I can only recommend this program to anyone who is serious about learning German. My experience started in Vienna, where I took two months of intensive German classes five days a week in preparation for my academic year in Marburg, Germany. Although I wasn't able to apply much of the German I learned there at the time, I was quickly able to put everything from my Vienna lessons to good use after moving into the Schloss (a student-residence building on top of a hill in central Marburg, connected to a 13th century castle). The Schloss, in particular, is a fantastic place to learn German, as you are put into a close-quarters environment with native and international speakers of German, and to live there without speaking the language is impossible. This, coupled with the fact that the students living there are a tight-knit, active community that loves to include as many people from the building in their events as possible allows you to make friends very quickly and start building personal relationships within your first days of arriving. Living in the Schloss was the perfect housing option for me, personally, as I fear I would have been outgoing enough to start making friends speaking only German until months after my arrival, had I not been interacting with so many familiar faces on a daily basis. Additionally, as a part of BCA, you have access lunch in the Schloss every Monday through Friday prepared every day fresh by a private cook hassle-free. It is here that one can also truly be engulfed into the German culture and learn to use the language in more casual and comfortable settings than the formal German taught in the classroom. Beyond that, the on-site classes organized by BCA are engaging and challenging, but also American-friendly in a format that one does not often experience in Germany (meaning that your grade is not calculated solely by an exam, a paper, or presentation at the end of the semester, but rather gradually calculated over the course of the class and weekly homework assignments). With smaller class sizes than what you might expect in university course, the instructors are able to give more frequent feedback in a more flexible curriculum, ranging from the subjects of German literature, grammar and language, translation, and even on analogue photography. As far as fun and support go, to mention them explicitly, you cannot do better for yourself than what you will find in the Schloss. The super-friendly and welcoming environment is the ideal place to get you speaking the language as quickly as possible in a way that few other housing complexes can compare to. As an instructor of some of the BCA courses himself, Kristopher Riggs was also a key source of support and information for me during my time abroad, both in and outside of the classroom setting. His knowledge of the German language and culture proved invaluable to me, as he was consistently available to answer questions and able to do so in a way relatable to American students. On the topic of safety, I have never had any experience in Marburg that made me feel unsafe at any time of day - even when walking back home at 4 in the morning alone.
But more than anything, what I loved about this program is how much I confidence and knowledge I gained by being a part of it. When I arrived as a 19-year old sophomore in college, I didn't even realize how little I knew about the world and adult-hood. By the end of the program I had learned, of course, what one may expect (how to operate in another language, how to communicate past language barriers, basics of translation, culture, etc.) but also many very unexpected things (better ways to cook and clean, the basics of analogue photography and art, how to read maps and use public transportation effectively, how to learn a third language through a second language, how to explore my own interests and hobbies as a person, etc.). The main reason I give this program a 10/10 is not because I didn't struggle during my time abroad, but precisely because I struggled: and every struggle I faced, I was able to put the knowledge into good use and turn into future positive experiences. By the time the second semester started, I had already gone through so many unexpected situations and worked on my language skills so much, that I was able to put into use everything that I had learned and experience the intense integration I had been hoping to get out of the experience when I first signed up. Because of tireless help and support from my friends in the Schloss and from Kris, the resident director, I was not only able to meet and surpass my personal goals for my time in Germany, but also feel welcome and at home in a way I cannot say I feel even at my college in the US. If you are seriously looking to improve your German, have an integrative, unforgettable experience, and meet amazing people along the way, look no further than BCA's Marburg, Germany program from Kristopher Riggs. This program is truly something special.