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The Green City program combines coursework on sustainable engineering with German language immersion and provides students with a complex, expansive understanding of sustainability in an urban context. Based in Berlin, Germany, the program has three core goals: to impart concrete skills in environmental engineering, to allow students to learn German in an immersion setting, and to equip students with the tools to think about how their daily experience with sustainable living is mediated by another language and distinct cultural context. The program's interdisciplinary approach to green living goes far beyond textbook principles: through homestays with host families and weekly field trips, students will experience what it means to embrace sustainability as a lived practice and how sustainability in action alters the urban landscape of a city. The program is distinct in its holistic understanding of sustainability that breaks disciplinary boundaries to prepare the next generation of students with the ability to think critically about solutions to human-environmental impact.
On the program, all students live with homestay families, most of whom have previous experience hosting students. Each student's homestay experience is unique. They might be placed in families with young children or with older couples, a house in a quieter neighborhood on the outskirts of the city or an apartment in the center of the city, and more. Students have the opportunity to express preferences, but all homestays give students an authentic local experience. Living in a Berlin home not only gives students a peek into what life in another culture is like, but also reinforces their learning about sustainability as a lived practice (like how line-drying clothes is preferred over machine-drying!). Students live in private bedrooms and are provided with breakfast and dinner at their homes; many develop close relationships with their hosts, traveling with them throughout Berlin and the surrounding regions. Some students might go with their host families to cheer at Bundesliga games, kayak in the Spreewald, or even sail on the northern shore of Germany.
Students elect to take any three out of the four courses offered while in Berlin, tailoring their academics to be more focused on sustainable engineering or German while still getting exposure to both. Students looking to fulfill their language requirement and rapidly improve their German skills can take GERM 2.03, a fast-tracked course that combines GERM 2 and GERM 3, focusing on relevant vocabulary and grammar to learn while in Berlin. Those with a keen interest in history may elect GERM 44.07: Metropolis Berlin to learn about the city's history through readings, films, site visits, and guest lecturers. On the engineering side, ENGS 37: Intro to Environmental Engineering leads students to explore topics in water quality and air quality, while getting hands-on learning by touring water treatment plants and old coal mining sites. ENGS 45: Sustainable Urban Systems, prompts students to consider ways of sustainable development with a term-long project using data analysis skills. Students may elect any balance of courses, with the caveat that ENGS 45 requires students to have previously taken ENGS 37 or to take it concurrently while on the program. Detailed course descriptions are available on the ORC website.
Courses are generally taught by Dartmouth faculty program directors and by local instructors, but all courses (with the exception of GERM 2.03) are taught in English. Students looking to improve their German language skills at an intermediate/advanced level may elect to enroll in GERM 44.07 with the option to do a portion of their coursework in German. This course may carry credit toward the German Studies major/minor. Please see the German Studies Department website for further information. We encourage you to reach out to student ambassadors (listed below) with any questions on course content.
Berlin is eclectic - and students have a lot of freedom to explore the many sides of Berlin. From tasting international cuisines at lunch (Turkish, Thai, Indian, and more!) to touring museums with ancient artifacts and modern artwork to exploring the city's nightlife, Berlin offers something for everyone. Students are encouraged to make their Berlin experience their own while participating in cultural activities with the whole group, including touring the Hohenschönhausen prison of the East Berlin era, different memorials, parks, and concerts.
Berlin's central location in Europe also makes it easy for students to explore other regions and countries. As a program, we plan to travel together to Zurich, Switzerland, with potential overnight stops in the Rhine Valley, the Ruhrgebiet, or Munich on the 2024 iteration of the program. Some students also take weekend trips to Copenhagen, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, and more. With the vast Eurail train system, Berlin's location is a big plus for those looking to explore many cities, while becoming closely familiar with Berlin itself.
Faculty Directors: Petra McGillen and Petra Bonfert-Taylor
Curriculum: Students choose any three from the following four courses:
ENGS 37: Introduction to Environmental Engineering
ENGS 45: Sustainable Urban Systems
GERM 2.03: Fast-Track German in Berlin
GERM 44.07: Metropolis Berlin: Cultural and Political History in the Urban Landscape. Taught in English with optional German major/minor credit.
GERM 1 (Introductory German) or equivalent German language skills; MATH 3 (Intro to Calculus). Additional prerequisites vary depending on the choice of courses. For ENGS 37: CHEM 5 (General Chemistry); For ENGS 45: ENGS 37 (Introduction to Environmental Engineering) or equivalent; ENGS 37 is taught sequentially with ENGS 45 on the program. For GERM 2.03: a strong performance in German 1 (final grade of A- or better) is highly recommended.
