Study Abroad in Berlin, Germany

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Study Abroad in Berlin: Courses

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FU Berlin issues ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits. Recommended U.S. credits are shown in parentheses.

Courses are subject to change at the discretion of Freie Universität, Berlin. For the most current course listings, please contact the AIFS Admissions Officer.

European Studies Program

German language is mandatory. Students with no prior knowledge of German can take either the Experiential Beginning German course for a recommended 3-4 credits or two levels of Intensive German for a recommended 6-8 credits available from Beginner through Advanced levels. Students who do not plan to major/minor in German typically take the Experiential Beginning German course. Students who test into a level beyond absolute Beginner must take two courses of Intensive German.

Students above the absolute Beginner level will take an on-line placement test prior to arrival and have an on-site interview in order to determine the appropriate level. The placement test must be completed 4-6 weeks before the program begins.

The minimum course load is 4 including German language.

German Language Courses

Language levels are defined according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and will be listed on your transcript on completion of the program.

German 101E (3) | Experiential Beginning German

This course is designed for the beginner student who has no prior knowledge of German and does not major/minor in German. It will enable you to become familiar with the German language and to deal with everyday situations during your stay in Berlin. You will develop basic communicative competences in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Your foremost goal is to be able to navigate through your daily activities in a German-speaking environment, such as ordering food in a restaurant, shopping at the grocery store/ supermarket, getting around in the city, and conducting simple conversations about yourself (your studies, your hobbies, and fields of interest). The textbook Studio d A1 and additional material, which is primarily dealing with everyday situations, will help you develop your individual language skills. One of the foci of the course is placed on Berlin and its surroundings. Therefore, you will work with authentic material in class and on course-related excursions.

German 101/A1 (3) | Intensive Beginner 1

This course is designed for the beginner student with no prior knowledge of German. It aims to develop your communicative competences in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The textbook Begegnungen A1 and additional material, which primarily deals with cultural and historical aspects of German(y), will help you develop your individual language skills. One of the foci of the course is placed on Berlin and its surroundings. Therefore, you will work with authentic material in class and on course-related excursions. By the end of this course, you will be able to deal with various everyday situations in a Germanspeaking environment and to conduct simple conversations. You will have developed reading strategies that allow you to gather specific information from factual texts, newspaper and magazine articles, and short literary texts. In addition, you will learn to write and revise short texts and, by doing so, assemble metalinguistic knowledge. Finally, you will be able to understand discussions on familiar topics.

German 102/A2 (3) | Intensive Beginner 2

This course is designed for beginners with some prior knowledge of German. With the help of the textbooks Begegnungen A1 and A2 as well as additional material, which primarily deals with cultural and historical aspects of German(y), you will expand your competences in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The course will familiarize you with the daily life and culture of German-speaking countries and enable you to talk about practical issues such as traveling, living, shopping, health, traditions, holidays and the workplace. You will be able to select the main information from simple factual texts. You will get to know more complex sentence structures and be able to express yourself in the present and one past tense.

German 201/B1 (3) | Intensive Intermediate 1

This course is designed to strengthen and expand your communicative competences in listening, speaking, reading and writing, and to deepen your understanding of German-speaking cultures in the context of Berlin. With the help of the textbook Begegnungen A2 and additional material, which is primarily dealing with cultural and historical aspects of German(y), you will develop your individual language skills. By the end of the course, you will be able to interact in most everyday situations in a German-speaking environment and to conduct simple conversations about familiar topics. You will be able to talk about the past and the future, to draw comparisons, to describe persons and things in detail, and to talk about your studies and your plans and wishes. You will have developed reading strategies that will allow you to understand newspaper and magazine articles as well as short literary texts.

German 202/B2 (3) | Intensive Intermediate 2

This course aims to systematically improve your writing and reading competences. It focuses on your acquisition of complex linguistic structures and your consistent self-correction. It will help you further develop effective reading and listening strategies by using texts and listening examples that extend beyond everyday communication. In-class discussions will be based on the weekly reading of literary and non-literary texts that will motivate you to exchange information, ideas, and opinions. In addition, these texts will provide important cultural and historical background information. Grammar revision is just one of the foci of this course; yet, you will expand and deepen your knowledge of German grammar through specific exercises.

