The Berlin Consortium for German Studies is language-intensive and academically challenging. Students are directly enrolled at the Freie Universität and take classes in the German university system. I took courses on: the meaning behind the German word "Heimat," the history of imperialism, Japanese imperialism, death in German language poetry in the 20th century, Chinese society after 1949 as reflected in the art at the time... (all in German). Although I only ended up taking classes at the FU, I do know that other BCGS students were also able to take classes at the Humboldt Universität and the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler.
It may seem a little daunting at first to give a presentation in German in front of a room full of other German students or to write a 10+ page Hausarbeit completely in German at the end of each term. But it's worth it in the end as you prove to yourself what you are capable of. When I came back to the US after my year abroad in Berlin and was particularly dreading writing my essays or starting my assignments, I could say to myself: you've written many a 15-page Hausarbeit in German before haven't you? You can surely write a 5-page essay auf Englisch now, can't you???!
In any case, you shouldn't let the Hausarbeit or the Referat intimidate you because BCGS builds a great support system around you. First of all, each student meets with a tutor one-on-one each week to help with assignments, readings, any questions one might have, and ultimately, the Hausarbeit! Second, Carmen and Niko are there for you should you need help or advice with your academics, with your housing, or with anything at all. I can vouch for them. My parents can vouch for them. In fact, my dad told me specifically that Carmen and Niko are very professional, caring, and responsive, and their presence reassured him that I would not be completely alone while I was abroad in a new country.
That is not to say that everything will simply be taken care of for you. BCGS offers the support, should you need it, but you are also given a great deal of independence and room for personal growth. What you do with your time outside of classes is up to you. Berlin is an incredible city to explore and an amazing place to develop independence. Its rich offerings in arts and culture are very accessible, and I especially appreciated the many discounts in museums, gardens, events, and the like available to students and young people. For the musically inclined, there's the ClassicCard, a program that allows people under 30 to visit operas, classical music concerts, and ballet theaters at around ten Euros each performance. For inspiration from nature, there's the Natural History Museum, little parks tucked away everywhere, and larger gardens like the lovely Britzer Garten--where I went to see the most beautiful exhibit of dahlias. And around the same area at the Schloss Britz, I once saw a small exhibition curated specially for the bullfighting-themed prints of Picasso and Goya.
The best thing about being in such a city with so much to offer was the fact that, with a semester ticket/student ID, I could use Berlin's extensive transportation system (including buses, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trains, trams) for free. I was not daunted by the cost of seeing what I wanted to see, going where I wanted to go. When I got back to New York City, I kept thinking to myself about how the MTA should take note...
There's something for everyone in Berlin, and all you need to do is find out what you're interested in and pursue it. If you choose to go for a full year like I did, you'll find you have considerably more time to discover what you want to do in this city. BCGS provides the academic structure to guide you lightly, but from there it's all up to you. It's a very liberating and empowering experience.