Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS)

Language of Instruction: German
Term: Academic Year, Spring

Become fully immersed while studying on a high level language program in Germany’s culturally rich capital city.

Spend the spring semester, or better yet, the academic year living in the EU’s economic and political powerhouse. Prepare for study in the German university system through intensive language training. Explore contemporary German life and culture in a city with a vibrant arts scene. Immerse yourself in Berlin's advanced knowledge of environmentalism and new technologies.

Program Overview

The academic year program runs September to July, while the spring semester program runs February to July. There is no fall semester option. This is a high level German language program.

Students begin by enrolling in a 6 week German Discourse and Culture (GDC) course taught at the BCGS. After completing this course, students directly enroll in German university courses in a broad range of subject areas.

Throughout the entire program, students explore the rich historical and cultural resources of Berlin and other German cities. For academic year students, there are opportunities to intern with local companies and organizations.

Students are encouraged to pursue a full immersion program. However, there is now a partial immersion option available for the academic year students only.

Full Immersion:

  • Required by all spring semester students

  • Students will take all classes in German

  • After completing the German Discourse and Culture course at the BCGS, students will enroll in German courses at the FU in various disciplines

  • Students will also have the option of enrolling in the BCGS course taught in German to only BCGS students

  • Academic year students are encouraged to take part in full immersion in the fall, but required to take part in full immersion in the spring

Partial Immersion:

  • This option is only available for Academic Year students during the fall semester

  • Upon completion of the language exam during the application process, students who place at a lower language proficiency will be recommended to enroll into this option

  • Students will take the German Discourse and Culture course at the BCGS and then will enroll in English speaking and/or German speaking courses at the FU

  • Students will take part in full immersion at the FU during the spring semester

The Consortium

The Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS) was founded in 1995 by a group of U.S. universities to help students improve their German and to give students the opportunity to enroll in a broad range of German university courses with the support of a structured program. Members of the consortium are:

  • University of Chicago
  • Columbia University and Barnard College
  • Cornell University
  • The Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Princeton University
  • In association with the University of Notre Dame and Vassar College

The BCGS welcomes qualified students from other institutions to apply.

Welcome from the Resident Director

Dear Student:

Welcome to the Berlin Consortium for German Studies. You have chosen one of the best schools in the U.S., receiving not only an excellent education but also taking advantage of extracurricular activities and enjoying the personal and academic exchange with congenial fellow students. Why should you leave that inspiring and comfortable American home campus for a semester or even a full academic year?

Let me tell you why. One of the leading universities in Germany, in one of the most exciting and vibrant places, a true cultural hotspot at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, is waiting for you in order to give you the opportunity of enriching your undergraduate career through the experience of studying abroad.

The Berlin Consortium for German Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin is a once in a lifetime chance to fully immerse yourself in another culture and academic world, and to see life through an entirely different lens. Enroll directly in a German university, live with German hosts for the first month and then move in with other German students or young professionals. You can even consider an internship. Just dive into a life that you would otherwise never have had the opportunity to experience.

No doubt, cultural transitions may also include stressful moments, but you are not alone, there is an extremely well-functioning support system you can always fall back on. The BCGS directors, language instructors, program assistant, and tutors will guide you through the ups and downs of becoming a bi- or even multilingual undergrad with first-rate academic and professional opportunities.

See you in Berlin!

Carmen Müller, Resident Director

Eligibility and Application

  • Must be a currently enrolled as an undergraduate student in good academic and disciplinary standing
  • Must have completed at least two years of college-level German or the equivalent. It is highly recommended that spring semester applicants have at least one additional course beyond the required two years
  • Minimum 3.0 average language GPA
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA


Want to apply? Click the “Start Your Application” button at the top of this page. If the button doesn't appear above, the program is not yet accepting applications.You will be asked to set up a short profile, which will allow us to send you relevant information about your application. Once you’ve created a profile, you will see a checklist of items that you will need to submit. These generally include:

  • Application questionnaire(s)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation – language and academic
  • Official transcript(s)
  • German writing sample
  • German Language test (must be completed 1 week before application deadline)
  • Home school approval/clearance
  • Application fee (if applicable)


The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.

Please note that your course schedule is subject to the approval of the BCGS Visiting Professor and the Resident Director.


During their first semester (fall or spring) students enroll in the following for a minimum of 18 points:

German Discourse and Culture, 6 points

This course is taken during the orientation period prior to the start of the German semester. It is a mandatory six-week course that combines extensive language study with an introduction to the discourse of German academic culture, both spoken and written. The goal of the course is to prepare students for successful study in the German university system. Special attention is paid to practical vocabulary for both academic and daily living applications. Satisfactory completion is required as a condition of enrollment in courses at the FU.

