Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS)

Language of Instruction: German
Location:
Berlin,
Germany
Term: Academic Year, Spring

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

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Spend the spring semester, or better yet, the academic year studying at Berlin's top university in the EU’s economic and political powerhouse. Explore your academic interests by choosing from a broad range of university courses while solidifying your German skills. 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. 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 rest of the semester(s) at a German university. The course also introduces you to Berlin through weekly cultural activities that take you out and about in the city. During 4 of these weeks, you may also opt to live with a German host, an excellent opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of life in Berlin.

  • Because the BCGS follows the German university calendar, the program is offered as an academic year or spring semester program.
  • If your school is on a quarter system, please contact Meg Booth to inquire about applying for fall semester only.

A highlight of the program is the unique opportunity to engage in local resources. Past students have participated in volunteer opportunities, students organizations at the FU, local choirs/orchestras, and club sports. If you take the leap of faith and 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

The Consortium

The Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS) was founded in 1995 by a group of U.S. universities to help students improve their German and to give students the opportunity to enroll in a broad range of German university courses with the support of a structured program. 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.

Welcome from the Resident Director

Dear Student:

Welcome to the Berlin Consortium for German Studies. You have chosen one of the best schools in the U.S., receiving not only an excellent education but also taking advantage of extracurricular activities and enjoying the personal and academic exchange with congenial fellow students. Why should you leave that inspiring and comfortable American home campus for a semester or even a full academic year?

Let me tell you why. One of the leading universities in Germany, in one of the most exciting and vibrant places, a true cultural hotspot at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, is waiting for you in order to give you the opportunity of enriching your undergraduate career through the experience of studying abroad.

The Berlin Consortium for German Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin is a once in a lifetime chance to fully immerse yourself in another culture and academic world, and to see life through an entirely different lens. Enroll directly in a German university, live with German hosts for the first month and then move in with other German students or young professionals. You can even consider an internship. Just dive into a life that you would otherwise never have had the opportunity to experience.

No doubt, cultural transitions may also include stressful moments, but you are not alone, there is an extremely well-functioning support system you can always fall back on. The BCGS resident director, visiting professor, language instructors, assistant administrative director, and writing consultants will guide you through the ups and downs of becoming a bi- or even multilingual undergrad with first-rate academic and professional opportunities.

See you in Berlin!

Carmen Müller, Resident Director

Eligibility & Application

  • Must be a currently enrolled as an undergraduate student in good academic and disciplinary standing
  • Must have completed at least 2 years of college-level German or the equivalent. It is required that spring semester applicants have at least one additional course beyond the required 2 years (i.e. 5 semesters of college-level German or the equivalent).
  • Minimum 3.0 average language GPA
  • 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:

  • Application questionnaire(s)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation - language and academics
  • German writing sample
  • German language test
  • Home school approval/clearance
  • Application fee (if applicable)

Academics

All students 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 BCGS instructors that use the city of Berlin, its past and present, to showcase relevant topics
  • University courses encompassing most undergraduate disciplines
  • An additional required German language course, depending on your German proficiency at the end of the GDC course

Graduate students known as the writing consultants (see full description under people) will provide extra support to BCGS students to help them 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 surrounded by 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).

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

German Language curriculum

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

This 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 German 3335 OC: German Discourse and Culture I, German 3405 OC: German Discourse and Culture II, or German 4335 OC: German Discourse and Culture III, depending on their language abilities. It is a mandatory six-week course that 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.

Each week, a cultural activity in and around the city of Berlin is organized in association with the course. 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

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.

Additional German Language Course

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 individual 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.

Electives

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 PDF icon here.

BCGS Program Courses

Selected topics in German studies, 4 points each

Each semester, the BCGS Visiting Professor offers one course taught in German in a selected topic. The BCGS Visiting Professor determines the topics of their courses every year, based on his or her own academic interests and background. The courses takes advantage of Berlin and its resources to inform the coursework. Past topics have covered history, art history, literature, theater, and cinema.

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

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.

