leaving for Berlin: Pre-departure guidelines
Here you will find some hints and tips which come out of
STUDIENFORUM BERLIN's experiences with frequently asked questions (FAQ)
and which will help you avoid trouble during your study in
After the September 11, 2001,
events, security and
safety abroad have become a major concern to most students, faculty, and parents.
To be appropriately prepared for Germany and Europe you should visit the respective website of the
Terrorist activities in Paris 2015 and Brussels and Berlin 2016 have confirmed the
necessity to be aware of the risks when studying abroad.
Before you board an airplane to Berlin and head for an academic
and cultural experience full of new and exciting impressions and adventures you should
also take into account some important
advice which can prepare you for an enjoyable stay.
In spite of all your excitement to go to Berlin: Don't forget to check the
rules and deadlines for re-enrollment procedures and for housing back home
following your study abroad stay.
Passport & Visa
Check your passport far in advance that it is valid at least six months
after your study abroad program ends. U.S. citizens don't need a visa for
Germany when they stay for three months or less.
- If, however, they will stay
in Berlin for a semester they have to be prepared to apply for a residency
- Students with different citizenships should check with the
German embassy or German consulates before coming to Berlin whether they
need any documents and/or additional permits (such as visa).
- Pack a photocopy of the first page of your passport (and also the
receipts for traveller's checks, see below) in your checked luggage. They
should always remain separate from the original documents!
- More visa info you get here.
Bring an International Student ID for taking advantage of student
discounts for trips, tickets for theatres, movies, museums, etc. The ID must have a validity date. Otherwise, it might be rejected.
Make sure that your health insurance covers your costs in case you will
get ill during your stay abroad. STUDIENFORUM BERLIN requires a proof of health
Bring a copy of the policy or the insurance card.
- Or buy an affordable insurance package (including health, accident and liability
insurance) at STUDIENFORUM BERLIN.
- To participate in a STUDIENFORUM BERLIN
internship program, liability insurance is mandatory.
Bring the supply of the prescription drugs (in the original
you need to last your entire stay. Bring a doctor's prescription or note for
any prescription drugs you are bringing with you (copies!) to ensure a
smooth custom inspection. Bring vitamins if you believe in them. In Germany
vitamins are very expensive. If you wear contact lenses bring your brand of
cleaning supply to which you are used to.
Think about insurance for your luggage (lost and
Leave your Berlin address (c/o STUDIENFORUM BERLIN, Hauptstraße 74,
D-12159 Berlin, Germany) and e-mail address with your
study abroad administrators for important messages. Leave them also with
your family and friends.
STUDIENFORUM BERLIN does not make travel
arrangements, so check with your
home institution or travel agent for inexpensive (group) flights.
Early Arrivals and Late Departures
STUDIENFORUM BERLIN is not able to accommodate early
arrivals or late departures. You may
arrive early on your own but you must check in where you will stay during
your time in Berlin on the first day of the program. If you notify your
travel and arrival plans well ahead prior to your arrival STUDIENFORUM
BERLIN's staff will pick you up at the airport or trainstation. This service
is included in the fees. BUT: In any case you must notify STUDIENFORUM
BERLIN or the accompanying faculty member of the program of your arrival and
Follow the general airlines guidelines for luggage
transportation. Each piece of luggage
should get your name and address. Important items (money, medicine, anything
that is valuable or irreplacable) belong in your carry-on bag! Remember that
you will be responsible for carrying your own bags for quite some distance.
If you cannot carry your bags, they are obviously too heavy! Check with the
airlines how heavy your luggage ought to be! Usually you are allowed one
piece of luggage at 23 kg (or 50.6 lbs)
and one hand piece of luggage. Excess kilograms are
expensive and may end up in several hundreds of US$. Often a large
backpack is more convenient than a suitcase, especially when you plan to
travel before, during and/or after the program.
You should be aware that sending packages to (and
from) Germany are not
only expensive but also take quite a long time (up to six weeks by surface
mail). So we urge you to pack as lightly as you
can. If you need to send
packages, list the components of packages as "used personal belongings".
This will save you from extra duty charges.
Keep one change of clothing and a toiletry kit in your carry-on luggage in
case your checked luggage does not arrive with your flight.
If you plan to travel before, during or after your program, it might be a
good idea to purchase either a Eurorailpass or a Eurail Youthpass. These
passes must be purchased in the U.S.! Check with your local or
university travel agent what will be the best for you!
Money: Cash and Traveller's Checks
Do not bring too much money in cash and not too many traveller's checks in
small denominations because you have to take into account that many banks
and exchange bureaus charge exchange fees for each check. Important: Contact your bank
if you are able to use your ATM card oversees resp. in Germany. In Germany, major credit
cards are accepted in most shops, but not, e.g., in smaller restaurants.
