IES Abroad Freiburg – Environmental Studies & Sustainability

Video and Photos

Hiking, Schauinsland, Boys
Hiking, Schauinsland, Boys
Horizon, Sunset, Freiburg View, Freiburg Skyline, Schwabentor
Horizon, Sunset, Freiburg View, Freiburg Skyline, Schwabentor
Flea market, park, grass, sky
Flea market, park, grass, sky
View of the Münster Cathedral from the top of the Schlossberg
Snowshoeing on the tallest mountain in the Black Forest- the Feldberg
Overnight class trip to the Swiss Alps to study ecology and human influence
Typical day in class
Group pic in the Swiss Alps

About

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.

Scholarships

IES Abroad Scholarships
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.

Value
$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.

Reviews

94%
based on 18 reviews
  • Academics 8.3
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 8.9
  • Housing 8.7
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 18
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Lilly
10/10
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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Lauren
9/10
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!
Myiah
8/10
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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Jessa
9/10
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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Weston
9/10
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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Allie
10/10
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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Suzanne
10/10
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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Manuela
10/10
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!
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Allie
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Extra Push is all You Need!

Originally I was interested in studying abroad with a group of students who studied at my college; however, stepping out of my comfort zone and traveling solo proved to be one of the best decisions of my entire life. With the tram system, the Deutsche Bahn railway system and biking, it was so easy to explore the city and beyond its borders, Without having traveled alone before I gained independence and confidence in traveling and managing daily life on my own. Despite being a city, Freiburg feels small and community-oriented, allowing for easy mobility and connections to be made.

Regarding academics, the 4-module system helped me manage my time by focusing intensively on one subject at a time, and we had field excursions in the Black Forest, France and Switzerland, which enabled us to apply our new knowledge to the real world around us. With only 20 students in our program, connections were made quickly and new opportunities opened up, (which I learned to always take advantage of, because for some, this is a once in a lifetime experience!)

As I am the youngest of three daughters, I continually looked up to my two older sisters. In my eyes they were risk-takers and I admired their abilities to grasp any opportunity within reach for an adventure. While only in high school, my sisters shared their study abroad experiences from Kenya, Africa and Glasgow, Scotland, and I was since inspired to study abroad. I will always remember the car ride to the airport, the day my parents were about to drop me off for my 5 month adventure. I couldn't talk the whole ride because I was holding back tears, tears of unknowing-ness, excited-ness, but mostly last minute nervousness and fear of walking through the gate; we arrived at the airport early and had time to sit, and I seriously contemplated turning back and going home. As I hugged my parents goodbye, the tears started streaming but I knew that not stepping through security would be the biggest regret of my life. Scared every step of the way, I remembered the times in my youth when I wanted to quit a sport or stop ice skating, for example, because of fear, but my mom told me me to "put my big girl pants on". Although in those moments those were definitely not the words I wanted to hear, my mom encouraged and continues to encourage me everyday to become stronger and more independent.

In each challenge I faced while abroad, I reminded myself of her words and thought about the things I would miss out on because of fear. If I had not taken that step out of my comfort zone, and if I had turned back from the airport, I would have never experienced another culture and world unknown to me. The experiences I had traveling were unforgettable and I was able to frame each challenge or mishap as an obstacle that I was determined to overcome.

What would you improve about this program?
One suggestion I have regards the language program. The time was a bit of a challenge, 6:30 pm, but additionally, I felt as though the courses could have been structured differently so that we could have had more practice conversational speaking within the classroom. I found that because our program was all Americans, we naturally spoke English to each other. I found it very challenging to find the time and people to seriously practice with.
Shelby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Outdoor Classroom

Studying in Freiburg was life changing in the best of ways. Students are immersed in a society of outdoorsy, friendly, green-living people. Classes are starkly different than their American counterparts: a module system allows you to focus entirely on one subject for 3 weeks before moving onto the next. Although the classes broach challenging subjects, their interactive, discussion-based style allows for easy absorption of material (and many class days spent applying knowledge in the field while hiking!). Minimal work was required outside of class which allowed us to wander the cobblestone streets, throw potluck dinners and bonfires, and explore Europe.