For GERM 44.07 with German major/minor credit: one intermediate-level German class (GERM 5, 6, or 10). Without the German major/minor credit option, GERM 44.07 has no prerequisites.
Students live with trusted homestay families, many of which have longstanding ties with Dartmouth. The cultural program will include numerous excursions, such as trips to Sanssouci Palace and the Filmpark Babelsberg in Potsdam, the memorial site Sachsenhausen, the Mauerpark and Checkpoint Charlie, and a historical tour of the Berlin subway. It will also include visits to the opera, concerts, museums, and cinemas from Berlin's vibrant cultural offerings. In addition, the program will feature day trips (e.g. to the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg) and one extended overnight trip to Zurich, Switzerland. Overnight stops in the Rhine Valley, the Ruhrgebiet, and Munich will provide opportunities to study how culturally and historically diverse regions are dealing with the challenges of sustainable living, mobility, and industrial production.
Students apply for the program through the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education. Ensure you will meet the required prerequisite courses (see FAQs) by the time of the program, and submit the application materials as requested on the Guarini portal. Students are encouraged to be honest and thoughtful about what excites them about this specific program. We especially hope applicants will critically consider what they want out of an abroad experience, and how the Green City program's home, school, and personal experiences will suit those goals. The Spring 2024 program will likely admit 15-20 students.
For questions about the program not covered in the site/FAQ, please contact student ambassadors:
Anna Byrd '23 (Anna.I.Byrd.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Virginia Coffey '24 (Virginia.G.Coffey.email@example.com)
Solenne Wolfe '24 (Solenne.Wolfe.firstname.lastname@example.org).
For logistical questions about the application, please contact the program directors:
Petra Bonfert-Taylor, Professor of Engineering, Thayer School of Engineering, Petra.Bonfert-Taylor@dartmouth.edu;
Petra McGillen, Associate Professor, Department of German Studies, Petra.McGillen@dartmouth.edu
Berlin is a vibrant city, a hub for sustainability and startups as well as a diverse range of people. Berlin is one of Europe's most affordable major cities and its rich history serves as a microcosm of the twentieth-century power struggles that define much of our world now. The city has been on the frontlines of key historical turning points – it witnessed the rise and fall of the Weimar Republic and the totalitarian evils of Nazi Germany, was the literal center of the Cold War struggle between East and West, and today, serves as a major center of migration. It serves as a mosaic of those histories and yet is a perfect place for young people to explore a completely different way of life. Through cultural immersion and educational programming, students will explore a full range of places and activities that the city has to offer. Students visit startups focusing on sustainable urban mobility, electric vehicle innovation, and meet with local students working on initiatives to promote organic farming and food sharing. The homestay element of the program introduces students to the ways of Berlin locals, offering an integrated experience that provides a home base.
Who should participate in/apply to this program? How can I be a strong candidate for the application process?
There is no one way to be a great fit for this program; we are interested in students from a variety of backgrounds who are excited about the intersection of sustainable engineering and German language and culture. Only some of our prior participants were planning on majoring in sustainable engineering – this is not a prerequisite for the program. If you will have fulfilled course prerequisites by the time of the program and are interested in the unique opportunity this program provides, we encourage you to apply! To strengthen your application, read through the program materials on this site and be specific about why you want to participate in the Green City program.
What are the prerequisites for the program?
Students on the Green City program elect 3 courses of 4 offered courses: GERM 2.03, GERM 44.07, ENGS 37, and ENGS 45.
For all participants: GERM 1, MATH 3, and CHEM 5 are required.
GERM 2.03: A final grade of an A- or better in GERM 1 is strongly recommended.
GERM 44.07 (Metropolis Berlin): No additional prerequisites. For the option to do intermediate/advanced-level work in the German language during the x-hour, at least one intermediate-level German class (GERM 6, 10.00, 10.01, 10.03, 10.06) is required.
ENGS 37 (Introduction to Environmental Engineering): No additional prerequisites.
ENGS 45 (Sustainable Urban Systems): ENGS 37 (either taken prior to the program, or concurrently while on the program)
What makes this different from a Thayer exchange program?
