I chose this program because it was the only program my university had a partnership with that did not have a minimum German language requirement. FU-BEST has language levels ranging from absolute beginner (A1) to advanced (C1/C2). If a student enrolls in the intensive language track (10/10 recommend) then they will have 12 hours of German class/week—truly incredible opportunity to learn German.
Raul will be attending Georgetown Law and graduated from the University of Denver in June 2019 with a degree in Philosophy and minors in Political Science, German and Biology. While attending the University of Denver Raul studied abroad at Freie Universität Berlin for an academic year.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The program will give you as much or as little assistance as you want but certainly always provides you with everything you need. One thing that is an incredible help is the student visa process which the FU-BEST team takes great efforts to walk the students through. They also assist with housing (student apartment or matching you with a host family) or things such as finding doctors that speak English in Berlin.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would say that you must certainly enroll in the intensive language courses offered at FU-BEST. I also recommend trying to come in with as high of a level in German as possible. Berlin is a city where you don’t NEED German to get by but when you can speak it, you’ll find you have access to a world your non-German speaking peers don’t.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
- Monday-Thursday German language instruction from 9-12.
- 12-1:30 lunch break.
- 1:30-4:00 (subject course if you have one).
- 4-4:30 break.
- 4:30-7:00 (subject course if you have one).
- 7-? Commute home/free.
*Most students enroll in two subject courses and the language intensive. So your schedule will be a variant of what is listed above.
Fridays are typically excursions around the city which include trips to the Stasi Prison, the Bundestag, walking tours, etc.
Weekends are yours to do what you want, many students travel.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was worried I wouldn’t do well in my language courses because I had just started learning German in January 2018 and I was placed in B2 German for Fall semester 2018. The class was tough but I loved it and worked really hard outside of the classroom to keep up. The biggest takeaway for me is that language learning is ALL about making mistakes and growing from them. As important as grades are, I think it’s more important to learn and let the grade be what it is. In the end, I still got a good grade, but I felt that what I learned far surpassed my grade (A- for those curious).
What’s it like living in Berlin? Would you recommend someone stay with the FU-BEST program for the year?
Living in Berlin is an incredible opportunity because of all the freedom to be found in Berlin. Ranging from the rich history of Berlin to the night life, Berlin has something to offer anyone who decides to visit for a few days or stay for a while. To live in Berlin is to experience a freedom like no other—be prepared to come home far more tolerant and far less critical of others.
If your goal is to really learn German, then I would say that you have to stay in Berlin for the year. If you can start at the B2 level for fall and then start C1/C2 (especially if they offer subject courses in German), then you’ll be fluent by the end of your year. If language is not your focus, it’s a great city to live in and explore for a year; however, the academics at FU-BEST are not necessarily the MOST challenging. I felt my university at home was far more rigorous.