Germany: Contemporary Politics and the European Union

Spend time in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands as you explore German politics, contemporary youth culture, and the European Union during a summer abroad.

Gain fascinating insight into the European Union, a Nobel Peace Prize–winning institution, and the role Germany has played in advancing peace, democracy, and human rights in Europe on this summer abroad for high school students. Study Germany’s political system and get a taste of German life in big cities and small communities alike. Visit the major seats of EU governance in Brussels and discuss youth issues in Bonn. Attend workshops that explore topics related to peacekeeping, anti-discrimination, politics, and the EU’s institutional structure.

As you travel from north to south and across national borders, you will spend time in Berlin, Niederalteich, Brussels, Cologne, Bonn, Munich, and Maastricht. The program begins in the 2,000-year-old city of Cologne, where you will begin language training and get to know your group. In Bonn, visit the Haus der Geschichte to learn about German history and participate in a youth rights workshop where you will discuss youth issues in Germany and around the world with “Youth for Europe” members. Continue on to Brussels, where you will visit an important EU institution and international NGO and gain important insight into how the EU works. Cross the border into the Netherlands for a full-day excursion in the historic city of Maastricht, where the Treaty on European Union was signed.

Your group will then travel to Bavaria, where you will share daily life with a German family during a homestay in Niederalteich and experience a typical German school day. Spend a day exploring the city of Munich with your group. The program concludes in Berlin, the capital and bustling cultural center, where you will visit the German Bundestag, continue your exploration of EU institutions, and meet with local youth.

Orientation: Cologne, 4 days
Homestay: Niederalteich,* 10–12 days
Other Accommodations: Hostels

* Homestay locations can vary.

Days 1–4

Orientation and Language in Cologne and Bonn

  • Learn about the history, culture, and environment of Germany from experts
  • Get to know other members of your group during activities
  • Begin your German language learning with language classes
  • Visit the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) in Bonn, a museum that uses interactive exhibits to reveal German history
  • Explore the city of Cologne and see the Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

During the orientation period, you and your group will stay at a centrally located youth guest house in Cologne.

Days 5-7

Thematic Focus in Brussels, Belgium and Maastricht, Netherlands

  • Visit an important EU institution and learn about the work of the European Union
  • Go on a guided tour of the city
  • Go on a daylong excursion to Maastricht, in the Netherlands

During this period, you and your group will stay at a centrally located youth guest house in Brussels.

Days 8–17

Homestay in Niederalteich

  • Become immersed in the daily lives of a German family and community
  • Participate in activities with your host family
  • Attend classes with your host siblings at their school
  • Present American culture to your host school
  • Go on a guided tour of Niederalteich’s monastery and basilica
  • Go on an excursion to Munich

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family.

Days 18–26

Thematic Focus in Berlin

  • Attend lectures on Germany’s influence in Europe, how the EU works, the tasks of different EU institutions, and the diversity of cultures within the EU
  • Learn about current issues in the EU, such as the refugee situation and TTIP
  • Visit the German Bundestag
  • Visit important sites throughout the city
  • Go on a walking tour of the city and take a boat trip on the river Spree
  • Meet local multicultural youth from Berlin

During this period, you and your group will stay at a centrally located youth guest house in Berlin.

Day 27

Reflection and Wrap-up in Berlin

  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program
  • Enjoy a farewell dinner with your group

During this period, you and your group will stay at a centrally located youth guest house in Berlin.

Day 28


Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

These are leader bios from summer 2014.

Silvia Weko

Silvia Weko has moved every 2.5 years on average since birth, can’t say exactly where she is from, and is happy that way. She has lived in London, Paris, Berlin, and a German village next to Poland (Döbern). Her odd jobs to pay for travel have included tutor, housekeeper, personal assistant, and ice skate guard. She received her BA in international studies and German in May 2014, and she hopes to eventually pursue a master’s in education. Silvia’s on-campus jobs while in college included coordinating the German House, working as a teacher assistant, and facilitating the Language in Motion program. She loves learning new languages and practicing her French and German with exchange students. If Silvia is not in the kitchen making something elaborate and vegetarian, you can usually find her hiking or writing poetry.

Tessa Williams

Tessa graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 2013 with a degree in women’s and gender studies. Having caught the travel bug at a young age, Tessa knew that studying abroad while in college was a must. After studying German for three years, she embarked on a six-month adventure to Regensburg, Germany. During her time in Regensburg, Tessa took part in an international language intensive course and had the incredible opportunity to study with students from all over the world. Tessa has traveled widely throughout Europe and having friends on so many different parts of the globe has greatly strengthened her wanderlust. Most recently, Tessa has served in the Great Work Apprenticeship program at Compass Montessori High School. In this work, Tessa taught high school students about social justice issues and advocated for peace education. A proud Colorado native, Tessa grew up taking advantage of all that the state has to offer. She is an outdoor enthusiast and loves hiking, camping, rock climbing, and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

One thing I learned out of all of this is that before I was in the program I didn’t realize my full potential. I thought I could just do a few things with my life, be really good at them and that was all. What I realized after the program was that my potential, like the world and all its possibilities, is limitless and it is only as small as I think it is. Being able to live in an entirely different culture (two really) and eat their food and speak their language and make friends with them and use their money and use their transportation systems, see their monuments, and breathe their air is something I will never forget as well as all the people I have met and the life friends I have made and the experiences we shared. I will always be grateful for and remember [this].

Richard Paz, Belleville High School

My favorite part of the trip has to be the homestay. Bavaria also has to be my favorite place on the trip. That area of the country is absolutely beautiful. The rolling planes and then the Bavarian Forest rising up in the distance, it was definitely my favorite place to be. I had a wonderful time with my family, the Stockingers. The family brought me in as one of their own and I felt truly at home in their house. Everybody else was absolutely wonderful as well, and I made a few friends while I was there.

Dennis Kane, Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School

I’m so grateful for my opportunity to go on this trip. I have a special interest in traveling, and this experience only fed the fire that is burning within me to see the world. My group leaders were awesome, and I never found a dull moment with them. We always were talking about experiences they had had as world citizens traveling, and after hearing these stories I began to feel more and more secure in my thoughts of being a very active traveler as I grew older. All the sites, from the urban to the rural, and the people I got to know through the program were wonderful. The program exceeded all my expectations, and I’m highly grateful for the opportunity I had to partake in it.

John Bradshaw, Montgomery Bell Academy