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FU-BEST

About

FU-BEST (Freie Universität Berlin European Studies Program) is a semester program of Freie Universität Berlin for incoming students based on the American calendar. FU-BEST is offered in Fall (late August through mid-December) and Spring (February through mid-May) and features a combination of university-standard German language instruction on all levels and a large menu of subject courses (primarily in the humanities and social sciences) taught mostly in English. All courses make practical use of Berlin as a resource and have a strong focus on Berlin, Germany, and Europe in their respective subjects. Student services, cultural offerings, a week-long excursion to German and European destinations, and accommodation in homestays or studio apartments add to an intensive, enriching academic and intercultural learning experience for over 300 students each academic year.

Website
www.fubest.org
Founded
2005
Headquarters

Maltseserstraße 74-100, Haus S
12249 Berlin
Germany

Reviews

Default avatar
Quinn
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

my year at FU-BEST was one of the craziest and most exciting times of my life. Participating in this program grew my confidence and helped me find drive, meaning, and courage. Not everyone can go up to random strangers and ask them questions in a language they’re just starting to learn, but FU-BESTers did. FU-BEST pushes you out of your comfort zone and brings you to meet new people. Although, if you want to get out of the bubble of American participants in this program, you will need to take some initiative. They offer volunteering, language tandems, and bar meetups for this. Alternatively and/or additionally, you can employ the use of dating apps. There are many people in Berlin to meet! I met the love of my life on a FU-BEST excursion. My fellow FU-BEST friends found great friendships. What we all found in common were unique first times. (Sure, academics might be an important part of the review, but I am confident this is not the biggest deciding factor. But if you insist, the academics are a little hard, depending on what you’re used to and your class level.) If you’re looking for a good social experience, FU-BEST and the wonderful city of Berlin can offer that to you.

What would you improve about this program?
If there was something to improve about the program, I think I would ask for less time focused on academics. A little less reading, and more time spent towards engaging students with Berlin.
Default avatar
Hunter
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent the spring 2019 and the fall 2019 semester at FU-BEST in Berlin. It is not the typical study abroad program where you interact with some students that you happen to meet that are either from your university or some other university and you get to interact and become friends with other Germans or other nationalities. You are ultimately surrounded by Americans because there is one hallway for the entire program on the Nebencampus (side campus, not main) and all of the courses are taught by professors, specific to this program. I liked the program in the Spring semester because I really connected with people but the Fall was hard, I didn't make many friends. If you were thinking about doing it for two semesters, I would prepare yourself for comparing every thing to the first semester. It will be different and it will be hard to adjust to new people when you experienced everything the first time with others. It's a good program, just not one that you would expect because what you're initially thinking is different than it actually is.

What would you improve about this program?
There would be a lot that I would consider improving on this program. Specifically, the lack of interaction between the American students and Germans/other Nationalities. You definitely feel isolated because you are unable to get out and meet new people, because the Germans on the Side Campus, they tend to stick to theirselves and you're not able to sit with them in class or anything so you feel isolated. I would definitely consider moving the program back to the main campus and integrate actual classes offered by the main campus into the program.
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Gabrielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As an International Relations major and German minor at Goucher College, part of my graduation requirement is to study abroad. The requirement is narrowed by my fields of study to a semester long program in a German-speaking country, so Berlin was the natural choice.

I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Berlin at FU-BEST and it was the best experience of my life. It was incredibly transformative, opportunity-expanding, and truly amazing.

The range of subject courses offered covers any major. I took European Legal Traditions, History of European Diplomacy, and Islam and Europe, along with the B2 level German course. The subject courses were incredibly interesting. My professors were knowledgeable and well-experienced and respected in their fields. The German course was by far the most challenging German class I have taken in my ten years of studying the language, which I so appreciated. All of the courses were fairly challenging, but no more than the courses at my home institution. Most of my friends who went abroad returned with stories of spending their entire semester going to an hour of classes a week and partying the rest of the time, which just didn't appeal to me. I liked the academically rigorous structure of FU-BEST, though I found it be a good balance between work and fun.

My homestay family was amazing. We got along well, and they were so supportive of me in my studies, learning the language, and in general. I had a minor medical issue while abroad and my host mother helped me make doctor appointments and figure out the insurance paperwork. I fully intend on inviting them to my wedding in the future.

I met so many interesting people at FU-BEST, many of whom have become close friends I've visited since returning to the US. I also met my boyfriend here at FU-BEST, which was a bit surprising since we actually go to school in the same city.

The FU-BEST staff was a great source of support. They were able to help me quite a bit with the aforementioned medical issue and with any questions we had during the semester. The variety of events they planned to help us get acquainted with the city resulted in some great stories, new favorite spots, and new friendships.

Being in Berlin was geographically advantageous to traveling all over Europe affordably. I had opportunities to travel, with FU-BEST and without, to The Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and all over Germany as well to cities like Munich, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Dresden.

FU-BEST's travel opportunities were also amazing. The weeklong excursions were incredibly educational, while also providing plenty of free time for the opportunity to explore new cities.

