European Studies Program at Freie Universität Berlin

Video and Photos

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday!
Chilling at one of dozens of biergartens in Berlin
Chilling at one of dozens of biergartens in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin
Food is possibly the best part about Berlin
Food is possibly the best part about Berlin
Women's March in Berlin (~:
Women's March in Berlin (~:
Coffee & Guglhupf in Vienna
Coffee & Guglhupf in Vienna

About

While Berlin is THE city to explore in Europe, FU-BEST is the academic program to help you make the most out of this experience both academically and personally. Come for a semester or two and combine university-level German language instruction on all levels with exciting and eye-opening subject courses from the humanities and social sciences, taught mainly in English. Learn more about Berlin, German, and European history, politics, culture, music, media, film, religions, business, law, economy and much more!

When not studying indoors, make Berlin your classroom - we will take you to important historic and cultural sites, provide you with concert, opera, ballet, or soccer tickets, give you a museum pass and point you to places unknown to tourists. One semester highlight is the weeklong excursion we make to German and European destinations.
All of this is wrapped in the service you need and the freedom you want. Accommodation is in single apartments or homestays.

Questions & Answers

Hi Miles, thank you for your question. Students receive their acceptance letter within one working day after the deadline. Our deadline for the fall semester is November 1st. Our deadline for the spring semester is April 1st.

Reviews

89%
based on 34 reviews
  • Academics 8.2
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 8.9
  • Housing 8.3
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 15 of 34
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Gabrielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best experiences of my life

As an International Relations major and German minor at Goucher College, part of my graduation requirement is to study abroad. The requirement is narrowed by my fields of study to a semester long program in a German-speaking country, so Berlin was the natural choice.

I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Berlin at FU-BEST and it was the best experience of my life. It was incredibly transformative, opportunity-expanding, and truly amazing.

The range of subject courses offered covers any major. I took European Legal Traditions, History of European Diplomacy, and Islam and Europe, along with the B2 level German course. The subject courses were incredibly interesting. My professors were knowledgeable and well-experienced and respected in their fields. The German course was by far the most challenging German class I have taken in my ten years of studying the language, which I so appreciated. All of the courses were fairly challenging, but no more than the courses at my home institution. Most of my friends who went abroad returned with stories of spending their entire semester going to an hour of classes a week and partying the rest of the time, which just didn't appeal to me. I liked the academically rigorous structure of FU-BEST, though I found it be a good balance between work and fun.

My homestay family was amazing. We got along well, and they were so supportive of me in my studies, learning the language, and in general. I had a minor medical issue while abroad and my host mother helped me make doctor appointments and figure out the insurance paperwork. I fully intend on inviting them to my wedding in the future.

I met so many interesting people at FU-BEST, many of whom have become close friends I've visited since returning to the US. I also met my boyfriend here at FU-BEST, which was a bit surprising since we actually go to school in the same city.

The FU-BEST staff was a great source of support. They were able to help me quite a bit with the aforementioned medical issue and with any questions we had during the semester. The variety of events they planned to help us get acquainted with the city resulted in some great stories, new favorite spots, and new friendships.

Being in Berlin was geographically advantageous to traveling all over Europe affordably. I had opportunities to travel, with FU-BEST and without, to The Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and all over Germany as well to cities like Munich, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Dresden.

FU-BEST's travel opportunities were also amazing. The weeklong excursions were incredibly educational, while also providing plenty of free time for the opportunity to explore new cities.

I also got a few really cool opportunities through my classes to meet with people in the foreign service and diplomacy field. At the time, I was planning on starting a career in the foreign service after graduation. Talking with them and hearing about the lifestyle and their experiences with it actually caused me to change direction in terms of my aspirations. Getting that kind of exposure early on helped me realize what I truly wanted out of a career and directed me towards new avenues.

