IES Abroad Freiburg – Environmental Studies & Sustainability

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This English-taught program allows you to explore topics in Environmental Studies, Forest Ecology, and Sustainability while living in Freiburg, a well-known center for environmental innovation. Freiburg and the surrounding regions will be your classroom. Can you imagine traveling to the Rhine River Valley to take samples and observe local ecology; or traveling to the forests of the Swiss Alps to further your discussions on forest management and tourism? Welcome to study abroad! Wherever possible, your courses take you outside the classroom to give you hands-on experience and to take advantage of all that your study abroad location has to offer.

Courses are organized as a series of three-week modules that focus on the sustainable management of natural resources, with a special emphasis on the adaptive management of forests, ecological processes in ecosystems, and human effects on the environment.


IES Abroad Scholarships and Financial Aid

As far as we're concerned, financial limitations shouldn't prevent you from studying abroad with us. That's why we offer more than $5 million in scholarships and aid.

$500 - $5,000

Questions & Answers

In order to apply, you must be at least 18 years old and have a 2.75 GPA or higher.


9.44 Rating
based on 18 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 88.89%
  • 7-8 rating 11.11%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Academics 8.3
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 8.9
  • Housing 8.7
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 18
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Yes, I recommend this program

Freiburg was a dream

Being a smaller, lesser known city than a lot of other study abroad options, I thought Freiburg facilitated a more authentic cultural experience. I didn’t know any German before I went on the program (which is not a problem because mostly everyone speaks english) but by the end of the trip I was able to ask basic questions and read a whole menu/order at cafes just by being surrounded by it. IES is great at giving you all the information you need to get around and familiarize yourself and you also make friends extremely fast!
Freiburg is in a great location for traveling around Europe, it is the sunniest spot in Germany and there is so so much to do outside (go swimming, hikes, bike rides, concerts in nearby towns, biergartens), the public transportation is amazing and affordable, and you are always surrounded by the Black Forest and expansive fields/orchards to have a picnic in. Freiburg is a perfect size to be able to get to know in a semester and by the end it really felt like a second home to me because there is a strong community feeling there. There's local student spots that hold a lot of events and do a great job including international students. It is so easy and fun to meet people from all over the world! Live music is plenty downtown. Really cool opportunities to get involved in local volunteering, sustainability, or artistic initiatives. Classes were super informative and applicable to real-world sustainability work, not to mention interesting. All the IES instructors were really knowledgable, kind, and approachable.
Fun things to do are cooking big dinners in someones flat, going to a german Bathhouse, or taking weekend trips to other european cities, but the best thing about this specific program which I think a lot of people who go abroad to other places do not experience is the incredible beauty that we got to see. From the Swiss Alps to the Vosges Mountains in France to the surrounding Black Forest towns, you are seeing beautiful landscapes continuously throughout this program and hiking a lot. I learned so much about sustainability and practicing a green lifestyle which I could have only adopted by being in a green-focused environment. Freiburg is a really special place.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Ready to go back

In IES I studied under some of the best professors I've ever had, lived with several amazing international students outside of my program, and really enjoyed Freiburg. Academically, the professors were all unique and were given the flexibility needed to teach our classes based on what best suited us. The courses were done in modules (instead of 5 classes all taken at the same time throughout the semester, we had five 3-week blocks where each class began only when the other completely ended) which I believe allowed for better focus and encouraged us to dive deeper into subjects. The courses also weren't limited to the classroom, and included dozens of excursions both throughout the city and outside of it- the Swiss Alps hiking trip was particularly amazing. I do believe one or two classes needed better organization and communication between professors, especially those where we had multiple professors (which in theory was great as they each had a different expertise), and that the administration could have been more response and proactive in solving these issues. However this was the only issue I found with administration. They were otherwise extremely helpful, great with communcation, and always open to answering questions. Freiburg is great for studen- big enough to always find something new to do, but small enough that it's easy to navigate and get to classes. It has plenty of hiking trails reachable with public transit or even just walking from housing; the smaller "suburbs" outside each have their own feel and cool things to do, and are also easy to reach. The train station in the center of the city can connect you to tons of other German and International cities, and a small airport nearby can get you on a quick flight. The IES Environmental Program schedule doesn't leave a lot of room for long trips, but there are definitely some 4-day weekends you can use to go somewhere further. It also "forced" us to really look into Freiburg during our free time which I was very thankful for by the end of the trip. You'll have many chances to meet german, or international, students- whether through your housing or the required german courses.