German 302/B3 (3) | Intensive Intermediate 3

This course is designed to optimize your writing and speaking competences, to enlarge your vocabulary, to increase your usage of complex grammatical structures and to make you consistently and successfully employ self-correcting strategies. You will analyze and discuss cultural, political, and historical aspects of German-speaking countries and compare them to your own cultural background. You will be able to coherently talk about a broad range of subjects and to argue for your point of view. You will be able to mostly understand authentic texts and to follow native speakers in normal conversations.

German 401/C1 (3) | Intensive Advanced 1

This course aims to deepen your competence in speaking and writing and to expand your vocabulary on a higher language level, with a focus on improving your communicative skills for increasingly academic discussions. The course material will help you acquire relevant and contemporary knowledge about the culture, politics, and history of Germany and other Germanspeaking countries. Furthermore, you will develop effective reading and listening strategies with regard to various literary genres and media. In-class discussions will be based on literary and non-literary texts, enabling you to exchange information, ideas, and opinions on an academic level.

German 402 /C2 (3) | Intensive Advanced 2

This course will enable you to approximate your competence in speaking and writing German as well as your vocabulary to the native-speaker level. This includes understanding connotations and idioms as well as using stylistically and situationally appropriate forms of communication. Special attention will be given to the improvement of your communicative skills in academic contexts. You will be able to understand lectures and presentations and to participate in academic discussions. Sophisticated authentic texts will help you gain relevant information about the culture, politics, and history of Germany and other Germanspeaking countries. At the end of this course, you will have acquired effective reading and listening strategies concerning various literary genres and media and will work with larger excerpts of German literature. In-class discussions will be based on literary and non-literary texts, enabling you to exchange information, ideas, and opinions on an academic level.

Elective Courses

All elective courses are 300 level and are taught in English unless otherwise stated.

Art 301/FU-BEST 4 (3) - Spring only | Perspectives on 20th Century Art in Central Europe

Surveys the visual arts in Central Europe from the rise of modernism around 1900 to the present, with a strong focus on German art.

Its objectives are: to study the individual works closely and interpret them critically by analyzing their formal structure, style and technique, iconography, etc.; to place the works against their wider historical, political, economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. Students will study originals during excursions to local museums.

Art History 305/FU-BEST 12 (3) - Spring only | Architecture in Berlin from the 19th Century to Today 

Following an introduction to architectural terms and an examination of the urban development and architectural history of the Modern era, the Neo-Classical period will be surveyed with special reference to the works of Schinkel. The architecture of the Nazi period will be examined, followed by the developments in East and West Berlin after the Second World War. Formal field-trips to historically significant buildings and sites constitute an integral component of the course.

Art/History/Politics 315/FU-BEST 19 (3) | Art and Dictatorship 

Focuses on the examples of Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s USSR, Mussolini’s Italy, and Franco’s Spain. Students will gain an understanding of art in a democratic society by analyzing the art and architecture of the Weimar Republic in Germany. Modernist and Jewish artists were persecuted, forced into emigration or deported to concentration camps. Art has also served as a medium to commemorate the Holocaust: the memorials at Buchenwald concentration camp or the Holocaust memorial in Berlin are prominent examples.

Business TBA/FU-BEST 26 (3) - Spring only | Start-up Businesses: Theory and Practice in Berlin, Germany, and Europe 

In this course, we introduce students to entrepreneurial thinking and acting by familiarizing them with state-of-the-art tools and methods they can use to turn ideas into actual business ventures. Participants acquire the start-up fundamentals required in order to found their own companies and receive an overview on topics such as corporate planning, start-up finance and pitching. Besides examining how to create the more traditional business plan, we will particularly focus on the following tools: Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, Value Proposition Canvas and Business Model Canvas. Furthermore, we look into creativity techniques which can help to generate business ideas and the most relevant tools needed to exploit one’s own research results. Students will use the newly learned tools and methods to analyze existing case studies and develop their own business ideas.

