IES Abroad European Union

Video and Photos

Freiburg Clock Tower
Freiburg Clock Tower
Some of my programmates and I attended a German soccer match
Some of my programmates and I attended a German soccer match
Our Northern European trip to Stockholm
Our Northern European trip to Stockholm
Prague was one of my favorite places on the entire program. It was the perfect blend of beautiful scenery and still was a large city. Also, the shopping was amazing because of the currency difference!
Preparing to hike the tallest waterfall in Germany!
The Charles Bridge in Prague at sunrise


Taught in English, the IES Abroad European Union Program gives you the chance to study Politics, Economics, Business, and International Relations like you never have before.

The program features an integrative seminar that incorporates approximately 21 days of field study to travel to numerous countries inside and outside of the EU. As you visit each new country, you develop your understanding of the European Union, its history, and its institutions.

Europe will be your classroom. Imagine visiting the European Parliament and discussing current social and political issues with EU officials, or meeting with leaders of multinational corporations to learn about international trade. Welcome to study abroad!


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.

$500 - $5,000

Questions & Answers


based on 58 reviews
  • Academics 8.2
  • Support 8.9
  • Fun 8.6
  • Housing 9.2
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 16 - 30 of 58
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Yes, I recommend this program

Best Semester

Absolutely loved my program. With the program visited 12 countries. It is a lot of traveling, but the semester is built the way that you don’t get tired or exhausted. Freiburg itself is a safe picturesque city. A lot of good places to go out, weather you want to go hiking or to a nightclub. If your level of German is low or non-excitant, it is not an issue. Pretty much every country we went to and in Freiburg, Englsih is widely spoken, so it was very easy to navigate and live there. IES stuff is incredibly caring and attentive. They helped me and any student who needed help or advice. Living situation is very nice. All buildings are located in safe area, close to a grocery store, downtown and IES center. Even not being a political science or related majors, you can definitely benefit from this program. There is a good variety of classes you can choose from.

What would you improve about this program?
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Yes, I recommend this program

My European Union Program Experience

I enrolled in the European Union program in Freiburg to gain a better understanding of European culture through the Political Science and International Relations lens and have the ability to visit famous European cities that were also relevant with our studies.
As a Business major, it would seem that my studies were not exactly compatible with my major. However, I was able to fulfill some of my major requirements while still being able to take some Political Science and International Relations classes that I thought were very interesting and could diversify my academic background.
The semester when I studied, the Fall of 2016, could not have been a better time to study abroad. With Brexit and very similar elections occurring in nearly every major European state coupled with the US elections, the subject matter was relevant to everybody and we had plenty of material to discuss in class and when we visited the different bureaucratic cities.
The relevance of the material we study in class were extremely relevant with the current events and that was vital for me as there was the study aspect in my study abroad and also in practice, as I was able to combine the two together and gain a better understanding for European political culture.
As this program is geared towards Political Science and International Relations majors, there were times where I felt I was out of my element, as I did not possess the foundational knowledge of the subject matter we would study. However, it was still very beneficial for me to study different subjects as a Liberal Arts student.
The program did a fantastic job of balancing class work with our travels, as the professors had a great understanding of our time constraints as our schedule had us outside Freiburg almost every two weeks.
With my college tuition and the study program expense being equal, it was fantastic to be able to visit these cities without paying more out of pocket.
Freiburg is also a vibrant, university-driven town to be in, and in close proximity to France, Switzerland, and other European states.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Exploring the European Union

My semester with IES Abroad European Union was an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow. As a student of International Relations and History, I was able to explore my passions within a practical context in Europe. One of the biggest advantages of studying abroad with IES Abroad EU is that you learn just as much in the classroom as outside of it. Within our multiple field trips, I visited 12 countries across Europe, and engaged in meetings with EU officials and academics from a wide variety of fields. Some of my favorite memories include visiting the European Commission in Brussels, hiking in the Alps, and bonding over the cold in Latvia. Moreover, the base city of the program, Freiburg, is a gorgeous and quaint town. It is easily accesible, due in part to the excellent tram system, and will quickly make you feel at home (and it also has a great selection of restaurants). Additionally, the IES Abroad Staff are some of the most attentive and caring people I've ever met, and they would always make sure that everyone on the program was doing well. My semester abroad was a big leap for me - a push to try something new - and I'm immensely glad I did it!

