Study Abroad in Berlin, Germany

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Study Abroad in Berlin: Social Identity & Access

One of the best things you can do before departure is enter into the experience knowing that your time abroad will be different than on your home campus. The resources, community and support available to you abroad will likely be different than your home campus as well. Your Resident Director will provide you with more details pre-departure and during orientation.

When abroad, let your Resident Director know if you are experiencing challenges. Being able to speak to someone about your experience can often be helpful. They can provide tips and resources for navigating this new environment. Please notify AIFS staff immediately of any incidents that make you uncomfortable or if you should happen to feel unsafe at all.

Our student resources website features additional information and accommodation forms for you to communicate any specific support you need during your time abroad. We encourage you to download and complete the appropriate form(s) from the site and return them to the Admissions Officer for your AIFS study abroad program. Letting us know before you arrive abroad will allow us to better assist you throughout your study abroad experience.

If you have mobility limitations or concerns, please let your Program Advisor or Program Manager and Resident Director know before your arrival so they can work with you directly. Students who require access to medications should ensure their prescriptions are legally permitted in country and should bring all required medication with them for the full duration of their program. Navigating Berlin with physical disabilities is possible but not always easy. Most traffic lights have auditory and visual signals, all busses and most other public transportation are accessible. New public buildings are accessible but most apartment buildings and many historical buildings all over Europe Germany are only partially accessible. Accessible public restrooms are not widely available and require planning ahead. At Humboldt-Universität most buildings will be accessible but please confirm availability for individual programs directly with the AIFS Program Advisor or Program Manager.

Students of a mature age may be one of the few within their program, although their participation is welcomed. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city, there is a wide range of expat clubs and groups where an older student can feel comfortable. However, student reductions are typically only offered to students under 26 years at most cultural institutions. AIFS staff can help students find a club or organization according to their interests and are available to support you with any questions or concerns you might have.

Students who have a service or emotional support animal should connect with their Program Advisor or Program Manager to get the most current information related to animals being permitted in housing, classes, and in the city.

Being a first-generation college student is only slowly becoming a recognized designation in the German education system, so specific resources related to this in-country might be harder to find. All students will receive an on-site orientation led by the Resident Director to help them to navigate the new academic environment they will encounter while studying at the Freie Universität and the day-to-day aspects of German cultural life which might be unfamiliar.

Germany has introduced a third gender choice for its inter citizens in 2019, same-sex marriage was made legal in 2017, and Berlin is considered a veritable mecca for LGBTQIA+ people with a rich cultural scene catering to all orientations and people. At the university and in Berlin there are many clubs and groups where students can find support and like-minded Germans.

Germany has introduced a third gender choice for its inter citizens in 2019, which has been helpful in making the broader public more aware of trans* equity issues. The German language is quite restrictive and there is no commonly used pronoun for non-binary people yet. While there are some unisex bathrooms, it is not usually an issue to use a bathroom of choice.

Staff and faculty have had experience with non-binary students and will do their best to ensure that students will be protected and respected Although AIFS in Berlin does not offer specific gender-neutral housing, students are welcome to express preferences and make specific requests, which will be accommodated when possible.

If you have neurological, intellectual or cognitive limitations or mental health concerns, please let your Program Advisor or Program Manager and Resident Director know any accommodations you require before your arrival so they can work with you directly. Students who require access to medications should ensure their prescriptions are legally permitted in country and should bring all required medication with them for the full duration of their program. Students with learning disabilities should share any relevant documentation with their Program Advisor or Program Manager upon application to the program so accommodations can be reviewed and, as possible, provided. We strongly advise students who have counselling at home to discuss with their home doctor a mental health plan (including access to necessary medications) while they are abroad. Counselling services are available for emergencies, but regular counselling will require a long waiting period. As such, students who work with a counselor are encouraged to make a plan with them for continuation while they are abroad.

Most of Berlin is very multi-cultural and US citizens in general are welcomed with open arms in Germany. There have been racially-motivated attacks in Germany from time to time and racism and prejudice might be an issue. People of Color are minoritized in Germany and sometimes experience microaggressions and acts of racism. If students experience this while abroad, they are encouraged to report the incident. There are also support groups that your Resident Director can connect you with.

The main religion in Germany is Christianity, Protestant and Catholic, all other major religions are recognized in Germany. There are many places of worship in Berlin – Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, Buddhist, amongst others. In Berlin and the surrounding Eastern States of Germany the majority of the population has no religious affiliation.

For students who have limited financial means, there are a lot of opportunities in Berlin to experience local culture inexpensively. All students receive a museum pass that allows entrance to all Berlin State Museums.

There are also countless free art galleries and history museums to explore around the city. AIFS offers many group outings that are already included in your fees. Apartment housing provides a fully functioning kitchen, homestays will provide breakfast and dinner.

Your Resident Director will provide you with more information on affordable opportunities at orientation and throughout the program.

Service in the military in Germany is respected but due to the history of the armed forces in Germany not commemorated widely. We strongly advise students who are veterans and receive counselling for PTSD at home to discuss with their home doctor a mental health plan (including access to necessary medications) while they are abroad. The AIFS student insurance (CISI) includes access to English-speaking professional counsellors and psychotherapists who are used to working with international students.

In order to maintain good mental and physical help students can participate in various activities. It also an ideal way to meet like-minded locals and to integrate into the community. On campus, a gym may be used at a minimal fee, and all sports offerings from the university are available to students. Near the campus and student housing, gyms, yoga studios, public pools and more are readily available. If you need any mental health support, we can connect you with experienced English-speaking counsellors and psychotherapists.

By law, women are equal to men in Germany, however, there is still work to be done for equality in wages, employment sector, and household duties. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and prohibits sexual harassment and provides civil penalties. During orientation, AIFS staff will discuss gender roles in German society.

Germany is thought to be a very safe country, but it is recommended that students follow 'common sense' safety precautions as they would in the United States, are vigilant of their surroundings, and make a conscious effort to travel in groups as often as possible.

Download Study Abroad Resources!

Download Study Abroad Resources!