IES Abroad Berlin - Language & Area Studies

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About

Specially-designed to improve your German language skills, the IES Abroad Berlin Language & Area Studies Program draws upon Berlin’s rich culture and tradition to connect your coursework with the living history of the city. IES Abroad courses are taught in German by local faculty, and a variety of academic options are available at local universities.

Berlin will be your classroom. Can you imagine learning about German politics and policymaking in class and then taking a quick walk to visit the German Parliament? Or discussing multiculturalism in Berlin and then touring one of the city’s bustling Turkish neighborhoods? This is study abroad. Wherever possible, our courses take advantage of the city’s many historical, artistic, and cultural sites, and several courses also include a hands-on, practical component.

Interested in seeing our Center through a Virtual Tour? Check out https://www.iesabroad.org/study-abroad/virtual-tours to learn more!

Questions & Answers

No, the general requirement is three prior semesters of German, though I think they may sometimes make exceptions for two semesters of study. All classes and coursework are in German, so you would definitely struggle with no prior knowledge. HOWEVER, IES have a number of other programmes in Berlin for which German is not a pre-requisite, but you take German courses while there-- for example, the...

Reviews

95%
based on 17 reviews
  • Academics 7.3
  • Support 8.8
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 15 of 17
Ryan
8/10

Greatest Experience of My Life

This program gave me the time of my life. I was able to live in the formal East side of Berlin with a former East German. I learned so much and the professors were great to work with, in fact my GPA went up while I was abroad and I was traveling around Europe. There is even an option of taking courses at Humboldt, which is one of the coolest things that this program offers. Plus I was able to make some really great friends in the program and outside of program. All and all this program is awesome and it was a great step for me to improve my German.

How can this program be improved?
This program is very back end heavy, so there isn't a lot of work in the beginning but at the end it seems as though the professors waited till the last minute to do all of the assignments that they planned for the entire semester. So it would be nice if the work load was more evenly spaced out.
Yes, I recommend this program
Sabina
10/10

A wonderful year in Berlin!

I spent the entirety of the 2016/17 academic year in Berlin with the IES Language and Area Studies programme, and at the end of it my only complaint was that it wasn't longer! The classes offered by IES were all wonderful, taught by a great faculty, and I also really enjoyed the courses I took directly through the the local universities. The IES courses especially really made being in Berlin even more worthwhile. Learning about German literature and politics (to name just two examples) while actually being in the country made IES a complete experience.

One of the best things about IES for me was having the student centre right in the middle of Berlin. It was great having a place to meet up with other students and hang out between classes, and the location couldn't have been more conveniently located. I loved nothing more than getting out of class and walking a few blocks to the nearby park to have lunch. The staff at the centre were all wonderful. The few issues that did come up over the year were all easily handled and I never had a concern that should something go wrong, I would be on my own dealing with it.

I can't stress enough how amazing Berlin is as a city, and experiencing it through IES was one of the best years I've ever spent. I learned loads and greatly improved my German, worked an internship, and made many new friends. It was everything I hoped and more!

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps a wider range of courses could be offered through the IES centre- for me all the courses fit really well with my major (international relations) but some of the other students whose majors weren't so politically inclined could have used some more variety.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jake
10/10

Berlin great, IES great

Let me start by saying: I became convinced over the course of my semester in Berlin that it's basically the best place in the world. It's a capital city, but without many of the things that ruin a capital city and make it boring and unlivable. It's cheap, young, political, and there's so much going on! It has amazing music coming through, really cool bars, beautiful and huge parks (so many for a large city!), and even multiple lakes not too far away to swim (some have real beaches). But in addition, the city also has so much history, including incredible museums, monuments, and memorials. All of this is not to say that Berlin is without problems, but you'll learn about those in your courses and become more attuned over time. None of it persuaded me to revise my opinion.

The IES Programme itself was also great. The people that work there were always available and helpful, whether with course questions or health insurance queries. I took half of my courses within the programme. I would especially recommend Multicultural Berlin with Sabine Berking-- I learned a lot about Berlin and Germany, and we took some awesome field trips to places around the city. (I also heard about many other trips from my friends in other courses.)
I would say that I did not feel hugely academically stretched by my IES courses, but they catered well to a wide range of German abilities, and if you are feeling more confident, there is an opportunity to take classes with ~real~ German students at Humboldt. This is something I would absolutely recommend. Though it was a little effort to make it work, it was definitely worth it to meet people outside the programme and feel like a real Berlin student. For this reason, if you are only going for one semester and it is an option for you, I would definitely recommend going in the spring, as the Humboldt semester doesn't line up particularly well with our semesters, and in the spring the extra couple months run into summer rather than your spring semester back in the US (I was in Berlin until the end of July). Plus it means that the weather only gets nicer and nicer while you are there!