I also got a few really cool opportunities through my classes to meet with people in the foreign service and diplomacy field. At the time, I was planning on starting a career in the foreign service after graduation. Talking with them and hearing about the lifestyle and their experiences with it actually caused me to change direction in terms of my aspirations. Getting that kind of exposure early on helped me realize what I truly wanted out of a career and directed me towards new avenues.

All in all, FU-BEST was one of the most important experiences of my life.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I had the chance, I would do it again a hundred times. The only regret I have is that I only had one semester there. If I had to do it over, I would have stayed for the spring too. I fully intend on returning to Berlin in the future, and possibly taking advantage of my time at FU-BEST to enroll in a graduate program at Freie Universität.
Default avatar
Nicole
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I participated in this program for two semesters, doing both homestay and the apartments. I was matched perfect with my host family and consider them a part of my actual family now. I had never taken German before this but if I had I know the family would have helped tremendously. After the semester, my mom flew from California so we could all spend Christmas together in Berlin. I loved living in the gorgeous neighborhood surrounded by trees and next to a lake.

Fall quarter was my favorite for a few reasons: 1. You are introduced to the beautiful city in its most alive and vibrant state of summer, take advantage of this! I recommend parks and lakes and even making your way out to Tuefelsberg; 2. You can go to Oktoberfest in Munich! It’s close enough and a fun first trip with new friends; 3. The magic of German Christmas markets, try to see them all!

Spring had good things for me as well, I enjoyed the challenge of living on my own for the first time and I was comfortable in a city I knew. One thing I would say is try to make friends with homestay people as well because they have a unique experience and learn a lot of about history and culture from living with a family. The apartments may be an hour commute to school, but you must keep in mind this is normal for any Berliner and if you go in with an open mind, the U-bahn and S-bahn will feel like a second home.

I really hope you enjoy your stay and take advantage of every moment in the city! I know you want to travel all over Europe, but Berlin has a life time of experiences within it and I dare you to explore them all and fall in love with this city how I have.

Default avatar
Alex
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Berlin will forever hold a special place in my heart. Among the places I have been fortunate to have traveled, there is truly no place with a combination of raw cultures, a natural sense of inclusivity, and a vibrant and rich history. I went into the program with zero expectations and knowing I would be dealing with a lot of ambiguity. Be confident, mindful, and open-minded, and you will have an amazing time.

As for the program, I recommend you take classes you cannot take elsewhere and to place yourself outside of everything you are comfortable with. For me, I took in addition to German: Islam in Europe; European Business Cultures; and Integration, Security, and Conflict in Europe. Please be mindful this is not a program that will be a "walk in the park" academically. There are required readings, papers, and projects in each subject matter course. But you will get out what you put into it and if you would like a true educational experience, all that is required is an honest effort.

In terms of the administration of the program and the support you will receive, Dirk and his team have you covered. They did all they could to ensure we had a frictionless experience in Berlin and elsewhere. But manage your expectations as well. You will be in a foreign land where the rules that apply at home may not apply there.

Whenever I share about my time abroad, the most common line I share is this: not only did I have an enormous amount of fun, but I learned and grew in ways that I believe is all but impossible to do where your "home" is. The challenge of a foreign environment and all that comes with it can either be the opportunity of a lifetime or it can be a waste. It is a decision that is made regardless, consciously or otherwise.

I would absolutely recommend this program. I still am friends with about 7 or so of my friends from this program and it has been almost 5 years since we were there.

What would you improve about this program?
The living situation was a bit rough and was far from the city center, but nevertheless close to school. However, I also keep in mind that Berlin is an expensive place to live and managing the living situation of x00s of students can be difficult. Selfishly, I would have appreciated a place that wasn't so far from the city. We also had difficult with Internet throughout the program, but thankfully we had a friend who did not.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Hunter Litke

Hunter is always ready to experience what is next, whether it be a spontaneous trip to the Fjords of Norway or an Indian place downtown that has some super good reviews-- it is always the "what is next" factor.

Why did you choose this program?

I studied German in high school and went on to continue studying German in college. I wanted to be able to experience and learn the language from native German-speakers while being able to earn credits towards my degree. I thought that studying abroad in Berlin, the capital of Germany, would be a great experience to see how much Germany has changed in the last 100 years and be able to immerse myself in the German language and culture.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

There was not too much that I was needing assistance with for the FU-BEST program as the program itself provides you with your own housing, your public transportation tickets, and your own health insurance. Obviously, my home university helped me with figuring out which classes I should take and what I could expect from entering another culture or country, but ultimately there was not too much that I personally needed assistance with.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would definitely tell them to not expect to be fluent in German by the time you leave Berlin or that you will have enough time to see every single thing that was on your "to do" list.