Cinema 303/FU-BEST 13 (3) spring only | Contemporary Cinema in Germany and Europe 

This course falls into three parts: the first will introduce students to historical, cultural, and critical paradigms pertaining to the current situation of European cinema. The second will discuss a selection of German and European films screened at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) during the semester in which the course is offered. The third will then focus on films (co-) produced in Germany and distributed across several European countries. Film screenings and in-class discussions with invited guest speakers will be part of the course.

Cinema/Music 324/FU-BEST 28 (3) spring only | Film Music - Listening Outside the Frame

Examines how music has contributed to the success and evolution of films throughout the history of the film industry in North America and Europe.

As is the case for all of the arts, Berlin is an ideal location in which to study music and film. Thus, we will explore this cultural landscape with specific encounters that will complement our conversations and readings. For example, we will visit a theater that hosts a weekly showing of a “silent movie” alongside a live organist.

Economics 305/FU-BEST 24 (3) | Europe in the Global Economy 

Poses several questions regarding Europe as a union of democratic nations shaping the world’s economic and social model. We will discuss the cost of global warming and climate challenge Europe is expected to bear. Lastly, a “look in the crystal ball” is supposed to give an idea of the EU in the world 30 years from now: still vibrant, or ageing and decaying.

Economics/Environmental Studies 315/FU-BEST 33 (3) - Spring only | Green Business: German and European Sustainable Entrepreneurship 

Provides students with a theoretical foundation in the development of green and sustainable solutions within the economic context of Germany and Europe and develops an understanding of how sustainable entrepreneurship is unfolding creative potential and opportunities for environmental improvements using core business activities. The course also aims to equip students with more practical tools and processes for developing their own business ideas for the green economy.

Economics/Marketing 310/FU-BEST 11 (3) | European Business Cultures: Management and Marketing in Cross-National Perspective 

Enhances students’ understanding of the high variety of European business cultures and reviews the corresponding variety of management styles. The course provides an interconnected focus on the state of the European Union, its social economies, business ethics and the standards of corporate social responsibility with corporate cultures, their marketing pressures and aspects of multicultural team development. 

Environmental Studies 318/FU-BEST 30 (3) - Spring only | Energizing Europe: 21st Century Renewable and Fossil Transformations

Surveys the EU’s energy resources and infrastructure as compared to that of the U.S. and studies Europe´s energy transitions from medieval times through its 20th-century energy crises and wars. We then begin a study of Europe’s intended 21st-century energy transitions. Topics include: (i) Germany’s Energiewende, its technical, economic, and social challenges and its impact on EU neighbors; (ii) German rejection of nuclear energy in light of risks and promises of next-generation reactors. Throughout, students follow current German, EU and related global energy affairs.

History/Politics/Sociology 321/FU-BEST 1 (3) - Spring only | Contemporary Germany in European Perspective 

Begins with a brief historical review, and then shifts to a consideration of such topics and issues as German society, the political system, welfare state features, and socioeconomic policies, with accompanying consideration of characteristics and developments in neighboring European countries. Special attention will also be given to the consequences of Germany’s reunification in 1990.

History/Politics 325/FU-BEST 8 (3) - Spring only | Modern German History in European Context: A Thematic Approach 

Aims to foster a critical understanding of the ruptures and continuities of the “extreme” 20th century with a cross-analysis of German and European political, social, and cultural history. Major themes will be the contest between democracy and dictatorship and the related tension between freedom and security in changing times under different political regimes. Film screenings and in-class discussions with invited guest speakers will be part of the course.