The Green City program is currently the only Foreign Study Program (FSP) at Dartmouth that offers engineering courses. As an FSP, it integrates with the Dartmouth schedule. Students take three courses on a ten-week term, and are taught by Dartmouth professors and local professors affiliated with Dartmouth. An FSP can be easier to schedule than an exchange program, which often takes up two terms due to semester scheduling at other universities. Classes are automatically transferred to your transcript, and you get the chance to become closer to other Dartmouth professors and students. This provides D-plan flexibility as a term abroad does not have to mean two terms away from campus, unlike in a traditional exchange program.
Do I need to know German beforehand?
Students need only take GERM 1 before participating in the program or demonstrate equivalent knowledge of the language. The language skills learned in that class will provide the foundation to living with host families in a German-speaking (but very international) city. Most students find their German skills dramatically improve while abroad, especially if they are taking GERM 2.03. Students with intermediate/advanced German language skills are also encouraged to apply to the program for its immersive experience and have the option to take GERM 44.07 with an extra section taught in German.
By the time that I hope to go on the program it will have been a year since I took German 1. Is that a problem?
That certainly makes for a more challenging transition but most students in this situation report that the language comes back to them rather quickly. There are also ways to keep your German going in the meantime: take advantage of affinity housing opportunities, come to the German language table at FoCo, join German Club events, or contact the German Studies Department's Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant for conversation practice. Also, be aware that there are options for going on Green City with German language skills above GERM 1.
I have already completed German 1–3 / I already have advanced German language skills. Can I still go on the program?
Absolutely! Your German skills will get even better because of the full-immersion setting. Plus, you can take GERM 44.07: Metropolis Berlin, which is taught in English, with an x-hour in German if you want to keep working on your language skills in a class setting. The prerequisite for this option is one intermediate-level German course (German 6, 10.00, 10.01, 10.03, or 10.06) that you need to have completed prior to the program or equivalent language skills. GERM 44.07 may count toward a major/minor in German Studies. Please see German Studies Majors/Minors for details.
What are the visa requirements to participate in "Green City"? As a US citizen? As an international student?
Entry requirements vary and are subject to change – the most updated repositories of visa requirements are located at TraVisa (for any and all citizens) or U.S. Department of State (for U.S. Citizens). Most recently, a stay in Germany for up to 90 days has been accepted for U.S. Citizens without a visa. The Guarini Institute's Pre-Departure page is the first point of reference for Dartmouth students looking to inquire further about visa requirements.
What are my other options to go abroad if I don't end up going on Green City?
The Green City program is currently the only Dartmouth Engineering study abroad program that is run by Dartmouth and led by Dartmouth professors, but there are several other engineering programs through exchanges at other universities. The Department of German Studies also offers several language and foreign study abroad programs in Berlin.
What does a typical day look like?
Each day looks different in Berlin, and students have a lot of freedom to explore the city and all it has to offer. On past iterations, most students ate breakfast at their homestays, then use public transportation to get to class. Depending on course load, students typically have one or two classes a day. After class, students head around the city to have lunch at their favorite spots, from döner stands in Kreuzberg to the Freie Universität Mensa (cafeteria!) to Thai restaurants in Mitte. Afternoons may be spent doing coursework in cafés, exploring parks and museums, or discovering new and exciting places in the city. Some days have sponsored excursions, which will vary from program to program, but allow students to get involved with different cultural and sustainability-focused spaces and services in Berlin. At night, students spend time with their host families and often meet up with other students to enjoy the vibrant cultural life and nightlife of the city. On weekends, students sometimes do fun activities with their host families, will meet up with other students on the program, or may travel to one of many locations that can be easily accessed from Berlin.
What are some examples of excursions?
Excursions will vary on every iteration of the program, but there is normally a balance between cultural excursions and sustainability-focused ones. In the past, we have taken trips to opera and concert houses, palaces, museums, old prisons, old coal-digging sites, urban gardens, water treatment plants, and more. There will always be many planned excursions for the group to experience together, and plenty of recommendations for sites to explore on your own.
How will we get around the city?
Berlin has a very developed system of public transportation, and students get unlimited use passes as part of their student IDs at Freie Universitat (FU). Most students take the U-Bahn or S-Bahn and the bus system regularly to commute to classes and to different parts of the city.
How can students be involved with Freie Universität while in Berlin?
While students will not be taking Freie Universität classes, there are a myriad of ways in which students can become involved with the university. Students are able to use most university facilities, including the cafeteria, library, and other campus buildings. Additionally, students are able to participate in a variety of university-sponsored clubs and extracurricular activities. Students will receive information about more opportunities once enrolled in the Green City program.
What about the program maintains a focus on sustainability?