Be aware of the time difference between your home state and Berlin (at
least six hours). Remember also that Europeans write times and dates
differently to Americans (e.g. 18:00 hours
instead of 6pm; 11. September 2001 or 11.09.01 instead of September 11, 2001 or 09/11/01).
You might also need a period of adjustment to the "new" time,
overcoming the "jet lag". But don't worry: These symptoms are
normal and you will have much time left for your big adventure, Berlin!
Goods in Berlin
You can get almost everything
(even American goods) money can buy in
Berlin. Often prices are not higher but lower than in the U.S. (fluctuations
may however occur, depending on the exchange rate).
Have in mind that the electrical current and plug-ins are different from
the American system, so you will need a converter (to 220 V) and/or an
adapter for your hair dryer, electrical toothbrush etc. This is also true for
your laptop. A pocket calculator and a travel alarm clock might
be helpful, too.
Please note that for some occasions
(theatres, concerts, receptions) it is
appropiate for "her" to wear a shirt or dress or dressy pants, for
"him" to wear dressy pants, a jacket and a tie. Although Berlin is
a city where almost "anything goes", especially interns should
bring formal attire for professional reasons.
Before you come to Germany, make sure that your phone is unlocked.
You can do that by contacting your phone provider. Reason is that the
SIM card you get from Studienforum Berlin should be accepted by your
Have a small photo of you
(rules for photos have been
tightened recently) available electronically (e.g. on your smartphone).
You will be surprised how often you will need a photo when staying abroad.
Books in English
Bring some paperbacks for pleasure reading because books in English are
quite expensive in Germany - unless you look for some used ones on flea
markets, e.g. at the market near the Technical University or the one close
to the Berliner Dom.
Gifts from Back Home
If you will stay with a host family it would be a nice gesture to bring a
gift from back home (e.g. a small picture book of your town or state, a
college T- or Sweat-Shirt, some maple syrup, a bottle of California wine and the like). Bring also some
photos of your own family, city, campus etc. as well as some of your favorite recipes of American
Cosmetics and Toiletries
Women will find almost all cosmetics and toiletries they normally use at
home but prices for American or French brands may be higher than in the U.S.
So bring your own supply!
To get the most out of your stay in Berlin, we recommend that you do a
little reading in advance about Germany and Berlin, its history and people.
For information and assistance U.S. citizens can contact:
- the German National Tourist Board
in New York,
Amt in Berlin, the German Embassy in Washington, D.C.
(Tel.: 202/298-4000) or the eight General Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.
the Goethe Institutes
with branches in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.,
- or your local libraries at your university, city or community.
Overseas citizens from Canada, Australia,
India, New Zealand and other English speaking countries, please contact
STUDIENFORUM BERLIN for further information.
Learning German in Advance, Free and Online
It is a good idea to have some proficiency in the
German language before you actually arrive in Berlin. For getting to know some basic German there exist two
excellent sources you may check: (1) Deutsche Welle (supported by the German government, it is free!); (2) Babbel (supported by the European Union).
In Germany, you
may not copy, retain, or
distribute copyrighted or
proprietary material without
written consent of the copyright
holder. This applies to computer
software, documentation, music
and video files, and other
tangible assets protected under
German, other European Union and
U.S. copyright and patent laws.
This includes the use of
Studienforum Berlin's as well as the host families' network as a
vehicle for copyright
infringement, regardless of
ownership of the computer or
storage medium involved.
Regardless of whether any profit
is made from copyrighted
material, it is illegal to
provide uncontrolled access to
such material (as would usually
be the case in peer-to-peer file
Violation of this policy can
result in loss of computer
privileges, academic suspension,
or other disciplinary action, or
action by outside law
enforcement agencies both in
Germany as well as in your home
Last but not least, please be aware: STUDIENFORUM BERLIN will
NOT tolerate the use or
possession of illegal drugs! It is a no-no . . .
you are in Berlin . . .
During your stay in Berlin STUDIENFORUM BERLIN's staff will assist you in
getting answers to any questions which may come up. Because the staff members
have been living in foreign cultures they all have firsthand experience about
any problems that may arise. We encourage
you to seek our help and assistance to make the
adjustment to Berlin as easy as possible.
On your arrival STUDIENFORUM BERLIN will provide you with a Welcome
Package which comprises a
map of Berlin, a cell phone (including a pre-paid SIM card of 15 EUR) for the duration of your stay, a book "Berlin for Young People" and many brochures
about city life. It also contains the STUDIENFORUM BERLIN's student handbook
"Discover Berlin" which is full
of information about living in the big city of Berlin. This handbook will be
updated every few months.
For more information please
send us an