History/Sociology TBA/FU-BEST 32 (3) - Spring only | Christianity and Modernity in Contemporary Germany 

In this course, we will examine the question of how Christianity has shaped German society and whether and where we (still) find these influences today. The specific historical background of Germany – albeit with some European contextualization – will be considered, where an almost unique situation of interplay between state and church has been made possible in Europe, because the Christian denominations are financed by a church tax and enjoy special rights (e.g. in the area of labor law). The churches also have a socially diverse impact, in various social areas as well as in the art and cultural scene. The course will explore the historical specificities of Christianity in Germany and different areas in which the churches continue to play a role, such as education and the media. We will also get to know innovative projects that rethink the church as a space, as digital church services and similar developments have been around for a long time. After discussing different aspects of societies, we will explore the argument that several societal elements are still deeply bound to Christian faith and understanding, despite having been profoundly influenced by "(post)modernity". Given that this course entails an ecumenical perspective, it will be taught by a Protestant instructor in dialogue with a Catholic theologian (two sessions at least).

History/Politics 328/FU-BEST 23 (3) - Spring only | History of Modern European Diplomacy 

Aims to introduce students to core events of international history and the multi-faceted outlook of European diplomats. Aside from in-class study groups, we will “re-experience” diplomacy through selected re-enactments of international conferences or mock courts. Students will acquire basic tools to process academic texts and develop independent and evidence-based arguments. 

History/Geography/Sociology 335/FU-BEST 7 (3) - Spring only | Berlin: History, Memory, Literature 

Explores representations and topographies of Berlin between the first German unification and the second, focusing on the major events and conflicts that have left their mark on this urban landscape: the rise of the modern metropolis, economic depression and social unrest, the two world wars, Nazism and the Holocaust, and the Cold War and its aftermath. We will devote time to discussing the complex relations between space, text, history, and memory. Schedule permitting, we will watch relevant films and organize city excursions outside of regular class times.

Law/History 329/FU-BEST 17 (3) | European Legal Traditions 

Provides an overview of European legal traditions and developments. We will keep a comparative eye on the legal system of the U.S. allowing us to identify similarities and differences. The course is designed not only for future law students but also for students who are interested in European legal traditions and who wish to gain an understanding of law as a decisive factor that shapes transatlantic, international and European affairs today.

Literature/History 310/FU-BEST 25 (3) - Spring only | Jewish Life in Central Europe 

This course will introduce and discuss canonic texts by European-Jewish authors from Moses Mendelssohn to Paul Celan. It gives an extensive overview of German-Jewish culture since the late 18th century. Every class session starts off with a contextualization of the historic circumstances in which each text was created.

Media/Politics 320/FU-BEST 22 (3) - Spring only | Media Politics Structures and Case-Studies in Germany and Europe 

Starts with an overview of the different structures of mass media (public/private) in Germany and selected European countries. At the same time, we will take a critical look at how the media in turn have shaped and are still shaping the ways in which the political process works and presents itself to the public.

Music TBA/FU-BEST 3 (3) - Spring only | Music and Theater on the Stage: Past and Present in European Opera

“Musical theater” is a non-consensual umbrella term to qualify very different operatic genres which only have a certain form in common: the complex interweaving between music, literature, performing, and visual arts in a multidimensional dramatic field. The course “Music and Theater on the Stage” will investigate the history of European musical theater from the Baroque Era through the Enlightenment and Romanticism until modern times. Students are expected to learn how to “decode” operatic meta-structures by understanding their dramaturgical structures and analyzing them (libretto, music, stage direction and stage performance).

Philosophy 304/FU-BEST 9b (3) - Spring only | Tragedy and New Beginnings in German Philosophy: From Marx and Nietzsche to Habermas 

Discusses the development of German philosophy in the 19th century and its historical tragedy in the 20th century. This will include a discussion of the links between Marx and Marxism, between Nietzsche and the German political/ideological right-wing, between the “Vienna circle” and the scientific revolution of the early twentieth century, as well as between German academic philosophy and Nazism.

Politics 309/FU-BEST 2 (3) - Spring only | Integration, Conflict and Security in Europe 

We will review the postwar history of international politics in Europe, followed by an in-depth study of European integration in general and the European Union in particular, the role played by security organizations (especially NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), U.S. and Soviet/Russian policy toward Europe, the eruption of ethno-political conflict (especially in the Balkans), the international impact of Germany’s recent reunification, and the quest for order, security, and stability in a region that is no longer divided by the Iron Curtain but in which international politics continues to be shaped and affected by East-West as well as North-South contrasts.

