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This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Hannah Vander Sal
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Pre-Departure Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
The UCEAP Study Center is located in Berlin. Staff at the Study Center are on hand to advise on academic matters, assist with housing, provide information on cultural and social activities, and help address other concerns. Staff routinely monitor local and international conditions, and provide support, counseling, and safety advisories.
UCEAP Study Centers are supported by UC, a network of UCEAP offices at every UC campus, and partnerships with UCEAP host universities throughout the world. The UCEAP network also includes local U.S. embassies and consulates, the U.S. Department of State, and other international student exchange programs at each site.
Study Center Contact Information
Berlin Study Center
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011 49) 30 83 85 70 91
Phone (calling from Germany): 030 83 85 70 91
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code .............011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Germany country code ............. 49
Berlin city code........................ 30
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The FU-BEST program features German language study supplemented by a range of coursework taught in English in the humanities and social sciences that focuses on German and European studies. Depending on how much language training you wish to acquire, you will have a choice between a non-intensive and an intensive language track (enrollment in a German language course is mandatory for all participants). Local field trips and excursions are integral components of many of the courses.
Students enrolled in the FU-BEST programs have access to all libraries and computer labs at Free University.
There is an attendance policy in place on the FU-BEST program. Class attendance and participation in field-trips and excursions are mandatory. Absence due to illness or another legitimate reason must be reported to the FU-BEST office and to the teacher in question. Personal travel and visits by relatives or friends are not accepted as reasons for absence. Be sure to read the FU-BEST Academic Regulations and Code of Conduct for details on the attendance policy. If you have any uncertainty about how an absence will affect your grade, you need to speak with your instructor immediately.
Although most of the non-language courses on this program have no prerequisites for enrollment, they are all taught at the upper-division level. Because of this, you need to be prepared for challenging coursework that is beyond the introductory level.
Course topics such as the following may be offered:
• Modern German History in European Context: A Thematic Approach
• German Cinema before 1945
• Berlin: History, Memory, Literature
• Contemporary Germany in European Perspective
• Perspectives on 20th-Century Art in Central Europe
• Architecture in Berlin from 19th Century to Today
• Pop Culture: European-American Trends
• Film Music: Listening Outside the Frame (Spring Only)
• Music in the Digital Age (Fall Only)
• Jewish Life in Central Europe
• Women’s and Gender Studies in Transatlantic Context• Contemporary Cinema in Germany and Europe (Spring Only)
• Exploring Classical Music: Baroque to Contemporary
• The Reformation Heritage in Germany and Europe
• Promise of German Philosophy: Kant to Hegel (Fall Only)
• Tragedy and New Beginnings in German Philosophy: From Marx and Nietzsche to Habermas (Spring Only)
• Literatur und Film in Deutschland seit der Wende (taught in German)
Political Science and International Studies
• Integration, Conflict, and Security in Europe
• The Human Condition and the Totalitarian Experience
• Themes and Issues in Transatlantic Relations
• Islam and Europe: Historical and Contemporary Dimensions
• Environmental Politics and Policy in Europe
• European Legal Traditions
• Art and Dictatorship
• Media Politics: Structures and Case-Studies in Germany and Europe
• History of Modern European Diplomacy
• Energizing Europe: 21st Century Renewable and Fossil Transformations
Economics and Business
• European Business Cultures
• Europe in the Global Economy
• Green Business: German and European Sustainable Entrepreneurship
• European Traditions in Sociology
• Migration: Dynamics and Controversies in Europe and Berlin
• Statistics for the Social Sciences
For a complete list of the courses being offered you can visit the FU-BEST Courses website.
There are two language tracks on this program: a non-intensive track and an intensive track. All students on this program are required to take four courses.
Non-intensive language track: One lower-division Beginning German language course worth 6 UC quarter units (4 semester units) and three upper-division subject area courses worth 4.5 UC quarter units (3 semester units) each. Please note that this track is only available to students who are absolute beginners in German language. Absolute beginners are not limited to the non-intensive track.
Intensive language track: Two consecutive German language courses worth 6 UC quarter units (4 semester units) each and two upper-division non-language courses worth 4.5 UC quarter units (3 semester units) each. The German language courses are offered from beginning to advanced levels. Beginning and intermediate German courses are lower-division and advanced German courses are upper-division.
You will earn between 19.5-21 UC quarter units (13-14 semester units) for the program.
You can take one course per semester for P/NP.
Registering for Courses
You will register for courses prior to departure. On your FU-BEST application you will indicate which level of German you wish to take and you will rank the non-language courses in order of preference. Instructions and deadlines are located in your UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist. UCEAP does not require students to take a fifth course. If you have a special academic circumstance requiring you to take a fifth course, attach documentation of this need to your application. You will be notified by email in May (for fall participants) or November (for spring participants) with your course placements.
Course registration is done on a first-come, first-served basis. It is therefore in your best interest to get your application to UCEAP by the deadline indicated on your pre-departure checklist. If your application is submitted late, it is likely that you will not get your first choice of courses.
You will have the customary Add/Drop options during the first week of the program in Berlin, but remember that switching courses in an overseas setting like Berlin is more complicated and at times impossible. If you did not get placed into a particular course and you have solid academic reasons for needing that course you should bring documentation with you that contains detailed information on why you need to get into the course(s). This should include your major, the specific UC requirement you need to satisfy with the course, and supplemental information on why you are requesting placement in the course (i.e. you are a graduating senior). If possible, you should obtain written documentation from your departmental advisor endorsing your placement in the course.
