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 - Session 1 and Session 2

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”. 

Session 1: Stream B

Geography/Urban Planning/Social Sciences 307 (3)  | Planning Economic and 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.

Law 318 (3) | European Constitutional Law: National Identities Between Unity and Plurality 

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.

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 1: Stream C

History/Political Science/Social Science 331 (3) | Global Cities as Centers of Knowledge Production

The course will introduce students to the theory, development and realities of global cities as centers of knowledge production. Based upon a closer look at the formation of the European and the American city as knowledge centers in historical perspective, particularly in terms of travelling educational philosophies and practices of education, the 19th century German university will be explored as a role model for American educational institutions. In a second step in the course will discuss the shifting aims and institutional paradigms of education in Europe and the United States since the 20th century.

Here, the emergence of the knowledge relationship between Berlin and New York, among others, will serve as a comparative case study in explaining the forms, functions and resources of knowledge production in the contemporary global city. This discussion will be accompanied by investigating public and private education institutions in Berlin in terms of their impact on the politics, economy and culture of the city. 

In a final step, the course will address future directions of the knowledge metropolis by exploring competing concepts of education in Europe and the United States in the 21st century and their functions in a transnational and international perspective, for instance with regard to the emergence of "Education Cities" in non-Western countries (such as Arab countries).

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/Political Science/Social Science 325 (3)  | Surveillance Technologies and Cultural Transformations since 9/11 

How have surveillance technologies transformed culture and identity in post- 9/11 worlds? As Jonathan Finn has stated, through digitalisation as well as public space cameras, surveillance has become a “way of seeing, a way of being” (2012). Social media users contribute by sharing their personal information in the online public domain – today’s “Funopticon” (Lewis 2017) is all about self-exposure. This course will examine the impact of surveillance technology on society by looking at the multifaceted ways technologies and societies interact. We will explore how surveillance is represented in contemporary art, literature, film and popular culture. The omnipresence of surveillance jeopardizes the hard-fought enlightened right to privacy, individuality and freedom. The course will map out important themes revolving around surveillance and its repercussions (e.g. visibility, identity, privacy and control as essential elements of today’s culture of surveillance). The course provides an overview of the interdisciplinary field of surveillance and covers the latest research in the following major areas: 1. Relationship between surveillance, power and social control; 2. The concept of privacy; 3. Surveillance in the arts and popular culture. The first unit of the course offers an introduction into the history and theory of surveillance and surveillance technology (e.g. close-circuit television (CCTV) in public and quasi-public spaces, biometrics, data mining, monitoring technologies in cyberspaces, workplaces and private spaces). The second unit investigates films, novels, art and popular culture (e.g. Reality Television and Social Networking Sites) that prominently address the subject. Readings will be drawn from the social sciences, contemporary fiction and popular media. Several films will be shown to facilitate critical inquiry. 

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.

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.

Law/Computer Sciences/Social Sciences 330 (3) | Law in the Age of Algorithms: Interdisciplinary Investigations

Algorithmic technologies mediate ever larger parts of our social relations. Whether it is online platforms seeking to combat hate speech, employers searching for job candidates or public officials trying to optimize efficient resource allocation: human work and human decision-making, increasingly, are supported, reshaped or even entirely replaced by algorithmic decision-making systems.

The course will introduce students with backgrounds in law, the social sciences or computer science to different academic perspectives on the novel political and regulatory issues which these technological transformations entail. The course will proceed in three steps:

1) Foundations: The logics of algorithmic computation In a first step, the course will introduce students to the methods and modes of operation of current algorithmic technologies. What is an algorithm and how do current computational methods (specifically different forms of Machine Learning) differ from more conventional programming? How do algorithms mediate the world and how do these representations differ from human meaning-making? Can algorithms really „outperform“ humans and what cognitive limitations do they usually incur? How are processes of algorithmic design organized and how do specific workflows benefit the resulting product?

Students will investigate these questions through introductory literature from the Computer Sciences, insights into the work of programmers and hands-on experiments with creating their own coded solutions.

2) Context: How algorithms shift political conflicts In the course’s second section, students will learn about the ways in which algorithmic technologies change political dynamics. How do algorithmic technologies reframe political conflicts? Which actors benefit from their employment? What are people calling for when they demand “explainable“, „responsible“, “accountable” or “fair AI”? What strategies exist to further democratic participation in the development and implementation of algorithmic systems? And in which ways can algorithms be described as political themselves?

Students will be introduced to these topics through literature from the political sciences and STS, explorative research methods (e.g. twitter case studies) and exchange with policy organizations.

3) Focus: Algorithmic regulation and the role of law In the course’s third and final section, students will get a deeper look at specific regulatory issues and the different ways in which law can be used to address societal issues raised by algorithmic automation. What areas of law affect the design and use of algorithms and what are their potentials and limitations? What broader regulatory strategies exist to counter the dangers and harms provoked by algorithmic systems? Can legal decisions be automated and are such developments desirable from a legal and political point of view?

Next to an introduction into the most important current legislative proposal on AI regulation and the EU’s Digital Service Act, students will be able to choose whether they want to focus on particular regulatory issues (e.g. algorithmic content moderation on online platforms, use of algorithms in social service resource allocation, liability of algorithms) or on more structural areas of concern (e.g. algorithmic discrimination, explainable AI, fair AI). Reading and response sessions will be combined with assignments to engage in proactive legal interventions for instance through contributing to ongoing EU public consultation processes or filing a complaint for a domestic Data Protection Authority.

Throughout the course’s timeline, students will have several possibilities to exchange with experts from the different academic fields as well as with IT, political and legal practitioners. In an effort to harness the potential of diverse perspectives, the course is committed to fostering an inclusive and creative intellectual environment open for all.

(Only open to undergraduate students of law, computer sciences or social sciences and/or students with previous knowledge on the subject)

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.

Religion/Cultural Studies/Jewish Studies 308 (3)  | Interreligious and 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)  | Introduction to 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).


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