BCGS Selected topics in German studies, 4 points each

The BCGS Visiting Professor determines the topic of the BCGS course every year, based on his or her own academic interests and background. The course takes advantage of Berlin and its resources to inform the coursework. Past topics have covered history, art history, literature, theater, and cinema. During the spring term, a course on German-American relations is also offered by the Resident Administrative Director. Enrolling in at least one of these courses is highly recommended and strongly encouraged.

Supervised study in the German university system, minimum of 8 points

Students enroll directly into at least two courses in the German university system. Based on the results of a placement exam taken at the end of the practicum, BCGS staff assist students in finding appropriate courses for their language level and academic interests.


During their second semester (fall or spring) students enroll in four courses for a total of 16 points:

BCGS Selected topics in German studies, 4 points each

The BCGS Visiting Professor determines the topic of the BCGS course every year, based on his or her own academic interests and background. The course takes advantage of Berlin and its resources to inform the coursework. Past topics have covered history, art history, literature, theater, and cinema. During the spring term, a course on German-American relations is also offered by the Resident Administrative Director. Enrolling in at least one of these courses is highly recommended and strongly encouraged.

Supervised study in the German university system, 4 points each

Students enroll directly into at least three courses in the German university system. Based on the results of a placement exam taken at the end of the practicum, BCGS staff assist students in finding appropriate courses for their language level and academic interests.


All of the courses below are taught at the BCGS and offered only to students participating in the BCGS program.


German Discourse and Culture (required of all incoming fall and spring students)
  • German I3335: German Discourse and Culture I
  • German I3405: German Discourse and Culture II
  • German I4335: German Discourse and Culture III
Fall semester 2017:
  • BCGS: German Studies I3993: Berlin in Film: A Survey of a City
Spring semester 2018:
  • BCGS: German Studies I3994: Queer German Cinema
  • German Studies I3600: U.S. Perceptions of Germany and the Germans from Bismarck to Hitler


German Discourse and Culture (required of all incoming fall and spring students)
  • German I3335: German Discourse and Culture I
  • German I3405: German Discourse and Culture II
  • German I4335: German Discourse and Culture III
Fall semester 2016
  • BCGS: German Studies I3993: The Berlin Wall Divided Stories in Literature and Film
Spring semester 2017
  • BCGS: German Studies I3994: What is Enlightenment?
  • German Studies I3600: U.S. Perceptions of Germany and the Germans from Bismarck to Hitler


German Discourse and Culture (required of all incoming fall and spring students)
  • German I3335: German Discourse and Culture I
  • German I3405: German Discourse and Culture II
  • German I4335: German Discourse and Culture III
Fall 2015 Semester Courses
  • BCGS: German Studies I3993: Too Much to See? Literary Culture and the New Vision in Weimar Germany, 1918-1933
  • German Studies I3991: Studies in the German university system
Spring 2016 Semester Courses
  • BCGS: German Studies I3994: Berlin Stories: History, Storytelling, and Urban Life
  • German Studies I3600: U.S. Perceptions of Germany and the Germans from Bismarck to Hitler
  • German Studies I3992: Studies in the German university system

Freie Universität

Berlin's largest university, the Freie Universität Berlin was established in 1948 under its founding motto, "Truth, Justice, Freedom." Some 33,000 students including more than 6,000 international students make up its student body. This traditional university offers over 150 different programs of study.

Primarily located in Dahlem, the campus includes offices and classrooms housed in villas, some large lecture halls, parks, and wooded areas. In addition to many research institutes, the FU Berlin also has a large library system, computer facilities, a center for recreational sports, and a wide array of student organizations. Like most European universities, it is not a residential university, and its student body commutes to the campus from all over greater Berlin.

