Berlin Consortium for German Studies - BCGS

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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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based on 18 reviews
  • Academics 9.7
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.7
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 16 - 18 of 18
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A Life-Changing Immersion Experience

Having already spent a gap year in Germany, I was looking for a program that would offer academic rigor and balanced independence. The BCGS program with Carmen and Niko was exactly that and so much more.

The one-month German Culture and Discourse class offered the ideal transition into the German academic setting. Never before had I been so challenged in a German language course. The daily discussions, the Referat, and the mini-Hausarbeit equipped me with the language skills to take on my FU courses. The workload was also well balanced and left plenty of time for students to bond and explore the city together. My fellow BCGS students were adamant about sticking to the language commitment, and that made our collective experience so much more enriching.

As classes started up and people found their own apartments and WGs, students became increasingly independent. However, BCGS provided a constant support structure that students could rely on. Carmen and Niko are the most incredible program coordinators, and they were there to catch us when we fell. If any issues arose with professors, housing, or paperwork, we knew that Carmen and Niko were on our side and would make every effort to help us. BCGS is also staffed with 3-4 writing tutors who meet with students one-on-one. These sessions helped me stay on top of deadlines and produce high quality work.

I was lucky enough to be matched with a host in her late 20s. Though she was technically my "host mom", the dynamic between us was much more like that of a WG. We got along so well that I decided to stay with her for the rest of my time in Berlin. To this day, Kathi remains my closest friend in Germany and we write to each other weekly. Through her, I met several native Berliners; but I was also able to take advantage of the social network built by other BCGS students. By spending time with the housemates of other BCGS students, I was able to meet a wide variety of local Berliners.

The diversity within our BCGS class was incredibly refreshing. Despite our different backgrounds and interests, we loved spending time with each other. While we each developed our own circle of native German friends, we regularly met up at parties or for picnics at Tempelhofer Feld. Many of us are still close friends; and I can't imagine a more fun and open-hearted group to have explored Berlin with.

It is hard to fully convey how life-changing the BCGS program has been. With the support of BCGS, I was able to take full advantage of everything Berlin had to offer. I met my current boyfriend that semester and went on to spend the following summer interning at Boston Consulting Group's Berlin office. I am now looking to join many of my fellow BCGS students in Germany after graduation. The BCGS program helped each of us gain the confidence to take on life in Germany, and I cannot thank Carmen and Niko enough for all that they've done.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Incredible Study Abroad Experience

With most of my close friends accepted to year-long study abroad programs, and with the prospect of being without them for a year on my campus, I thought it was the opportune time to change my setting as well. My research led me to BCGS: It was located in Berlin, was an immersive program, and provided support for students. I applied, and was on my way to Berlin. I didn't know then what a life changing decision this would be.

The first few days upon arrival are spent with introductions, debriefing about the various german bureaucratic steps you need to take, and a short introduction to the German university system. You then have the option of being placed with a host family for the duration of the first 6 weeks of your stay. I chose not to take part in that aspect of the program, but regretted it, as having a host family seemed to be a really lovely support system for my fellow students; they had interactions far beyond the 6 weeks, being invited to dinners and holidays as the year went on. During these first 6 weeks, you are participating in a language intensive. You have class every day of the week, and exciting excursions. This 6 week intensive was fantastic and led to a rapid improvement in all of our German language skills. I finished off the six weeks feeling confident about my upcoming semester.

With the BCGS program, you receive incredible academic support and are fully matriculated into the Freie Universität. Although being matriculated might seem like a minor detail, it makes it possible to really become immersed in the culture and language. You are an exchange student, not an erasmus student, and your professors respect you a lot for that difference. As a German Literature Major, the courses offered at the FU were so interesting and diverse. One of my favorite classes was called "Der Tod in Venedig –Thomas Manns Novelle und das Venedig-Bild in der Literatur-Geschichte" (Death in Venice-Thomas Mann's Novella and the Venice image in literary history) and with the help of my BCGS tutor, I was able to write a 15 page 1.5 spaced A4 Hausarbeit. Something unthinkable when I first arrived.

A BCGS alum convinced me to do the program for a year, instead of just a semester, and that was the defining difference for me. After my first semester, I had just found which supermarket carried my favorite products, which cafe had the best Kuchen, which restaurant made the best Pad Thai, and where to find bagels. I wasn't ready to leave. I also had one semester of the German education system behind me, and finally knew what I needed to do to succeed--and I wanted to have another go at it! Going for the full year, I was also able to find an internship. And I am currently working as a jr. producer at the same tv/film production company I interned with during my year abroad.

You will love Berlin, you will explore Europe and the city, you will be challenged academically and achieve things you thought impossible. Half of the students who did the BCGS year program with me are now back in Berlin. I think that desire to return speaks volumes for the success of our experiences.

Yes, I recommend this program
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The Best German Exchange Program in the U.S.

BCGS provides the perfect balance of support and independence for students who want the most out of their time abroad. The somewhat rigorous first weeks of the program involve an intensive German language class and a guest-stay at a local family's home. I remember waking up each day genuinely enthusiastic about heading to the university to see what was next on the agenda. And that enthusiasm carried over into the lectures and seminars later on in the semester, when I could comfortably participate in class discussions and prepare oral presentations.
I made lots of local friends both through the university and a men's rugby club that I joined my very first week in Berlin. From concerts, to operas, to summer festivals, I constantly had the almost overwhelming feeling of not having enough time to accomplish everything.
But on the other hand, there was also something quite special about becoming part of the day-to-day lifestyle of Berlin. As my attention gradually shifted from music, parties, and museums to grocery shopping and recycling, I found myself feeling truly at home in Germany's capital.
At the end of the program, thanks to the superb teaching at BCGS, I qualified for C.1 German proficiency and I am now pursuing a master's degree in Berlin. I honestly believe that I accomplished much thanks solely to this program, and that there would have been no better way to spend my junior year of college.

Yes, I recommend this program

About Berlin Consortium for German Studies

The Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS) is a joint venture of the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University in association with the...