker Schröder, Princeton University
  • 2018-19: Aden Kumler, University of Chicago
  • 2017-18: Ian Fleishman, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2016-17: Andrea Krauss, Johns Hopkins University
  • 2015-16: Patrizia McBride, Cornell University
  • 2014-15: Mark Anderson, Columbia University
  • 2013-14: Marc Domingo Gygax, Princeton University
  • 2012-13: Jonathan Lyon, University of Chicago
  • 2011-12: Simon Richter, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2010-11: Arthur Groos, Cornell University
  • 2009-10: Katrin Pahl, The Johns Hopkins University
  • 2008-09: Warren Breckman, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2007-08: Volker Berghahn, Columbia University
  • 2006-07: Tom Leisten, Princeton University
  • 2005-06: David Levin, University of Chicago
  • 2004-05: Cordula Grewe, Columbia University
  • 2003-04: Tom Safley, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2002-03: Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University
  • 2001-02: Rochelle Tobias, Johns Hopkins University
  • 2000-01: Tom Levin, Princeton University
  • 1999-2000: Andreas Gailus, University of Chicago
  • 1998-99: Karl Otto, University of Pennsylvania
  • 1997-98: Cyrus Hamlin, Yale University
  • 1996-97: David Wellbery, Johns Hopkins University
  • Spring 1996: Mark Anderson, Columbia University

Director of the Language Program

Detlef Otto studied Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and Social Sciences in Darmstadt and at the Freie Universität Berlin; he holds a Ph. D. in Philosophy. He has taught German as a Foreign Language since 1988. After having worked as a lecturer of the DAAD at the Università degli studi di Bologna / Italy from 1994-97, he went through an intensive training course at the Goethe Institut Berlin for language instructors. Since 1999, he is teaching intensive courses at the Goethe Institute. Since 2003, he has also worked in the field of teacher training. In the Fall 1999, he started his work as Language Director for the BCGS.

Financial Considerations

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:

Academic Year 2021-22 & Option 4 Students:

Spring 2022:

*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:

Withdrawal and Refund Policy

If you decide to withdraw from the program after confirming your participation, please be aware of the financial consequences and the office policies by clicking here.

Fall 2021 Adapted Refund Policy

FALL 2021 Adapted Refund Policy: Original BCGS + Fall Term Program Option 4

Due to the unique circumstances of restarting study abroad while the global pandemic continues, we are adapting the refund policies to provide, where possible, an opportunity for students and their families to have as much time to make decisions before committing to studying abroad during Fall 2021. The dates below reflect when the program will need to begin making financial commitments in order to prepare for the fall term.

1. Deposit

Students do not need to submit a deposit to the BCGS.

Please note: Students will be responsible for submitting housing deposits (2-3 months rent) by early/mid June directly to the selected housing facility. Whether the deposits are refundable is up to the individual housing facilities.

2. Tuition:

If a student withdraws before the stated program arrival date, the student will not be charged tuition.

Once the program has begun:

● If needed, the program can shift to online teaching. In this case, students will have the opportunity to complete their coursework and no tuition will be refunded.

If a student chooses to withdraw from the program after the stated arrival date or is dismissed from the program, the regular Withdrawal and Refund Policy will apply.

Find Out More

Speak to an Adviser: Want to learn more? Make an appointment to chat with the adviser for this program! You can also email her with any questions, or to arrange a meeting if you are unable to make the listed times.

Speak to a Peer Adviser: Want to hear more about the student experience on BCGS? You can email Paisley Smith BC’21 or get to know our other Peer Advisers who are eager to share their study abroad advice with you!

Resources for Accepted Students

Fact Sheet

Arts and Architecture, Humanities, Social Sciences, STEM
Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia General Studies, Non-Columbia Undergraduates
Language of Instruction:
Language Requirement:
4 semesters of college-level German language recommended. Please still inquire with lower language levels.
Academic Year, Spring, Fall

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Friday, October 15, 2021
Admissions Decision Date: 
Monday, November 15, 2021
Dates: Mid-April until end of July. If you choose courses with exams, the exams may be after that date; therefore, most students stay until the end of the month. After classes end, there is about a week during which you can complete coursework.