At Freie Universität's Studienkolleg, refugees can take advanced German courses as well as specific subject courses to help prepare them for German universities.
Oct 25, 2016
"You all speak excellent German. We don't need the English leaflets," says Stefanie Böhler, while walking through the room on the Lankwitz campus and handing out informational material about BAföG, the German government's scholarship and loan program for college students. German is the common language of the refugees attending this information session offered by the Studienkolleg as part of the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin Program headed by Stefanie Böhler and her colleague Florian Kohstall. Many of the participants are from Syria, and some are from Egypt or Afghanistan. All of them want to study in Germany and build up a new future.
The Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program aims to help refugees prepare for enrollment in a regular degree program. In order to enroll at a German university, besides a working knowledge of German, applicants often need specialized knowledge in a specific subject area. The Studienkolleg offers these subject-specific courses in a year-long program. "At the end, the pupils take a special examination to assess whether they are ready for the university," said Vida Kaluza from the Studienkolleg of Freie Universität. "That sounds complicated, but the exam is ultimately a type of vocational diploma."
The Studienkolleg has been in operation at Freie Universität for more than 50 years. Successful participation permits students from abroad whose secondary school leaving certificate is not equivalent to the German Abitur to enroll at a German university for a specific subject. Since the 2016 summer semester, the Studienkolleg has been providing special courses for refugees.
Lorin, who is 21, is one of 120 participants currently enrolled for the courses in this winter semester. She fled her home in Syria two years ago, and during the last semester she completed several German courses within the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program. Her German is already good enough for her to apply for a degree program, but Lorin feels that she can continue to benefit from the Studienkolleg. She says, "I really want to study pharmacy. The Studienkolleg is very useful for me to get a head start on the required math and science courses."
Language of Instruction: German, Five Days a Week
The courses in the Studienkolleg are held every day. The instruction is always in German. "In almost all of the bachelor's degree programs at Freie Universität, German is the language of instruction. That is why good German language skills are so important," says Florian Kohstall from the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program. Four key areas are taught as subjects needed for the university. They prepare potential students for degree programs in economics and social sciences, math and natural sciences, medicine and life sciences, and humanities.
Maher has also been taking classes at the Studienkolleg since the middle of September. Maher is 26, and in Syria, where he is from, he already completed a bachelor's degree in business administration. Now he would like to earn a master's degree at Freie Universität.
Whether refugees can enroll directly in a degree program, or whether they first have to go through the year-long program at the Studienkolleg, depends on the documents they are able to submit when applying. This is handled by the external tester, Uni-Assist.
Those students sitting in Lecture Hall G on the Lankwitz Campus have already passed that step. They still have many questions though: What should I do, if my application for asylum is not approved? How should I best prepare for the assessment exam? Can I apply for a BAföG scholarship and/or loan? And if so, how and where do I apply?
Answers to their questions are being given this afternoon by staff from the Student Service Center, the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program, and the Studienkolleg as well as student representatives from AStA, the student parliament. "This is new for all of us, and sometimes we have to look for individual solutions," says Florian Kohstall. "But we all have a common goal. We all want to support refugees interested in studying, so they can enroll in regular degree programs as soon as possible."
Dates and information about the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program at: www.fu-berlin.de/welcome