  • German Studies 3993 OC: Das Humboldt-Forum: Science, Culture, and Controversy (Fall 2019, Professor Volker Schröder):

Among the highly anticipated events of 2019-20 is the opening of the Humboldt Forum, the most ambitious and contentious cultural project in Germany today. Architecturally, the HF presents itself as a replica of the historic Berliner Stadtschloss, which was demolished in 1950 and later replaced by the GDR’s Palast der Republik. Inside, it will serve as a museum of “world cultures” dedicated to non-Western artifacts, thus creating a dialogue with the predominantly European collections displayed on the nearby Museumsinsel. Located at the heart of the unified Berlin, the project has generated debate and opposition on many levels, ranging from the question of architectural reconstruction to issues of colonialism and cultural appropriation.

This course aims to explore the various facets of the Humboldt Forum and to situate it within the broader cultural history of Germany since 1800. The forum’s inauguration is set to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Alexander and his older brother Wilhelm (philosopher, linguist, and Prussian minister) played crucial roles in the development of science and Bildung, including the founding of the University of Berlin. Their names and ideals continue to be invoked today, and a major exhibition on both brothers will open in November at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. As part of the course, we will visit the exhibition as well as the HF itself, in addition to examining a variety of written and visual materials about the Humboldts, the development of museums in Berlin, and Germany’s colonial past. Delving into this background should help us better understand the current project and the controversies surrounding it.

The course format will emphasize discussion, oral presentations, and a variety of short written assignments. The amount of attention paid to the different themes of the course will depend to some extent on students’ interests and preferences. No prior knowledge of German history, philosophy, or architecture is required.

  • German Studies 3994 OC: Berliner Bühnen: Theater in the Capital (Spring 2020, Professor Volker Schröder):​

Berlin is home to several famous theater companies that have dominated the German stage over the past century and today continue to present innovative and influential productions. Most of them function according to the model prevalent in Germany, with a permanent Ensemble of actors performing a varied Repertoire, each play being directed by a Regisseur chosen by the Intendant. This system provides for an ever-changing Spielplan of original, more or less successful shows, all of which are quite affordable thanks to public subsidies.

This course will follow the final months of the 2019-20 season by focusing on the activities of a handful of major companies, such as Deutsches Theater, Berliner Ensemble, Schaubühne, Volksbühne, and Gorki Theater. We will analyze how each theater positions itself in relation both to its “competitors” and to its own tradition, and how it engages with the public and with current societal issues. We will attend several representative performances, which will be prepared and discussed in class. Attention will also be paid to material aspects such as funding and pricing, stage technology, and theater architecture.

In addition to reading a few plays, students will follow media coverage, write their own reviews, and conduct interviews in preparation of a portfolio to be submitted at the end of the semester.

The course contents and organization will be finalized in spring 2020, based on the theaters’ programming and student preferences.

  • German Studies 3600 OC: U.S. Perceptions of Germany and the Germans from Bismarck to Hitler (spring 2019 & 2020, 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?

PAST COURSES HAVE INCLUDED:
  • 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 uge@columbia.edu.

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 staff 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. The courses for international students follow German coursework, but are geared towards non-native speakers and are, therefore, not fully integrated.

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. With a large number of exchange programs, dual international degree programs, and both individualized and structured doctoral programs available to them, students have many options when it comes to designing their own personal studies.

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 Archaelogy
  • 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.

Departments:
  • 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. Nonstudio courses are available at the Universität der Künste Berlin and the Hochschule für Müsik "Hanns Eisler."

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 icon here.

Transcripts

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, 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.

Princeton and Non-Columbia students: Grades are entered into Columbia 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: Many times 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, Princeton 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.

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.

HOUSING

We recommend that all students participate in the Guest Stay program in the first 4 weeks of the program. During this time, students who do not already have pre-arranged housing seek out their own housing in shared apartments.

Students might opt out of the Guest Stay program if they have already established housing in Berlin prior to their arrival. In opting out, they are committing to securing their own housing prior to arrival. This can be done either by booking a dorm room or by finding a private accommodation in advance.