Grades for the fall semester are usually ready by January and grades for the spring semester are usually ready by June.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extending your UCEAP participation may be possible. If you are considering extending, submit a Departmental and College Pre-Approval to Extend
(DPA) form prior to departure. The UCEAP Systemwide Office and the Study Center must approve your extension request. To initiate the extension process once abroad, make an appointment with the Study Center.
To extend, the UCEAP Systemwide Office must receive one of the following:
Deadline to Submit Extension Forms:
- FU-BEST fall to FU-BEST spring: October 1*
*FU-BEST fall students must be approved to extend before registering for the FU-BEST spring semester. Students even considering extension from FU-BEST fall to spring are strongly encouraged to have a DPA form approved prior to departure in order to meet the host institution’s spring registration deadline (November 1).
Once your extension has been approved, UCEAP will notify your home campus registrar, Financial Aid Office, and Campus EAP Office. For information about the steps you need to take with regard to finances, see the Extension of Participation chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
are excellent resources.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals, and try to understand the local culture and history.
Popular travel guides for Germany and surrounding countries are Let’s Go: Europe, produced by Harvard’s Student Agencies; Lonely Planet’s Germany; and Frommer’s and Michelin Guides (great recommendations for sightseeing and accommodations).
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Attendance at all orientation sessions is mandatory (per the UCEAP Student Agreement, Section 10). If you miss the Study Center orientation, you may be dismissed from UCEAP.
Your program begins at a predetermined place, time, and date. If you fail to appear on the Official Program Start Date, you are subject to dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Section 10). The Official Program Start Date is provided in the program calendar, which you can access via your Participants program page. You can find more detailed arrival information on the Arrival Information sheet in the UCEAP online Pre-Departure Checklist.
The mandatory FU-BEST and UCEAP orientations are designed to inform you on practical aspects of living in Germany.
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
According to the German Federal Foreign Office Information Service, U.S. students do not need a round-trip ticket to enter Germany.
Beyond this regulation, UCEAP recommends that you purchase a round-trip ticket instead of a one-way ticket; it is sometimes less expensive to change the itinerary for a return ticket than to buy a new one-way ticket.
UCEAP also recommends you purchase a ticket that allows you to change your return flight for a small fee, in case you need to change it once you are in Germany. Some airlines allow this, but others do not, so check with your airline on this issue.
You may be required to have a round-trip ticket to enter Germany, depending on your country of citizenship. Check with a German consulate to find out if this applies to you. If a round-trip ticket is required for you and you try to leave for Germany with a one-way ticket, you will not be allowed on the plane until you purchase a return ticket at the airport. However, round-trip tickets can only be purchased within a calendar year. If you will spend more than a calendar year in Germany (e.g., if you are attending the pre-ILP in July followed by an academic year program), you still need to buy a round-trip ticket. You can use the return portion to visit the U.S. in the course of the year or discard the original return trip ticket and purchase a one-way ticket home in Germany later in the year. Some—but not all—airlines let you change the return date past one calendar year from the date you arrive in Germany, so be sure to check on the ticket policy and restrictions.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
UCEAP strongly discourages “couch surfing” when traveling. This is defined as using an Internet social network (used by travelers around the world) to organize free places to stay.
- Update your contact information in MyEAP with any changes to your address, e-mail, and phone number. Check your e-mail regularly for important updates, especially as your departure date draws near.
- You are responsible for purchasing airline tickets even if you are on full financial aid.
- Purchase a changeable airline ticket. Standby tickets are not appropriate.
- Flights are routinely changed or cancelled. Confirm your flight schedule about two weeks before your departure date.
- When traveling, always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in checked luggage.
- Identify luggage on the inside and outside with your name, address, and destination. Never leave luggage unattended.
- The UCEAP Insurance Plan includes some personal property coverage, but it is your responsibility to determine if it will suit your needs. You must look into this prior to departure and decide whether or not you will need to purchase additional coverage.
- Luggage restrictions vary by airline. Check with your airline directly to learn about luggage rules and restrictions.
- Check directly with your airline or travel agent about any special measures you should take, such as the time you need to arrive at the airport and extra identification that may be required.
- Do not ask others to carry items abroad for you (laptop, camera, extra bags, etc.) and do not volunteer to do so for others. Airlines may not allow you to take them or customs abroad may charge you a high duty. This is particularly a concern with electronic goods.
- Contact the German consulate or your airline about how to take specific items (cameras, computers, etc.) into the country without paying a customs tax.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Germany. Your passport will serve as your main identification. Passports must be registered with the host city administration (see Residence Permit in this section for further details).
If you do not already have a passport, apply for one as soon as possible. If you have a passport, make sure that it will be valid at least three months beyond the end date of your stay.
If you have a European Union passport in addition to your U.S. passport, use the E.U. one when entering Europe.
Non-U.S. citizens must contact the German consulate immediately to determine their specific requirements, which will vary depending upon the country of citizenship. In most cases, non-U.S. citizens must obtain a visa in order to enter and study in Germany. The visa application process can take several months, so be sure to initiate it as soon as you are accepted for participation by UCEAP.
In general, non-U.S. citizens applying for a visa to study in another country must have a valid passport from their country of citizenship plus proof of permission to reenter the U.S., such as a green card or a readmittance stamp in their passport. If you do not have a U.S. reentry permit you will likely be denied a visa and should apply for a reentry permit at a local immigration office. If you already have the permit, make sure it will remain valid throughout your entire stay abroad.
Being out of the U.S. may jeopardize your permanent residence status in the U.S. Year-long students and students considering extending UCEAP participation from a short-term (semester) program to a year-long program must take the necessary steps before departure to ensure their legal return to the U.S.
