FU-BEST logo in blue and yellow

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
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.
Student in front of historical building
Raul
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Overall, I had a wonderful experience in Berlin and with FU-BEST. My first semester I very much so felt like a student that was studying abroad. While during my second semester, it felt I was living abroad and so happened to be studying. FU-BEST is a great program and if you can come for a semester (or two) I 10/10 recommend it.

Strengths:

1. German Classes
12 hours/week gives you a realistic shot at learning German. Went from B2 to C2 in a year--no way I could do that in the states.

2. Excursions
Ranging from day trips around the city to week-long excursions through Europe, the excursions were incredible. Not only do you learn A LOT, but you also collect great life experiences and the trips foster friendships.

3. FU-BEST team!!!!!

What would you improve about this program?
German subject courses are “offered” when signing up for the program but in the year I was there, they never successfully ran. For higher level students, German subject courses would really make the time there academically worth it. In truth, I didn’t find the academic portion (aside from German classes) to be challenging at all.
Default avatar
Joseph
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

FU-BEST is very unlike most Study Abroad programs. Whereas many Americans may choose Spain, France, or the UK and expect their time to be somewhat of a smooth 4-month vacation, this certainly isn't that. FU-BEST is an academically intensive program with a serious course structure. Whereas the instructors are world class (my two instructors were former diplomats), and the homestay is the greatest decision I could've made, the program does not offer those desiring to learn the language an ability to focus their time on it. Enrolling in the Language Tandem Partner Program, living in a lively homestay, and taking the intensive language course track does help a lot, but if you are not on top of your game, you might second guess your commitment to learning the language. Some language instructors want you to learn and provide you with the tools to do so while others are very difficult and don't make it fun. It all depends on what you are looking to get from the program. After a full year on the program, I can honestly say that I'd do it again with FU-Best even though I felt defeated along the way. My host family was a dream come true, and not all the Americans you'll meet fit the stereotype (99% of students are American). Without positive experiences with my host family, I wouldn't have continued to pursue my interests in Berlin.

What would you improve about this program?
Create a two-track system, one for those pursuing academic goals and one for those pursuing linguistic goals. Keep the academic track just as intensive as it is and the reduce the academic burden on those who seek much linguistic improvement. With the intensity as it is, many didn't learn much about German history and culture as they would have liked.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Alumni Interviews

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

Raul Orozco

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.

Raul Orozco

Why did you choose this program?

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.

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.

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Staff Interviews

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

Sabrina Gettinger

Job Title
Program Manager
Sabrina Gettinger

Sabrina works as a Program Manager at FU-BEST and takes care of marketing, social media, student issues and general program management.

Having lived in the UK and having studied in the U.S. she understands what it means to live abroad and is always looking forward to accompanying incoming students along their exciting ride through Berlin.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel moment by far is driving through the middle of nowhere on a road trip through Namibia. I was constantly asking myself if this is even real life, especially when seeing the very unreal looking radiating starlit sky each night. Driving through the desert and not passing a single car for hours was an extraordinary experience.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

One of the things I appreciate most about working for FU-BEST is being able to introduce students to Berlin and then experiencing it through their eyes. I am originally from Nuremberg, but I’ve lived in Berlin for 10 years now and am very proud to call it my home. At this point in my life, I have a hard time imagine to ever leave Berlin. Seeing students falling in love with this amazing city the same way I did is wonderful to watch and lets me appreciate Berlin even more. I am constantly reminded of what a unique place Berlin is, because I see what makes it special from our students’ perspective.

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

When I hear from students who feel that studying abroad not only added to their cultural understanding of the world and challenged them academically, but affected them on a very personal level, I almost get a bit emotional. Students share that they are more confident, no longer afraid of bold choices and generally feel more open towards taking risks in the most positive sense.

Berlin is a very open city and many people feel safe to express their true identity. My first semester working at FU-BEST, we had some students who were playing and challenging their gender identity. I want to believe that Berlin's open-mindedness had something to do with this, which makes me incredibly happy.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

If I was a student coming to Germany to study abroad, I would choose the FU-BEST GermanPLUS+ program.
It is completely integrated into the regular FU-BEST semester, meaning I could live with a host family in Berlin and I would get to go on all the field trips, excursions and cultural events, but it also features subject courses taught in German along with high-level German language classes.

I think it would be very beneficial to have a German language course about academic writing in German that helps and corresponds with essays and assignments from the subject courses. I am constantly impressed with how much people fall in love with the German language.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We are a small, close-knit team which, I think, translates very well to how we run the program. We try to get to know every student as best as we can so that we can help with the transition to living in a new country and studying in a different environment.

Almost everyone in our team has studied abroad at some point in their life so we can easily relate to what our students are experiencing. This helps us respond to challenging situations, but also allows us to appreciate how special a study abroad experience is and what makes it extra memorable.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think communication is key. This is true for our friend and romantic relationships, so why should it be any different at our place of work. Good communication amongst team members certainly simplifies work processes and prevents misunderstandings. This also entails a work environment where all team members feel comfortable enough to speak their mind freely.

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