Myiah Smith is on Track!
Yes, I recommend this program

The Greatest Program in the Greenist City

I recommended IES Freiburg to those who are interested in the Environment, the European Union and politics, or those who are interested in German language and area studies. IES Freiburg Sustainability (IES ES) is perfect if you like hands-on learning with lots of trips, executions, and activities. If you prefer programs which give you the range to explore and experience without the burden of overhead requirements and checklist, then this is perfect for you. IES Freiburg balances studies, program sponsored trips, monthly events, and a 24/7 on-call staff that you are free to access at your discretion.

IES Freiburg Environmental Studies and Sustainability program, of the three major programs, offered, the Fall semester of ‘18 was the smallest cohort, having 28 students. Compared to the IES EU program which had a stellar 98, I had an opportunity to develop deep ties with my cohort. They were the “study” to my abroad and made my experience extraordinary. Not only did I learn and grow with them in the classroom, but outside the IES building, they were my closest friends and confidants.

There isn’t an exceptionally robust environmental studies program at my homeschool university. Being surrounded by other students interested in Environment studies made me realize I was never in such a space in the past. I had a community of solidarity which was as passionate about the global environmental issues of the modern world as I was. We reminded encounter to continue to pursue our work and interest. It was impossible to feel alone when I found myself apart of such a formidable family.

What would you improve about this program?
More transparency for full-year students who stay with IES Freiburg for two semesters. They have a tricky housing policy I wasn't aware of until onsite!! It's also a bit classist because students who come from economically challenged backgrounds are expected like the rest of the students to participate in a 40 hour a week unpaid internship between official academic programs. I would suggest allowing students to have 40-hour commitments and options, in addition to being able to work for pay to satisfy the housing requirements.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Perfect Place

Studying abroad in Freiburg was my first time traveling to Europe, and I must say, it didn't disappoint! I absolutely loved the city! It's a cute little college town in prime proximity to France, the Swiss Alps, and of course, the Black Forest.

The program itself is also exceptional, and offers a wide variety of professors, academics, and cultural opportunities! If you’re interested in the environment, then the IES environmental studies program is specially tailored towards giving you the opportunity to experience sustainability though many different perspectives. I learned about renewable technologies and urban studies, which were fields I wouldn’t have had the time or availability to try at my home institution. The classes are also set up into 3-week crash course modules, which means that you have a lot of free time during the day to enjoy swimming, hiking, or just wandering around the city.

Safety wise, I didn’t have any problems; the IES staff was great about being available 24/7 and took their role seriously about helping you get settled in. The housing provided by the program is also unique because you get placed into university owned apartments shared with other German university students and you are not housed together as a program. Of course, there are also other housing options available like apartment singles, but that was just my experience, and I found that it was a great way to make friends and to also practice my German.

Overall, I really enjoyed the program and would recommend anyone on the fence for studying abroad to definitely go for it! If you happen to like the environment, then I would also suggest this program. Living and learning in another culture is really an eye-opening experience, and I will always remember the great times I had in Freiburg!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Advice from Freiburg

Studying with IES in Freiburg was one of the best decisions of my life. The program was unique and very immersive, providing a education tailored to the environmental consciousness of Freiburg and its surrounding areas. The instructors were very knowledgeable, and provided hands on experience with much of the courses taking place in the field (including one in the Swiss Alps). IES provides you with all of the tools needed to make your study abroad experience amazing. Whether you like to travel often or spend your time exploring the area, the staff is eager to help you make the most out of your time in Europe. I’ve made some lifelong friends from around the world through my experience with IES. Study abroad is what you make of it. My best advice is to let yourself be uncomfortable; make new friends, use the language, branch out, and enjoy your time abroad!