Most of my friends in the programme lived in home-stays in the city, and it did seem that there was a real range in outcomes with that. I, personally, had an amazing experience and will probably meet up with my host mum whenever I return (hopefully soon). Others had more difficulties, which is tough for IES to solve, though they will talk things through with you. A couple other of my friends organised living arrangements outside of IES, and so lived alone or with other students, which is an option to consider if you're feeling very motivated.

How can this program be improved?
I would say that organising taking classes at Humboldt was a little more complicated than I thought was necessary; however, part of that seemed to be disorder at the Humboldt end too. We all made it work in the end.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jack
10/10

An Amazing Semester

I got everything I could’ve hoped for from studying abroad with IES and then some. I arrived having done the minimum language requirement for the program and was worried about how that would translate to my courses. What I found was that the courses were challenging, but incredibly helpful in developing my German language skills both in an academic setting and while out and about in Berlin. Additionally, we went on field trips as part of courses throughout the city and we were able to visit and see things that I know I would not have known or been able to do otherwise. The structure of the courses also made it easy to be involved in extracurriculars, travel, or just explore the city. The staff would post on a bulletin board whenever a cultural event was coming up, in addition to any information about local community events. Personally, I didn’t use the board and instead went out and found things to do on my own, but I know people who did use it and had a great time at those events. The staff were also always willing to help and any questions I had (whether it about a course, housing, or travel) were answered quickly. My time abroad was one of, if not the most, amazing experiences of my life and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone I meet! So I hope that after reading this you are even more excited to study abroad because it will be such an incredible and rewarding experience if you choose to do it!

How can this program be improved?
I'd say the main way this program could be improved would be if they provided the final course list earlier than they currently do. That way it would be easier to get courses pre-approved at the home institutions.
Yes, I recommend this program
Caleb
10/10

More Than "Study Abroad"

Like the majority of students studying abroad, I had numerous great experiences which contributed to my cultural understanding of Berlin as well as the German language. Nonetheless, I found my friendships and connections while in Berlin and the resources offered to me through the IES program the most worthwhile aspect. My courses were challenging and engaging, allowing students to learn a great deal and share their own perspectives on particular readings. Additionally, the program courses emphasized many "hands-on activities" (for instance, a self-guided walk around a part of the city or a tour of Bertolt Brecht's house). With regard to the program students, they are all highly motivated and certainly show a passion for the German language/culture and attending events, which creates a pleasant and inspiring learning environment. As far as the staff is concerned, I cannot thank each and every one for making the process significantly easier. Problems with housing, visa, courses, internships, etc. were all handled quickly and it became apparent that the IES staff prioritized each student's happiness while abroad. Many students typically must take specific courses in their field of study which are not offered by IES, but the IES staff helps facilitate taking courses at the local Berlin Universities (Humboldt Universität being the more common choice). This not only allowed students to finish course requirements, but also interact with the students at the nearby universities and establish friendships across the globe. Whether someone wishes to participate in sport related organizations, internships, or pursue other interests, many opportunities exist for program students and the IES program assists with each process. I would undoubtedly recommend the IES Berlin (Language and Area Studies Program) to anyone interested in participating. I guarantee the experience is both unique and rewarding!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Hailie
9/10

Liebe IES

I'm writing this at the end of my year abroad, not wanting to have to leave my life in Germany. This year has been one of the best of my life, and it couldn't have been without the help of IES Abroad. I immediately felt at home and comfortable in my new environment. Every step of the way the wonderful staff of IES Berlin did their best to make everyone's adjustment smooth, make sure the students got to know each other and bond, and answered any and all questions we may have had.

And by every step of the way, I mean really every step! I had contact with them before I left and continue to stay in touch with the Berlin staff: I fell so in love with the city I am now planning everything I can to return with their guidance and help. They truly have a passion for the students and their life in the city, as well as the entire study abroad experience in itself. I can't thank them enough for everything they've done for us!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Katy
10/10

My Favorite Time

While I was studying abroad one of my best experiences was going to the Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Berlin, Germany. During the Christmas season, everywhere is decorated with Christmas lights and these Christmas Markets. They are very special and always have a warm atmosphere with food, drink, and gifts for Christmas that could only be found there. Going out at night when everything was all lit up and everyone was bundled up to stay warm was one of my favorite experiences while being abroad!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Luke
10/10

Best Decision of My Life

Going to Berlin was an amazing experience! The IES building was located in Mitte (the central district of Berlin) so it was very easy to get around and see the city. I lived in Kreuzberg with an amazing host family who were very helpful and made me feel extremly welcomed in the city. Living in Berlin and being surrounded by so much history made the experience extra special!