All in all, FU-BEST was one of the most important experiences of my life.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I had the chance, I would do it again a hundred times. The only regret I have is that I only had one semester there. If I had to do it over, I would have stayed for the spring too. I fully intend on returning to Berlin in the future, and possibly taking advantage of my time at FU-BEST to enroll in a graduate program at Freie Universität.
Default avatar
Nicole
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Falling in love with the city

I participated in this program for two semesters, doing both homestay and the apartments. I was matched perfect with my host family and consider them a part of my actual family now. I had never taken German before this but if I had I know the family would have helped tremendously. After the semester, my mom flew from California so we could all spend Christmas together in Berlin. I loved living in the gorgeous neighborhood surrounded by trees and next to a lake.

Fall quarter was my favorite for a few reasons: 1. You are introduced to the beautiful city in its most alive and vibrant state of summer, take advantage of this! I recommend parks and lakes and even making your way out to Tuefelsberg; 2. You can go to Oktoberfest in Munich! It’s close enough and a fun first trip with new friends; 3. The magic of German Christmas markets, try to see them all!

Spring had good things for me as well, I enjoyed the challenge of living on my own for the first time and I was comfortable in a city I knew. One thing I would say is try to make friends with homestay people as well because they have a unique experience and learn a lot of about history and culture from living with a family. The apartments may be an hour commute to school, but you must keep in mind this is normal for any Berliner and if you go in with an open mind, the U-bahn and S-bahn will feel like a second home.

I really hope you enjoy your stay and take advantage of every moment in the city! I know you want to travel all over Europe, but Berlin has a life time of experiences within it and I dare you to explore them all and fall in love with this city how I have.

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

A rare combination of culture and education

Berlin will forever hold a special place in my heart. Among the places I have been fortunate to have traveled, there is truly no place with a combination of raw cultures, a natural sense of inclusivity, and a vibrant and rich history. I went into the program with zero expectations and knowing I would be dealing with a lot of ambiguity. Be confident, mindful, and open-minded, and you will have an amazing time.

As for the program, I recommend you take classes you cannot take elsewhere and to place yourself outside of everything you are comfortable with. For me, I took in addition to German: Islam in Europe; European Business Cultures; and Integration, Security, and Conflict in Europe. Please be mindful this is not a program that will be a "walk in the park" academically. There are required readings, papers, and projects in each subject matter course. But you will get out what you put into it and if you would like a true educational experience, all that is required is an honest effort.

In terms of the administration of the program and the support you will receive, Dirk and his team have you covered. They did all they could to ensure we had a frictionless experience in Berlin and elsewhere. But manage your expectations as well. You will be in a foreign land where the rules that apply at home may not apply there.

Whenever I share about my time abroad, the most common line I share is this: not only did I have an enormous amount of fun, but I learned and grew in ways that I believe is all but impossible to do where your "home" is. The challenge of a foreign environment and all that comes with it can either be the opportunity of a lifetime or it can be a waste. It is a decision that is made regardless, consciously or otherwise.

I would absolutely recommend this program. I still am friends with about 7 or so of my friends from this program and it has been almost 5 years since we were there.

What would you improve about this program?
The living situation was a bit rough and was far from the city center, but nevertheless close to school. However, I also keep in mind that Berlin is an expensive place to live and managing the living situation of x00s of students can be difficult. Selfishly, I would have appreciated a place that wasn't so far from the city. We also had difficult with Internet throughout the program, but thankfully we had a friend who did not.
Student in front of historical building
Raul
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Year in Berlin

Overall, I had a wonderful experience in Berlin and with FU-BEST. My first semester I very much so felt like a student that was studying abroad. While during my second semester, it felt I was living abroad and so happened to be studying. FU-BEST is a great program and if you can come for a semester (or two) I 10/10 recommend it.

Strengths:

1. German Classes
12 hours/week gives you a realistic shot at learning German. Went from B2 to C2 in a year--no way I could do that in the states.

