Join us in Berlin for an insider’s experience of Germany on this Pre-College summer program for high school students. Broaden your horizons with in-depth, field-based seminars as you become part of an inspiring and supportive community of instructors and students from around the world. Choose two seminars and dive into your subject matter through engaging discussions, site visits, and hands-on projects that immerse you in German life.

The majority of our Pre-College programs are postponed until next summer. Be the first to know when we announce 2021 dates and new programs: Sign up for our newsletter!

Looking for a program this summer? View our Pre-College Vermont program!

Dates: July 1, 2020 – July 21, 2020

Eligibility: Completing grades 9 – 12

Duration: 21 days

Tuition: $6,990


  • Learn about Berlin’s Jewish history at the famous Holocaust Memorial
  • Explore the royal gardens of Frederick the Great’s summer palace
  • Photograph the winding cobblestone streets of Potsdam’s Dutch Quarter
  • Travel to Dresden to see how the city was reborn after the fall of the wall


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and a Pre-College representative at JFK Airport in New York, and fly together to Berlin, Germany. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Our Berlin Campus • Berlin is considered the melting pot of Germany, known for its vibrant art scene, diverse culinary offerings, and varied architecture. It is also home to important historic sites and powerful memorials, reminders of the country’s turbulent history, including remnants of the Berlin Wall and memorials for victims of the World Wars and the Holocaust. From our centrally located residence, explore modern and historical Berlin, and learn the story of a city that has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

Seminars Choose two seminars—a major and a minor—and explore Berlin through the lens of your chosen subjects. Begin with classroom discussions that frame your seminar concepts and identify key issues. Take the learning beyond the classroom with site visits, meetings with local experts, and field trips. Berlin’s rich historical, architectural, and cultural background makes it the perfect setting for our field-based seminars. Capped at ten students, our dynamic seminars are designed to encourage hands-on, place-based, collaborative learning. 

Dive into the history of Germany and the European Union in seminars focused on World War II and International Relations. Discuss current immigration policy with German citizens, as well as recently resettled refugees, to get a more nuanced perspective on this complex issue. Practice your German language skills in a cooking course as you also learn about German culinary traditions, and witness firsthand the architectural contrasts between old East and West Germany. Visit Berlin’s spectacular Museuminsel to explore history, art, and science through the carefully curated exhibits.

At the end of your program, showcase your work in a final project, installation, gallery, or performance. Display your travel photography in a pop-up gallery, present your findings from your History of WWII seminar, or deliver a short talk in the German language.

Afternoon & Evening Activities • Explore subjects outside of your seminars, relax, and have fun participating in enriching afternoon activities. Bike the path of the Berlin Wall, immerse your senses in the Turkish market at Maybachufer, then delve into automotive history at a classic car museum. Go hiking in Grunewald, take in street art and art exhibits, and sample the city’s currywurst offerings. Cap each evening with a full group meeting to reflect on the day.

Excursions • Take an overnight excursion to Dresden, a city subject to one of the worst bombings on German soil during WWII. The bombing, which was the inspiration for Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, destroyed the city center, much of which was left unrepaired until after reunification in 1989. Photograph the gardens at Der Zwinger, the steeples of the Frauenkirche cathedral, and the view of the Hofkirche at sunset. Grab a picnic lunch at one of the many food carts found along the Elbe River and stroll the winding streets of the historic city center. From Dresden take a day trip to the Sachische Schweiz, a national park in the Elbe Valley. Hike the ancient rocky staircases to the peak for stunning views of the Elbe River and villages below. Enjoy a well-earned heisse schokolade before descending. 

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Berlin, Germany to New York with your group and a Pre-College representative, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This description represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

This was our daughter’s best social and academic experience ever.

Carlos Martnez & Barbara Oliva-Martínez, Mexico City, Mexico 

A Day in the Life: Berlin

Due to the dynamic nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Berlin.

