What makes this program stand out so much is it's commitment to cultural and language immersion. The BCGS staff is committed to helping you adapt to Germany's unique academic climate through their six-week pre-semester language courses which mirror some of the aspects of a typical university course (you prepare a "Referat" - presentation, and have a small final paper). At the same time the entire exchange program (outside of some very important information) is run completely in German. Everything from preparing for the (somewhat notorious) trip to the foreigner's office to directions for the language course's weekly excursions becomes an opportunity to dive deeper into German and Berlin culture, while of course learning new vocabulary every step of the way!
With this program being so immersive, it would be wrong of me to say that the experience isn't difficult at times. However, the BCGS hire writing tutors which you meet with every week during the semester to help make sure you're on track by discussing readings, commenting on mock presentations in preparation ones you'll do in the , and planing a work schedule for the various final research papers. The program's directors, Carmen and Niko, are also incredibly approachable and are excited to help you with any problems you will encounter while in the program. The visiting professor is also a great resource to discuss and reflect on differences between the US and German education systems, and they offer wonderful classes that are stylistically somewhere between these two systems, which is great if you're a little nervous about jumping right into the German system.
In terms of academics, there's really nothing you can't do; courses at all of the 4 major universities in Berlin (expect studio courses at the UdK) are available for you to take, and the visiting professor and directors are there to help you with your course selection. The difficulty lies more in learning how to adjust to the life of German academia and doing it all in a foreign language, and less in the rigor of individual courses. The unique challenges I faced in Berlin helped me grow in ways that I could have done had I not chosen to study abroad with this program.
Berlin is also one of the most fun places to live! There is an endless selection of museums, neighborhoods, cafés, bars, parks, restaurants, and shops to explore, all usually less than 40 minutes away by public transit. Berlin is also well connected to the rest Europe, both by long distance train and through its (now unfortunately only 1) airport. Taking a long weekend to go explore a new city on the continent is definitely possible!
What was your funniest moment?
I personally find it funny when having a conversation I meant to say one thing in German but actually said something completely different! Rather than getting scared or embarrassed in situations like this, I usually just try to laugh and remember both the meaning of what I actually said and how to say what I wanted to say. It's learning extra vocabulary without even asking for it! German's a very fun language to speak, and if you don't laugh at it every once in a while it's easy to get frustrated that you don't speak it like a native! I guess just remember, universities are international communities, no one there (or even in a multicultural city like Berlin) really expects you to speak perfect German. Don't be scared to mess up, and just insist to keep speaking the language and you'll do great!