I really wish I would have known that the FU-BEST program itself is its own program within the Freie Universität Berlin and you will pretty much only get to meet other students from around the United States. I initially thought that I would be able to practice German and meet students from around Europe and around the world, but the program is so isolated to itself that in order to meet others, you have to truly put yourself out there.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Every single person in the program must enroll in a German language course, either experiential (for those who have never taken German and do not really want to learn) and advanced (for those who have taken German before or want to truly learn the language). These courses are every day, 9-12 so by the time you are done practicing the language, it is lunchtime and time to explore the city.

Students either take 2 or 3 subject courses and those take place throughout the week for about 2.5 hours. All the courses are super interesting and are taught by some amazing professors.

Thursdays, Thursdays are the best day of the week. Thursday is the last day of classes for the week AND Stammtisch! Stammtisch happens every Thursday during the semester and each week a new bar is picked for all the FU-BEST students to grab a drink, mingle with one another, and live like a Berliner. I went to Stammtisch every week and always had a blast.

On the weekend, most people travel outside of Germany or they stay within and see all of the cultures and experiences that the country has to offer. It is always an adventure no matter where you are on the weekend.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear going into studying abroad was how I was going to make friends.

I tend to be paranoid and think that no one is going to like me or want to be my friend, but the truth is: everyone is nervous, unsure, and not comfortable with where they are at upon first arriving. I swallowed up my nerves and talked to almost every person in the program that I came across because everyone was feeling the same things I was feeling so why not bond about the excitement of being in Europe and what the semester has to offer!

Top 10 Things to do in Berlin and why:

- Visit Teufelsberg; it is this huge building on this hill in the middle of nowhere but the views and the artwork here is breathtaking.

- Go to a Hertha BSC game; soccer or football might not be as big of a thing in the United States but trust me, Germans LIVE for soccer. It is such an amazing feeling standing in the sold-out stadium, chanting "HA HO HE HERTHA BSC".

- Eat some Döner. You might not know what Döner is at this moment in time but the second you step foot in Berlin, Döner will be your favorite food.

- Try and visit every museum on Museum Island: The Bust of Nefertiti is located in one of these museums, what more do I have to say?

- Visit the Reichstag: You have to sign up weeks in advance to get a tour of the Reichstag building but the amount of history behind this building is amazing, plus, maybe you will see Chancellor Merkel

- Check out the abandoned Tempelhof Airport: during the Berlin Airlift, American planes landed and took off from here every minute, now it is a giant field where in warm weather, you can watch the clouds and kites roll by

- Go to Potsdam: Potsdam is right outside of Berlin and has some beautiful palaces surrounding the city, it is a great day trip when you are feeling an adventure but not too far.

- Try to find all of the Berlin bears: Located all around Berlin are these bear statues designed to fit where they are at. They are pretty cute if you ask me.

- Take a train from Hauptbahnhof: This is the main train station in Berlin. There are few opportunities to take a train in the US, so take advantage and get on a train to anywhere with Deutsche Bahn.

- Experience Life as a Berliner: There is so much that Berlin has to offer so it is worth your time to spend some weekends in Berlin and see what the Capital of German has to offer.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Philip Kurz

Job Title
Program Manager

Did you study abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

In 2006 I started a BA in North American Studies with a concentration on disaster sociology. At that time I took a lot of classes on Hurricane Katrina and decided to go to New Orleans during my semester abroad in 2008 to experience the city first hand.

I’ve been to the US several times before but New Orleans is a special place. Seeing the perseverance by the people who were still struggling three years after disaster struck but also the pride they have in their city was a very powerful experience I wouldn’t trade in for anything.

When I came back I knew I wanted to help international students experience my home city in a similar way.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I’ve visited a lot of great cities around the US and Europe but I honestly think that my favorite travel memories will always be the week-long excursions that are part of every FU-BEST semester.

Sharing my favorite spots in Paris, Prague or Munich with our students is always a lot of fun and kind of makes you experience everything for the first time again.

Apart from that, my road trip from Seattle to San Diego will always hold a special place in my heart.

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

I believe Berlin to be both the most underrated and overrated destination in Europe. Most people have a set idea of what their “Berlin experience” is going to be – exploring the extensive EDM and alternative art scene or learning about the rich history that is palpable around every corner.

All of these things are true, but it’s the unconventional and maybe even mundane things that grab you. Having a little BBQ in one of the many parks, riding your bike on the runway of the former Tempelhof Airport in the middle of the city, strolling through a Turkish market – they boil down to one thing.

Compared to other European cities, living in Berlin can be incredibly relaxing and I think that is quite rare.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team?

FU-BEST has been steadily growing so I feel especially proud of the fact that more and more students are interested in participating in our academic program – we seem to be doing some things right. But more importantly, as a native of Berlin, I feel proud that our team is able to provide the students with an unforgettable experience of “my” city.

What is the best story you’ve heard from a return student?

It’s hard to choose, but these stories mostly revolve around people falling in love with Berlin or the people they meet here.

We’ve had high school sweethearts meeting again after years because they, unbeknownst to each other, both applied for FU-BEST – they’re now married and having their first child.

Or a student who came here to be closer to her girlfriend at the time – they’re also married and she enrolled in a Master’s program at a Berlin university.