Study Abroad in Berlin, Germany

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.

After a brief introduction to the historical and ideological backgrounds which led to the rise of the Nazi Regime we will turn to a detailed analysis of the event history which led to World War II. Finally, we will discuss the effects of World War II, on world history; e.g. the Cold War, European Integration, etc.

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”.

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 class room discussion of cases and reading materials.

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

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

Set in the shadow of the reconstructed Prussian City Palace, this course will give an overview of the history, the legacy and the memory of the “Iron Kingdom”. It will embed Prussia into the history of both Germany and Europe more broadly – explaining the continuous rise of this entity by looking at its geopolitics, as well as its geography, economy, military, religion, science and culture. We will follow the development of Prussia from a small duchy beyond the Eastern periphery of the Holy Roman Empire to one of the most powerful kingdoms at the center of Europe. Much of European history since the Thirty Years’ War can indeed be understood as a function of this “Prussian Expansion”, a fateful 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, less tragic story that can also 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 University 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.

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 (Taught in German)

Berlin is a vibrant city – and has always been. The City and its surroundings have 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, theatre 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. How did this contrast impact their writing process? What can we learn from that for our own creative processes? 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 dealt with during class are discussed on the basis of the original in German. It is therefore important that all students taking this course have high level German language skills.

History/Politics/Social Science 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 class room discussion of cases and reading materials.

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

Politics/Social Sciences 324 (3) | Everything is Connected. Power, Structure and Agency in Global Governance

This course will give 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”. While it is true that Germany has entered a phase of “new responsibility” in its foreign policy, and remains strongly committed to the liberal order and global sustainability, it is becoming more and more difficult for such powers to project its influence into the global order. The course will take this German perspective as a starting point to try to understand the state of global governance more broadly.

Who are the indispensable nations? Who are the spoilers? What kind of cooperation is needed to save the planet? Whose Global Order is it? How to save the world?

We will look at multilateralist and unilateralist behavior of states, and also at recent efforts to bring more sustainability to global governance. We will also identify non-Western visions of global governance. 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

Geography/Commercial Geography 307 (3) | European City and Regional Development Planning

The course discusses topics on general issues of European planning such as the changing economic map of Europe and the European Union and its regional policy. Regional development and planning methods are introduced including examples of current planning projects.

Politics/Social Science 309 (3) | The European Union - Between Supernational 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.

Religion/Culture 308 (3) | Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Germany - Reflections and Entanglements between Jewish Studies and Migration Studies

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 is anthropologically inflected and treats the sites as field sites to be explored empirically and analyzed critically. It is wellsuited 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.

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 undergraduate/graduate students who have a general interest in German cultural history and like to investigate theoretically and performatively 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 not only a theoretical but also an artistic reflection on German humor and its underlying relationship to the Holocaust. The course departs from the grounding thesis 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. In our course, we will have a closer look at German comedy, which has –both in the GDR and FDR as well as in the unified country –produced specific formats and traditions (un/consciously) tied to the Holocaust.

Politics/Social Sciences 325 (3) | Varieties of Hegemonie. Regional Orders and the Mechanics of Power in the World Regions

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.

As regional powers are also interesting (but difficult) partners for international cooperation, this begs the question how powers such as Germany can influence the regional behavior of what it calls “Gestaltungsmächte“ („shaping powers”) from outside their world regions.

Applying the German concept of “partnership”, the course will identify and analyze the various forms of issue area alliances used with regional powers (e.g. Brazil or Russia) and regional organizations (e.g. the African Union), what kind of challenges they face – and, ultimately, what the world has to gain from it.