Non-U.S. citizens who fail to obtain the proper visa prior to departure for Germany will not be able to participate in UCEAP.
The FU-BEST staff will assist you with the residence permit process. FU-BEST will pay the €50 fee in cash for you, but in return you will be expected to pay for expenses related to German language and subject course field trips (not exceeding €50). As part of the residence permit process, you must submit the Declaration of Financial Support to UCEAP prior to departure (refer to your online Pre-Departure Checklist for specific deadlines). The FU-BEST staff will process and submit this paperwork; you will not need to go to the local immigration office yourself.
You will have to give up your passport for one to three weeks as part of the residence permit process. Do not plan to travel outside of Germany during this time. This is German law, and no exceptions will be made. You should also make plans to exchange enough money in advance to last for this time (money exchange usually requires a passport). Use this time without a passport to familiarize yourself with the local neighborhoods or other cities within Germany.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
Travel lightly. A good rule is that if your clothing will not fit into your luggage, you have probably packed too much.
- Warm coat or down jacket (for winter)
- Clothing for cold, rainy weather (raincoat, headgear, scarf, gloves, etc.)
- Thermal underwear
- Sturdy walking shoes
- Dressy outfit for formal events
- Voltage converter and plug adapter (voltage in Germany is 220 cycles)
- Prescription glasses or contact lenses with solution if applicable (neither the UCEAP health insurance nor the German national health insurance covers contact lenses and cleaning fluids, which are expensive in Germany)
- One towel
- Prescription medication (for more information on taking prescription medication abroad, see the Health chapter of this guide)
- Reference textbooks and notes related to your major field of study
- German grammar book
- German-English dictionary (or buy one in Germany for €10-30)
- Lightweight gifts for new friends and host family (suggestions include T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; UC pens or pencils; baseball caps; California postcards, posters, or scenic calendars)
- Laptop computer and lock
- Bike lock and helmet
The weather in Germany is considerably more variable than in California. The summers are warm (humid to hot) and winters can be bitingly cold. The annual rainfall is about 20 inches. The first snowfall usually comes early in December, with alternating snow and rain lasting through March. The sky is often cloudy.
Warm winter clothes and sturdy walking shoes are available in Berlin, though they can be relatively expensive. Fashion tends to be fairly casual in Germany, and there are plenty of secondhand clothing shops.
Your required readings will be assigned to you once you are in Germany. There is no need to purchase any textbooks prior to your departure. Some UCEAP students find it helpful to bring a reference German grammar book with which they feel comfortable.
The voltage in Germany is 220 volts. Be sure to obtain a plug adapter and voltage converter for your electronic devices. You can purchase these in the U.S. or abroad. Some electrical appliances such as travel irons, curling irons, blow dryers, and electric razors are available with built-in voltage converters for all currents. The cost of electricity abroad is high, and improper use of appliances may damage both the electrical outlets and the appliances, so be sure to ask before using the outlets. You can buy certain inexpensive items such as blow dryers in Germany, thus eliminating the need for voltage converters or plug adapters.
For information on using laptops in Germany, see Computer Access and Use in this guide.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
The Euro (€)
The euro is the official currency of Germany and most European Union nations. The currency is denominated into seven notes and eight coins.
The current exchange rate is approximately €1 to U.S. $1.07 (as of January 2017). Since it is impossible to predict how the exchange rate will fluctuate during the year, budget carefully.
Cash Upon Arrival
You can purchase foreign currency through your bank in the U.S. (it can take up to two weeks to receive the currency). Purchase about €300 to €400 cash in the U.S. to bring with you to Germany. Besides providing the opportunity to become familiar with the euro, the funds will be useful for snacks, local transportation, tips, and unexpected purchases when you arrive. You may also exchange currency after arrival at the airport or bank, or you can withdraw money from an ATM; however, it is best to have some euros on hand upon arrival. When exchanging currency, exchange rates will vary, so you are advised to shop around for the best rate.
Unless you have regular bills that need to be paid to someone in Germany, it is unlikely that you will need to open a bank account. Personal checks are virtually nonexistent.
Most large stores and restaurants in Berlin honor major credit cards, such as Visa and MasterCard. American Express is rarely used. Keep in mind that most credit card companies charge fees on purchases made in foreign currency or abroad (even if the transaction is made in dollars). Check with your credit card company for details.
Be sure to call your credit card company before you leave and inform them that you will be using your card abroad so they do not freeze your account when they see overseas transactions.
In general, payment with credit cards is a lot less common in Germany than in the United States. For most daily exchanges under €100, cash or use of an EC card is the norm. Do not assume that you may use a credit card in restaurants or cafes; be sure to have cash on hand to cover the transaction.
Though procedures vary, it is usually possible to receive a cash advance from ATMs, but not in stores. Former students recommend you have someone in the U.S. deposit money into your Visa account at home so that you can obtain a cash advance in Germany free of charge (not all credit card companies permit this). Before departure, check with your home bank about these and other services. There are some banks that allow ATM withdrawals abroad without charging extra fees.
Transferring Money Overseas
Do not use travelers checks; they are usually not accepted in Germany, and in the few places where they are accepted there is a large fee to cash them.
It is convenient to access money abroad using an ATM card. To do so, you or your parent(s) open an account in the U.S. with, for example, Citibank, and get a Citibank ATM card with a PIN. Once abroad, you can use the card at an ATM to withdraw money that has been deposited in the account. Those with accounts at Bank of America can withdraw money from Deutsche Bank ATMs without a fee. Transactions made at other ATMs may be subject to a charge, so it is often best to withdraw the maximum daily amount during any ATM transaction. There is no waiting period: once the original deposit has cleared the bank in the U.S., it is available for withdrawal abroad. There may be limitations on the amount of cash accessible per transaction. Check with the card-issuing company about your options.