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Yes, I recommend this program

A Life-Changing Experience

My time in Freiburg was the greatest time of my life, and I highly recommend this program. Freiburg is the perfect city, because it is the right size to feel comfortable and very safe. One of the best parts of the program is the travel included in the curriculum, where you get to travel to eight different cities. The IES center staff do an incredible job planning the trips, providing suggestions and tips for each city and exposing us to unique speakers and experiences. As someone who had never traveled outside the United States before, having a structured form of travel was very beneficial and made travel a lot less overwhelming for me. For a personal example of how helpful the center staff is, I cut my hand while in Freiburg and needed stitches. A staff member scheduled an appointment for me with a doctor that speaks English to remove my stitches, which was incredibly helpful and made a stressful and scary situation much easier. This program and this city is one you will not regret experiencing!

What would you improve about this program?
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Discovery of Fernweh

fernweh | (n.) when you feel like you have to leave your familiar surroundings to discover new places. it is the need for distance, the wish to experience something far away from home, the urge to escape from your everyday life by travelling

The IES Freiburg EU program was the perfect way to find Fernweh! Freiburg was the perfect home-away-from-home. It was safe, beautiful, fun, and the perfect size for the aspiring city girl. I had my little slice of heaven hidden away in the Black Forest! We were able to travel so much - which was so easy due to the central train station in Freiburg.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Best Semester So Far!!

The EU program was so much fun!! Especially the travel aspect, you go somewhere once a week every month and it's the best thing about the program. The center is really nice, some of the professors are great while others are meh, as usual. Classes were interesting for the most part.
There's some good places to go out in Freiburg, and the food is the BEST. There are a bunch of shops down the main street downtown to go shopping. It felt like we weren't in Freiburg much because of the travel but the time we were in town was great.
A couple things to think about are if you plan on fully immersing yourself in German culture you're going to have to do everything you can do to that. In Freiburg you're in classes at the IES Center not the local University, so you're spending 80% of the time surrounded by Americans. Also, this is not a program you can go into assuming you're going to barely be doing any work. For me, it was like any other semester work wise. All of that being said I LOVE Freiburg and being there was so much fun, and I would absolutely go again!!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful Semester in Freiburg, Germany (IES European Union)


My IES classes were generally good and not too hard, but they required time-management. I found that there was a fair amount of “busy” work and a few too many tests and papers, but my classes in Freiburg were still easier than the classes I take at my home university.

IES does not allow laptops in class, so if you (like me) like to have your readings in class for reference, you’ll have to print everything. Instead of wasting paper, I ended up taking a lot of reading notes—tedious, but I eventually got used to it.

Overall, I learned a fair amount in my classes and enjoyed them, but I wouldn’t say that they were the highlight of my semester.


I visited 9 cities with IES, and had a great time on all of my trips. On most days, we had lectures in the morning (sometimes long and boring, but usually informative) and free time in the afternoon/evening.

If you want to make the most of your free time, you definitely need to do some research in advance. I spent a lot of time on my trips trying to figure out what to do/where to go, so I wish I had taken the time to do some advance planning.

Because I traveled so much with IES, I didn’t end up traveling too much on my own. Once I got back from my IES trips, I was pretty exhausted and preferred to spend my weekends in Freiburg. I also took some day trips around Germany, France and Switzerland (yes, you can go to France or Switzerland for brunch if you want to).


I absolutely loved Freiburg. It is a university town, so there are tons of young people around and lots of student-friendly places to eat/shop/hang out.

