I studied abroad with the European Studies Program at Freie Universität Berlin (FU-BEST) during the Spring 2020 semester. The academic calendar is designed to match the American college system, which is very helpful. The program was supposed to last from January 27 to May 15, but sadly the COVID-19 epidemic caused many American home universities to order their students to return to the U.S. unfortunately. Nonetheless, my 53 days spent in Berlin were absolutely incredible, and I wish I could've stayed longer.
The program is a great bang for your buck: it includes a week long trip to two cities - they give you 6 options to choose from. I chose Nuremberg and Prague; two cultural excursions (i.e. opera, soccer game, music concert at the Berliner Philharmonie, or ballet), and three field trips - I went to the Bundeskanzleramt (where Chancellor Merkel's office is) and the former Stasi Prison.
The academics are phenomenal. I took Berlin: Literature, History, and Memory (where we basically read novels as well as history textbook-like passages to learn about the history of the city. The novels were so fascinating, especially "The Wall Jumper" where you learn about the history of the city during the time of the division as East and West Berlin. I also took Berlin Architecture, which was a great class for learning more about the diverse styles of the city, and is a great way to discover the city through field trips. The third class I took was The Human Condition and the Totalitarian Experience, which was about learning the basics of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, how these phenomena arise, and can also be present in Western democracies such as the United States. All three of the classes I took gave me a greater appreciation of the city. The professors are incredible - smart, thoughtful, kind, caring of the students, and enthusiastic.
Public transit is incredible. Your University Student ID gives you free access to the S-bahn and U-bahn (the public transit in the city) that essentially can take you anywhere you want to go. Uber and Lyft are essentially non-existent because the public transit is so good. There are so many different neighborhoods with their own vibes that are super fun to explore. I highly reccomend Neukolln and Kreuzberg. The city is also filled with so many cute parks that are fun to ride your bike through. The city is super bike friendly! Such spacious bike lanes. The music scene and night life are of course incomparable to any other city, so I don't need to go into much detail about that because you can find a lot more information about it on Resident Advisor and other DJ news platforms.
The FU-BEST staff are all incredibly helpful, supportive and speedy with assisting any questions. They coordinate all of the bureaucratic tedious aspects of finding housing, registering to get a residence permit and other things, which is really nice to have taken care of.
I can't recommend this program enough! Please do it! You will not regret it.