Call your bank before you leave and inform them that you will be accessing your account abroad for an extended period of time. Check with your bank to make sure you can use your ATM card to access funds in Germany. It is helpful if your ATM card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, as it will make it easier for you to withdraw money at a bank.
ATMs in Germany require a four-digit PIN. If your PIN has more than four digits, you will not be able to use the ATMs. Check with your bank prior to departure.
Western Union is available to wire money. For procedures on wiring money and to locate an agent for both sender and recipient, go to the Western Union website
is another option for wiring money. The transfer generally takes about ten minutes and all fees are paid in the U.S. For more information, contact a MoneyGram location.
The use of money transfer services such as TransferWise is usually much cheaper than a direct transfer from your U.S. bank to your German bank account. Go to the TransferWise website
for more information.
Never wire transfer money to anyone you do not know personally through companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram. It is nearly impossible to reverse the transfer or trace the money, which makes a common tool for scammers.
Bring your own laptop abroad, if possible. Some computer labs are available; however, the labs are open for only limited hours and access is difficult during the end-of-term rush. Handwritten papers are not accepted and there generally is no late-night computer use.
If you take your computer, take the appropriate voltage converter (unless the computer operates on both currents). Most laptops are equipped with a voltage converter allowing the use of the 220-volt electricity in Europe. Read your computer manual to confirm. The converter is usually part of the “box” located halfway down the power cord. You will still need an adapter to use the outlets. A surge protector is also recommended (surge protectors can be purchased after arrival for reasonable prices).
If you take your laptop, keep it within reach at all times while traveling. Laptops are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers.
Bring a laptop lock and lock your computer to your desk at home or when you go to the library. Never leave your laptop unattended or lose sight of it in a public space (including university libraries), even for short periods of time.
The UCEAP Insurance Plan
includes a personal property benefit, which may cover the loss/theft or total damage of your belongings, including a laptop; however it is your responsibility to review the details of this coverage. You may determine that you need additional insurance.
The FU-BEST program building and much of the FU campus has W-LAN (WiFi). FU-BEST also has its own computer lab and printer. Internet cafés are widely available throughout Berlin and offer cheap Internet access (as low as €1 per hour or a minimum of €0.50 for 15 to 30 minutes), as well as international phone calls, faxes, etc.
The student apartments used by FU-BEST feature an internet connection via Ethernet cable within the rooms, and WiFi in the common areas and the ground floor.
Students should be prepared for the fact that internet access is not as reliable or as readily available abroad as it is in the U.S. However, there are many locations both on campus and around Berlin that offer free public W-LAN access.
The online FU-BEST Student Guide
provides more information about computer and internet access during the program.
Local & International Calls
You can purchase relatively cheap calling cards for international calls at various kiosks around town, and you can also use Tele-Cafés for good rates on international calls.
Pay phones that take coins are still in use. Local calls in Berlin cost approximately €0.20 when using public phones, but are subject to change. You can direct dial the U.S. by dropping in a euro or two, then dialing 001, then the area code and phone number. The money will run out fast, but in a pinch it allows for instant communication via phone to home.
Cell phones (called “Handys”) can be purchased at several stores, starting at €15. UCEAP recommends purchasing phones and SIM cards with prepaid minutes, which cost more per minute than a phone plan may offer, but have no monthly fee or contract. Please note that a new law has come into effect as of July 1, 2017, mandating that buying a prepaid SIM card requires registration of the card. The buyer has to provide ID that shows their current address and date of birth. Foreigners must show either their residence permit or an arrival notice.
If you sign up for a phone plan, be sure you know the rates that apply for different types of calls (to landlines or cell phones, local or international, etc.). Many German companies offer seemingly good deals but require a two-year contract that cannot be broken.
Some students take phones with them with international plans purchased in the U.S. Students with tri- or quad-band cell phones from the U.S. can use them abroad by purchasing a prepaid SIM card once in Germany. Usually, such phones must be "unlocked" by the U.S. cell phone provider to allow you to use SIM cards from other phone companies. Check with your service provider for details.
You can also reference this third-party website
, which offers a review of options and has general information on using cell phones in Germany.
Refer to the online FU-BEST Student Guide
for additional information about telephone access during the program.
Be sure to pay all your phone bills before leaving Germany. If you leave without paying your final phone bill, your UC registration and records will be blocked until the bill is paid in full.
One of the most popular means of communication when calling internationally is using the Internet to make phone calls at an inexpensive rate. Students with smart phones often use apps such as Skype, Facetime, and Facebook Messenger to video chat with friends and family back home. In addition, SkypeOut is a Skype service through which you or your parents can charge the account to make calls to regular landlines and cell phones. Currently, SkypeOut costs 2.1 cents per minute to a German landline, American landline, and American cell phone, and 9 cents per minute to a German cell phone. Skype also offers monthly subscriptions.
German post offices, located in every neighborhood, sell stamps and phone cards and send letters and packages. Letters sent within Germany usually reach their destination within one day. Airmail is necessary only for overseas mail. Letters mailed to and from the U.S. take about 3-7 business days. German postage is expensive. Sending letters from Germany costs twice as much as it does from the U.S.
Lately, students have reported their packages from the U.S. did not reach Germany for some reason. Therefore, it could be a good idea to a) have your family transfer money instead of sending gifts or b) have your family use a shipping method that includes tracking.
It is useful to have the following text on the package in order to minimize the chance of hassles with German customs: "Gebrauchtwaren / Persönliche Gegenstände zur Benutzung während Gaststudiumaufenthalts in Berlin" and the value to listed as below 50 Euros.
