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Living and Studying in Berlin

Living and Studying in Berlin

Information for Applicants and Doctoral Students

If you consider applying for the Graduate School of North American Studies or after having been accepted, you will almost certainly have many questions about living and studying in Berlin. We would therefore like to offer you some general information about organizing your life here in Berlin and at the Freie Universität. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via e-mail or phone.

I. Before you leave

Visa

1. Nationals of the European Union (EU) and citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland

You do not need a visa to enter Germany. After arriving and obtaining housing, you simply need to register residence in Germany with the appropriate office any town hall in Berlin (Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Hellersdorf-Marzahn, Hohenschönhausen-Lichtenberg, Köpenick-Treptow, Neukölln, Mitte-Tiergarten-Wedding, Pankow-Prenzlauer Berg-Weißensee, Reinickendorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Spandau, Steglitz-Zehlendorf). The registration office is called the “Meldestelle”which is a division of the “Bürgeramt” within your district town hall).

2. Non-EU nationals

a) Nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States
You will need a residence permit, but you may obtain it within three months after entry into Germany. After arrival and obtaining housing, you must first register residence in Germany with the appropriate office of the town hall (as indicated above, at the “Meldestelle” located in the “Bürgeramt”) before you can apply for a residence permit for study purposes at the immigration office (“Ausländerbehörde”) which is a separate government office located at Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24, 13353 Berlin (U-Bahn 9, station “Amrumer Straße” or S-Bahn 4, station “Westhafen”).

You must make an appointment in advance for a personal appointment at the immigration office. The relevant phone numbers are 90269-4102, or -4103, or -4101. If you want to conduct your meeting in English, please indicate this as you make your appointment.

At your appointment, please be prepared to present the following documents:

  • documents proving that you have been accepted by the Graduate School of North American Studies (confirmation letter by the director and/or “Bewilligungsbescheid” confirming your scholarship funding)

  • document proving your acceptance as a doctoral student by the relevant department (“Fachbereich”) at the Freie Universität Berlin

  • document proving your matriculation at the Freie Universität Berlin (see below)

  • your health insurance policy or health insurance identification card. If you do not have health insurance that covers your stay in Germany, please contact the Graduate School as soon as possible. We can arrange an affordable insurance package for you, including health, liability, and accident insurance.

  • your university degree certificates in the original

  • proof of any German language skills you may have or of your plans to take a language course in Germany. You should indicate that the language of instruction at the GSNAS is English, but that the program requires you to learn German in the course of doctoral study.

  • proof of sufficient financial resources during your stay (“Bewilligungsbescheid” confirming your scholarship funding)

  • 60 Euro for a residence permit which will be valid for over a year

b) All other nationalities
You will require a visa before entering Germany. Therefore, you must submit an application for a national visa for study purposes (student visa) to the respective German mission in your home country.

As a rule, you will have to present the following papers and documents to the relevant German mission abroad (e.g. embassy or consulate in your country):

  •  documents proving that you have been accepted by the Graduate School of North American Studies (confirmation letter by the director and/or “Bewilligungsbescheid” confirming your scholarship funding)

  • document proving your acceptance as a doctoral student by the relevant department (“Fachbereich”) at the Freie Universität Berlin (see below)

  • document proving your matriculation at the Freie Universität Berlin (see also below)

  • health insurance policy or health insurance identification card. If you do not have health insurance that covers your stay in Germany, please contact the Graduate School as soon as possible. We can arrange an affordable insurance package for you, including health, liability, and accident insurance.

  • your university degree certificates in the original

  • proof of any German language skills you may have or of your plans to take a language course in Germany. You should indicate that the language of instruction at the GSNAS is English, but that the program requires you to learn German in the course of doctoral study.

  • proof of sufficient financial resources during your stay (“Bewilligungsbescheid” confirming your scholarship funding)

Please note: Your visa-application may take several months to process; you should therefore submit the required paperwork well in advance. Make absolutely sure that you are applying for the appropriate visa (visa for study purposes/student visa). A "tourist visa" or "language course visa" cannot be subsequently changed into a "student visa". If you have the wrong visa, you will unfortunately have to leave the country again. Please also take care to ensure that your passport is still valid. If your identity documents have expired, you will have to travel back to your home country to have them extended there.

