I highly recommend this program for anyone considering Germany as a study abroad destination. Berlin is the perfect city to experience culture, nightlife, art and academics, and the IES program provides everything you need to enjoy all of these. The center staff is exceptional; they are very friendly, always eager to help in any way, and its obvious that they all enjoy their work.
The program does a great job of walking the line between guiding you and allowing free time. You will be on your own most of the time, but they organize several group events such as dinners and excursions to other cities. You can choose just how involved you want to be at the center for yourself. They start by providing you with all the necessary resources (maps, food info, transportation cards, emergency resources, etc.), and guide you around the city a bit, but then you are really free to explore.
As far as safety goes, its hard to imagine having felt any safer while I was there. I had some issues en route (missed flights, stranded at Berlin airport), and the staff worked late into the night to contact me and get me to my homestay, doing everything possible to help me. I got a little sick during my stay and visited the doctor (one is located less than 10 minutes away from the center, which is convenient). It was fast, efficient, and free, thanks to the insurance. In the extremely unlikely event that something bad happens to you in Berlin, the center has all the contact info you need provided on a card that they give you.
My homestay was fantastic. I was well matched with my host, who provided a great opportunity to practice German and share interests (in my case cooking and literature), and the apartment was gorgeous and comfortable. Judging by the other hosts I encountered, they have a really good vetting process at IES since they were all awesome people.
The academics were excellent as well. I learned a lot from both of the courses I took, and we frequently visited various museums and historical parts of Berlin to get a well rounded understanding of the topics. The grading was fair, and although I wouldn't say it was easy, homework and papers definitely won't be consuming a lot of your time here.
I really don't think I could have enjoyed this program more. I would highlight the truly outstanding staff, who are always going out of their way to make things fun and engaging. This was especially true of the optional Prague trip we took, which I highly recommend signing up for.