Aside from introducing you to the green lifestyle and educating you on international forestry subjects, this program offers guided excursion and the perfect location to travel on the weekends (or a plethora of hiking trails and cool places to explore within walking/biking distance!). I've returned home with a new perspective on forestry, diversity, and international relations, along with German conversational skills. More importantly, I made life-long memories and friendships.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think of that could be improved is the opportunities to meet Germans. Aside from an optional tandem partner, interactions require a lot of self-motivation to mingle (and not stick with the American crowd). That being said, you'll still need to be willing to put yourself out there to meet new people anyway!
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Kristen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It's All Possible!

I had an amazing time in Freiburg and the region. My German language skills improved, thanks to formal instruction and casual conversation. My travel skills improved, thanks to excursions in the Black Forest, Munich, Berlin, France, and Switzerland. The program office was very supportive and helpful as I adjusted to life here. I built connections to the people, organizations, and places in Freiburg.

The most important experience so far was learning about and participating in a green lifestyle. Freiburg is renowned for its sustainability and environmental awareness. My locally and internationally based course content was supplemented by real-life actions: using the extensive bicycle and public transportation networks, purchasing fresh local food, participating in climate-conscious events and rallies, meeting community leaders, experiencing sustainable urban development. I was able to prioritize how I spent my time and energy.

What would you improve about this program?
I was one of the first people to move into a new student housing building, so my apartment was lonely for the first 3 weeks. However, my roommates joined soon enough and I had the other American students.
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Kaitlin
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Studying Abroad in Freiburg

I attended IES's Environmental Studies program in Freiburg, Germany. I absolutely enjoyed my time abroad. All of my classes were concentrated in the environmental field. My favorite was a renewable technologies class taught by four engineering professors. Another class that I gained a lot of knowledge from was ecosystems and forestry in Southwest Germany and the Swiss alps. During one field trip, we took a three day hike in the Swiss Alps looking at the make up of the forests and discussing how the Ice Age and the forestry culture of the region has shaped the area. The program is located in Freiburg, which is not only an ecofriendly city, but also has a major university to get the most out of your study abroad experience.

What would you improve about this program?
I would offer more class options, but this program is still relatively new and is working on expanding.
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Katrina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Adventures of a resident german.

Freiburg is an amazing city which has many different aspects to offer. It is also very international and is extremely close to France and Switzerland. I really liked the outdoor activities that Freiburg had to offer. Hiking, swimming, rock climbing, and more. The program was great because it fit well into my major, but the classes were lacking rigor. I would say that this is good for a study abroad program though. The social life was great, but it was hard to integrate into german culture because we didn't have that many interactions with german students. I had two tandem/speaking partners which at least allowed me to get to know a few more german people better. I would highly recommend having a tandem partner. If you are there to learn german I would suggest branching off from the people in your program because otherwise you will just end up hanging out with only americans. Overall it was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend everyone to take part in some study abroad program.

What would you improve about this program?
I would say that one of the only major problems would be that there was not any time off to travel within the programs. We had class every day of the week, and only 3 three day weekends which meant that you could only do a 2 day trip anywhere. Another problem is that the classes are very time consuming and are not equally challenging.
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Hannah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Academic Year in Freiburg

One great thing about this program is you can make it as easy or challenging as you want it to be by taking as many classes at the German university as you want (at least 1 per semester).

Another awesome thing is the IES staff. They were so incredibly helpful in any and all situations--you just have to ask!
Freiburg, as a city, is really easy to get around either public transportation (tram, bus) or by bike.

What would you improve about this program?
One thing that would make this program better is if they had more opportunities for the American students to meet Germans. It was difficult to meet Germans because most of them already had friends and were not very interested in befriending Americans.
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Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Getting out of my comfort zone

I loved having the opportunity to live with local German students. They were interested in getting to know me and even threw a party for me when I left! I volunteered at a local hospital during my time in Freiburg and that improved my German drastically. Everyone was very friendly and I had a wonderful time in Freiburg. I would have stayed for a whole year if I could have!