Subject Areas

To browse the course catalog at the FU, click here.
The Freie Universität Berlin offers courses in the following subject areas:
  • Anthropology and Archaeology of the Americas
  • Ancient Near Eastern Studies
  • Social Anthropology
  • Arabic Studies
  • Archaeology
  • Art History
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Byzantine Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese Studies
  • Comparative Religions
  • Computer Science
  • Dentistry
  • Dutch Language and Literature
  • Eastern European Studies
  • Economics
  • Educational Science
  • Egyptology
  • English Language and Literature
  • French Studies
  • General and Comparative Literature
  • Geography
  • Geology-Paleontology
  • Geophysics
  • German Language and Literature
  • Greek
  • Historical and Comp. Indo-European Linguistics
  • History
  • Indian Art History
  • Indian Languages and Literature
  • Iranian Studies
  • Islamic Studies
  • Japanese Studies
  • Jewish Studies
  • Latin
  • Latin American Languages and Literature
  • Law
  • Mathematics
  • Media and Communication Studies
  • Meteorology
  • Mineralogy
  • Musicology
  • North American Studies
  • Pharmacy
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Primary School Education
  • Psychology
  • Romance Languages and Literature
  • Semitic Studies
  • Slavic Languages and Literature
  • Sociology
  • Theater Studies
  • Theology
  • Turkic Studies

STEM Courses

Each semester, a number of BCGS students in high academic standing and with an advanced level of German successfully enroll in STEM courses at the FU. In order to best prepare to enroll in STEM courses, students are encouraged to plan their courses in advance. There are no BCGS subject tutors, but FU group tutorials will accompany STEM lectures to help students pass exams. In addition, the BCGS writing consultants will help students in dealing with the technical vocabulary.

Below are lists of STEM Departments and course titles students from the BCGS have enrolled in and successfully completed from 2012-2016.

  • Chemistry
  • Computer Applications
  • Earth Sciences
  • Economics
  • Economics & Management
  • Mathematics
  • Operations Research & Financial Engineering
  • Psychology
Course Titles:
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Behavioral Public Economics
  • Biological Psychology II
  • Code Semantic
  • Complex Analysis
  • Computer Architecture
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Distributed Systems
  • Elec. Data Processing I
  • Environmental Economics
  • Game Theory
  • Government Economic Policy
  • Health Psychology
  • Introduction to Labor Market Theory
  • Investment & Finance
  • Markets/Competition/Consumers
  • Organic Chemistry Empiric Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry I
  • Paleontology & Earth History
  • Practice of Clinical Psychology
  • Probability II
  • Research in Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Socialization & Learning
  • Stress and Health

Grades and Transcripts

All courses taken on the program are converted to an American grading scale and transmitted to students as follows:

Columbia students: Grades appear on SSOL and your transcript any semester grades from courses taken at Columbia. For more information, please see the section on Academic Credit in Steps to Study Abroad.

Barnard students: Grades appear on eBear and your transcript as any semester grades from courses taken at Barnard. For more information, please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Barnard Students on our Barnard student pages.

Cornell, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, and Vassar students: The program sends grades directly to these institutions for direct posting on the home school transcript. Please review the home school's guidelines on grades and credit.

Princeton and Non-Columbia students: Grades are entered into Columbia system and you will need to request a transcript to obtain your final grades. Please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Non-Columbia Students on the Non-Columbia student pages.

IMPORTANT: Many times grades are not received from your FU professor(s) until late April if you studied in Berlin for the fall semester and late October for the spring semester. If you are a Columbia/Barnard, Princeton or Visiting Student, your grades are entered as received and you are automatically notified at your Columbia email address. For consortium member schools, once we have received all of your grades, a grade report will be forwarded to your home school and they will enter the grades on your home school transcript. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you need to have grades posted earlier, please talk to your university professors about submitting grades to the BCGS office as early as possible.

Life in Berlin


We recommend that all students participate in the Guest Stay program in the first 4 weeks of the program. During this time, students seek out their own housing in shared apartments for the rest of the program. Students who want more independence can opt for a dorm room. Students who already have established housing in Berlin are able to opt out of the Guest Stay program. In opting out, they are committing to securing their own housing prior to their arrival.

Orientation and Guest Stay

Upon arrival in Berlin, students participating in the Guest Stay program will stay together in a youth hostel for orientation weekend. During the first month of the program, students participating in the Guest Stay program live with German hosts. The guest stay is an invaluable opportunity for students, providing a window into the daily rhythms and customs of Berliners. It is also an amazing opportunity for students to improve their language skills with locals.

After the homestay, students move into FU-arranged dorms or they will have independently found an apartment share for the rest of their stay in Berlin.

Shared Apartments

While apartment hunting can be challenging, most BCGS students choose to find their own apartment shares. Doing so provides another opportunity to improve their language skills, benefit from cultural exchange with their German roommates, and explore a different neighborhood. Students can find their housing prior to arriving in Berlin or spend their time during the Guest Stay to find their own apartment.


Students who wish to live in a dorm must commit to this option prior to the start of the program by following the FU dorm application deadlines. This is an excellent option for students who seek independence, who do not want the burden of looking for an apartment during the first 4 weeks of the program, and/or who do not wish to participate in the Guest Stay program.