9 AM • Enjoy breakfast in the residence with your group
10 AM • Meet with your major seminar in the classroom to identify topics for the day
11 AM • Head into the field—on architectural site visits, for instance, or interviewing locals about immigration
2 PM • Break for lunch on the town with friends and your instructor
4 PM • Bicycle around the city with a guide to see Checkpoint Charlie and other historic landmarks
7 PM • Convene for Community Meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule
8 PM • Eat dinner out in small groups, and go to a theatre performance in the city


Choose a major and a minor seminar and get an in-depth understanding of Berlin and the surrounding area. Majors meet most days and minors meet twice a week. Capped at ten students, seminars are serious but fun, encouraging immersive, place-based learning. Frame your seminar concepts and identify key issues in the classroom. Take the learning beyond the classroom with site visits in and around Berlin that add context and depth to the course material. Cap off your studies with a final project or installation to share your work.

MAJOR SEMINARS (click on seminar to read the full description)

Art & Architecture
From world-renowned art museums like the Pergamon and the Old National Gallery to palaces, churches, and other architectural masterpieces, Berlin has no shortage of cultural offerings. Immerse yourself in the art history of Berlin, including the avant-garde Berlin Secession, the Dada movement, and the divergent trends of East and West German art. Then, trace how these movements, as well as German history, have influenced the current art scene of Berlin, a city with hundreds of galleries and openings every night, as well as a vibrant and edgy underground and street art movement. Walk the streets and study the architectural composition of the city, taking particular note of the divisions in styles of East and West Berlin. Consider development trends and how a divided country and international relations impacted these trends. Explore the Tiergarten and the Culture Forum; study the Berlin Philharmonie and New National Gallery; learn about economics and the politics behind the construction of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Traverse the city and witness iconic architectural experiments, such as the TV Tower and the Hotel Berolina, spurred from competition between East and West.. Then, synthesize your experiences in a discussion of the ideal conditions for a flourishing artistic culture, as well as an examination of elements that stifle creativity and the artistic impulse.
Climate Change, Technology, & Policy
Long lauded as a leader on climate change and renewable energy initiatives, Germany has more recently encountered setbacks in its ambitions, announcing that it will fail to meet its emission goals for 2020. Still, the country—the sixth largest carbon emitter in the world—remains an influential player in international climate negotiations, and continues to take steps to address our changing climate. In addition to investments in technology like solar and wind generation, more recent Initiatives include charging the transportation industry for carbon emissions, subsidies for electric cars, taxes on flight tickets, and support for wind and solar energy expansion. Critics say the initiatives are not enough to match the scale of the problem. In this course, delve into climate change policy to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities, nuances, and competing interests in the debate. Begin with an introduction to the science of climate change, then learn about the technologies available and the technologies being innovated. Speak with experts immersed in the science, such as scientists at research organizations, or technologists and science journalists. Interview German citizens about their views on climate change and the country’s efforts to date. Meet with policymakers to learn about the challenges in balancing public opinion with national interests. What economic considerations are there in proposing and developing new solutions? What political considerations? What possibilities remain open? Consider your own role, as an individual citizen, and begin as a group to develop a picture of what paths and actions you could take, and what technologies seem to hold the most promise.
German Language
This language immersion course complements group and individual fieldwork with extensive, seminar-style discussions on German culture, literature, history, and the contemporary art and music scenes. Begin in the classroom with dynamic lessons, then head out into Berlin and practice your German at local markets, museums, and restaurants. Interview local historians to learn about the economic, political, and cultural effects of the Berlin Wall; bike the city streets on a guided ride to hidden architectural gems; learn how Berlin functions as a city-state; or speak with locals in the Tiergarten park. With Berlin and the surrounding country as your classroom, you will improve your comprehension and gain confidence speaking German. Students are required to speak German in class, and choose and research an independent study topic in German life or culture to be presented during the last days of the program. This course is designed for students with at least two years of classroom German, or the equivalent.
History of WWII
Not long after the 20th century’s first devastating war, World War II shook the world to its core and shaped much of today’s global geopolitical landscape. As the capital of Nazi Germany, Berlin in particular suffered tremendous damage from repeated bombing and air campaigns. It is estimated that 80% of Berlin was destroyed in the war. The memory of the war remains alive in the German consciousness and in the country’s historical landscape. In this course, consider the legacy of WWII in Berlin and Germany through guided readings, engaging discussions, and field visits. Examine the political landscape that created the conditions leading up to WWII, and trace the capital city’s strategic role in the world’s deadliest conflict. Visit the Reichstag building, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and the Holocaust Memorial. Reflect on how the ramifications of the war have impacted modern-day views on everything from freedom of speech to privacy laws. Speak with historians and discuss the effect of the war economically and politically—as well as the psychological effects of the tragic experience on the German national identity.
International Relations & the EU
As European nations progress from monetary to political unification, they become an undeniable powerhouse on the international scene. Still, nations and their leaders must balance the needs, priorities, and interests of their own constituencies against this trend. Examine the larger issues of European integration or disunion, and its influence on the rest of the world, while exploring the economic challenges and liabilities these options pose for Germany. Learn about the various multinational institutions— including the UN, the WTO, and the EU—that work independently and together to establish order throughout Europe and beyond. Guest lecturers and field visits lend insight into the major political and economic institutions of Germany, as well as the impact of current issues such as immigration.
Photography & Media
Designed for photographers of all skill levels, this course teaches the basics of photography and composition before diving into more advanced shooting techniques and editing instruction. Whether your passion is portrait, landscape, adventure, or abstract photography, build your confidence and nurture your creativity through one-on-one workshops with your instructor and group critiques. Review other photographers’ work, and develop the visual and technical skills to capture the essence of Berlin and the people and history you encounter. Discuss and explore the implications of digital manipulation in an age dominated by the power of the image, collaborate on projects with other seminars, and curate a gallery showing of your newly created portfolio. You are responsible for bringing your own digital camera, which should have the option of being operated in manual mode. There is a supplemental fee of $200 for this course.