I lived in a flat with 5 other students in a building called Berliner Allee. The flat had 6 single rooms, 2 bathrooms and a shared kitchen. Every student had an assigned bathroom along with assigned kitchen shelves and space in the refrigerators. I was also entered into the flat “putzplan,” or cleaning plan, which rotates weekly.

My building was very well-located. I had 2 grocery stores, a bank, a coffee-shop, a pharmacy and a beautiful park within walking distance, and I was only about a 10 minute tram ride from downtown Freiburg. My building was also very close to another student housing complex.

Due to the German semester system, students in Freiburg tend to move in and out of apartments frequently. When I first moved into my flat, I had 2 flat-mates from Germany, one from Romania, one from France and one from Lithuania. Some of these flat-mates moved out within a few months and their rooms turned over, but I was lucky and ended up liking everyone I lived with.

Learning German:

Before arriving in Freiburg, I did not speak a word of German. This made my transition fairly challenging—I couldn’t read a menu, understand labels in the grocery store or pharmacy or ask basic questions in a store. My German class at IES taught me a fair amount (enough to understand the basics), but I didn’t become as comfortable with the language as I would have liked. German is not the focus of the EU program, and you can get around Freiburg with English. Expect to learn something, but you won’t be fluent in German by the end of the semester.

Meeting German Students:

I met a fair number of German students (flat-mates and others), and became quite close to them. In fact, I had closer connections to Germans than most of my friends from IES because I was more inclined to get out of the “American IES bubble.”

My German friends were wonderful, and they invited me to lots of different events. I went to a German acoustic-punk concert at a local bar—definitely not an event I would have found on my own—and to many dinners and picnics. My German friends enjoyed practicing their English with me, and they helped me a lot with my German. One friend helped me study for my German oral exam and my German flat-mates loved to answer my homework questions.

It is very easy to stick to other Americans in Freiburg, but it is worth it to make an effort to meet Germans. Flat-mates are a great place to start!

Would I Choose the IES EU Program Again?


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Yes, I recommend this program

Best Decision I've Ever Made

My semester abroad was my first time being so far away from home, and naturally I was nervous, but by the end of the semester I didn't want to go back on the plane ride home. Going abroad was one of the best decisions I've ever made! I've been taking German for three years and going to Freiburg, Germany was my first time in Germany so I was finally able to put my skills to the test. Through this program I was able to accomplish all three of my goals: improve my German, learn about European politics, and travel. Along the way I made great friends, met people from across the globe, and grew as a person. I cannot stress enough how much this program will do for its participants.

What would you improve about this program?
Program scheduling could be improved, limited time space to complete work especially when classes end late and no one wants to do work while on the program trips.
Yes, I recommend this program

A experience that makes a lifetime impact

Studying abroad in Freiburg im Breisgau, a small city in SüdDeutschland(South Germany) seems like an underrated opportunity so far. But comparing to other IES Programs in Europe it's absolutely unique. People gain both local experience in a typical German town and international experience by taking field trips to other countries in this program. For me, a student major in International Relations it's a mind-opening experience. The courses I took at the IES Center took an in-depth look into European Union, not only were we able to study the institutions, organization, development, policy-making and controversies of the EU, the course design also offered the micro aspect of it. I took a class called Regions in the EU, which focused on how countries adopted the EU legislation and how much legislative freedom they still have under the EU law supremacy.

I also took a class about EU and Muslim, which discussed the development and current controversies surrounding the Muslim communities in some of the EU's member states. But what really helped me gain more passion about my studies were the field trips and the model EU. We were able to meet and talk to people who study and work on some of the most concerned current issues in Europe. For example, we met someone from the refugee committee in Athens who gave us the local perspective of the refugee crisis. Another precious part of the experience was being able to look at issues from countries that were often times neglected on mainstream US media. I took a field trip to three Central Eastern European countries: Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, learning about its communist history and the current perspective on issues like EU development and refugee crisis. Representing Finland in my council for model EU also helped me look more into policies of a small state like Finland. It also made me realize how difficult it is to reach agreement while having 28 different voices on the table.