It is still recommended that students who live in the dorms participate in the Guest Stay program as it will allow them to get acclimated to life in Berlin as well as regularly speaking German.


No meals are included and there is no meal plan. However, there are several cafés, cafeterias, and two major dining halls, one of which is exclusively vegetarian at the FU. In addition, there are a few private restaurants and cafés around campus.


The program offers many activities that will help students engage with the cultural life of Berlin.


Academic year students who are motivated to apply their German in a professional setting and gain experience in a particular field can apply for an internship. The BCGS staff provides assistance in finding internships, but students must be proactive in pursuing and securing placement with their chosen organization. Past internships have included:

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP) (foreign policy think tank)
  • Rotes Kreuz (Red Cross, accounting division)
  • Deutscher Bundestag (German parliament)
  • Mayor's office (Division for Protocol and International Affairs)
  • Plan B Communication (public relations and marketing firm)
  • Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung (Berlin government office for urban planning)
  • Komische Oper (Opera House)
  • Benjamin Franklin Krankenhaus (FU hospital)


Students in recent years have participated in volunteer work throughout Berlin. Opportunities have ranged from teaching to public service. Students interested in socio-political issues have found ways through volunteer work to contribute to the German “welcome culture,” helping refugees integrate in German society.

Trips & Excursions

The program organizes a series of excursions and cultural activities in and around Berlin, which is integrated into the academic program. These trips are intended to provide an insider's look into Berlin and Germany, and they often provide access to people and places students might not otherwise have.

Cultural Program and Field Trips

During the first six weeks of the program, a trip is organized on a weekly basis. Examples of past activities include:

  • Guided tours through Berlin districts such as Kreuzberg, Mitte, and Prenzlauer Berg and museums such as Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlinische Galerie, Gemäldegalerie, Deutsches Historisches Museum, and Jüdisches Museum
  • Performances at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin as well as at theatres and off-theatres such as Berliner Ensemble, Volksbühne Berlin, and Heimathafen Neukölln
  • Visits at Berlin and federal institutions such as Bundeskanzleramt and Deutscher Bundestag, including a political discussion with a politician or administrative representative, attendance at a plenary session, and a tour of the dome
  • Day trips to Dessau (Bauhaus), Potsdam (castles such as Sanssouci and Cecilienhof), and Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Study Trips

Each semester, students participate in three- or four-day study trips. Past destinations have included Bonn, Cologne, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Munich, and Weimar. During these trips, students participate in guided visits to places of historical or cultural interest, listen to program-exclusive lectures, and usually have an afternoon free to explore on their own.

Daily Living and Schedule

The German University system is very different from the US University system. Students can expect for their classes to meet just once a week for 1.5 hours at a time. During the first 6 weeks of the program, the GDC course meets 4 days a week from 9 am until 1:15 pm. In general, Wednesdays are reserved for cultural excursions. In the fall semester, there are usually only two levels of German since there are fewer students and in the spring semester, three levels are usually offered.



Berlin is the capital city and the largest city in Germany. The city has become known for its art scene and entrepreneurial environment. Berlin is home to world renowned Universities, museums, orchestras, and entertainment venues. This city, rich in history and historical monuments, will provide endless cultural outlets for city dwellers and visitors alike.

Since the city's reunification in 1990, Berlin has been characterized by change and invention. The dichotomy between old and new provides a constant reminder of Berlin's complex history. After the fall of the Berlin wall, Berlin emerged as the cultural and economic capital city of Germany, alive with a sense of transformation and progress. A vibrant nightlife, exciting art scene, and myriad cultural venues contribute to Berlin's status as one of Europe's most cosmopolitan and sophisticated urban centers.

Visits to museums, galleries, cultural and political institutions, and historic sites and landmarks all contribute to providing a deeper understanding of Germany's past and its current role in the European Union and global affairs.

Freie Universität

The BCGS facility is located on the main FU campus in Dahlem and functions as a home base for program participants. The building houses administrative offices for the BCGS staff; a small library of books, magazines, and newspapers; classroom space where students convene for the Selected Topics courses; and limited computer facilities where students may check e-mail and W-LAN access for their own laptops.

For an introduction to the FU in English, as well as links to topics like "Studies and Teaching" and "Academia and Practice", please click on the following link:



Resident Director

Responsible for program operations, development and oversight of the academic program, student affairs, and administrative and financial management.

