Berlin Consortium for German Studies - BCGS

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About

The Berlin Consortium for German Studies (U Chicago, Columbia U, Cornell U, Johns Hopkins U, U Pennsylvania, Princeton U) is an academic-year or spring semester program dedicated to helping students improve their German language skills by providing intensive language training, encouraging them to function independently in the German university system, and offering a program that allows them to fully experience German life, customs, and culture.

Students enroll at the Freie Universität Berlin, which hosts a broad variety of departments. Students may also consider taking select courses at other universities in Berlin. Studying in Berlin for the full year opens the possibility of arranging full-time internships during the semester break in February and March.

The equivalent of at least two years of college-level German is required to apply to the program. The academic year program runs from September to July, while the spring semester program runs February to July.

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Reviews

9.95 Rating
based on 21 reviews
  • Academics 9.7
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.7
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 8 of 21
Lorraine
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life-changing experience studying abroad

Originally from China, studying in the US is already study abroad for me. But halfway through college, I realized my worldview was limited by what I could see in front of me. Having studied German for four years back then, I wanted to come to Germany through a program that provides a fully immersive environment for me to improve my languages skills and learn about the culture. BCGS did exactly that. I enjoyed a high degree of autonomy during my time in Berlin, while BCGS gave me a home away from home that I could always fall back on. Being able to live with a host family at the beginning of my stay allowed me to adapt faster, and even till this day I’m still in touch with my host parents. And then, apartment hunting, learning to speak up in a classroom full of German students, surviving the long Berlin winter and then enjoying the best summer one could have – every day taught me to grow, to be more independent and disciplined, to find confidence and my inner self at an age of uncertainty.

Time in Europe significantly shaped my worldview and gave me the confidence to embark on an international career in the future. Although I’m not sure if I will come back to Germany immediately, Berlin will always hold a special place in my heart and remain a home for me oceans away. If you are reading this and are considering BCGS, be convinced it is one of the best study abroad programs out there. Just be prepared to grow, know what you want to get out of this experience, seek out opportunities and resources, and keep an open mind toward every person you meet. BCGS was the most transformative year of my college experience, and I’m very thankful I did that.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would simply relax and cherish every opportunity to meet new people!
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Juchi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Well-run program with top-notch academics

It's not easy to fit a year abroad into an academic schedule, especially in a STEM field. However, the payoff is fully worth the challenge. Not only is grading and credit transfer from the Freie Universität favorable, but the semester break (only available if you do the full year!) affords you the opportunity of doing an internship abroad. Don't make the same mistake I did by passing up this chance!

I can only assume that Dr. Carmen Mueller is the same model of organizational efficiency and dry humor that she was when I studied in Berlin in 2014-15. BCGS does most of the heavy lifting, administratively, for the study abroad process, leaving you free to study at the three offered universities in Berlin, explore Europe, widen your horizons, push your comfort zone, and all the other things commonly associated with studying abroad (hint: aforementioned cliches lose their luster but they exist for a reason). Also, your German-speaking abilities will be miles better when you come home.

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Odis
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An outstanding program and an invaluable experience abroad

My full year abroad in Berlin, Germany with the BCGS program was beyond a doubt the most formative year of my college career. Having the opportunity to immerse myself in another culture—to live, study, and thrive there, and have the resources and support to do so—has not only influenced the course of my studies in general, but it has also strongly shaped who I am as a person. Studying abroad opened up a space for a certain reflexivity in me—about my nationality, my culture, and my place in the world—that could only be made possible through an extended stay in a foreign country. Finding my own way in this place, adapting to an environment and customs that were different from my own, studying and living in a language that was not mine, and facing the challenges attendant to that situation both allowed me to mature as a person and provided me with invaluable life experience. To me, having the opportunity to live in and adapt to another culture is a vital aspect of any education, in the true sense of the word. In my mind, education is about more than ideas--it’s about becoming a citizen of the world and, in so doing, recognizing that your fate is deeply and beautifully entangled with the fate of others.
The BCGS program itself provided me with the support and resources to do so and accomplished what I think any exceptional study-abroad program should: it guided students through the transition into a new culture and provided us both with the resources and support network we needed to do so, while at the same time giving students the responsibility and independence to make their own life choices and have unique experiences of their own. The BCGS staff and faculty are also exceptionally wonderful people and it was a joy to participate in this program with them.

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Christopher
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Choice for Academic, Cultural and Professional Growth

I chose the Berlin Consortium for German Studies because I was attracted to the unique rigor of the academic offerings. I expected that the BCGS cohort would be comprised of intellectually driven, culturally curious students who expected more from their semesters abroad than just a foreign holiday. Indeed, this is precisely what I found. During the program, the combination of intensive language training and demanding classes at the Freie Universität Berlin—where the readings, lectures, assignments and exams were entirely in German—allowed me to develop my language abilities much more extensively than I could have in the United States or through a less ambitious program. Beyond the language component, the classes I took through BCGS exposed me to topics and intellectual discussions that fascinate and engage me to this day.

That is not to say, however, that my experience abroad was entirely defined by schoolwork. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the BCGS program was the high premium placed on cultural exploration. Through planned excursions as well as informal events, I developed deep friendships and experienced Berlin, not just as a backdrop for my studies, but as a dynamic and exciting city with a thrilling energy.