The program allowed a lot of flexibility in the scheduling of classes which made travel much easier. I got to travel to so many different cultures and have mazing experiences there as well!

I would recommend this program to anyone! It was life changing!

How can this program be improved?
The grading policy for unexcused absences was a bit strict
Yes, I recommend this program
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Margarita
10/10

Cliche in the Best Way

Hey there! I’m assuming that since you’re reading this you are looking into going abroad. I have one simple piece of advice for you – do it. It will change your life. I know that sounds cliché but I promise it’s true. I went on the IES Berlin: Language and Area Studies program during the Fall 2015 semester. My program was a language intensive one since I wanted to perfect my German but if you don’t know German there is another IES Berlin program that is entirely in English and just as awesome. Berlin is the most incredible place I have ever been – and that is coming from someone who traveled to 13 countries during my semester abroad. It manages to flawlessly combine its rich history with its current modernism. It is a city where you are free to be unapologetically unique in any way you wish to be. The program itself was run by a staff of people who truly care and the schedule is designed in a way that allows for exploration and adventure since it is really easy to pick classes that allow for a three day weekend. On top of that, all the teachers made sure to incorporate Berlin into the course – whether it was through field trips to museums or trips to sporting events or debates about controversial topics being discussed in Germany, there was a real effort to immerse us in Berlin as a whole. Overall, going abroad was the best choice I have ever made and I am confident that wherever you go, you’ll have a life changing experience.

How can this program be improved?
More course options for people who are not international affairs majors.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Bailey
8/10

Take your experience into your own hands, don't rely on the program.

IES provided many opportunities that really enhanced my experience abroad, but I did have to do quite a bit of work outside of the program to fully benefit from my experience. The excursions that were part of course work, which was incredible to learn about a piece of German history and then go see it in context. Other than these excursions with my American classmates, experiencing German culture and meeting locals was mostly up to me to discover. It was quite difficult to find locals that were interested in befriending an American who would leave in four months. I was determined to not allow a little culture barrier prevent me from meeting locals, so I joined a rowing team in southern Berlin and it became the highlight of my experience! This program really does allow for you to live independently (aside from living with a host family), but you must be comfortable going out of your way to make your abroad experience worth while. Additionally my housing situation was not ideal for me. My host family was more interested in me as a renter than me as a guest. My suggestion would be to get an apartment with locals that are closer to your age and are living a typical student lifestyle. I often felt like I was intruding on the family, and it was strange having lived on my own during college and then being placed with a family with children that was not my own, I felt very out of place. I initially was really excited to have a host family, but in the end, I realized how much I would have preferred living with people my own age who would be studying and living a similar lifestyle to me.

How can this program be improved?
Housing. Almost no one in my program enjoyed their housing situation. Most people tolerated it. It's not that the families were bad by any means, it's just without having meals with the families, it made it difficult to interact with them. Also forcing a college students schedule on a family with kids and schedules is not ideal. Students should live with other local students to fully immerse themselves and meet people their own age.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Linnea
10/10

Everything and More

I could go on and on forever about my experience studying abroad in Berlin and that's because I had such an amazing experience. IES in Berlin made sure that we felt welcomed, they got us set up with everything that we needed like a phone and a visa for staying more than 90 days in Germany etc. They also walked us through other things like how to assimilate into German culture and how to reassimilate back into American culture once we leave. They had plenty of options other than just taking classes, such as getting involved in German student organizations at Humboldt University, getting an internship, or volunteering with other organizations. They also had pre-organized trips you could sign up for and I absolutely loved those. Not only did they take care of all the details like food and housing and some activities and tours, but you could opt out at any time in case you really wanted to do something else. It was the perfect amount of autonomy mixed with ease of travel that I think was great for people our age who are perfectly capable adults but dont have the time or knowledge to plan out the best accommodations or find the best food. The trips were one of my favorite parts. When I was in Hungary, we were at a restaurant and the waiters called me over and I ended up cooking our cous cous dinner in a huge pot that they lit on fire! It was totally awesome and not the type of thing you can necessarily experience on your own. IES Abroad helped me feel like Berlin was my home and I felt like by the end of the program that I was very close to the staff and that we were family. I hope to return at some point soon so I can see everyone again (even though most of my American friends wont be there).