2. Excursions
Ranging from day trips around the city to week-long excursions through Europe, the excursions were incredible. Not only do you learn A LOT, but you also collect great life experiences and the trips foster friendships.

3. FU-BEST team!!!!!

What would you improve about this program?
German subject courses are “offered” when signing up for the program but in the year I was there, they never successfully ran. For higher level students, German subject courses would really make the time there academically worth it. In truth, I didn’t find the academic portion (aside from German classes) to be challenging at all.
Default avatar
Joseph
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

STUDY abroad

FU-BEST is very unlike most Study Abroad programs. Whereas many Americans may choose Spain, France, or the UK and expect their time to be somewhat of a smooth 4-month vacation, this certainly isn't that. FU-BEST is an academically intensive program with a serious course structure. Whereas the instructors are world class (my two instructors were former diplomats), and the homestay is the greatest decision I could've made, the program does not offer those desiring to learn the language an ability to focus their time on it. Enrolling in the Language Tandem Partner Program, living in a lively homestay, and taking the intensive language course track does help a lot, but if you are not on top of your game, you might second guess your commitment to learning the language. Some language instructors want you to learn and provide you with the tools to do so while others are very difficult and don't make it fun. It all depends on what you are looking to get from the program. After a full year on the program, I can honestly say that I'd do it again with FU-Best even though I felt defeated along the way. My host family was a dream come true, and not all the Americans you'll meet fit the stereotype (99% of students are American). Without positive experiences with my host family, I wouldn't have continued to pursue my interests in Berlin.

What would you improve about this program?
Create a two-track system, one for those pursuing academic goals and one for those pursuing linguistic goals. Keep the academic track just as intensive as it is and the reduce the academic burden on those who seek much linguistic improvement. With the intensity as it is, many didn't learn much about German history and culture as they would have liked.
Max
3/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Do not choose FU BEST

I like Berlin as a city but the FU BEST program made it very difficult to have a meaningful experience. I feel robbed of an incredible opportunity because the program is run so poorly. The (mostly) poorly taught courses require about 30-50 pages of reading per a week EACH, the campus isolates you from any German students, and all of the housing is very far from anywhere you would want to be. While I still enjoyed my time here overall, it was in spite of all the obstacles that the program created. Thank god there were cool people to hang out with or this program would have been a complete waste. I had been looking forward to my semester abroad for years, and I am very upset I chose to have this once in a lifetime experience with such a bad program.

What would you improve about this program?
Change location to main university campus. Change housing locations for apartments and homestays. Lower work load and cut down time in class; 12 hours of German language per week on top of 7-8 hours of subject courses is ridiculous. Add more cultural events and excursions.
Response from FU-BEST

FU-BEST is an academic semester program offered on the North American academic calendar for students without prior knowledge of German. Participants enrol in courses specifically designed for the program and mostly taught in English. The German academic calendar follows a different structure so German students do not attend FU-BEST courses.
However, FU-BEST offers a lot of opportunities for our students to meet German and Berlin students and citizens in general - a language tandem, volunteering opportunities, cultural excursions in Berlin as well as Germany and (Central) Europe, a weekly German "Stammtisch" (get-together), and countless recommendations for university and local sports activities as well as other possibilities to explore the city and its culture in our newsletter and blog.
Academically, FU-BEST courses are comparable in workload to upper-division undergraduate courses at our over 50 partner institutions across the USA. All syllabi as well as a standard weekly schedule are available on our website, and the team is always happy to answer any questions regarding academics and other elements of the program which prospective participants may have.
Virtually all students in Berlin and Germany are commuter students, and since Berlin is a large city, it takes time to get to one's destination. However, the vast public transportation network makes it easy to navigate the city, and time on the subway and city trains or buses can well be spent to complete reading assignments, for example.
We are sorry to hear that your expectations were not met by our program, and that the many offerings and opportunities for cultural encounters and explorations described above were still not enough for you to make the most of FU-BEST. Given the chance on-site, we would have loved to point you to even more ways to make this a more meaningful experience for you.

