Study Abroad in Berlin, Germany

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Study Abroad in Berlin: Courses

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Courses may change at the discretion of Humboldt-Universität.

A minimum enrollment of 10 students is required for each course offered.

German Language Courses

A placement exam after arrival determines appropriate levels. Students taking German are advised to gain pre-approval from their home institution for several levels of German in order to ensure that they receive credit for the level that they test into. German language classes are taught for 45 contact hours for a recommended 3 semester credits and appear on a Humboldt-Universität transcript. Courses meet Monday through Friday. Each course is divided into grammar, conversation, vocabulary and culture.

Session 1 and Session 2

German 101 (3) | Elementary German

Students with no previous German or with only one semester in college usually place into this level. Functional uses of the language as well as grammar, cultural themes, introductions, exchanging information, writing letters, the present tense, the noun and the cases, personal pronouns and possessive pronouns, sentence structure, questions, prepositions, list of irregular verbs, basic communication and listening comprehension.

German 102 (3) | Advanced Elementary German

For students with more than one semester of German at elementary level. Further development of functional uses of German language as outlined in German 101.

German 201 (3) | Lower Intermediate German

Students who have studied German throughout high school and continued with one semester in college, or students who have 2 to 4 semesters in college, usually place into this level. Practice of speaking, listening and reading comprehension, synonyms and paraphrases in context, verb, noun, adjective, flexion, prepositions, personal and possessive pronouns, main and subordinate clauses, auxiliary verbs, special focus on sentence construction and use of past tenses.

German 203 (3) | Upper Intermediate German 

Students with at least 6 semesters of college German, experience living in a German-speaking country or German study on a regular basis since elementary school usually place into this level. Practice of speaking techniques in everyday situations, listening and reading comprehension, short reports, arguing in discussions, analysis and production of texts, enlarging vocabulary, synonyms and paraphrasing.

German 301 (3) | Advanced German

Students who are nearly fluent usually place into this level. Concentration on refining and further developing communicative skills, review of indicative and subjunctive, expressions of doubt, probability, feelings and opinions. Reading of newspapers and modern literature texts.

Subject Courses (Taught in English)

Session 1: Stream A

History/Political Science/Sociology 311 (3) | Nazi Germany - Rise and Fall

In two world wars Germany tried to dominate the globe and all major decisions were made in the capital Berlin.

Why was Germany such an aggressive power until 1945? How did Hitler manage to gain and keep power? Why were many Germans Nazis and deeply racist? How was the life of ordinary people during the war? Why did the Nazis kill millions of Jews and other innocent people in concentration camps? What were the long term effects of World War II? What happened to the Nazis after the war?

The course will provide answers to such questions via readings of texts from political science, sociology and history, while also taking the opportunity to explore the locations in which the events between 1933 and 1945 took place.

Undergraduate students (especially students of Political Science, Social Science, and History) can cover two eras of German history if they combine this course with the Summer Session 2 course on either “The Berlin Wall” or “The European Union”.

History/Culture 323 (3) | An Iron Kingdom? History and Legacy of the Prussian Expansion

An overview of the history, the legacy and the memory of the “Iron Kingdom”, embedding Prussia into the history of both Germany and Europe more broadly – explaining the continuous rise of this entity by looking at its geopolitics, geography, economy, military, religion, science and culture. Follow the development of Prussia from a small duchy to one of the most powerful kingdoms at the center of Europe. Much of European history since the Thirty Years’ War can be understood as a function of this “Prussian Expansion”, a development that upended the traditional balance of power and ultimately led to the creation of a monster at the heart of Europe: Imperial Germany, hell-bent on acquiring the great power status it thought it deserved. But there is another story to be told about Prussia: One of enlightened culture, of world-renowned education and universities, of state modernization and democratic rights that resonates until today. Between Königsberg, Potsdam and Berlin a particular worldview took shape that was both distinctly Prussian, German and cosmopolitan. Humboldt-Universität was the center of this “Berlin Classicism”, but we will look for this legacy (and how it is remembered) in other parts of the Prussian capitals as well.