MINOR SEMINARS (click on seminar to read the full description)


Beginner German
For students with little or no background in the German language, this course allows participants to function at a basic level in German. Using a series of fun, dynamic language games and field exercises on such topics as food, greetings, getting around, and local culture and etiquette, improve your ability to engage with locals, while enhancing your experience in Berlin. With a limited class size, instructors identify students’ underdeveloped areas in their German knowledge and customize activities to address these gaps. Classroom instruction is kept to a minimum so that you can practice your German throughout the city at local markets, museums, and restaurants.
Drawing & Sketching
As travelers through the ages have discovered, sketching is a way to permanently etch in one’s mind the memory of a place. This field-heavy course takes students into the historic neighborhoods of Berlin and the surrounding country, pencil, charcoal, or watercolor in hand, to record their experiences through a series of sketches. Explore the iconic sights and hidden corners of this inspiring city as you develop and refine your artistic vision, working on portraiture and landscape rendering alike. Taught by a practicing artist, this course is meant for students wishing to hone their artistic skills as well as those who simply want to add depth to their experience in Berlin. Complement opportunities for drawing and sketching with visits to area museums and cultural sites, such as the Old National Gallery and Bauhaus Archive, or the Berlin Philharmonie and Berlin Modernism Housing Estates. Prepare a personal portfolio and present your work at a program-wide gallery opening at the end of the session.
Immigration & the Immigrant Story
Germany has emerged as a key player in European politics, due in large part to Angela Merkel’s leadership and the country’s stable presence amid Brexit and populist trends in EU nations. Germany’s economic engine and policy of open borders has made it a leading destination for those seeking refuge from war-torn and politically unstable nations. While some European countries are closing their borders or restricting immigration, German immigration policies enacted under Merkel’s leadership have gained international attention as a humanitarian standard. Despite international praise, the influx of refugees has divided the nation—on whether to continue these policies and also how to best educate, employ, provide services, and help integrate these families into communities across language and cultural barriers once they have arrived. Outspoken anti-immigrant and nationalist groups have held protests and are opposed by more liberal citizens promoting diversity. Dive into this issue by learning about the historical context and speaking with people intimately involved in the debate. Compare and contrast Germany’s role within Europe historically and in modern times with visits to historical sites and through interviews with community members. Meet with grassroots organizers, legal authorities, and immigrant families as you gain a deeper understanding of diplomacy, policy making, and the political cost of leading by example in divided times. Look ahead and consider how lessons from the German experience could be applied elsewhere.
Journalism & Social Media
The rise of the Information Age, plummeting newspaper circulations, the proliferation of the soundbite, and the immediacy of social media mean that being well-informed is a more complex proposition than ever before. In this timely seminar, read and analyze contemporary media, then hit the streets to research and prepare your own stories. Use interviews, observation, and opinion to explore issues of contemporary life, culture, science, and politics. Emphasis is placed on developing the tools to expose corruption, abuses, and criminal conduct. Led by a published writer/journalist, this workshop-style writing course allows everyone in your impromptu “newsroom” to learn from each other, as you refine your reporting and storytelling techniques for numerous journalistic media.