Default avatar
Brandon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My one regret is not having stayed longer…. Be sure that does not happen to you.

This is a fantastic program from start to finish. Everything from the application process to the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff is excellent. The staff will help you in anything you may need. I had doctor visits, reimbursement questions, additional volunteering options, etc, and they helped me every step of the way. Without question the staff makes this an excellent program.

Academics
Here is where you can plan and think how you want your semester to look like. I would recommend to take only the classes you need and enroll in intensive German. Yes, perhaps you might be overwhelmed with the amount of new information, but trust me, before you know it you will be speaking enough German to go around! I took advantage of the intensive German courses and I would highly recommend it to enhance your cultural experience. Also, be sure to structure your academic schedule to give you enough space to engage in personal travel. I had enough time to do well in my courses and then travel during the weekend.

Housing
The major highlight of the program was housing. I highly recommend taking the homestay option. The program pairs you with a family that best suits your preferences. I was so blessed in my homestay family that I became very close friends with them. I got a deeper understanding and experience with a German family. Do not miss the opportunity to do homestay!

Overall
I wish I had stay longer. Now I am thinking of ways of coming back. My homestay family was perfect, the program staff are excellent and incredibly helpful, academics depend on what your needs are, and the German intensive course will become incredibly useful. I got to see so many countries in Europe because the program gives you a fantastic excursion to various countries and enough time to get to know the city and/or the continent. I had a great time and I wish it had been longer.

Employers always ask about my study abroad experience and I always brag about how excellent this program was. Do not miss it!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I will never forget the first time I swam in the lake. It was a remarkable experience.
Default avatar
Prince
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

FU-BEST

The FU-BEST program had a lot of surprising features in it. I didn’t expect the program to be so well planned out and inclusive, but it was. I really enjoyed the cultural events that the university organized for us. I saw my first soccer match and was able to enjoy more traditional German operatic pieces. The organizers seemed to have put a lot of effort into making the process (especially within the very bureaucratic entanglement that Germany). The team provided lots of support and even accommodated me when I needed special help.
One thing that I regret not taking advantage of more during the program would have to be the Stammtisch. Would have been a great opportunity to make more friends outside of my immediate class groups.
One of my favorite parts would have to be the walking tour at the beginning, it was a beautiful and educational way of introducing the citiy to us.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Definitely take advantage of the home-stay option to maximize your cultural and language immersion.
Default avatar
Janeithra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

FU-BEST is the most fitting name

Unlike most people who study abroad(at least the ones I met), my decision to do so was quite late minute and out of desperation. I was very upset with the political climate back home in the United States and I decided to set out on an adventure to an unknown land. Although I had studied extensively on East Central Europe for my major in Political Science and History, I didn't have much expectations for modern Germany. I had also never been away from home, but I guess my lack of planning is what led to me submitting the application. To be fair, I did develop cold feet days before I took off, but I was persistent.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I arrived in Tegel Airport and took a cab to the University. Although I was tired, I was greeted by the program directors and student assistants with a big smile on their faces which felt very nice. My host family picked me up from the University and these are some of the nicest people I ever met. They made me feel at home immediately. The first week of classes were mostly excursions which felt quite tiring at the time but I came to appreciate it later on when we felt so familiar with this new city within such a short period of time. Classes were challenging, yet manageable which I greatly appreciated. The readings and books given to us ended up being so helpful that they are now a part of my reference list and I use all the time. The German language classes have such an innovative and spontaneous learning environment with a lot of excursions which made the language learning process (which could be quite frustrating), so exciting. I fell in love with Berlin so much that I decided to pursue my Masters here, in the same University. I met my wonderful boyfriend in Berlin. I feel like my host family became my second family and I still visit them every other weekend. The best part of this program - for me, is that it isn't too easy. I have friends who went to Italy and Paris and all they did was eat pasta and visit other countries. FU-BEST is challenging and thus very informative about German politics, culture, architecture etc. I feel like it is made in a way that falling in love with Germany and inevitably Berlin is inevitable. We get just the right amount of free time to visit all of Europe, but the academic part is definitely given as much priority. Literally everyone who was in the program with me are majorly jealous of my move here and still DM me all the time asking how they could do it too. There was not one person I met that didn't feel the same way I did. To any future participant who is reading this: do it! If you are really serious about learning a thing or two while still getting your adventure on, this is the BEST program for that.