An amazing thing about this program is that it offers opportunity for internship after the program. This program offers a few intern positions working for MEPS in the European Parliament, and it also allows you to apply for an internship in Freiburg, which is what I ended up doing. My German is far away from being proficient, but I was able to work at the Carl-Schurz-Haus, a German-American cultural institute that brings events focusing on both cultures. It's a rewarding experience that allowed me to understand the German organizational culture more and interact with people from the local community. People at my internship site were really nice and I had such a good time. It was also really nice to be able to stay in Freiburg during the summer.

Another reason I would recommend this program is the fact that it's cheaper to live in Freiburg comparing to other cities in Europe(especially like Paris and Copenhagen...Trust me you will miss Freiburg or any other city in Germany after you paid $15 for a Danish hot dog in Copenhagen and $9 for a glass of beer in Helsinki...). The food lacks variety in Germany, that I agree, but I definitely fall in love with German food during my time there. I remember buying currywust for only 2-3 euros in Munster, grabbing pretzels from the local bakeries, getting gelato for 1 euro/scoop near the tram stop everyday before I headed home from the internship, and buying beer before sitting down in Mensa for the Euro 2016 games. In Freiburg IES students are able to live in student apartment with German student from Freiburg University. The accommodation is way better than my on-campus dorm, there's an actual kitchen where you can really be a chef and host friends. My room at Vauben, the student village was not spacious but still acceptable and big enough to be comfy. Vauben is also 10 minutes walk from the black forest where you can easily go for a weekend hike.

Being in Freiburg means geographically you are almost in the center of western Europe. Even though it's a small city, the fact that you are near the French-Swiss border makes travel quite convenient. It takes a bit more than an hour going to Alsace region in France(Colmar, Mullhouse,Strasbourg) and it's takes similar amount of time going to Basel in Switzerland, where you can take flight to other European destinations from the Euro Airport there. For other flights usually people go to airports in Frankfurt, which is around 1,5 hours by train from Freiburg. Flights in Europe are way cheaper comparing to the ones in US, as there are many cheap flight companies and it's incredibally cheap if you buy tickets in advance. I benefited from such convenience and traveled to 14 countries in total during my time abroad(8 on my own). My favorite trips include going to see Germany vs Slovakia as part of the Euro 2016 in Lille, France. Now I feel like I'm almost a pro traveler and this program really helped me discover my passion for travel!

As you can see, the IES EU program in Freiburg offers way more than what its name might appeal to you. It also offers extra opportunities if you are interested and determined. My time with this program really helped me to grow and become a new person. People should consider this program if they want to discover Europe, EU and themselves.

What would you improve about this program?
-Maybe no class on Friday so students get more time for travel
-Longer placement for the summer internship!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great Program

I learned so much about the topics, while having a fun semester traveling to 7 different European countries. The field trip was absolutely amazing. Because the topic was European Union, we were taken to many different countries to learn from first-hand experience. Before, after, and during the field trips, professors helped facilitate discussion about relevant topics so that we could get the most out of our talks with experts in each country. Overall, the field trip was really fun and educational. IES Abroad staff are very supportive and sensitive to students' needs. I love my professors, they are very approachable and knowledgeable of their field.

Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a lifetime

I absolutely loved this program! Through the program I was able to go to over 10 different countries in the span of three months. The travel is definitely the best part about this program and during each trip that is included there are various meetings in which I learned a great deal about the European Union. My favorite trip moment was when I was able to go to Disneyland Paris when I had a free day! Now I know I just went on and on about he travel, but the home city of Freiburg definitely has to be mentioned as well. Freiburg is a smaller college city but there is plenty to do and places to see. There is a great social scene because of the college aspect which makes for a really fun atmosphere. I highly recommend this program to anyone that loves to travel but also wants to learn a ton about Europe!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Semester of a Lifetime

The IES: European Union program is located in the small German town of Freiburg, surrounded by the Black Forest. Being from the coastal plains of North Carolina, it was exciting to be living so close to mountains. I lived in Berliner Allee, a student apartment just a 15 minute tram ride away from the IES center. My flatmates were awesome, helping me learn how to cook and constantly correcting/improving my German. Berliner Allee is a short walk away from Seepark, which has a lake and is great for picnics or walks. It is also conveniently close to a Turkish döner shop and a bakery.

Freiburg is a very green city, so be prepared to dodge bikes everywhere. The trams are very easy to use but on warm days I would just walk wherever I needed to go. The IES center is very close to the city center which has lots of shops, cafes, and the Münsterplatz, the best place for a lange rote or fresh flowers!. There are also various bars, plays, concerts, and so many 90s themed clubs to go to. Scenic towns in both France and Switzerland are about 45 minutes away by train for quick day trips!

The program is taught in English but does require a German language class. The courses range from history of the EU, to EU policies, and even some business related classes. I highly recommend any class taught by Thomas Staub he was a little strict but a fair grader and funny. During one of the three field excursions, the professors arrange guest speakers whose work is related to what is discussed in the class. For my course on migration, I got to visit the European Network Against Racism office in Brussels and learn how the organization works at a multi-level to aid and protect minorities throughout all of the EU’s member states. The field excursions were an amazing opportunity to visit various other European countries. About three weeks was spent traveling with the IES program. During the trips, there are still assignments and papers due for classes which can be stressful with poor time management skills. While it was great to see famous landmarks and gorgeous castles, returning to Freiburg always put a smile on my face.

I had the time of my life studying abroad. I was able to learn and grow so much in the span of four months. From learning how to cook to speaking German to locals to trying to navigate metros in countries I had no clue how to speak the language. By the end of my stay, I could plan mostly successful trips and not completely panic when lost or almost missing the bus. I met so many amazing people and made great friends. I will miss the quick runs to my favorite bakery in between classes and walking back to Berliner Allee with a gelato in hand on a sunny day.

What would you improve about this program?
The attendance policy was strict and the class schedule set up made it difficult for planning weekend trips.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Freiburg: The Green City of Germany

After living in Southern California my entire life, I chose to experience a culture other than Mexican food and the beach 24/7. I chose to study in the small town of Freiburg, Germany, which borders France and Switzerland and has a population of 200,000 people. Although I came to Germany to experience a culture shock, I came in with expectations about people who value beer drinking, wurst eating, and organization. Little did I know Freiburg is where the average hippie meets traditional German culture, creating a unique mix.

When I first arrived, I was eager to see my new living situation. As I got off the tram stop for the first time, I realized I was not in stereotypical Deutschland anymore. The dorms are adorned in paintings of flowers and bunnies. Hanging above doors are white banners with the words “Refugees Welcome”. To my right I saw people in parachute pants with dreadlocks, chilling around a campfire. Volkswagen vans and random shacks surrounded me in what appeared to be a junkyard, but are actually homes for the local hippie commune.

Finally, I arrived at my flat where naturally there was a couch on the patio blocking the door. I cautiously stepped in, and saw the walls were orange with paint and graffiti all over, some which read “Abolish capitalism”. There were lights, a ladder, and vines hanging from the ceiling. After listening to this description, many people may think I am living in Berkeley, CA. In reality I am living in Vauban student housing, where the greenest of the Green party members live in Freiburg.

As a result of living in the Green City, I have adapted to many simple uniquely Freiburg customs. The city itself is traversed by way more bikes than cars. Back home when I cross the street I naturally look out for cars, but now I must look for cars, trams, and bikers. Needless to say, I have been almost run over multiple times.

