Hiding 'Unter den Linden' - Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
"Unter den Linden” boulevard. You may be wondering why the name of a street is so important for this Vibe piece. It’s almost as if someone pinned all the historical and cultural attractions in Berlin along this boulevard on purpose. Stretching from East to West, you can find the Brandenburg Gate on one side and the Berlin City Palace on the other. The Lustgarten, which has been used over the years as a paradae ground and a place for mass rallies,the Berlin State Opera, Hedwig’s Cathedral, where Bernard Lichtenberg famously praid for the Jews during the Holocaust, and Bebelplatz, where the Nazis famously burned thousands of books, are all situation along this street boulevard. Johann Strauss III was so captivated by its beauty that he wrote a waltz named after it!
Although Berlin doesn’t have a concrete center like most large cities, most of the touristic attractions take place around Berlin Mitte and “Unter den Linden”. On Friedreichstraße lies the iconic Checkpoint Charlie (though this isn’t really worth seeing – it’s just an actor standing to attention at a makeshift booth). Museum Island, so named because the majority of Berlin’s most famous museums inhabit its banks, is a must-see: the Alter Galerie has new exhibitions every few months, and the permanent installations in all the museums, but specifically the Pergamon, are breathtaking.
Finally, Berlin contains many landmarks to commemorate Germany’s sordid past. The Holocaust Memorial, designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, lies just around the corner from the Brandenberg Gate. It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs lined up in a grid. You can walk through the slabs, and a ‘Place of Information’ sits relatively well-hidden on one of the edges, containing the names of around 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. The memorial is extremely eerie, and when walking through the slabs one has a sense of desolation and somberness. Please don’t climb on the blocks – you’ll just get told to get down by one of the security guards.
Opposite Bebelplatz, on the very same boulevard, one of the oldest universities in Germany– the Humboldt University of Berlin (HU) is located. The university was established in 1810, by the education reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt. He believed in the coexistence between research and teaching in the pursuit of academic success. His innovative methods of education proved so successful, that many universities followed his example nowadays.
The Humboldt University is home to more than 37,000 students across 190 degree courses, where research and theoretical excellence meet. It is no wonder that 29 Humboldt graduates are also Nobel Laureates! Famous alumni of the HU include Karl Marx, Heinrich Hertz, and Alexander von Humboldt. Albert Einstein – believe it – was once a Physics professor.
Such an impressive reputation can only be achieved with an extensive research base. The main library of the HU contains more than 4.2 million books and a little less than 30,000 online subscriptions. To all bibliophiles out there, this is the place to be! And I know I said you shouldn’t look at the World Rankings, but let me just point out that HU was among the eleven “Universities of Excellence” chosen by the German government in 2012.
Like most universities, Humboldt doesn’t want to hold your hand through your studies. The courses expect you to be able to work independently, keeping up with your reading, your lectures, and your work. One thing you might notice as an international student is that you’ll have a lot more freedom in your studies – meaning, of course, that you have a lot more responsibility to get it right.
While you will have to present a language certificate during admission, there are plenty of language learning opportunities in Berlin to get prepared. The university’s language center offers German and foreign language classes for a reasonable price. The Deutsche Welle newspaper’s online course is also a good place to start. If you can’t get yourself up to the required level of German for a course – this level is generally B2 on the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – Humboldt offers a number of Bachelor degrees courses in English. These English language degrees can be found on its website.
On the bright side, whatever your desired field of study is, Humboldt University most probably offers it. Aside from the regular degrees in Maths, Science and Linguistics, Humboldt offers a number of more focused degrees, for example its English-language Bachelor’s in the Topogrophies of Jewish Identities in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Pretty specific.
What’s the best way to motivate every student to study? Yes, Berlin, you got it right! Put him in the most picturesque part of the city, so that he can look through the window and smile while browsing the 20 open tabs on his laptop.
The Humboldt University has three campuses across Berlin. Campus Mitte is the oldest of the three and hosts the humanities sciences, as well as the administrative offices of the university. Campus Nord, on the other hand, has a lovely park nearby, and contains many of the unviersity’s science labs. Last but not least, Campus Adlershof, the house of Chemistry, Computer science, Maths and Physics, has an amazing student dormitory, where you can meet fellow math-lovers.
Humboldt University Berlin - Campus Mitte
What’s the best part about being a student? Well, the truth is, being a student has perks that can make your life way easer when living in Berlin. For starters, the are no tuition fees for the HU, but you do have to pay around 300 euros a semester. The biggest chunk of that fee goes towards a Berlin ABC semester ticket. That’s right: transportation around the whole of Berlin, for a fraction of the pride. The rest goes to the student union (StuRa).
The student union also takes care of numerous events on campus. The Humboldt-Forum Wirtschaft (HUFW) is a non-governmental organization that organizes an annual symposium, and is open to all students interested in event management. The Buddy Program, as well as the Orbis Humboldtianus are two things that you definitely need to check as a foreign student. You can take part in discussions, field trips, concerts, all while getting to know the locals. Another cool way to know more about Berlin is the student Podcampus, where students prepare numerous podcasts for politics, culture, events and so on.
Asking your local friends for advice can help you find cool tricks and tips around the city, too. Eating in restaurants or shopping for antiques doesn’t have to cost you a fortune in Berlin. With such a large international population, there’s all kinds of world cuisine and at the hidden flea markets you might find all kinds of secret gems. Every Sunday, perhaps the most famous flea market runs all day in Mauerpark, up near a touching memorial to the Berlin Wall.
Living in Berlin
But how does it really feel being a Berliner? The authentic restaurants, the cozy little cafés and the never-ending galleries will surely make you feel the true vibe of Berlin. Let’s not forget the fact that because of its cheap accommodation (which, unfortunately, is quickly getting more and more expensive), so many artists moved to Berlin, meaning there is a vibrant artistic culture, especially in the former East.
There’s something out there for all artists, whether your medium is film, music, graffiti or fine art. There’s a free graffiti wall that runs along the border of the aforementioned Mauerpark; the smell of spray paint drifts through the air as you wander through the flea market on Sundays. The Berlin School of Indie Film Producer, for instance, could be something you got involved with if you were a budding filmmaker. Berlin has an exciting music scene of all genres, from punks to techno lovers to classical and jazz. The music scene is quite extravagant and it’s perfect for all night owls out there. Someone once told me that true Berliners don’t go out before 1 am, because they stay up until the sun comes out. And why would they go home? There’s plenty of underground techno clubs, small pubs and there’s almost always some live band to listen to.
So what do you say? Are you ready for your crazy student years in the city of Berlin? I like to think Berlin is perfect for students. You’ll go from studying in the library to an oldworldly Kneipe (pub) to a neon-lit techno party the space of 24 hours. And if it all gets too much? Head over to Tiergarten and have a nice relaxing walk.
Until next time,
You can also check out the 'Vibe' of these other universities:
- Why Study at the University of Warwick?
- American University in Bulgaria – a Small Gem that’s Worth Discovering
- University of Salzburg - Wiener Coffee and the Perks of Studying in Salzburg
- Hochschule für Technik and Wirtschaft Berlin - The Art of Being a Berliner
- The Medieval Spirits of the University of York