Everything you need to know about Studying at Humboldt University, Berlin
Agnes & Modules
At Humboldt there is a range of very interesting modules on offer, and the great thing is that you’re not restricted to studying only things that are related to your course. You’ll get a student account in which you can browse the course catalogue and sign up for different modules/courses (called AGNES), and a Moodle account in which teaching staff may post slides or relevant updates, as well as where academic discussions may be held*. AGNES can be tricky to navigate, so ask for help if you’re stuck. Depending on what you’ve signed up to study, there will be different relevant modules on offer (for example, a philosophy module might be: Philosophy: focus on logic). These consist of various (usually thematic) lectures, seminars, and tutorials, and are concluded by some form of assessment.
Getting Credits (ECTS)/Grades
Lectures usually get you the lowest amount of credit, with Modülbogen (basically a proof of attendance/completion) which you can sign yourself at the end of the semester. Your professor/supervisors will have to sign your seminar/tutorial Modülbogen. You get more credits for attending seminars (though some conditions may be attached**) but will get the most credit for sitting Prüfungen (exams) and writing Hausarbeiten (extended essays). Make sure you sign up to courses early, especially if you want to sit exams for certain modules, as interesting courses fill up quickly. Your home university will likely require a grade from your host university (even if this is just a pass grade) to prove that you have been attending and participating to a sufficient degree. So just getting the required amount of ECTS is not enough, you will have to complete some form of assessment. In my case, I was able to speak to professors about doing an oral examination, which gave me fewer ECTS but enabled me to present a grade. If you are going to be sitting examinations, you will need to register for these with a special pin number that will be posted to you.
Make sure you arrive early to lectures, as they are often overbooked, and you might find yourself unable to get a seat. Speak to professors early on and let them know that you’re an Erasmus student, they tend to be very understanding and will usually be keen to help you out with any questions. Lectures are also often offered in English, and even in German lectures, you are often given the option to contribute/write assessment in English.
The system is very decentralised and can be rather counter-intuitive at first, and a high degree of independence is expected from you. In my experience, there is a lot less guidance offered to you than in the UK – but remember to keep your cool and reach out sooner rather than later if you’re having difficulties with any of the administrative aspects. I recommend arriving as soon as possible in order to be able to attend all relevant induction courses and familiarise yourself with the system, and leaving plenty of time to figure things out. There is a hub for Erasmus students which you can also get in touch with for any relevant questions. Try and meet other Erasmus students for advice, or even just to vent. If you’re really stuck, talk to your home university advisors, as they will likely have some familiarity with the system, as well as your Berlin advisors and professors. In my experience, professors in particular are very understanding, patient, and helpful, and want you to have a positive experience.
Overall, the HU offers the opportunity to study a range of things you might not be able to back home, with highly respected professors and in an environment where there is usually a high degree of student participation. It’ll be a unique and interesting way to learn, so don’t let the high levels of bureaucracy get you down! Berlin is an amazing city and you’ll have an amazing time getting to discover it.
*In most cases, getting credits for attending a seminar will depend on you participating in these online discussions, so remember that if you want credit, these are NOT voluntary.
**For other seminars, getting credits will depend on