You can receive mail during the program at the FU-BEST program office.
Students who withdraw after the withdrawal deadline may be liable for unrecoverable housing and other costs incurred by UCEAP.
You have the option to choose between a homestay and a studio apartment. You will make your selection prior to departure as part of your FU-BEST application in your online Pre-Departure Checklist. Housing payments are included in the UCEAP fees. See the UCEAP Student Budget on the Money Matters tab of your Participants program page.
- Homestay: Includes two meals a day (usually breakfast and dinner), seven days a week. Homestay accommodations provide the opportunity to observe firsthand how Germans live. Since most FU-BEST students don’t speak German at a fluent conversational level, the FU-BEST staff makes every effort to place students in homestays where some English is spoken by at least one person. Keep in mind that the homestay is intended to help improve your German. If you select the Homestay option, you must write a statement about yourself, including any information that will assist the FU-BEST staff in matching you with the right homestay. We encourage you to consider choosing the homestay housing option, as past students have been very happy with their experience.
- Studio apartment: Single occupancy, fully furnished apartment. Meals are not included. The Akademia Residenz apartments are located at Gotthardstraße 96, 13403 Berlin, in the district of Reinickendorf within walking distance of two metro stops, "Kurt- Updated August 25, 2016 Schumacher-Platz” and “Afrikanische Stra- ße” (U6 line). Located in a residential area in northwest Berlin, it takes approximately 50-60 minutes to get to the FU-BEST campus by public transportation and approximately 20 minutes to the city center. The apartments are fully furnished with pillows, blankets, and sheets. Each apartment has an en-suite bathroom with a shower, a sofa bed, and comes equipped with a kitchenette with basic kitchen equipment and utensils. The apartments feature an internet connection via Ethernet cable within the rooms, and WiFi in the common areas and the ground floor.
While it is possible for you to opt out of the program housing and arrange housing independently, please be aware that it might be difficult to find private housing in Berlin, especially if you do not speak German fluently. Please note that if you decide to opt out of program housing,
you will not receive housing assistance from FU-BEST or UCEAP, and you cannot change your housing choice after FU-BEST’s application deadline has passed
. Refer to the independent housing section
on the FU-BEST website for more information.
The housing option chosen by a participant is considered final and binding for the entire semester. No (partial or full) refund of fees used for homestay or apartment arranged by the program is possible after the deadlines indicated in your Pre-Departure Checklist.
The studio apartments are equipped with a kitchenette with basic kitchen equipment and utensils. No meals are provided in this housing option.
If you choose the homestay option, you have two meals included each day (breakfast and dinner), seven days a week. You will usually have access to kitchen facilities at your homestay for additional cooking. If you are staying in a homestay, you are a guest of your host family. As such, you should clearly communicate with them on eating schedules and whether you plan on missing any meals.
There are also plenty of university cafeterias (mensas) in Berlin, which are ideal for lunch. Mensas offer inexpensive meals, generally between €2 and €3. You will have daily access to this meal option during weekdays. You will receive a meal card for this facility during the FU-BEST orientation and can put money on it as time goes by.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Subway and Buses
Berlin is a big city, so you may need to travel a fairly long distance when visiting different sites in Berlin or commuting from your housing to campus. However, public transportation is excellent. There is an extensive, easy-to-use network of buses, U-Bahn
(city train), and Strassenbahn or Tram
(streetcar). Check the BVG website
for updated information on the Berlin transportation network, including bus and train schedules, maps and ticket information, and route planning.
Bus drivers expect you to show them your ticket as you board the bus; on S-Bahns and U-Bahns, non-uniformed undercover transportation employees conduct spot checks. Traveling without a valid ticket makes you subject to a €60 fine payable immediately, no excuses accepted; repeat offenders pay more and will be banned from the bus or subway.
As part of your FU-BEST program fee, you will receive a pass for use of the public transportation system throughout Berlin (zones A, B, C) tied to your Free University student ID card.
Biking around Berlin is easy, and there are bike lanes all over the city. Make sure that you always lock your bike carefully since unlocked bikes are likely to be stolen. Be sure to follow all traffic laws when biking. Do not bike the wrong way on a one-way street (Einbahnstraße), or in the pedestrian portion of the sidewalk; you could be injured, injure somebody else, or be fined.
You can buy bicycles in many places around town. The Berlin Welcome Book you will receive from the Berlin Study Center includes detailed information on where to buy a bike. To find the best bike route to take, refer to BBBike
, an online route planner for cyclists in Berlin and Potsdam.
Berlin Immersion students: Your semester ticket allows you to take your bike onto the U-Bahn or S-Bahn for free; if you are using the standard monthly ticket or a day-pass, you will have to buy an extra bicycle ticket.
FU-BEST and Berlin Summer students: You will need to pay a supplemental fare when taking a bike on the U- or S-Bahn.
The easiest way to travel in Germany is by train. Intercity trains in major cities run every hour. During rush hour there are good connections between surrounding districts and city centers. Even medium-sized villages have railway stations, although scheduled stops may be fewer. Station information staff can provide information on changing trains, connections, weekend service, fares and discounts, etc. It is generally advisable to buy tickets well in advance to save money.
High-speed ICE trains are by far the fastest ground transportation in Germany. These trains reach speeds of 300 km/hour (186 miles/hour) and usually run every hour. ICE trains operate on several lines connecting Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart, and Munich. Besides the ICE class of trains, there are several others with varying degrees of speeds:
S-Bahn (Schnellbahn, “Fast Train”): Commuter rail service in and around major metropolitan areas.
