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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
Meimei
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

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

I was only able to spend half a semester in the program (due to COVID-19), but the half I did spend was absolutely wonderful. I stayed with a host family, who were lovely! The program paired us very well. I lived in Dahlem, so It was very easy to reach the rest of Berlin and the school via public transportation. The school was also fantastic! I loved the small class sizes and courses offered! I took intensive german B2, Islam and Europe, and Berlin History, Memory, and Literature. I learned so much about Berlin and Europe in general through all of those classes. The professors were very kind and easy to understand. We went on lots of excursions to see the city which I really appreciated. The school also has a cafeteria (Mensa) and the food there was surprisingly good, for a University. I think my favorite part of the whole program though, was the connections I was able to make while there. They made It super easy to make new friends, with cocktail hours at local bars, “Kaffe und Kuchen” social hours at lovely cafes, the welcome week filled with amazing activities around Berlin, and the week long excursion trips to different cities in Europe! I loved every moment of my stay here and I hope I can return very soon.

What would you improve about this program?
The only things I would improve about this program are: 1st, I wish there were more chances to meet and interact with German students. I wanted to really get good at my German, and having German friends would’ve been really helpful! And 2nd, I hope the program will digitize more of their coursework because that was a lot of paper given out! Other than that, It was an incredible semester.
Default avatar
Amy
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Berlin is an incredible city for anyone interested in WWII and the Cold War to experience for a semester or two. The program offers an abundance of extracurricular activities and field trips included in the program fee. To name a few highlights, I've been able to get an in-depth look at the Reichstag building, the German Chancellery and the German Foreign Ministry with the program, as well as be an audience member for the morning news broadcast ZDF. Each semester also includes an exciting week-long excursion to two other European cities. Past trips have been to Munich and Vienna, Prague and Nuremberg, Belgium and Netherlands, etc.

Academically, the language and subject courses here are all very intensive and reading-heavy. Each subject course is held once a week for 2.5 hours at a time. Every professor I had here was highly accomplished in his/her field and many were willing to accommodate any individual concerns I had when they arose. Although classes only run Monday to Thursday, do not expect to just coast through your classes and travel every single weekend during the semester. I would have preferred that the readings were accessible online, as each subject course has a very heavy printed reader of all the required texts that can be difficult to lug around while commuting or travelling. (Also not great for sustainability).

The main problem with the location of classes at the satellite campus is that you don't get to interact with many German students. However, the program does offer a tandem partner system that pairs you up with a local Berlin student so you can get to practice German and make a German friend.

Also, the commute to campus can take a while, which is typical of Berlin universities in general. Wherever you end up living in the city, the commute to campus is likely to take at least fifty minutes to an hour, as the Lankwitz campus is situated in a more suburban area of the city. Thankfully Berlin's public transport is generally very well-connected and reliable.

The directors and student assistants of FU-BEST are readily available and supportive should any problems arise during your time in Berlin. The program keeps you updated with new extracurricular options and excursions so you always have something you do, but it's never overwhelming. You have plenty of freedom and independence studying here in the German capital and you get as much out of the experience as you choose to invest.

What would you improve about this program?
Digitize more classroom material and either cut down on assigned readings/homework or cut down on classroom hours. (The daily three-hour intensive German language course was especially a bit much at times when combined with daily homework assignments and the other subject courses).
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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Alumni Interviews

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

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.