European Studies Program at Freie Universität Berlin

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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.

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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

8.77 Rating
based on 44 reviews
  • Academics 8.4
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 8
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 8 of 44
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Meimei
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable Study Abroad Experience in Berlin, Germany

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.

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Ava
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Spring Semester in Berlin

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.
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Amy
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great professors and organized events, lack of interaction with German students.

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).
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Quinn
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Fun Year Abroad

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.
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Hunter
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One Year at FU-BEST

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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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.
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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.

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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.