SE (StadtExpress, “City Express”): Local trains that connect outlying towns and villages with medium and large cities.
RB (RegionalBahn, “Regional Train”): These trains are similar to SE; however, they stop in almost every village along the way.
RE (RegionalExpress): A significantly faster service than the RB and SE. Stops at medium and larger-sized towns.
IC (InterCity): Express service connecting domestic and international medium-sized towns to major rail centers. Trains generally run every two hours or more often.
ICE (InterCityExpress): Express trains connecting larger domestic destinations. Trains run every hour. Some of these trains travel into adjacent countries as part of the EC (EuroCity) system.
EC (EuroCity): international train service within the European inter-city rail network.
Most trains have first- and second-class carriages, which are offered at higher rates. Most express trains have a restaurant or buffet car. For night journeys, you can use sleeping cars or couchettes (usually with a special reservation).
A Bahncard is valid for one year and enables travel on all German trains (within Germany) for a discounted rate, ranging from 25 to 100 percent of the regular price of the ticket (Normalpreis) depending on the type of Bahncard. Bahncard 25 (currently €41 for students under 27) provides a 25 percent discount on all full-fare InterCity trains and often enables significant further reductions on specific trains booked in advance. The Bahncard 50 provides a 50 percent discount on all tickets for the year. As train travel is expensive within Germany, the initial cost of the Bahncard 50 (currently €127 for students under 27 with identification; €255 full fare) will likely be offset quickly by savings through the Bahncard.
The combination of the Bahncard and various special offers can produce inexpensive tickets, but finding out how they work is complicated. This is why the Bahncard 50 is a good idea, since any ticket you purchase is good on any train; the cheaper Internet offers are tied to specific trains, which only works well if you are sure that you will be traveling at a certain time on a specific date.
- Railway timetables (including wait times and Sunday schedules)
- Train connections (when and where to change trains)
- Student fare discount information and other special offers
- To make reservations and book by credit card
Other favorite types of student rail passes are the Eurail and InterRail passes. We recommend that you purchase the Eurail pass from the U.S. before departure, even though they do ship overseas or you could find certain combination available for purchase in train stations abroad. You can select the length of time and travel zones for which the pass will be valid. After residing abroad for six months, you will be eligible to buy the InterRail pass, which is cheaper than the Eurail pass. You can choose an InterRail ticket that is good for travel in one country, or purchase a “Global Pass” that is valid for travel in 30 European countries and provides up to a month of unlimited train (and sometimes bus and ferry) travel outside of Germany. Students often use this pass during spring break and find it to be an excellent value. Visit the Eurail
websites for more information.
More and more students use buses, such as FlixBus, to travel within Germany, as they offer good rates (compared to Greyhound, etc).
For many international destinations within Europe, low-cost air travel is an option. See Ryan Air
, Easy Jet
, German Wings
, and Air Berlin
for more information. Make sure you are aware of the restrictions that come with inexpensive airline tickets (such as luggage restrictions, minimal or no refunds for unused tickets, etc.). Plan to travel only on the weekends, school breaks, or following your program.
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while on UCEAP is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community. There is a wide range of extracurricular activities available to you in Berlin. Join clubs, sports, or musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations, attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles, and get the most out of your time abroad.
The Study Center staff has information on cultural and social events, and will arrange various activities and excursions.
Students with Disabilities
In general, each Berlin university has a counselor dedicated to working with students with disabilities. If you have a disability, contact the Study Center immediately so they can provide you with further information.
Strong advocacy for students with disabilities exists at all Berlin universities. Studentenwerk offers counseling for students with disabilities.
FU–Counseling for students with disabilities
Thielallee 38-14195 Berlin (Dahlem)
Phone: (030) 939 39 9020
Office Hours: Mondays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. and by appointment
For more information, visit FU’s Advocate for Students with Disabilities website. The FU also has a disabled students’ advocacy group, called the Interessengemeinschaft behinderter Studierender an der FU Berlin. For more details, visit their website.
Commissioner for Students with disabilities:
For more information:
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
During the semester, pursuing a job or internship is not feasible, in view of the full calendar and tight structure of the FU-BEST program.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community is protected by federal anti-discrimination laws and LGBT Pride events are officially encouraged by most large city governments, including those in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich.
Although same-sex marriage is not legal, registered partnerships have been available since 2001. Anti-discrimination laws exist to protect LGBT people in the workplace, and the public is generally supportive of equal rights.
For more information,
All UCEAP participants are covered by the mandatory UCEAP travel insurance, which includes non-medical benefits. Read it, understand the terms of coverage, and share it with your parents.
Know Before you Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim proces
or about non-medical claims
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is your responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims Status
ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FU-BEST Insurance Coverage
All students have FU-BEST insurance coverage for medical coverage within Germany. The cost of the insurance will be included in your UCEAP fees.
Use the UCEAP Travel Insurance when you travel outside Germany or if you need counseling sessions as they are not covered by the FU-BEST insurance.
Good medical care is widely available. A hospital stay or medical treatment is expensive, and immediate cash payment is often expected. German hospitals do not issue the detailed breakdown of expenses. Such a detailed bill has to be requested from the hospital or the doctor.
If you are sick or injured, contact the Study Center staff. They can help you find referrals and guide you to make an appointment. The UCEAP travel insurance will reimburse the payment of covered medical services. You will need to file a claim. If you have questions about your benefits or the insurance claims process, contact ACI at email@example.com
A list of English-speaking doctors in Berlin is available at the U.S. Embassy’s website
. For more information, read the Physical Health section in this guide.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact the Study Center or local program manager immediately. Study Center staff will have recommendations on which clinic to visit and the necessary UCEAP insurance claim process to follow. If arrangements need to be made with your professors due to extended absence from class, Study Center staff may be able to assist.
