My BUiLD abroad trip was my first time to Europe it was definitely an awesome way to wrap up five years of hard work on my undergrad in law and business (economics). In January I went to Berlin to study ‘Introduction to International Economic Law’ at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (I’ve been told that the name isn’t translated into English normally).
Three weeks flew by much too quickly with classes, cultural programs and meeting people from all over the world. In my class there were 6 Australians (5 from UTS) as well as people from Indonesia, Poland, Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil and India. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and by the end of the program we were definitely very sad to part ways.
Classes ran for about 3.5 hours four times a week with a break during each class. Despite the limited time, the classes were well paced and did not feel rushed. The instructor, Hanno Meyer, was excellent and very knowledgeable and created a very open and welcoming classroom atmosphere. The class covered a broad range of international content and included basic economic principles as well as the law. No prior knowledge was needed for this class. It was especially interesting learning about how the civil law system operates. One thing I found extremely surprising is that international laws are binding in Germany and many other civil law countries and is actually higher on the hierarchy than domestic laws.
The program at Humboldt also included a range of cultural activities including a day trip to Potsdam, ice skating and tours of museums, galleries, the Bundestag (Parliament) and the German Chancellery. As a bonus, Hanno also threw in a trip to the German Historic Museum for us during class time. The cultural activities were a great way to get to know our class mates and learn about German history and culture.
I also got a chance to experience the famed German rail network with a weekend trip to Prague and day trips to Dresden, Hamburg, Erfurt, Hannover and Leipzig with a fellow UTS student. Each and every trip was memorable filled with UNESCO world heritage sites, mediaeval towns and snow (though sadly not as much I thought there would be). Although speaking of snow, it was definitely fun telling ‘horror stories’ to my European class mates about regular 35C+ weather and Sydney recently being the hottest place in the world.
For anyone concerned about the language and cultural differences, Germans are very friendly and willing to help out a lost tourist, just don’t forget a friendly ‘danke schön’ (thank you) afterwards. A friendly local once noticed that I couldn’t understand the train announcements while I was on the high-speed ICE train and translated them for me. The classes are also taught entirely in English and while travelling I was able to get around with English and only a limited grasp of German. In saying that, enjoy the fact you’re in a different country and embrace all the differences you will encounter. There is also no better way to learn a language than being immersed within in it so take advantage of it and expand your horizons. However, I do have to warn you, public toilets invariably require payment and in Germany, as well as some other European countries, unleashed dogs are allowed in most places including inside shopping centres, restaurants and on public transport. Personally, I loved seeing all the dogs but take care if you have any allergies or are scared of dogs (though every dog I met was extremely friendly and obedient).
My experience at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin was amazing and unforgettable and I highly recommend the program. The university also offers a range of other programs in both the winter and summer school for anyone who would prefer something other than Introduction to International Economic Law.