How can this program be improved?
I think sometimes there could have been a little bit more organization or forewarning for events coming up, and I wish there were a few more opportunities to meet Germans besides having to go out on your own and encounter people, but overall I dont have many things to critique.
Yes, I recommend this program
Gianna
8/10

IES Berlin Fall 2015

Berlin was not as much a German city as it was a multi-cultural city. It is a place where all nations are represented, including people, food and architecture. There were so many people from all over the world and all walks of life. Every time I was on the U-Bahn (metro) or the S-Bahn (city-train) I would here languages ranging from English (Australian, British, American, Canadian) to Turkish to Japanese to Swedish to Spanish to Serbian. It was remarkable to think that we all ended up in this small space at this moment in time in this specific city.

I also learned a great deal from the relaxed academic environment at the IES Berlin center, which enabled me to fully understand and more importantly appreciate the uniqueness that is Berlin- there is not another city like it. This relaxed and not-demanding workload also allowed for frequent travel within Berlin and Germany, but also to neighboring nations for a great price. It was almost too easy to say "hey let's go to Barcelona for the weekend, it's only 42euros round-trip." This travel was also very important to IES: this independence was fully explained by the program staff. All program health and safety was fantastic in preparation and I always felt safe knowing that my program was very well prepared to handle anything that might happen. This was something that was very important to me.

One thing that is definitely worth thinking about is if you are a pretty introverted person, you may feel lonely at times, even in such a big city. It is not easy being in completely new situations in a new country with people you do not know. Therefore, try to push boundaries and really find out who you are. Being abroad will be the best experience for you to cultivate aspects of yourself you did not even know existed! It is a scary but an exhilarating time!

I was only in Berlin from September 1st -December 19th, but I accomplished a great deal and saw so much of a part of the world I had never been to before. IES Berlin made my time abroad an absolutely remarkable experience that I would highly recommend to anyone! Take the time to see the world as a student. It is something unparalleled.

How can this program be improved?
The level of academics was pretty low which did allow for a lot of free time. I wish we could have learned more in class!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Manuel
10/10

Life-Changing Trip

My trip to Berlin this past summer marks a before and after in my life. I cannot stress enough how much my perspectives were changed, how much I enjoyed participating in another culture, how much I absolutely loved exploring Berlin's many cultures (Balkan music, Turkish/German cultural exchange, LGBTQ music scene), and how connected I felt with world history while I was there. This trip is perfect for people who need one last push to discover what they want to do after college.

How can this program be improved?
I wish there had been more options easily available both to explore East German history and/or Turkish culture in Germany.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Peter
9/10

Es lebe Berlin!

The Language and Area Studies Program definitely met and exceeded my expectations! Within a few weeks of the semester I fell in love with the city, and by the end I didn't want to leave. The IES staff in Berlin was really helpful/accommodating and made sure that we made the most of our abroad experience. While in Berlin, I stayed in a small apartment in the middle of the city with two German students, which was a great opportunity because I got to experience the city with Germans who had lived in the city for years. My day-to-day life was conducted almost entirely in German and so my German language ability improved tremendously throughout the semester. I also signed up through Humboldt University's "Sprachzentrum" and found two language partners that I still keep in touch with even though I am back in the US. There was so much to do in Berlin that not once did I ever feel like I was bored and looking for something to do. From the cultural aspect to learning German to the famous Berlin Nightlife, there was definitely more to experience that was possible in just 4 short months. I would highly recommend this program to anyone that has a passion for German and wants to spend a semester/year in one of the coolest cities in the world!

How can this program be improved?
It would have been nice if the classes had ended earlier each day so that we could explore the city more during the weekdays.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Haedyn
10/10

Berlin, du bist so wunderbar!

The past 4 months of my life in Berlin were absolutely great. The IES program in Berlin provided me with everything I could have ever imagined. The staff was always informative about events and things going on in the city, as well as having events for students at the center. My housing selection was well picked and conveniently located in relation to school and public transportation. Public transportation was a little overwhelming at first, but once you take the train, tram, or bus a few times, you will learn your way around pretty quickly. I always felt safe in my neighborhood and loved exploring around the city. The academic program at the IES center is not very hard and allows students to use their time to see things Berlin and Europe have to offer. All in all, I highly recommend this program to anyone looking to study in Germany.

How can this program be improved?
I was not a fan of the large block of the German intensive course on Thursdays. I feel like this was too long and by the half-way point, myself and other students could not retain the information we were learning.
Yes, I recommend this program

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