Know Before you Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
Medications containing amphetamines and derivatives are illegal in Germany (e.g. Adderall). German customs restricts the amount of narcotic medications a traveler may bring into the country. If a 3‐month supply is permitted, it must be accompanied by detailed documentation by the attending physician, and it must be carried in its original package. Students who will need more than a 3‐month supply of medication will need to obtain a new prescription from a physician in Germany. The Study Center may be able to help you make an appointment with an English-speaking German doctor who can consider prescribing you the medication (provided it is licensed and legal in Germany) for the remaining months you will be in Germany. You will need a letter from your treating physician indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen.
German law prohibits the mailing or shipment of drugs, including prescription medicines, to private persons in Germany. If you attempt to have someone mail you medication from the U.S., it will likely be confiscated by the German customs department.
- Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor to get a similar prescription. Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. It may be covered if you are insured through your campus health insurance plan. It will be critical to have a letter from a U.S. doctor during this appointment explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
- If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician on letterhead indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Keep the medication in its original packaging. Ensure that it is clearly labelled with your full passport name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is in liquid form, consult the US Transportation Security Administration., Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country in quantities to last through your stay, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
The FU-BEST program will provide you with a list of English-speaking counselors that you can see, and they can assist you with making appointments.
The following are additional resources provided by Free University.
Free University Psychological Counseling (available in English)
Center for Academic Advising and Psychological Counseling
Iltisstr. 4, 14195 Berlin
(subway station U3 Dahlem Dorf)
The Psychological Counseling Service of Free University Berlin offers individual counseling, training seminars and workshops. They provide support to student with their personal development and to improve academic competencies.
Many students visit Counseling Services.
Studentenwerk Berlin-Psychological Counseling
Confidential counseling is free of charge and available in English. Studentenwerk provides services to students of all public universities, Hochschulen and Fachhochschulen in Berlin. Web: http://www.studentenwerk-berlin.de/en/bub/pp_beratung/index.html
. You can visit at either of the two locations below; in Charlottenburg or in Friedrichshain.
Phone: (030) 939 39 8401
Franz-Mehring-Platz 2-3, Haus 2
10243 Berlin Friedrichshain
Phone: (030) 939 39 8438
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., discuss your UCEAP program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for going abroad. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
Your mental health is important to us all. Create a plan with your treating doctor. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
You may feel homesick or sad. Feeling down, anxious, homesick, depressed or stressed might be your body’s reaction to the new environment and different life away from your usual support network. Don't cope alone. Reach out for help to the local UCEAP program staff and your friends. If you have been feeling unhappy for longer than a few days, or it is staring to affect your enjoyment of
life and/or your studies, then you should see a doctor immediately.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy
covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process
. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at email@example.com.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Read all information provided to minimize your risks and staying healthy while travelling. Know who your local contacts are during an emergency. Make informed, responsible, and reasonable decisions concerning your health and safety while abroad.
There are some strategies you can practice anywhere in the world to minimize your risks. Personal safety starts with awareness. To be alert to potential dangers and risks to your well-being, you need to be aware of what is going on in your immediate environment. The choices you make about your behavior, attire, travel, personal property, relationships, etc., can directly influence your exposure to risk.
The purpose of this advice is to provide up-to-date information so you can make well-informed decisions.
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Consider an action plan.
With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Take time to assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.
Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.
Report anything suspicious to local authorities. Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff. Schedule direct flights, if possible. Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency. If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible. Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
As in many countries around the world, there is an overall threat of terrorism in Germany. The German government has increased security, as a precaution. at public buildings, major events, transport hubs and large public gatherings.
Despite the relative infrequency of large-scale, terror-related incidents in the country, plots against civilians and soft targets cannot be ruled out.
There’s no requirement to carry your passport with you, but the police carry out ID checks. If you’re asked to show your ID and you don’t have a copy of your passport with you, the police may escort you to wherever your passport is being kept so that you can show it to them.
Stay informed and alert. The German government keeps people informed about possible threats.
The U.S. Department of State assesses a “Medium” rating for criminal activity in all German cities in which a U.S. diplomatic presence exists. The Bundeskriminalamt’s (BKA) 2014 Police Crime Statistics for Germany (the latest available) indicated slight increases in crime in the areas of bicycle thefts, pickpocketing and credit card fraud.
Crime in Germany is low in western cities and higher in the east, especially Berlin. Violent crime is rare. There are, however, several cases each year of attacks by right-wing gangs, usually on foreigners or immigrants who are of African or Asian descent. Larger cities, like Berlin and Frankfurt, have a fair amount of street crime (usually theft of unattended items and pick-pocketing). Pickpockets frequent tourist areas, subways, and train stations. You can find a "Infosäule" (emergency phone in platform column) at the station to ask for help if needed.
Individuals planning to visit Germany can find extensive information regarding crime statistics and German crime prevention programs on the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt) website at http://www.bka.de.
Read and periodically review UCEAP health and safety information, remain in contact with the Study Center, and be aware of your surroundings and be cautious at all times. While not required by law, you should have identification with you at all times.
Be especially alert about unattended packages, avoid rush-hour mass transit when feasible, etc. Monitor local media and stay informed of regional and local events that could quickly impact the security environment in Germany.
Illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana, are unfortunately widely available. The illegal sale and distribution of these and other drugs often occur near major train stations, public parks, and nightclubs, so be vigilant in these places. While drug-related activity does not usually affect American tourists or business travelers, Americans should be aware that Germany has the same types of drug-related crime as those encountered in any major U.S. city.