For further information regarding visa application, see here.

Admission & Matriculation

1. For scholarship holders and regular doctoral students at the GSNAS

In general, you will have to pass two consecutive procedures in order to enroll as a doctoral student at the Freie Universität Berlin. Please read the following carefully because enrollment is a precondition for the payment of your scholarship.

Admission: Although you have already been accepted by the Graduate School of North American Studies, you have to apply for admission at the Graduate Studies Office (“Promotionsbüro”) for the discipline in which you are conducting your doctoral research (see list at the end of the text). Applications are usually delivered by the applicant in person. However, in cases where this is not possible and/or you have to apply from abroad in order to get a visa, applications via mail are generally accepted. Please contact the appropriate office via phone or e-mail to obtain the necessary form.

For your application, you will also need the following documents:

  • an application form

  • your university degree certificate, including marks (original plus one copy which will remain on file at the Graduate Studies Office/”Promotionsbüro”. If you are applying from abroad via mail, do not send originals but rather two notarized copies).

  • a signed curriculum vitae

  • certificate of the “Abitur” (Germany) or comparable certificate qualifiying you for university matriculation (original plus one copy or, as above, two notarized copies)

  • document that proves your acceptance by the Graduate School of North American Studies (confirmation letter of the director and/or the “Bewilligungsbescheid” confirming your scholarship funding)

  • a brief outline of the objectives, hypotheses, and methods of your dissertation project and a time schedule

  • a statement of support from future primary advisor indicating his/her intention to supervise your dissertation

  • a brief statement in case you plan to write your dissertation in English. It suffices to indicate that you are a future student at the Graduate School of North American Studies

Please note: The admission procedure may take up to four weeks. Be sure to submit the required paperwork well in advance. The list mentioned above is possibly not complete. Please contact the relevant Graduate Studies Office (at the end of the page) for possible other required documents. In case there are difficulties, please contact us.

Matriculation: After having received formal notification about your admission at the department (“Fachbereich”), you must contact the Student Registration Office (the “Immatrikulationsbüro”which is part of the Admissions Office of “Studierendenverwaltung”) in order to be matriculated at the Freie Universität. A regular matriculation costs a fee of about 250 Euro per semester, but includes a ticket covering all public transportation in Berlin. The ticket for public transportation accounts for most of the 250 Euro. If you do not want to own the ticket, the amount of the fee can be reduced to 88 Euro.
Matriculation can either be done in person or by mail. You will have to present your university degrees and the notification of departmental registration sent to you by the Graduate Studies Office (Promotionsbüro) in the original or sent notified copies.

Please note: Matriculation has to be taken care of within four weeks after admission for doctoral studies by the department (“Fachbereich”). Nonetheless, the deadline of matriculation can be extended in some cases. In order to do so please contact the Student Registration Office by email (info-service@fu-berlin.de) or telephone (+49-(0)30-838 70000). For the payment of your scholarship the GSNAS needs at least proof of your admission to doctoral studies. A copy of your admission letter has to be presented to the Graduate School no later than September 15!

2. For visiting doctoral students (temporary stay)

Matriculation: After being accepted by the Graduate School of North American Studies as a guest student you need to matriculate at the Freie Universität Berlin. This you can only do in person after arrival in Berlin. You do this at the Student Registration Office.

You need to bring:

  • enrollment application

  • a letter from the GSNAS stating your temporary admission as visiting doctoral student

  • residence permit for Germany

  • original or copy of your earned degree (Master), if the language is other than German or English you need to bring a translated copy

  • matriculation fee of 256 Euro in cash. The fee includes a ticket covering all public transportation in Berlin. If you do not want to own the ticket, the amount of the fee can be reduced to 88 Euro.
     If you already have a German bank account you can pay it with your EC bank card

If you are a doctoral student from abroad…

a) from a country in which no visa for entering Germany is required

You might either come to Berlin early enough to take care of admission and matriculation in person (recommended), or apply for admission and matriculate via mail at the Freie Universität Berlin.

b) from a country where a visa before entering Germany is required

You should apply for admission (Graduate Studies Office/”Promotionsbüro”, Department/”Fachbereich”) and matriculation (student registration office) via mail.