In the states when I am finished eating a banana and granola bar, I walk to the single trash can and throw away my food. In Freiburg, however, there are four trash cans. One must throw away the granola bar wrapper in the plastics trash can and the banana peel in the compost section. I still find myself sometimes blankly staring at the trash for five minutes trying to determine where each piece of trash goes.

But the most valuable lessons here come from political discussions with my flatmates. Many of them are from the socialist party in Germany and are very left-wing, in contrast to my professors who tend to be pro-European Union and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. It is refreshing to hear about other democracies and the German perspective of the United States.

Although Freiburg is a free-spirited culture, it still embraces some of the German stereotypes. For example, the extremely aggressive, harsh sounding language. Someone might be saying “I love you” but instead it sounds like “Get out of the way, before I rip your head off.” It does not help that as a culture they do not smile while speaking. It makes you feel like they are always mad at you, when in fact they might really like you.

Also, the stereotype of German efficiency is real. If you are on time, you are late, even in the laid-back town of Freiburg. Multiple times I have sprinted toward the tram to get to school because the tram came a minute early. Even grocery checkout is efficient, with the checkers scanning food so fast you barely have time to take out your eco-friendly bag, before they are already done with scanning all 20 of your items.

Upon arrival I thought I knew everything about the world and myself, but within the first day I learned I knew very little about both. The sooner I embraced this concept, the more I enjoyed each city I visited because I would come into a city with a blank slate.

Putting aside the stereotypes has allowed me to form my own opinions and thoughts on new cities without having too high of expectations.

What would you improve about this program?
There is nothing I can think of.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Exercise in Self-Discovery

As a low-income student, the idea of studying abroad was kind of a pipe dream. In addition to my finances, I was going through a personal struggle at home that threatened any possibility of participating in study abroad. However, I had saved the amount of money required for the semester in Germany, and I had already missed registration for classes during the spring semester. I was afraid I would come to regret my experience and my choice to study abroad. I was afraid that I would be too distracted by everything going on at home to even enjoy exploring and learning from my host country. Most of all, I was afraid that I would have wasted time and money on this journey. I could not have been further from the truth.
I made two friends on my first night in Germany, and I met them at what would soon become one of my favorite restaurants in Freiburg. On the first program trip (Berlin and Prague) I found what would soon become my closest friends on the program. On my first day of instruction, I met some of my favorite professors. IES Abroad was able to give me an array of experiences that helped me discover many things about myself. One aspect about myself that I was shown was just how independent I am capable of being. I had always regarded myself as an independent person, but the independence and confidence that comes from studying and living abroad is one of a different nature. Whether it is through engaging in conversation with someone who does not share your language or traveling from Portugal to Germany using eight different modes of transportation, you will find a confidence and comfort in the uncomfortable and strange.
Even though it seemed like the absolute wrong time to go abroad and study, it turned out to be the perfect time for it. If I had to impart one impression or one piece of advice, it would be to simply do it. Take the risk and do it because you won't regret it. Rather, you will learn more about the world and yourself by participating in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Viel Glück!

Yes, I recommend this program

IES Abroad EU: Experience Europe

IES Abroad is very hands-on in their approach: from the excursions (22 days of travel and learning!) to the cultural events (Fasnet anyone?) to massive consumption of kaffee und kuchen, they know how to give their students a diverse, European perspective. I loved learning about the local politics of Freiburg one week, and then seeing the supranational recommendations of the European Commission the next week. European politics, economics, and affairs meet curious students who get the chance to hear first-hand accounts from academics and policy-makers, as well as individuals in non-profits and government run organizations. Anyone looking to work internationally or in government should seriously consider this program, especially if you love to travel!

What would you improve about this program?
I would say that one improvement could be to encourage students to make friends outside of the center, as I felt like by the end of the semester I hadn't me that many people. It is a big program, so even trying to meet everyone is a challenge. Perhaps a smaller applicant pool?
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