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 online 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 Beginner 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 History 301/FU-BEST 4 (3) spring only
History and Philosophy of Modern 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. A consideration of the theoretical context is of particular importance for the understanding of 20th-century art and its role in society. Thus the course will also introduce students to major philosophical ideas of the period and will focus on various links to the visual art works including reflections on the methods which art historians have found appropriate in studying the objects and ideas which constitute their discipline. Students will study originals during excursions to local museums.

Art History/Architecture 305/FU-BEST 12 (3)
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/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.

Business/Environmental Studies 315/FU-BEST 33 (3)  
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.

Business/Entrepreneurship 340/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. 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. During the semester, students will spend approximately 30 hours outside the classroom at social start-ups.

Cultural Studies/Music/Film 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.

Economics/Politics 305/FU-BEST 24 (3) spring only
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/Political Sciences/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.

Film 301/FU-BEST 5 (3) fall only
German Cinema before 1945
The course hopes to achieve three interrelated aims: to introduce students to fundamental elements of film and film analysis; to foster a critical understanding of how film functions both as entertainment and as an art form; to explore the developments within German film in light of specific historical and cultural frameworks; but also, to make students aware of the complicated issues involved in defining any unified national cinema.

This course assumes no prior knowledge of German, German films, or film theory in general. It is taught in English and all films have English subtitles.

Film 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.

Film/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.

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/International Relations/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/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/Philosophy/Literature 335/FU-BEST 7 (3)
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) spring only
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/Theater/Literature 302/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).

Music/Sociology/Cultural Studies 310/FU-BEST 29 (3) fall only
Music in the Digital Age
Through specific case studies, we will tackle the following questions: How have these technologies encouraged unprecedented modes of listening and acquiring music? In what ways has digital music technology enabled personal and communal experiences with musical content and style? And how do we reconcile the long-established connections between music and place in an era when music seems to exist largely in “the cloud?”

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/International Relations/History 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 & 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) spring only
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)
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/Religion 315/FU-BEST 10 (3) spring only
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) spring only
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/Philosophy 312/FU-BEST 6 (3)
The Human Condition and the Totalitarian Experience
This course starts with the classical concept of the totalitarian state, as developed by Hannah Arendt and others, taking Hitler and Stalin as their models. We will then cover some subsequent modifications and debates regarding the theory of totalitarianism, as a result of historical changes and developments, especially in the Soviet Empire. 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.

Religion/History/Sociology/Politics TBA/FU-BEST 32 (3) spring only
Christianity and Modernity in Contemporary Germany  
The Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches in Germany (and in much of Europe, for that matter) are experiencing a rapid decline in membership. Can one make the claim that in the last two centuries, society has become less and less “religiously musical” (Max Weber)? Or can one offer other hypotheses to explain this (post-)modern phenomenon? 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.

Sociology 305/FU-BEST 21 (3)
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 and Gender Studies/Sociology 325/FU-BEST 27 (3) spring only
Women 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.

Courses Taught In German

These courses are taught in German, please note the language prerequisites for participation carefully (Intermediate 3 and above).

History/Politics 327/FU-BEST 31 (3) spring only
Deutsch, Deutscher, Deutschland: Identität(en), Geschichte, Politik/Being German, Germany: Identity(ies), History, Politics  

En-route to the answer of who and what a “typical German” is, we will theorize the origins of self-imposed and foreign stereotypes and identities. By the end of the course, students will have learned of Germany’s development and dominant societal themes since the late 19th century and should be able to critically discuss foreign and self-identities, theorize about stereotype origins and compare and contrast existing identities in Germany with historical and political German clichés.

Theater/German Literature 315/FU-BEST 14 (3) spring only
Theatermetropole Berlin: Vergangenheit und Gegenwart/Theater Metropolis Berlin: Past and Present
Analyzes classic plays and modern performance pieces, repeated themes, critical receptions, the influence of the political climate in a multicultural society, the role of theater in the breaking of taboos and more. Through visits to the respected stages of Berlin we will also discover the dramatic differences between the play as a written text and a live production.

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

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