Carmen Müller has been the Resident Director since the program's inception. A native of the Southwest of Germany, she moved to Berlin in 1988 and experienced the fall of the wall and its aftermath first-hand. As a master’s degree student, she spent an academic year as a Fulbright fellow at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Dr. Müller received her Doctor of Philosophy from the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Freie Universität Berlin and is a historian specializing in 19th- and 20th- century European and German history, German-American relations, and methodology. Dr. Müller also teaches a course during the spring semester and loves the vibrant life of Berlin.

Assistant Administrative Director

Assists the Resident Director in program operations and student affairs.

Nikolaj Blocksdorf has been working with BCGS since 2012. As a genuine Berliner, he offers the students unique insights into the rich diversity of his native city. Mr. Blocksdorf is also familiar with the students’ perspective of educational exchange: He stayed with a host family during his high school year in Orange County, California. Later, when studying North American Studies and Islamic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, he left his comfort zone to live for seven months in Damascus, Syria.

Writing Consultants

The BCGS has several writing consultants who will be available to assist the students during the German Discourse and Culture course and throughout the regular university semester until the BCGS's final deadline for turning in all assignments. The consultants are German graduate students who provide support to the students in their academic work, especially in the preparation of oral presentations and written assignments.


BCGS Visiting Professor

On a rotating basis each academic year, the BCGS member institutions send a faculty member to Berlin as the BCGS Visiting Professor to oversee the academic program and teach courses on selected topics in German Studies.

Ian Fleishman is the 2017-18 BCGS Visiting Professor. Ian is an Assistant Professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania, with over a decade of experience teaching German language, literature, cinema and culture. In May 2013 he completed his doctorate in French and German Literature at Harvard University, having previously studied at the Freie Universität in Berlin, the Sorbonne Nouvelle and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and at Middlebury College in Vermont.

He has published in German Quarterly, The Germanic Review,The Journal of Austrian Studies, French Studies, Essays in Romanticism, Mosaic and elsewhere on subjects ranging from the Baroque to contemporary cinema. His first book, An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino, was the 2015 winner of the Northeast Modern Language Association Book Award and is forthcoming spring of 2018 with Northwestern University Press.

Previous BCGS Visiting Professors have included:

  • 2016-17: Andrea Krauss, Johns Hopkins University
  • 2015-16: Patrizia McBride, Cornell University
  • 2014-15: Mark Anderson, Columbia University
  • 2013-14: Marc Domingo Gygax, Princeton University
  • 2012-13: Jonathan Lyon, University of Chicago
  • 2011-12: Simon Richter, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2010-11: Arthur Groos, Cornell University
  • 2009-10: Katrin Pahl, The Johns Hopkins University
  • 2008-09: Warren Breckman, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2007-08: Volker Berghahn, Columbia University
  • 2006-07: Tom Leisten, Princeton University
  • 2005-06: David Levin, University of Chicago

Director of the Language Program

Detlef Otto studied Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and Social Sciences in Darmstadt and at the Freie Universität Berlin; he holds a Ph. D. in Philosophy. He has taught German as a Foreign Language since 1988. After having worked as a lecturer of the DAAD at the Università degli studi di Bologna / Italy from 1994-97, he went through an intensive training course at the Goethe Institut Berlin for language instructors. Since 1999, he is teaching intensive courses at the Goethe Institute. Since 2003, he has also worked in the field of teacher training. In the fall 1999, he started his work as Language Director for the BCGS.

Financial Considerations

Many students use a combination of federal student aid and home school grants to fund their undergraduate studies. Many, if not most, of these funds are applicable to studying abroad for a semester or academic year. The costs of studying abroad during the semester or academic year are frequently comparable to those of staying on campus.

All students should work with their home school financial aid office to determine what aid is available for studying abroad.

Program Costs: Academic Year 2017-18
Program Costs: Spring 2018

Financing Your Studies in Berlin

Students may apply for the following scholarship applicable to this program:


For more information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:

Fact Sheet

Language of Instruction:
Language Requirement:
4 semesters of language for fall (or equiv); 5 for spring (or equiv) highly recommended
Academic Year, Spring

Dates & Deadlines

Academic Year
Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Admissions Decision Date: 
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Program Dates: 
Saturday, September 2, 2017 to Saturday, July 28, 2018
Application Deadline: 
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Admissions Decision Date: 
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Program Dates: 
Saturday, March 3, 2018 to Saturday, July 28, 2018
Academic Year
Application Deadline: 
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Admissions Decision Date: 
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Program Dates: 
Saturday, September 1, 2018 to Saturday, July 27, 2019