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I am a student in University College Freiburg, a new liberal arts and science college embedded within the University of Freiburg, a public university located in Freiburg im Breisgau. I am enrolled in the course Liberal Arts and Science, a four-year bachelor's degree program conducted almost fully in English, where you can choose one out of four majors – Earth and Environment Science, Life Science, Governance, and Culture and History.
I chose to major in Earth and Environment Sciences (Bachelor of Science) because I would like to do more for environmental sustainability, and chose Freiburg for its particular reputation in that area – it is the heart of the Greens, a political party that advocates environmental justice and has consistently run the city for many years. I love the college atmosphere and the interdisciplinary, progressive approach that the liberal arts and science program takes, which combines subject expertise with breadth in compulsory philosophy courses and additional languages, which has made me a more reflective learner and appreciate other cultures more. Since I already speak fluent German, learning Spanish helped me get in touch with Latin American and Spanish cultures that I never had any contact with back in Singapore, which has been eye-opening and wonderful for getting to know new people. The English-medium international orientation of my college also means that the student body is remarkably diverse, with students hailing from countries like Romania, Nepal, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, and the United States. Learning is thus not just a classroom endeavor, but a constant intercultural process, which is made especially motivating by the dedicated, highly curious and inspiring lecturers who come from a rich variety of academic backgrounds and the small, discussion-style learning approach. We can also take German-medium classes from the main university (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg), which increases the flexibility of our degree programme.
Freiburg is beautiful with its little Bächle, springs that ripple at the sides of old cobblestone streets. It is also surrounded by the Black Forest, close to the southwestern Swiss and French borders, which is wonderful for hiking opportunities. Vegetarian food alongside French wines and baguettes are quite as common as the stereotypically German wurst and sauerkraut. People here are quite warm albeit conservative in a classically south German manner, but also very friendly and curious towards foreigners, with many of the German students active in projects helping refugees and openly welcoming immigration – regardless of what recent news in Anglophone global media may have you believe! It is also easy to make friends even if you're not very good at German, because people genuinely appreciate your effort to learn the language and are happy to help you practice speaking it. I am really pleasantly surprised by and grateful for how I have gotten to feel at home intellectually and culturally in Freiburg, and the many wonderful friends I have made here. Perhaps one important downside is the rising rents, which are now second only to the market rate in Munich. Nonetheless, rent control policies should help to slow down the rate of increase. An affordable lifestyle is more than possible if you live in a shared flat and rethink your food and material lifestyle the way many Freiburgers do, and start your search for accommodations as early as possible.
In addition to the intellectual and social environment, a large diversity of cultural activities are available – there is an unusually high density of theatres, while the concert hall features prominent names like the Viennese Philharmonic or the Russian ballet, but also contemporary popular groups like the Wise Guys. Basel, just a stone's throw away, is full of museums and exhibitions, as well as the regional hub for budget flights that extend all over Europe.
I believe studying in Germany, and especially in Freiburg, is something that is still rather underappreciated by many, especially where I come from. I am humbled every single day by how much depth of thinking, critical thought, and personal initiative students around me constantly inject into their own learning, complemented by a strong cultural emphasis on a good work-life balance and not just hard work or hedonistic play. Given another chance, I would still choose University College Freiburg all over again.
(from the DAAD Singapore Information Centre Newsletter March 2016 p. 4)
My name is Saskia and I'm a Governance Major at University College Freiburg. The past three years of studying Liberal Arts and Sciences have been a life-changing experience for me. I met people from different countries and cultures and together we took on the challenge to gain in-depth knowledge about a variety of fields from different disciplines.
What I love most about LAS is the diversity of topics we engage with. Even though we all choose our own Major, we still have plenty of opportunities to get an insight into other fields of study. I'm grateful for the freedoms this program gives me and enjoy the variety of courses a lot. I think that not many other Bachelor programs in Germany give you the opportunity to follow your own interests and challenge yourself academically as much as LAS in Freiburg does.
Another important characteristic of UCF is its diverse students body. I simply love the fact that a great majority of students is engaged in projects within and outside of the college. I have the feeling that caring for others, taking on responsibility and changing the status quo is not only a huge topic within our classes, but also – and maybe especially – in our lives outside of the college. LAS teaches us to ask questions, to believe in ourselves and our abilities, and to bring about change. Besides academic knowledge, this is probably one of the most important skills I have acquired and improved while being an LAS student at UCF.
I am a student of the second cohort of Liberal Arts and Sciences and I chose Life Sciences as my Major. I am very content with this choice of Major, nevertheless I highly appreciate the unique possibility to gain insights into different other fields of academia through taking courses from other Majors and in the Core area. This often allows me to see my own academic field from a different – and potentially also more critical – perspective, and thereby to differentiate my knowledge and my own points of view. The possibility to take a critical stance towards my field of studies and to integrate the knowledge I gained here into a broader context is an aspect of the Liberal Arts approach which I find particularly valuable and which I learned to appreciate more and more during the course of my studies.
