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Researching Germany in a Global Age

September 5, 2016

Winter-Spring 2017


Refugees in Berlin: Current Reality


Researching Germany in a Global Age is an annual two-quarter research seminar open to all students studying German at Northwestern University. The German research seminar stretches over two quarters (2-hr weekly seminar in Winter and Spring) and includes a trip to Germany during Spring Break. During the trip abroad students are fully immersed in well-planned, supervised, and assessed hands-on experiences promote interdisciplinary learning, enhancing cultural awareness and sensitivity to diversity and improving language gain through focused reflection. The goal is to combine classroom learning with productive fieldwork. The trip to Germany is fully funded and therefore open to any qualified student. We are grateful to the Friedman-Kline Family Foundation, the Max Kade Foundation, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the German Department whose generous donation make this exciting project possible.

There were about 1.1 million migrants who entered Germany last year from war-torn areas in the Middle East and Africa.  For the most part, refugees were welcomed with open arms but the sheer number of people seeking asylum in Germany within a relatively short time also presented political and structural challenges. For example, the government opened emergency shelters across the country to offer refugees temporary housing until their applications for asylum were processed. However, more than a year later, many refugees still live in emergency housing because there simply is no other living space available.  When the number of refugees arriving in Germany rose dramatically, thousands of volunteers assisted the government and founded initiatives to help with the situation. To this day, volunteers offer language and culture classes, help with registration, donate food and clothing, and even take asylum seekers into their private homes. Volunteer activities play an integral part in the political effort to integrate diverse refugee populations into the communities. This seminar offers a chance to learn about the current situation of refugees in Germany firsthand.  As Germany’s largest city, Berlin had 80,000 refugees arrive in Berlin in 2015. More than 40,000 still live in emergency shelters. Students will visit a refugee shelter in Berlin and speak to volunteers and refugees about daily challenges; they will have a chance to volunteer in a shelter for a day and they will hear from politicians and ordinary citizens how the refugee situation has changed and continues to change the city.

The German department will select up to 12 students to participate in the seminar and travel to Germany in the Spring break. We are encouraging all students comfortable conversing in German to apply (equivalent of two classes in German beyond the 102-level or permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies).  In addition, students should:

We would encourage students to apply online at Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies Franziska Lys ( with questions. Applications are due November 11, 2016.

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