Politics/Economics/Sociology 320/FU-BEST 16 (3) | Themes and Issues in Transatlantic Relations 

Surveys and analyzes the interaction between Europe and America since 1945 in the fields of politics, economics and culture. Special emphasis will be placed on the roles of the United States, Germany and the European Union.

Current events will be discussed whenever they become relevant. The course includes a guest speaker and a visit to the German Foreign Ministry for a talk on German-American relations.

Politics/Environmental Studies 318/FU-BEST 18 (3) - Spring only | Environmental Politics and Policy in Europe

Students will learn about the guiding principles and developments within the EU’s environmental policy. Subsequently, the course will cover the major environmental challenges we are facing currently. The second part of the course will be devoted to different forms of pollution, such as air, noise, water and soil pollution, as well as humanity’s impact on biodiversity loss. 

Politics/Sociology 315/FU-BEST 10 (3) | Islam and Europe: Historical and Contemporary Dimensions 

Provides an overview of the history and present condition of Muslims and Islam in non-Muslim majority settings in Western Europe. The first part of the course is devoted to the analysis of key terms and concepts that will serve as the foundation for the remaining parts of the course. Different concepts such as “Islam”, “Islamism”, “Shari’a” and “Secularism” will be discussed in their historical context. In the second section, the institutionalization of Islam in Europe will be examined in its complex and highly nation-specific relationship to religious state policies, especially in France, Germany and Great Britain. 

Politics/Sociology 334/FU-BEST 34 (3) | Migration: Dynamics and Controversies in Europe and Berlin

Focuses on the often problematic and conflictual triangle of migration, ethnicity and religion and examines empirical case-studies on the wider European as well as on the local Berlin levels. We will especially examine more closely the public debates, which take place mostly around the categories of ethnicity and religion. We will question different forms of mobility and think about the consequences of the contemporary politics of fear and identity, played out along the lines of the production and reproduction of fixed cultural boundaries, which thereby foster xenophobic world views. A final objective of the course will be to explore ways to think beyond the conventional framings of identity.

Psychology/History 312/FU-BEST 6 (3) | The Human Condition and the Totalitarian Experience

The course will pose questions including: What popular attitudes and psychological reactions exist towards totalitarian atrocities such as the Holocaust? Under what psychological conditions are individuals capable of offering resistance, as did the “rescuers” of Jews under Nazi domination? The psychological aspects of “totalitarian situations” remain acutely important, even in present-day democratic societies.

Sociology 304/FU-BEST 20 (3) - Spring only | Pop Culture: European-American Trends 

We will analyze popular culture by placing a special focus on European-American trends. At the center will be developments in films from Metropolis to Independence Day, from the jazz age via the British rock invasion to the outlaw figure in Hip-Hop performances, American founding myths between Shane, Old Shatterhand and Spaghetti Westerns, or the state of exception in post-apocalyptic scenarios in a transnational perspective.

Sociology 305/FU-BEST 21 (3) - Spring only | European Traditions in Sociology 

Today sociology is offered at universities all over the world – with some significant regional specializations. While American sociology is best known for its strong empirical orientation (‘social research’), sociology in Europe has developed further the theoretical traditions of the classics (‘social theory’).  The aim of the course will be to portray prominent European sociologists and apply their ideas to the challenges of our time.

Women’s Studies/Sociology 325/FU-BEST 27 (3) - Spring only | Women’s and Gender Studies in Transatlantic Context 

This course on gender and women’s studies in a transatlantic context focuses on the boundary—that which both divides and unites. We investigate sexed and gendered boundaries between bodies, communities, cultures, classes, races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, and nations. By the end of the semester, students will be able to discuss gender and gender roles in a nuanced manner and formulate academic theses about some of the major social, medical, and political concerns facing women in North America and Europe.

Download PDF with full program details on all AIFS Germany programs!

Download PDF with full program details on all AIFS Germany, Berlin programs!