Law 315 (3) | Introduction to International Economic Law

Multinational companies like Google or Apple self-evidently act on a global stage. But even small businesses participate in international trade today. The integration of national economies and the elimination of barriers of trade no longer allow a solely national view on this development. With the growing importance of international commerce, the need for an “International Economic Law” arises. Numerous regulations and agreements concern international trade and investment, but the legal framework of international economy remains indefinite. Common principles of International Economic Law will be examined by analyzing leading decisions by international courts. Therefore a substantial part of the course will be dedicated to classroom discussion of cases and reading materials.

(Only open to undergraduate law students and/or students with previous knowledge on the subject)

Session 1: Stream B

History/Culture 310 (3) | Berlin's Graveyard Culture as Mirror of Society – An Interdisciplinary Perspective

This course approaches the subject of life, death and dying from the spatially defined area of cemeteries. This means looking at historical and cultural changes, as well as their implications on law, society, landscape art or upcoming industries. Since the beginning of the 20th century our relationship to death and dying has again changed as new models of funeral customs and cemetery culture appear. Students will read texts on cultural and social history as well as literature. Furthermore, it examines artistic changes in memorial architecture and landscape art and bringing into focus alternative modes of green funerals and coffins. We explore and complement our knowledge by inspecting the cemeteries with three main questions in mind: Who is buried and how is he/she buried? Where is the cemetery located within Berlin, and what does this imply? What dominant funeral customs do we find here? 

Religion/Culture 320 (3) | Jewish Narratives in Germany – Exploring Memory Past and Present

In this course students will explore Jewish history in Germany – and its memorialization – from 1933 to the present. This will be accomplished through lectures, workshops, and site visits to museums in and around Berlin. In addition to the tragic history that has defined the 20th-century experience, students will have an opportunity to explore contemporary Jewish life and topics that continue to shape Berlin and Germany more widely. This course is anthropologically inflected and treats the museums and other urban spaces as field sites to be explored and analyzed critically. It is well-suited to students who are interested in religious studies, history, the social sciences, and/or more specific fields such as urban studies, ethics or museum studies.

Session 2: Stream A

Conservation/Ecology 306 (3) | Land in the City–Green in the City

Urban agriculture provides multiple benefits to urban dwellers and cities. It arises not only out of crisis situations, but also through proximity to urban markets and the availability of productive resources, especially where the producers often live in marginal or illegal settlements. Students examine several functions of agriculture and horticulture in big cities, especially in Berlin, including: ecological and institutional conditions; social functions of urban agriculture and gardening, and conservation of resources through recycling of waste (water) and use of non-organic wastes in farming constructions. Students meet participants of projects and visit examples of urban agriculture in Berlin, such as allotments, community and school gardens and market-oriented urban farms.

German Literature 321 (3) | Stadt und Land: Literaten in und um Berlin/City and Country: Literature in and around Berlin (taught in German)

Berlin is a vibrant city and has always attracted and influenced artists. The “Golden Twenties and Thirties” of the 20th century are legendary – not only did the city provide inspiration and material for novels, music, theater and fine arts, but also places of refuge from life’s hectic pace and an opportunity for inner reflection.

The course is concerned with several writers, whose lives and work are closely connected to Berlin and the escape to the idylls of small towns. In this course, we read and write, discuss, look around, walk and go out: various field trips in and around Berlin, a theater visit and some movies will show the relationship between texts, style and atmosphere.

Texts for preparation or for background knowledge can also be read in English or in any other language. Texts reviewed during this class are read and discussed in their original German and all course lecture and discussions will be taught in German. To take this course students must be fluent in German.

History/Politics/Sociology 312 (3) | The Berlin Wall: Tales of Division and Unity

For almost 30 years, the Berlin Wall was a symbol of the division of the city of Berlin, of Germany and of Europe during the era of the Cold War between the two superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Consequently, the fall of the Wall in 1989 was a hugely symbolic turning point in world history. But how can we explain the building of such a dividing monument? How can we account for its fall in 1989? And how does the Wall influence our lives today? The course will provide answers to such questions via readings of texts from political science, sociology and history, while also taking the opportunity to explore the ground on which the events between 1961 and 1989 took place.