Both day-to-day life and coursework emphasize sustainability on the Green City program. Students will benefit from full immersion in Berlin, the self-proclaimed "sustainability capital" of Germany. In living with host families, students will witness a myriad of small daily practices employed by each household that exemplify Berlin's environmentally-friendly reputation. As part of the program, all students keep a sustainability journal and will attend a weekly debrief during which they will discuss practices that they have observed in their homestays and day-to-day lives—and also critique the aspects of sustainable living that might have unintended consequences, trade-offs, or bring other kinds of challenges. In addition to regular sustainability-focused coursework, students in ENGS 45 will participate in several excursions that demonstrate ways in which Berlin is environmentally friendly. Past examples include visiting a water treatment plant, meeting with a startup focused on increasing the accessibility of public transportation, and attending an information session and tour of the Freie Universität, which maintains a strong commitment to minimizing its carbon footprint.
Are classes taught in German or English?
All classes, except for GERM 2.03, are taught in English. GERM 2.03 is an intensive language course, and therefore the course instruction will be in German.
Do the classes taken abroad count toward my major and GPA? Are they pass/fail or graded like on-campus classes are?
Classes taken on a Dartmouth FSP are treated just like any other Dartmouth course. Students will receive a letter grade for each course that will count towards their cumulative GPA as well as credit for having taken the course. For students wondering how each course will fit into their major requirements, please refer to the individual guidelines for your major. Taking GERM 2.03 satisfies the foreign language requirement.
I've heard GERM 2.03 is intense. Is this true?
Yes! GERM 2.03 is an intensive course where students will learn fundamentals of oral and written German. This course is intended for students who have a strong desire to further their German. The course meets five times per week for an hour. Students can expect daily vocab and written assignments and periodic quizzes along with ample opportunities to improve their conversation skills, engage in creative role play, and apply what they've learned to real-life situations in Berlin. While the course load is not light, GERM 2.03 provides a great opportunity for students to make rapid progress with the German language and to get the most out of their language immersion experience.
How much German is expected at home? (i.e., how does this homestay differ from an LSA/FSP homestay)
Students are encouraged to speak as much German at home as possible. However, host families understand that many students will have only a basic understanding of German (GERM 1) and are often familiar with English. Learning a new language is no easy task, and host families are understanding and encouraging to students who are just starting out!
Students in GERM 2.03 are held to a higher level of expectations due to the fast-paced nature of the course and will be expected to speak German for most of their time at home, but all homestay families are patient, supportive, and understanding of the process of learning language as a beginner.
What can I expect from being in a homestay?
Homestays are an integral part of the Green City curriculum, as they allow students to experience German culture, including sustainability, and language to a higher degree than if they were to live in a dorm setting. Many host families have experience hosting exchange students and all enjoy hosting them. The exact makeup of each host family and their location within Berlin varies from student to student. However, all students can expect their own room, wifi at their house, and breakfast and dinner provided daily. Many students form a close bond with their host family and are able to spend time with them doing things like going to the opera or on a regional weekend trip.
Green City not only seeks to impart concrete, applicable skills in sustainable and environmental engineering as well as in the German language and culture to students; it also requires students to think about how their day-to-day experiences with sustainable living and their engineering knowledge are mediated by a foreign language and different cultural context. By living with host families in Berlin, students develop a critical awareness of different sustainable lifestyles and come to reflect upon the ways in which they themselves interact with the environment. Homestays provide a different dimension to a study abroad, and many students report a richer understanding of other cultures after a homestay experience. If a homestay does not sound like a suitable experience to you, we recommend you explore other programs – this is a critical component of Green City, and we hope applicants are excited for the personal intercultural aspect of studying abroad.
"[I loved] being immersed so fully in the cultural fabric of Berlin - it's a melting pot of different communities so I felt less like an outsider, particularly being able to practice some of the language thanks to German 1."
"[I learned] that the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural solutions to broader environmental issues (as discovered whilst living and learning in Berlin and the other cities we visited) are far more effective than non-collaborative, isolated attempts at solving such problems."
"I fell in love with Berlin and the German language. I've been scouring the internet trying to find internships in Berlin this summer just so I can go back but I'll probably end up going on the Thayer program to Hamburg in the summer instead!"
"Honestly one of my favorite parts of the program was the community I made through shared experience, and now retain back at Dartmouth - in all my ENGS classes now, I feel like there's always at least one other student I went on Green City with, and I've already worked in many group projects with friends I made on the program."