Within the Life Sciences Major which basically aims to study all aspects of the human being, I mainly focus on medical issues. I am particularly interested in how the human body and mind interact with each other in health and disease, which I try to explore within my studies. Therefore, I took courses such as Cognitive Science and Function and Anatomy of the Brain as well as more physiologically oriented ones such as Immunology, Endocrinology or Pathobiology and Disease. Especially during my year abroad in Maastricht where I participated in the UCM-UCF double degree program, I could deepen my focus of study and further explore the connection of body and mind in an independent research project. Even though now, at the end of my third year of studies, I am still not entirely sure which path I will pursue after having finished my bachelor, I feel that I have learned a lot both academically and personally to be prepared for my future trajectory.
Overall, I think that the Liberal Arts and Sciences program is a unique opportunity to study in an individual and independent manner. The rather small classes allow for close interaction with both the lecturers as well as with other students which I find highly valuable for the learning process. Moreover, within the LAS program, I had the chance to follow some courses taught in a problem based learning (PBL) format. This set-up encourages learning through self-reliant study and in discussions with others, and not simply by consuming plain facts. Even though it is definitely more challenging and even frustrating at times to not get the information directly presented and delivered, this way of learning forces you to really engage with a certain topic and encourages learning from each other. All in all, the LAS program certainly not only provides an education in a particular academic field, but it also allows you to develop as a person through encouraging independent study, reflection, and critical exchange with others.
When I started to study LAS in 2012 as part of the first cohort, I had no idea how interesting and challenging the following four years at UCF would be. I decided quite early to Major in Culture & History, due to the Major’s wide range of topics and fields which addressed my interest in philosophy, art, history, and cultural studies.
Even though I had mixed feelings about the program in the first year (primarily because of my own academic insecurities), I soon realized how exciting and special it was to gain insight into a variety of disciplines. By the end of the second year I attended a course on the Intellectual History of Feminist Thought, which was incredibly inspiring and mind changing for me. I finally felt like I found a topic that really thrilled my interest, which encouraged me to deepen my personal and academic knowledge in this field. The broad approach of LAS enabled me to throw a light on gender from different perspectives. Not only the C&H courses, but furthermore the Core and Elective section offered me the possibility to engage with my interest in different contexts.
The third year I spent at the University of Valencia in Spain. Even though I enjoyed my stay there a lot, I returned to Freiburg with anticipation. The courses at UCF demand the students to engage with a topic intensively and actively. This was definitely not easy in the beginning, given that I had to learn how to manage a ton of readings and how to develop and articulate my thoughts in a classroom discussion. Nevertheless, after (almost) four years in the LAS program I can definitely say that I profited immensely from it. I not only found my academic interest in gender studies, but moreover made a lot of friends and had the chance to spend some years in a beautiful city.
I am a Culture and History Major from the first cohort at UCF and will graduate in 2016. I chose the Liberal Arts and Sciences Program because I wanted to educate myself broadly, and learn about learning and the texture of knowledge if you will. I liked that it was in English – that seemed challenging. At the time, I was not sure what I should specialize in, I was good in history and I had a passion for the arts. The choice for my Major did follow these initial interests, although it was a hard choice between Governance and Culture & History. I met very interesting students, some of which became close friends, and others who I never engaged with personally, but have had deep admiration for their professional engagement.
The program gave me the opportunity to explore different subjects, so I ventured from being obsessed with the normative backbone of the EU to learning Arabic and looking at postcolonial dynamics, the media coverage of muslims, further to the aesthetics in Hotel rooms (really obsessed about that) and art, mused shortly but intensely with feminism, phenomenology, social theory, and Plato, to eventually land in the shores of literary studies. And the question "What do you study" would be answered by a big sigh, followed by a big speech.
The classroom engagement is quite different to other university courses in Freiburg or abroad (I spent 2 semesters in Trinity College Dublin), the students in the LAS courses are very critical and excited. The most interesting discussions, however, take place outside the classroom. I consider myself very lucky to be able to live in Freiburg. The town has the capability to bring good people together and is very livable, with the nature surrounding it, and the little streets filled with cafés.
I entered the program with a vague idea of what Liberal Arts and Sciences were about – I wasn't sure what to expect of the upcoming four years. Despite the downs that were part of my LAS experience as well, looking back at the past semesters, I am incredibly glad I chose this program. The ups outweigh the downs.
What I like about LAS is its diversity – you may explore what you are really interested in before choosing one field. I am majoring in Governance which addresses political science, economics, law, and all the subjects in between. I enjoy the possibility to integrate courses such as "Human Security", "International Human Rights" or "Peace and Conflict Studies" into my studies next to having an extensive introduction into the different fields of social sciences. I am glad that the program is four years instead of three because it gives me the possibility to make a more informed choice about my future studies.
UCF has a very peculiar structure: We have semester-long courses but next to what we have four blocks, which means that courses are shorter but more intensive. Hence, you get the content in less time. The block structure is great because it gives students more flexibility regarding studying abroad, doing internships or independent projects – they provide you with the possibility of structuring your studies in a way that best fits your preferences.
Freiburg is a great city to live in. It is small enough to get around by bike but there is a lot to explore: Concerts, proximity to nature, cafés, student bars, theater, sports – there is something for everybody. It’s very green, the mountains aren’t far and the lakes are close to the city center. You would never think but Freiburg is also really international. Living here is great!