My semester abroad has already proven extremely applicable to my career. In the fall after graduating, I began an internship at the Bundestag through the Émigré Memorial German Internship Program, an opportunity I learned about as a BCGS participant. Thanks to my experience abroad, I have had the confidence to forge connections across cultural divides and the language skills to thrive in a German-language workplace (plus, my prior experience living in Berlin has made the bureaucratic formalities associated with moving to Germany significantly less intimidating). Beyond this current internship, my career goals have been deeply influenced by my semester abroad, which affirmed to me the importance of "Weltoffenheit" and exposed me to the wide range of career paths available in today’s interconnected world.

I would highly recommend BCGS to any student who wants to get the maximum value out of their study abroad experience.

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John
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Highly recommended!

In selecting a study abroad program, I was most intrigued by the possibility of immersion in a foreign culture. Many of my friends who studied abroad in college participated in programs that essentially seemed to consist of the experience an American campus transplanted somewhere else in the world: Their language competence did not seem to improve very dramatically, and they spent most of their time in what seemed like an insular community of fellow American exchange students. While many of those experiences were clearly fun and educational, I was looking for a deeper exposure to culture and more personal responsibility, which is why I chose the BCGS. I could not be more happy that I did so! The time that I spent in Berlin with the BCGS, as well as the two months of language classes I took in Germany beforehand, were among the most enjoyable, engaging, and educational in my life thus far. The program demands a high level of personal responsibility and self-motivation, but Carmen and Niko and the rest of the BCGS staff were always willing to offer help and advice and provide all the resources necessary to accomplish a very ambitious program. As a student directly enrolled at the Freie Universitaet, I sat in seminars with German students and experienced an educational culture distinct from its American equivalent. I made several good friends, and during the semester was able to find time to explore both in Berlin and on trips to other cities. I am planning to pursue a Masters degree in Germany shortly, and the decision to do so was driven in large part by the significant and positive impression that my time with the BCGS left on me. My only regret is that did not stay for both semesters. I highly recommend that anyone considering it apply, and stay for both semesters to get the most out of your time in Berlin!

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Laura
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Berlin: A Semester Lengthened to a Year (and maybe a Master's?)

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at BCGS so much that I decided to extend my semester to a year (and might come back when I graduate)!
Here are some reasons why:
1. Program support
The preparatory language course was very rigorous, and without it, I would not have been prepared to write the final papers. I thought I had reached a plateau in my German language skills, but I was wrong. After the course, my German was significantly better. In addition, I had lists of "Redemittel"--academic formulations and expressions to use in papers. Now I never write anything without my Redemittel at my side.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the BCGS program is the tutor system. Having a weekly individual meeting with a dynamic, engaging, knowledgeable and approachable tutor works miracles on your academic work. The thorough feedback they give you on your final papers allows you to turn in your work with confidence and notice errors you make repeatedly (allowing you to avoid these yourself in future writing assignments).
In addition, Carmen is perhaps the most organized and attentive individual I have ever met. Carmen and Niko (whom I simply do not know as well because he was away my first semester) provide guidance with everything from health insurance to matriculation and organize excursions and events (even a Thanksgiving dinner!). They respond to emails within seconds, follow up on their own initiative if they know you have had a problem and remember things their students tell them.
2. Freie Universität
I get a huge sense of pride directly enrolling in classes with German students, giving oral presentations and writing research papers to the true German standard (not in a parallel program designed just for exchange students). I also love the system of not doing constant busy work (there are not little quizzes and short responses over the course of the semester) but instead really gaining deep knowledge of a topic through a rigorous final paper (one of my seminar paper topics has now inspired my thesis topic).
3. Berlin
I love Berlin. I love that my life does not only revolve around the university campus and that most of my friends are not students. I have met and become close friends with people from every continent, with native Germans and refugees and expats of all ages. I am involved in interesting activities in the Berlin community that are not university-affiliated (which is a huge contrast to my home university, where everyone and everything lived and took place on campus). My entire social life is in German, which has perhaps improved my language skills more than my coursework.
I would recommend a year. My classmates who only did a semester still had a fantastic time, improved their German and had time to do sightseeing! Just keep in mind that if you stay for a semester, you'll be so busy finding a WG and getting your visa and writing your final papers under a huge time crunch that you might find yourself wishing you had more time to enjoy the city and deepen your connections with the locals.
Enjoy every minute!

J.Y.
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience.

BCGS was 10/10 in every aspect. The teachers, academic program, students, city, and overall experience was irreplaceable. I highly recommend this program to anyone and everyone. I can confidently say it will be a memorable life-time experience, and one that will stay with you (and, I guess, "help" you post-program if that's a specific concern). It's impossible to pick a favorite memory! Berlin is still my favorite city. Feel free to reach me for more questions at www.jychun.work

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Ryan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

BCGS Review

BCGS was a wonderful experience and the best semester I've had during my college years. Carmen and Niko are simply fantastic and I still keep in touch with them! The program offers great opportunity for students to get familiar with the German culture and city of Berlin, before students participate in the full semester study at Berlin Free University. Berlin is also a city where a lot of things are happening, so the students can get an all-rounded experience of what it's like being a student in Germany.

Definitely recommend this to everyone who has interests in German studies.