Berlin, Germany

The city of Berlin, now considered Germany's cultural, political, and economic center, provides students with the opportunity to observe first-hand the emerging impact of a reunited Germany on the rest of Europe as they study at the renowned Freie Universität-Berlin. The founding motto of the Freie Universität Berlin—"Truth, Justice, Freedom"—has shaped its history since 1948. With 42,500 students in approximately 90 different programs of study, 4,000 graduate and 1,000 doctoral candidates each year, the FU Berlin is the largest university in Germany's capital, and one of the largest in the nation. The main campus is located in the upscale residential district of Dahlem, while some departments are located in the neighboring districts of Steglitz and Zehlendorf. The main campus encompasses lecture halls, charming villas, green parks, and wooded areas. There are several computer laboratories on campus with Internet access and printing services as well as the John F. Kennedy Institute, a world-renowned center for North American studies, which houses a multimedia library.

Academic Program

Notre Dame's International Studies (IS) offers the opportunity to study in Berlin, Germany for spring  semester or a year through the Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS), administered by Columbia University. Based at Freie Universität Berlin and managed by Columbia University, the Berlin Consortium for German Studies, of which ND is a part, offers an intellectually challenging and diverse program of study meeting the highest academic standards. BCGS welcomes students majoring in the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences.

This program provides in-depth study of German language, culture, and society, and the opportunity to observe first-hand the emerging impact of a reunited Berlin—now considered Germany's cultural, political, and economic center—on the rest of Europe. The program begins with a six-week intensive language German Discourse and Culture course which, in conjunction with a month-long homestay with a German family, prepares students for direct study in the German university system.

Upon completion of the German Discourse and Culture course, students enroll in one course taught by the BCGS directors which reflects their academic interests, focusing on topics such as culture, politics, history, literature, theater or cinema, as well as at least two courses at Freie Universität Berlin. FU Berlin offers a wide range of courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. All coursework will be in German. Program tutors are available to assist BCGS students with the transition from the language practicum to taking courses in the German university system. Links to Berlin course information.

BCGS's fall semester begins the first week of September and runs through the third week of February with a two-week Christmas/New Year's break. The spring semester begins in early March and runs through mid-July. See the BCGS program calendar for more details.  

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Courses completed on the Berlin program will be entered on the student's Notre Dame transcript and grades will be computed into the Notre Dame grade point average. All students participating in the Berlin program are required to enroll in at least one BCGS taught course and at least one course taught at Freie Universitaet.  

For further information on course offerings or the facilities in Berlin, access the Columbia website here or make an appointment to talk with one of our staff members in 105 Main Building.  For list of courses that have been approved and taken by ND students in Berlin check here.

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Special Opportunities

There are many special opportunities in a city as unique as Berlin.  Students can elect to get involved in any number of student organizations connected to any of the universities in Berlin as well as volunteer groups within the city itself.  Participants in the program also have the possibility of doing an internship.  Internships for past participants of this program have included: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP) (foreign policy think tank), Rotes Kreuz (Red Cross, accounting division), Deutscher Bundestag (German parliament), Mayor's office (Division for Protocol and International Affairs), Plan B Communication (public relations and marketing firm), Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung (Berlin government office for urban planning), Komische Oper (Opera House), and Benjamin Franklin Krankenhaus (FU hospital).  Opportunities abound in Berlin!  

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Housing and Meals

The Berlin program provides students with the opportunity to experience different living situations during their time in Germany. Students meet each other and are introduced to Berlin during orientation weekend, while staying together as a group in a local hostel. After orientation, students are placed into homestays with German families throughout Berlin for a month of immersion into German language, culture, customs, and society before University classes begin. Before the official start of the semester at Freie Universität-Berlin and for the remainder of the program, students may choose to live in dormitories or arrange their own housing in private apartments.  A living allowance provided by OIS will help to partially defray some of the costs of housing and boarding costs incurred on this program.  

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Site Calendar

The academic calendar in Berlin is different than the standard Notre Dame calendar. The fall semester will begin in late August/early September and will finish in January/February. The spring semester will begin in late February/March and finish in late July.  

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The Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS) requires a minimum 3.0 GPA for applicants to the program. Because the BCGS program is designed for students with at least two years of university-level language instruction in German, we recommend that students participate in this program during their junior year. Sophomores and Seniors may be considered under special circumstances.  

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Health and Safety

20112012 HTH Pamphlet

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Cultural and Recreational Opportunities

Formal course work is only one dimension of study abroad. Returning program students often note the significance of new perspectives gained on their own society, their heightened self-confidence and maturity, and friendships they formed with Germans. The BCGS is committed to making the intercultural experience as rich as possible, not only through the program's distinctive format of integrated study alongside German students, but also through activities outside the classroom. The program staff organizes group activities within Berlin and trips to nearby towns. The program coordinator counsels students concerning intercultural adjustments and keeps them abreast of cultural opportunities such as concerts, operas, and theatrical and sporting events. Vacation periods permit extensive travel in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Students are encouraged to use weekends for shorter trips to explore the region.

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Relevant Links

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