Default avatar
Grace
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

FU-BEST is What You Make Of It, So Make It AMAZING!

I spent two semester (one full academic year) with FU-BEST in Berlin. I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking for an educational experience presented in a unique perspective (through a German/European lens) and excited to experience everything the city has to offer.
I had an amazing time with FU-BEST and in Germany in general but I know others may be more critical to certain aspects, such as not being on the main Freie University campus or the distant apartment housing (though everything in Berlin takes about an hour to get to, so the commute really not that bad)
The bottom line is this: FU-BEST is a program where YOU shape the experience. You can have an amazing time if you take advantage of the opportunities given and take the initiative to find interesting/entertaining people, places, & events.
Academically, the professors are highly knowledgeable in their subjects and are often former government, diplomatic, scholarship, or business leaders. This means expectations are moderately high; this is not a program where students can just skate by. Professors are passionate about their work and appreciate students who are there to learn and engage with the material.
Socially, the onus is on you to meet people and form relationships, especially with German students. There is a tandem partner program offered but not everyone receives one. If you do, keep up with meeting and practicing your language skills or ask them for advice of fun things to do in Berlin. My tandem partner was one of my closest friends throughout my abroad experience; she helped me with German, brought me to concerts, restaurants, festivals, and parks, and we remained in touch when I returned to the States. If you do not have a tandem partner, don't be afraid to meet the locals by joining a sports team or volunteering. My other close German friends were made out of chance as one of them found my student-ID and sent me a message. Then, through her, I met several other students from the main FU campus. Be open-minded, social, and excited :)
FU-BEST staff is amazing; there is a weekly Thursday get-together for all students which is hosted at different local bar every time. A newsletter is provided monthly with upcoming activities and events. Everyone is helpful, eager to answer any questions, and readily available. I got pink eye on a excursion to Brussels and, within an hour of notifying the program director, was assisted on what to do and where to find a prescription. A handbook is presented at the beginning of every semester filled with relevant information that is very helpful. The program assistants are fun and want to ensure participants are having an exciting, safe, and unique experience. 10/10 for the planning and execution of the overall program administration!
Housing is adequate; the apartments my year were small and cosy and included a single room which had a futon, desk, sink/hot plates, and side bathroom. I participated in a homestay my second semester and LOVED it; my family became an important part of my life and I urge everyone to take the opportunity to live with residents of the city, especially if you are looking to improve your language skills. As I mentioned earlier, transportation can be annoying due to the length of time but the U/S-bahns and busses run on time and are much more functional than other public transportation systems in the U.S. that I've experienced (particularly the DC-metro).
The excursions are fun and allow you to see more of the continent and I would suggest attending most if not all of the activities listed as they are usually fun, informative, and allow you a deeper insight in the countries. I went on the Amsterdam/Brussels and Hamburg/Copenhagen excursions and had a blast but the location options change every semester. This is also a time when you form close bonds with other students in the program so make friends with those in your hostel!
Berlin is a great city and, as a former mayor once famously stated, "poor but sexy". It's cheap for a European capital (much more so than Munich), filled with museums and memorials, has a sizable immigrant population (so lots of diversity), and often considered an anomaly within Germany. People usually love it or very much dislike it and it's definitely not everybody's cup of tea but if you are interested in history, culture, nightlife, politics, and often progressive causes, Berlin is the place for you.
I would return to Berlin and FU-BEST in a heartbeat.