Law 315 (3) | Introduction to International Economic Law

Multinational companies like Google or Apple self-evidently act on a global stage. But even small businesses participate in international trade today. The integration of national economies and the elimination of barriers of trade no longer allow a solely national view on this development. With the growing importance of international commerce, the need for an “International Economic Law” arises. Numerous regulations and agreements concern international trade and investment, but the legal framework of international economy remains indefinite. Common principles of International Economic Law will be examined by analyzing leading decisions by international courts. Therefore a substantial part of the course will be dedicated to classroom discussion of cases and reading materials.

(Only open to undergraduate law students and/or students with previous knowledge on the subject)

Law 318 (3) | National Constitutional Identities within EU Law

The EU is set to achieve an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe and at the same time bound to respect national cultural, linguistic and also national constitutional identities. The course will have four thematic parts. First, it will take a look into the basic features of a modern liberal democratic nation-state and its constitutional commitments. Second, it will examine the foundations of the EU, its governing principles and values and its sui generis nature as a supranational form. Third, it will highlight a notion of national constitutional identity from a national as well as from the European perspective. And finally, it will delve into the questions of resistance and dissent in legal theory and try to find parallels with an uneasy relationship between the Member States and the EU.

Politics/Social Sciences 304 (3) | The Transatlantic Relationship in the Age of Trump: Politics, Law and Culture

Defined by both the post-World War II Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and global conflict since 9/11, the transatlantic relationship now stands under new and unique strains. This course aims to explore the contemporary relationship between the US and its European partners—in and outside the EU and NATO. This relationship has frayed in the almost 20 years of the new century and seems especially challenged under new US leadership and foreign policy goals of the Trump Administration. European domestic policy also contributes to the complexity of the relationship, and especially policies of America’s vital ally Germany.

This course aims to clarify continuities and changes in the transatlantic relationship. First, what is the history of U.S. involvement in Europe? What theories and practical necessities background the relationship? How are these concerns increasingly challenged by factors such as globalism, populism, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism? Perhaps most importantly, how do political and cultural changes in the U.S. and Europe contribute to our understanding of the relationship going forward.

Politics/Social Sciences 324 (3) | Global Governance: Power, Structure and Agency

An overview of how global governance works in a world of networks, diluted power, fragmented organizational structures, renewed great power competition, and exceeded planetary boundaries. The focus will be on the actors, institutions and ideas of world politics today – from the UN family and Agenda 2030 to Great Powers to thematic alliances such as the OECD. Some hope Germany will take on the mantle of “leader of the free world”. The course will take this German perspective as a starting point to try to understand the state of global governance more broadly.

Finally, the course will revolve around the question of how to make the global liberal institutionalist order (and ultimately, our planet) more resilient in the face of new authoritarian challenges – after all, this is what Germany and other countries like it are striving to do.

Session 2: Stream B

Economics/Politics/Social Sciences 327 (3) | German “Social Market Economy” - A Better Capitalism?

Germany is Europe’s largest economy and its industrial powerhouse – selling cars like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and VW and chemical products like “aspirin” to the world. The quick recovery of the German economy after World War II still appears as an “Economic Miracle”. The seminar will air the secrets of this success by exploring the sophisticated German system – the “Social Market Economy”: How is efficient capitalist order combined with a huge welfare state? How are conflicts smoothed by incorporating the unions into “Social Partnership”? You will be surprised how modern efficient capitalism and corrupt mediaeval traditions are merged into “Social Market Economy”.

The course will explore the German economic system by lectures, readings, facility visits to industrial plants (e.g. BMW), excursions to the Museum of History, the governmental district and to innovative projects (e.g. cooperatives). Furthermore we will compare the German system with your country to find solutions for a better capitalism.

Geography/Urban Planning/Social Sciences 307 (3) | Urban Neighborhoods in Transition – The Case of Berlin

The aim of this course is to understand and learn about the different challenges European regions are facing, e.g. integration and migration, social exclusion, demographic change, creative milieus, economic decline, shrinking cities and ecological renewal. The city of Berlin is currently a hot spot for various dynamic regional developments, and thus, serves as example to illustrate recent challenges of European metropolises. The course is featuring in-class seminar sessions as well as field trips.

