Katya - Humboldt University of Berlin

B Arts/B Social Science
Semester 2, 2019
I'll never forget my time on exchange.

Academic experience

The academic system at HU is very different to UQ. The difference in credit system meant that I had to take more subjects than I would at home, though the workload is similar.    

Enrolling in classes online is not always possible. A very useful piece of advice I was given was to show up to the first session and speak to the lecture about taking their class. They were all happy to have me; they rarely turn people away. I then had to let UQ know of the changed to the subjects I would be studying. They were very helpful.

I took three classes with ‘Berlin Perspectives’. These are classes specifically for exchange students to give us more of an understanding about the city we were living. They offer subjects about anything from history to philosophy to activism all in the context of the city of Berlin.

Personal experience

Studying in Berlin meant that I could travel to other parts of Europe very cheaply. I flew to London and Amsterdam and took a bus to Prague. I made the most of being close to lost of different countries.

I wanted to improve my German but found it challenging as everyone in Berlin speaks English, although they do appreciate you trying. My housemates were all English speaking and I only took classes in English.

I made lifelong friendships while I was on exchange. I miss them and Berlin.


I lived in a share house that I found on Housing Anywhere.com, a website recommended by the university. The room was small and furnished with everything I needed. My advice would be to check the reviews on Google about landlords. Ours was particularly difficult to get hold of and not very helpful. Some of my housemates have had trouble getting their deposits back. I also recommend the suburb I lived in; Friedrichshain. This is a beautiful area with lots of families, dogs, cafes, parks and markets. I felt safe in Friedrichshain which is important in a big, new city.


Berlin is going through a housing crisis, with ever increasing rents. Compared to Brisbane, it is expensive. Although I found groceries to be quite cheap depending where you shop (Erstmal zu Penny! First, to Penny! To quote the discount supermarket’s catchphrase). Eating out can also be cheap. There are so many restaurants and kebab shops, you will want to try them all. Thankfully transport is included in the Uni registration fee. This allowed me free travel on all public transport around Berlin.


The biggest challenge I faced was knowing how much work to put into Uni work and how much time to spend exploring the city or hanging out with friends. As always, keep up with the work and don’t leave it all to the last minute, I guess.

That and the cold Berlin winter.

Professional Development

While its hard to say what skills I’ve developed, because I can’t use them while in COVID-19 quarantine, I think going on exchange built my confidence. I realised I am capable of moving across the world to live, study and make friends without having done anything like this before.


The highlight for me was the friendships I made. I found it much easier to build friendships overseas as everyone is in the same boat; far away from home and their comfort zones. Doing new things and putting yourself out there is easier when there’s someone by your side. I'm looking forward to visiting them and having them visit me.

I also really enjoyed the many Christmas Markets and New Year's Eve fireworks on the street.

Top tips

Go for a whole year. I went for a semester, tried to extend my stay, but was sent home because of COVID-19. I missed out on summer in Berlin, I hear its amazing. I'll definitely be back soon.