What would you improve about this program?
Providing more opportunities to meet locals, perhaps through a Stammtisch where main campus students have an open invitation.
Melanie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

They don't call it fu-BEST for nothing

Doing two semesters of FU-BEST in Berlin was one of the best decisions ever! During fall semester, I learned so much about Berlin through FU-BEST, and by spring semester I was able to navigate the city and take full advantage of field trips, excursions, and free time. Fall semester in Berlin included Oktoberfest and Christmas markets, and with the warm weather towards the end of spring, Berlin felt like a completely different city. The program newsletter gave great suggestions for activities throughout the year, provided interesting Friday field trips, and most of all, exciting excursions throughout Germany and surrounding countries. The staff was always so nice and helpful and knew everyone well enough to give personalized advice, help with any issue, or give recommendations. Classes also felt personalized since they were only about 15 students large, so it was easy to get to know the teachers and other students and get the most out of the subject. My favorite thing about the program was that it was small enough to feel personalized, but still large enough that it was always possible to meet someone new and never feel confined. The program has lots of resources that make it possible to meet other Berliners and practice your German. I'm so thankful for everything I learned in my classes and living in Berlin and I highly recommend this program to get the fullest experience of Berlin!

What would you improve about this program?
I would've preferred having classes at the Dahlem campus, because Lankwitz felt a bit isolated at times.
Default avatar
Nicole
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Worth a Year

I spent 2 semesters and my whole Junior year with the FU-BEST program and it was absolutely worth it. Their academic program had so many classes relevant to my International Relations major and their professors are so experienced and well versed in their subject matter. It was so interesting learning about Germany through my history and political classes while being in Germany and being taught by German professors; it put a whole new perspective on things that I had been learning about for years. The program support staff are so friendly and welcoming and you never feel like you're alone in this program; you can go to them with any problem and they will help find a solution. There are excursions that are offered each semester for our week long break and they are a blast and a great bonding experience with other kids on the program. There are plenty of opportunities offered to explore Berlin more as well, and despite it being a huge city you get to see a lot just from the program sets up and events they alert you to. Berlin and Germany are amazing places to visit and I have loved getting to know this place that I can now call a second home.
Lastly, the home stays are an amazing option and mine has become a second family to me. It is a great way to really immerse yourself in the culture, learn more German and live with a family that can teach you so much more than if you lived alone.

What would you improve about this program?
For the second level of German that I took the class was rather imbalanced so maybe alter the interview process a bit, at least for the higher level classes.
Lita
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Program!

If you make the effort to immerse yourself with Berliners then you will definitely have the best time. The FU-BEST program itself helps you to get to know the city with monthly field trips, museum passes and weekly Stammtisch! The academic program incorporates field trips/ excursions so that you can get to see more of the city while also discussing the material.
Great support from the student advisors and the teachers too.
The only thing is, the program was just for American students, so it was hard to get to know other German students in the university. And the program is in the Lankwitz campus which is more isolated and less student-oriented than the Dahlem campus for sure.

Viel Spaß!

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

Fall 2017

Choosing to participate in FU-BEST was the best decision I made as an undergraduate. It is what I will remember most from my time in college. Each weekend that my friends and I traveled around Europe, by the end, we were ready and anxious to get back to Berlin. I wish everyone could have the privilege to study in such a unique, cool city. It was the most amazing experience and better than I could have ever imagined it being.

What would you improve about this program?
More housing options closer to campus
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Robert
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Program

Overall great program. Comes with great excursions including a full week trip to a nearby Country. Would be better if it were on main campus to meet more germans but that is a minor issue. Intensive German was a annoying too. I relearned most of the grammer and at an easier standard. Besides that, a lot of fun and great people. Berlin is an up and coming city. There is always something to do and something to see.

What would you improve about this program?
Fix German. Move to Main Campus

Interviews

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About FU-BEST

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...