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Yes, I recommend this program

An Ideal Way of Living

I gained close international and American friends, German language and cultural skills, more confidence, urban planning and forest ecology knowledge, and fond memories for a lifetime. I lived in a suite-style apartment with five Germans and one other American on my program -- communal living, hiking and becoming very close with both Germans and Americans made my time unique. I bought a bike at the beginning of the semester to get from point A to point B as the Freiburgers do (along with walking and taking the light-rail tram). Freiburg's urban planning is an amazing green exemplar for the world. While learning about sustainability, we were also able to practice it every day. Freiburg is nestled into the Black Forest, where we would hike often in our free time, many places based on suggestions from our IES staff. Our program's staff in Freiburg were truly wonderful -- extremely helpful and caring. They crafted our time there so we were not too overwhelmed in the beginning, gradually introducing more information and opportunities as we were there to explore the city, the surrounding areas, and meet Germans and learn the language and culture. My experience in Freiburg was a surreal chapter in my life that will inform new experiences of mine and provide a wider perspective on the world.

What would you improve about this program?
More rigorous classes (without encroaching on outside free time); giving participants more information beforehand, especially about academics and schedules; more connections to the university and its students.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Freiburg, Germany - A Great Place to Live

The time I spent abroad on my IES Freiburg trip was the best time of my life. I ended up on the program in Germany partially by accident; I had wanted to go to France but happened to find the IES program, and because it focused in environmental studies - my area of focus - I decided to just go for it! And I couldn't have made a better choice. The classes were amazing: my program had a really unusual course schedule, where students would focus on one class for weeks at a time, instead of taking several classes at once. This structure allowed me to really delve deep into the subjects we were learning about, and it allowed me to have a lot of time to learn outside the classroom as well.

IES did an amazing job of scheduling trips and excursions for my program to go on, especially hiking trips. We were situated in the Black Forest region of Freiburg, and there were a ton of program-led trips to hike into the forest during the course of my semester. Our program also took us hiking in the Vosges mountains of France, and we event took a class trip to the Swiss Alps, where we got to study the forestry and management practices of scientists within Switzerland! Of course, not all of our trips were focused on hiking. We had multiple class excursions to France to see the Christmas markets in the winter before we left, and we also were given the chance to take tours of our city and learn more about its history and culture. The trips I went on with my program were awesome, and I don’t think I will forget a single one!

I was also extremely pleased with my housing situation. IES had us fill out a housing survey before we were assigned our flats to match our personalities with other students and the different neighborhoods of Freiburg (which each have their own character), and I was placed perfectly! I lived in the Vauban neighborhood and loved the quirky but homey feel of the place. My flatmates were all really inviting and helped me get comfortable living in Freiburg, and were always willing to help me practice my German! I still keep in touch with them after having come back to the States - I really clicked well with them, and I think I made lifelong friends.

Finally, the people running my IES program were some of the most amazing and helpful people I’ve ever had the opportunity to interact with. My program director, Katie, made herself available 24/7 to help us adjust to life in Freiburg. She was there to give us tips on where to eat, which clubs to go to, and she even helped me buy a cell phone when I first got there! She really made an effort to get to know us all and listen to our suggestions for programming and events, and that made my experience 100 times better. And though I didn’t get to see the rest of the IES staff as much, the interactions I had with them were all super helpful and helped me have an incredible time in my city!

Overall, I cannot express enough the gratitude I have towards IES for creating such an amazing experience for me abroad. I made lasting friends, had incredible experiences, and learned lessons - both inside the classroom and out - that I will never forget.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Hardest Part Was Leaving

I will always have a home in Freiburg. The people there are welcoming and hospitable, and I really felt like I was a part of the culture there. It's funny that even in a totally new and unfamiliar place, we are inclined to fall into our own little routines. Some of my favorite included my (almost daily) butter pretzels and afternoon coffees at my favorite cafe, or memorizing my walk from the residence hall to class. Freiburg is so much more than it seems. You learn all about its history and sustainability initiatives in a hands-on way, taking tons of field trips (hello bike tours, hikes in the Black Forest, and overnights in the Swiss Alps) and hearing guest speakers, or even just wandering about on your own. Our classes were in four 3-week long modules, so we were out of class by the early afternoon, giving us ample time to explore the city. There weren't that many people on the program (only about 21), but we were a very tight-knit group, and I walked away with life-long friendships. The professors are passionate about their subjects and it's apparent in the classrooms. The workload is manageable, and you have the opportunity to take two week-long trips to wherever. The center's staff are incredibly helpful and supportive, making sure everything was okay and we had plenty of opportunities to get to know Freiburg and the surrounding area. This program is perfect for anyone interested in studying sustainability in one of the best models of it.

What would you improve about this program?
Other than switching the order of the modules, I'd say the only other way I wish the program was different was that it was longer!