Please note: Since it will be necessary to include the notification of admission and matriculation into your application for your visa and getting the visa will also take some time, it would be best to initiate the university admission process as soon as possible after receiving notification of your acceptance to the Graduate School of North American Studies.

Accommodation

Since the regular student dormitories in Berlin accept only undergraduate students (B.A.), you will have to find your room/apartment on the free market. However, this shouldn’t be difficult – the housing market in Berlin is quite relaxed these days.

If you do not have a friend or relative in Berlin with whom you can stay for the first weeks, it might be best to rent a room in advance via internet, and to look for long-term housing on-site.

Please note that the typical form of sharing an apartment is called “WG” (for “Wohngemeinschaft”) in German.

Here are some useful adresses:

www.easywg.de/?=1 (WGs)

www.wg-gesucht.de/en/wg-zimmer-in-Berlin.8.0.1.0.html (WGs and apartments)

http://berlin.studenten-wohnung.de (WGs and apartments, only in German)

www.rooms-in-berlin.com (WGs and apartments)

www.sabbatical-housing.de

www.studentenwerk-berlin.de/en/wohnen/woanders_wohnen/index.html

www.studenten-wg.de (WGs and apartments, only in German)

www.homeday.de/wohnungssuche-fuer-studierende/

What to Bring

Documents

  • Your passport, which should be valid for the time of your stay in Germany

  • Additional passport photos, if you have some available

  • Your visa, if necessary

  • Your letter of admission to the Graduate School of North American Studies

  • Your “Bewilligungsbescheid” (notification of your scholarship funding) as proof of your financial status (only for scholarship holders)

  • Originals of university degree certificates

  • Your driving license, if you plan on driving. If possible, get an international license before leaving

Clothes

Since Berlin has a continental climate, you should be prepared to encounter marked seasonal changes. Winters can be very cold (down to minus 20 degrees Celsius), with rain, snow, and strong wind, whereas summers can get really hot, until 37 or more degrees over several weeks.

II. Upon Arrival

Getting Around

The cheapest and most convenient way to get around in Berlin is by U-Bahn, S-Bahn (Underground/Metro), trams, and buses. The public transportation system in Berlin is managed by the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG). On their website you will find useful information regarding routes, timetables, fares etc. in advance. Ask your future landlord or your future roommates for the U-Bahn or S-Bahn station nearest your residence and you can print your individual route from the airport (Tegel or Schönefeld) to your new home.

At the airport you will, of course, also find taxis. However, a trip from Tegel to the inner city will cost at least 30 Euro,and if you arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon the rush may make going by taxi far more time-consuming than combining bus and U-Bahn. Same applies to the transfer from Schönefeld which may be yet more expensive, depending on your destination in Berlin.

Please note: Regardless of what means of transportation you use, you will need cash and, even better, small change. You should make sure that you carry some EUR-notes and coins with you.

Bank Account

If you are from abroad, you should open a local bank account as soon as possible. The Graduate School needs your German bank details for the transfer of your stipend. Normally, it suffices to bring a valid passport, together with proof of your current address in Berlin.

Please note that in order to pay your rent and other regular costs, you should arrange a standing order for money transfer (“Dauerauftrag”).

Useful adresses and phone numbers at the Freie Universität

General information

Studying at Freie Universität

Forms (only in German)

Promotionsbüros

Please note: Since there is no separate Graduate Studies Office (“Promotionsbüro”) for North American Studies, the Graduate Studies Office (“Promotionsbüro”) responsible for you is determined by the discipline your dissertation project is related to, and – following from this – the department of your primary advisor at the John F. Kennedy Institute.

  • History:

http://www.geschkult.fu-berlin.de/en/studium/promotionsbuero/index.html

  • Literature, Culture:

http://www.geisteswissenschaften.fu-berlin.de/studium/pruefungen/monika_cheng/index.html

  • Political Science, Sociology:

http://www.polsoz.fu-berlin.de/en/nachwuchsfoerderung/promotion/Kontakt/stelter_daphne/index.html

http://www.polsoz.fu-berlin.de/en/nachwuchsfoerderung/promotion/promotionsstudium/index.html

  • Economics:

http://www.wiwiss.fu-berlin.de/en/studium-lehre/promotion/index.html

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
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