Orientation and Guest Stay

Upon arrival in Berlin, students participating in the Guest Stay program will stay together in a youth hostel for the first night. All BCGS students will come to the hostel for meetings during the orientation weekend. During the first month of the program, students participating in the Guest Stay program live with German hosts. The guest stay is an invaluable opportunity for students, providing a window into the daily rhythms and customs of Berliners. It is also an amazing opportunity for students to improve their language skills with locals.

After the homestay, students move into FU-arranged dorms or they will have independently found an apartment share for the rest of their stay in Berlin.

Dorms

Students who wish to live in a dorm must commit to this option prior to the start of the program by following the FU dorm application deadlines (late November for spring students, late May for fall students). This is an excellent option for students who do not want the burden of looking for an apartment during the first 4 weeks of the program, and/or who do not wish to participate in the Guest Stay program.

It is still recommended that students who live in the dorms participate in the Guest Stay program as it will allow them to get acclimated to life in Berlin as well as regularly speaking German.

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

Dorm options include:

  1. Single rooms with shared facilities:
  2. Single Apartments/Studio Apartments:

Shared Apartments and Sublets

While apartment hunting can be challenging, some BCGS students choose to find their own apartment shares or sublets. Doing so provides another opportunity to improve their language skills, benefit from cultural exchange with their German roommates, and explore a different neighborhood. Students can find their housing prior to arriving in Berlin or spend their time during the Guest Stay to find their own apartment.

MEALS

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.

ACTIVITIES

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

Internships

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)
  • Museum THE KENNEDYS
  • 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.

Volunteering

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

Each semester, students participate in three day study trips. Past destinations have included Bonn, Cologne, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Munich, and Weimar. During these trips, students participate in guided visits to places of historical or cultural interest, listen to program-exclusive lectures, and usually have an afternoon free to explore on their own.

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.

Students should plan to arrive in Berlin no later than the first day of Orientation (early September for Academic Year students, early March for Spring students) and leave Berlin no earlier than the due date for final papers or their last written exam (late July for both Academic Year and Spring students).


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!

LOCATION

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.

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 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.”

People

Staff

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.

FACULTY

BCGS Visiting Professor

On a rotating basis each academic year, the BCGS member institutions 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.

Aden Kumler is the BCGS Visiting Professor for 2018-19. Aden (Dept. of Art History, University of Chicago) earned her BA from the University of Chicago, her MA from the University of Toronto, and her PhD from Harvard University. A specialist in medieval European art history and material culture, she also has a long-standing interest in contemporary art. In 2014-15 she was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Since then has spent her summers living in Berlin’s Weißensee neighborhood and exploring the city, its diverse arts and culture scenes, and its history.

Volker Schröder will be the BCGS Visiting Professor for 2019-20. Volker (Dept. of French and Italian, Princeton University) was born and raised in Germany and pursued most of his studies at the Universität Tübingen, where he completed his doctorate in 1998. Before coming to Princeton he taught at the Universität Salzburg and at Duke University. His research and publications range from 17th-century French tragedy and poetry to modern topics such as surrealism and contemporary opera. Having spent most of the past two decades in the USA, Volker looks forward to re-immersing himself in the language and culture of his native country.

Previous BCGS Visiting Professors:
  • 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 2019-20:

Spring 2020:

*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:

DAAD

For more information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:

Resources for Accepted Students

Fact Sheet

Advisers:
Discipline:
Arts and Architecture, Humanities, Social Sciences, STEM
Eligibility:
Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia General Studies, Non-Columbia Undergraduates
Language of Instruction:
Language Requirement:
4 semesters of language for fall (or equiv); 5 for spring (or equiv) highly recommended
Location:
Berlin,
Germany
Region:
Europe
Term:
Academic Year, Spring

Dates & Deadlines

Spring
2020
Application Deadline: 
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Admissions Decision Date: 
Friday, November 1, 2019
Program Dates: 
Saturday, February 29, 2020 to Friday, July 24, 2020
Notes: 
Final papers are due on July 24th. 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.
Academic Year
2019
Application Deadline: 
Friday, March 15, 2019
Admissions Decision Date: 
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Program Dates: 
Saturday, August 31, 2019 to Friday, July 24, 2020