Language/Cultural Studies/Theater Studies 322 (3) | What do Germans Laugh About? A Cultural and Performative History of German Humor from 1945 until today

This course is designed for students who have an interest in German cultural history and the relationship between German humor (if there is such a thing?) and the historical crime of the Holocaust. Students who attend this course should therefore know at least basic facts of German history and cultural phenomena like WWII, German shame, the Student Revolution, Cold War and the Reunification. This course offers a theoretical and artistic reflection on German humor and its underlying relationship to the Holocaust in that the Holocaust (having being committed by Germans) changed the cultural history of German humor, comedy and everyday forms of laughter in a radical way. This radical change has been internalized and passed on from the Nazi-Generation to their great grandchildren and had a remarkable effect on comedic cultural texts of all kinds (literature, film, theater, TV) after 1945.

Accordingly, Germany, in the aftermath of WWII and the historical crimes of the Holocaust, has developed a very specific sense of humor and comedy. Students will examine German comedy, which has produced specific formats and traditions (un/consciously) tied to the Holocaust.

Politics/Social Sciences 309 (3) | The European Union - Between Supranational Integration and National Sovereignty

The European Union is the most advanced form of economic, political and arguably societal integration outside the national state. But how does it work? What are the opportunities and limits of supranational integration? And what is the state of the Union today? In this course, participants will gain an overview on the functioning of the political institutions of the Union and on the influence of the EU on the daily lives of its citizens by reading a variety of texts from political science, sociology and history. Taking place in Berlin, the course will not miss out on the chance to take excursions to places where German and European history and politics meet.

Politics/Social Sciences/Education 325 (3) | Regionalisms: Varieties of Hegemony around the World

This course will try to understand the hierarchies of power in the world regions and how they translate into regional orders of different degrees of stability. As an introductory course in comparative area studies, it will look at the geography of power, its ideas and concepts, issue areas and institutions, as well as the instruments and resources that define the character of a system of regional governance – all from the perspective of a European Germany.

We will look at the different forms hegemony can take. The world regions differ widely in how they conceive, design and enforce regional governance. Regional powers play an important role in this structure, as they dispose of outsized power resources and enjoy some degree of influence, both within regional organizations and outside of it: They choose to be the good or the bad guys of regional governance. The way they deal with secondary powers in their neighborhood is the most important predictor of regional stability.

Religion/Cultural Studies/Jewish Studies 308 (3) | The Contested City – Intercultural Tensions in Germany

Follows the complex trajectories linking interreligious and intercultural narratives in Germany today. How does the culture of memory in Germany, with its Christian frame and Jewish focus converge and diverge with more recent narratives of migration that have made Islam a visible presence in Germany? Students will interrogate this topic through dedicated lectures, workshops, and site visits to museums and other venues.

This course can stand alone well, but can also be combined with the course offered in Summer Session 1: Jewish Narratives in Germany: Exploring Memory Past and Present.

Religion/Ethics/Law 317 (3) | Refugee Protection and Forced Migration

Examines the protection regime pertaining to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and stateless persons. It gives special attention to the evolving set of legal norms, institutions, and procedures that have emerged from the international community’s resolve to protect refugees and other forced migrants.

The course adopts two complementary methodologies: seminars and case studies combined with presentations by the students.

The seminars are complemented by a ‘hands-on’ methodology, namely a major case study and presentations by the students both on the state of refugee protection in their countries of origin/residence and on current significant situations (i.e. Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela, European asylum crisis, Mediterranean situation).

Religion/Ethics/Law 326 (3) | Rational Decision Making and Negotiation

This course will introduce theories of and methods for rational decision-making and negotiation by giving an insight into probabilistic reasoning, institutional economics, behavioral decision science, social and cognitive-behavioral psychology and principled negotiation theory. Based on the theoretical groundwork, the course is to be understood as an experiential learning experience.

It will be highly interactive, due to plenty of team-exercises and class games, in which the students will have to find strategies to create value, settle a dispute and make a good deal. In addition to fictional scenarios, the course will give an insight into the actual challenges to political negotiations of the German government. Therefore, a member of the German government will be invited to share his or her experiences.

Course open to advanced undergraduate students (at least 2nd year) and students with an academic background that qualifies them to participate in the course.


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