Designed for photographers of all skill levels, this course explores the use of photography as a storytelling tool for capturing the travel experience. Learn the basics of light, composition, and perspective, or delve deeper into shooting techniques. Through review of other photographers’ work, dynamic assignments, and helpful critiques, expand your understanding of photography while developing the visual and technical skills for documenting your experience. Whether your passion is portrait, landscape, adventure, or abstract photography, build your confidence and nurture your creativity through one-on-one lessons with your instructor. Master classes by guest artists, visits to exhibitions, and structured projects help you create a portfolio for display at the end of the program. You are responsible for bringing your own digital camera, which should have the option of being operated in manual mode. There is a $125 supplemental fee for this course.
The Fall of the Wall
The Berlin Wall separated more than two sides of one city—it drew a line in the city’s culture, ideologies, prosperity, and freedom from 1961-1989. Officially erected to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, the actual purpose was to put an end to the massive defections from East to West. The wall symbolized the lack of freedom under communism. It symbolized the Cold War and divisions between the communist Soviet bloc and the western democratic, capitalist bloc. As the Cold War began to thaw, on November 9, 1989, East and West Berliners flocked to the wall, celebrating and chanting “Tor auf!” (Open the gate!). In this course, study the impact of the wall socially, politically, economically, and culturally, and the effects of its fall. Speak with local Berliners about their memories of the wall; visit historic sites like Checkpoint Charlie; walk the streets and witness the architectural differences between East and West; and identify artistic trends in the city’s famous museums. Then discuss the experience of the city and its people after the fall, and what the future holds.

What to Expect

Seminars • Seminars are interactive and collaborative, and use the streets of Berlin and Dresden as their classroom. You can expect to meet with local and regional experts, artists, entrepreneurs, and guest speakers during the program. Each seminar works toward a final project—a short film, a business proposal, a performance piece, a gallery opening, or a dramatic reading, to give a few examples—which you present to fellow participants on the final night of the program. Parents and families are welcome to attend this final presentation!

Afternoons & Evenings • Each day brings new adventures and a variety of activities from which to choose. Instructors lead activities and often bring in guest instructors or local experts and students are encouraged to suggest activities and excursions they would be excited to join.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to spend most of each day outside and on the move with your seminar group, and to walk, swim, or play pick-up soccer or basketball. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • Our accommodations in Berlin are dormitory-style, with all students in single rooms with private ensuite bathrooms. We have access to common space and classrooms for community meetings and seminars. Leaders reside on the same hall with the students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day together with breakfast at our residence. For lunches, seminar groups may eat together or we break into small groups of three or more students to eat at a restaurant of their choice. Please note that lunches are not included in the tuition. We eat dinners at restaurants in small groups of staff and students to discover Berlin’s culinary scene.

I remember that we went to an art store to get supplies for our class, one day we did a stop motion film, and we even went to a coffee shop so we could get coffee and work on our projects. I LOVED the leaders. I would recommend this to anyone.

— Molly H., T.C. Roberson High School, Arden, NC