As is the case both at home and abroad, you must guard against petty theft. Use common sense and follow the same personal safety techniques that you would use at home. Lock your doors and secure your bike and other possessions to prevent theft. On buses and in crowds, secure wallets and purses. Avoid deserted, isolated areas—especially at night. Travel in groups. In Berlin, take the same precautions as you would in any large city. Jogging or walking alone after dark along the “wall” or in parks is not advised.
Beware of the “ticket scam” in Germany. One of the most common scams in European cities involves the sale of counterfeit or worthless tickets to local or international sporting events. Potential victims are enticed on the street, in public transport centers, or outside of stadiums or sports complexes to purchase these worthless tickets to sold-out events.
Only buy tickets at authorized ticket sales offices on location or through a hotel or travel agency.
Germany experiences a number of demonstrations every year on different political, economic and social themes. These demonstrations may have a tendency to spread and to turn violent, and anyone in the general area can become the victim of a random attack.
Many well-planned and publicized demonstrations protesting government policies draw thousands of participants, and spontaneous demonstrations concerning education and other economic and social issues occur almost daily. Such demonstrations in Berlin typically take place on Unter den Linden near the Brandenburg Gate, in Munich at Marienplatz, and in Frankfurt at the Roemer City Hall and Opernplatz. No matter what the theme is of a given demonstration, such events can turn violent very quickly and should be avoided.
Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations in Germany, and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passersby. Nonetheless, situations may develop that could pose a threat to public safety. It is best to avoid the area around protests and demonstrations and to check local media for updates.
Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations and check local media for updates on the situation and traffic advisories.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Travel by public transportation in Germany is usually secure although you should always exercise common sense if you are unfamiliar with the local crime situation. Never travel alone. When taking public transportation at night, avoid dark and empty S- and U-Bahn stations, and sit in the front of the bus or in the front car, near the driver.
Buses, commuter trains, trams, and their stations are havens for thieves, pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Keep all loose items such as cameras, maps, snacks, and purses within a larger and securable carrying bag, and keep it in front of you.
Many sidewalks have dedicated bike lanes, usually separated from the pedestrian area of the sidewalk by a white line. Bicycles have priority use of these lanes. Bicyclists also have priority over cars when turning onto side streets.
- Watch for bicyclists before crossing or stepping into bike lanes.
- Be predictable (walk in more or less a straight direction).
- Don't wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while crossing.
- Use sidewalks where provided. Where no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing road traffic.
- Cross or enter streets at designated crosswalks. Make it easy for drivers to see you - dress in light colors and wear retro-reflective material. Carry a flashlight in very dark areas.
- Don't assume vehicles will stop; make eye contact with drivers, don't just look at the vehicle. If a driver is on a cell phone, they may not be paying enough attention to drive safely.
- Don't rely solely on pedestrian signals; look before you cross the road.
Germany is generally an open society. The level of acceptance of cultural and racial differences varies. In general, university towns and large cities are very diverse and tolerant places.
In certain areas of Germany, especially in eastern Berlin or eastern Germany, gangs of young people can cause trouble. While U.S. citizens have not been specific targets, several Americans have reported that they were verbally assaulted for racial reasons or because they appeared “foreign.” For this reason, minorities must be careful in certain areas in eastern Germany or in Berlin’s eastern districts that are frequented by skinheads (such as Marzahn).
Right-wing extremism remains a center-stage issue and is on the rise. Hooligans, most often drunken “skinheads,” have been known to harass or even attack people whom they believe to be foreigners or members of rival groups. On occasion, U.S. citizens have reported to the U.S. Embassy that they were assaulted for racial reasons or because they appeared “foreign.”
Exercise caution when congregating in areas known as expatriate hangouts such as restaurants, bars, and discos frequented by high numbers of resident U.S. citizens and/or U.S. citizen tourists, as this could attract unwanted attention from groups of rowdy patrons seeking to start a fight.
Depending on the situation, you may have some different options to deal with this. Whatever you do, make sure that you are safe and are not compromising your own health and safety. If anything does happen, and you sense that people around you will help, yell at your offender using—“Sie!. Lassen Sie mich in Ruhe!”—so people realize that you do not know the person and will be more eager to help. Call on other people for help, addressing them directly—“Sie mit dem roten Pullover, helfen Sie mir!” English is fine, too!
Contact the police to report the incident, and call the UCEAP emergency phone if you need additional assistance.
Sexual Violence & Sexual Harassment
member of the UCEAP community should be aware that the University
prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment, retaliation, and other
prohibited behavior (“Prohibited Conduct”) that violates law and/or
University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively
to reports of Prohibited Conduct and will take appropriate action to
prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that
violates this Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. Report to
UCEAP staff and/or partners if you suspect one of these
behaviors has occurred.
The responsible body for operating and equipping fire departments are the German communities (“Gemeinden”) and cities (“Städte”). By law, they are required to operate a firefighting force including Emergency medical services (EMS) in numbers corresponding to the inhabitants of the county or city. In cities, this is usually performed by the Fire Prevention Bureau, one of the higher-ranking authorities.
In case of fire, dial 112.
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security provider, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its security providers, is covered by UCEAP itravel nsurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times:
- If you need immediate emergency assistance call 112 for Police, Ambulance, or Fire Department
- If necessary, call the emergency number of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin: (030) 8305-0
Note that your German cell phone will let you make an emergency call even if you have run out of pre-paid minutes.
U.S. Embassy in Berlin
Pariser Platz 2
Phone: (030) 8305-0
Fax: (030) 8305-1215
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.