Frequently Asked Questions


1Why should I study abroad for a whole year?
One of the biggest benefits of studying abroad for a year is the complete immersion you can experience in the German culture and language. Most students begin to feel truly comfortable after their first semester abroad. Once the second semester comes around, students are able to confidently navigate German cultural and academic life. Studying abroad for a year gives you enough time to truly make a life for yourself and discover a new home in Germany.
2Will I have free time to travel?
Most definitely! There is a two month long break from February to April where you are more than welcome to explore the world. Also, there are many long weekends throughout the course of the year, and Freiburg is in a great location to take day trips to France or Switzerland. Europe offers many cheap airlines as well as affordable bus lines and train routes.


1Will my credits transfer to my home University?
Yes. AYF issues transcripts and implements a transfer process that allows students to transfer academic credit earned in Freiburg to their home institution in the United States.

If your home university is affiliated with the AYF program, students can earn in-residence credits. This applies to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Michigan, University of Iowa, and Michigan State University. If your home university is not affiliated with the AYF program, students generally earn transfer credits. They will receive transcripts from the UW-Madison in addition to AYF transcripts.

Each university has slightly different requirements, but there are lists of pre-approved classes that AYF students have taken in the past and how they transferred back to their home universities. Since course offerings and individual course selections vary, it is always a good idea to consult with your home university academic advisors as well regarding the details of possible transfer options. AYF staff will assist you in the credit transfer process.
2What kinds of courses can I take?
You can take program courses through AYF, seminars and lecture courses at the university, German culture courses at the Language Teaching Institute, as well as seminars and lecture courses at the local university of education (Pädagogische Hochschule).

The AYF program offers intensive language courses and a number of content courses specifically designed for AYF students on German history and literature, German film, the European Union, and other topics. Students are enrolled at the University of Freiburg and can access almost all courses for which they are prepared and meet the requirements. In addition, students enjoy guest status at the local university of education and can take courses at the university’s Language Teaching Institute.

In preparation for each semester, you will have individual advising meetings with the AYF academic director who will help you put together a set of courses designed to challenge but not overwhelm you. Most students combine AYF courses with some offerings from the university and the university of education. For more detailed information on course options, go to Courses.
3Will all of my courses be in German?
All of the courses offered through the program are taught in German. At the university, some course offerings are available in English, primarily in the English department and in political science. Some economics courses are also taught in English.
4How many courses am I required to take?
AYF requires students to maintain full-time student status. Each semester students take a minimum of 12 credits without exceeding the 18-credit limit. For most students, this means taking between 4-5 classes. Generally, AYF students take 27 to 30 credits during their year in Freiburg.
5What should I expect in a German classroom?
German university teaching style differs from that in the USA. German professors expect each student to do each assignment, even though they may not necessarily collect it. Students are expected to be self-motivated and organized. Professors often do not assign as much ‚busy work’. They believe each student is doing everything they can themselves to learn the material.
6Are classes in Germany a lot harder in general?
Yes and no. It depends on how well the teaching style and your learning style match. As mentioned before, professors generally expect you to be self-motivated and to keep up with readings outside of class, without any quizzes or papers to make you accountable. Grades may be based on only a final exam or a final paper. Again, a combination of AYF and university courses serves most AYF students best.
7Are AYF program courses easier than university classes?
AYF classes are specifically designed for AYF students to ease their transition to the German university system. They are only open to AYF students and offer a space to explore academic interests without added pressure, providing introductions to various subjects in survey courses.

Students are expected to speak, read, and write in German. Some students consider AYF courses more demanding than their university classes because AYF courses tend to assign regular homework, unlike a German university class. On the other hand, AYF courses offer more personal support.
8What is the grading system in Germany?
The German grading system is on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1.0 being the best grade one can achieve. Grade conversion information is available in the AYF handbook so that you can see how your German grades will transfer back to the US.
9Can I do an internship in Freiburg?
Yes. During the second semester, AYF offers an internship program that combines work experience with an academic component. You can earn credits and get practical experience. Past students have found our internship program to be truly rewarding, a great way to intensify their work toward German proficiency while gaining real-life work experience. It’s a great resume builder, too!


1Can I use financial aid to fund my year abroad?
Using financial aid for study abroad is often possible. Please consult your home university study abroad office for more information.
2Can I work during my year abroad?
As a full-time student enrolled at the University of Freiburg, you will have a residence permit that includes a student work permit. You are allowed to work up to 240 half days per calendar year or 120 full days per calendar year.
3Are there scholarships available through the program?
AYF itself does not offer scholarships but there are many scholarships for which AYF participants can apply, some specifically affiliated with the program such as scholarships offered by the AYF Alumni Club’s American and European Chapters. AYF participants are regularly successful in applying for the Baden Württemberg Scholarship and the Freiburg Madison Scholarship. AYF students enjoy support from the Max Kade Foundation and have held Gilman and other scholarships over the years. Please see the Money Matters section for more information and consult your study abroad advisor at your home university about opportunities that may be open specifically to students from your institution.
4What do I do about money when abroad?
AYF staff will assist you in opening a German bank account during the first week after your arrival. It is also helpful to contact your bank at home to ask if international fees apply when you use your credit card or ATM card abroad.


1How do I find housing?
AYF has guaranteed access to rooms in dorms managed by the Studierendenwerk Feiburg, an organization that also runs food services for the university, the Mensa. Most are single rooms within a larger unit, a Wohngemeinschaft. Some apartments are also available. As part of your AYF application, you indicate your preference for the type of setup and location you would enjoy.
2What exactly is a Wohngemeinschaft?
Literally translated Wohngemeinschaft, or WG, means “apartment-sharing community”. Taking account of your preference, you are placed into a WG with anywhere from 3 to 8 roommates. Each student has their own room, kitchen and bathrooms are shared. WGs offer great opportunities to make friends and speak German.
3What do I need to bring for my room?
Nothing, really! Basic bedding can be purchased prior to arrival for pickup on arrival day. During the first week in Freiburg we’ll have a group outing to IKEA where you can fulfill all your decorating desires at reasonable prices. Also, each summer there’ll be an AYF flea market: Departing students offer items they no longer need (bedding, towels, hangers, office supplies etc.) to incoming students.
4What do I do about food for a whole year?
Each WG has a kitchen equipped with all the appliances you may need. If you don’t wish to cook three meals a day, then there are affordable food options through the university. There are several student cafeterias around Freiburg where you can find a cheap and filling meal.
5Am I going to live with other Americans?
Most likely not, although some of the AYF housing is in WGs where two rooms are designated for participants of our program. It may seem intimidating at first, but living with Germans or other students from around the world presents a great opportunity to make new friends, practice German, and learn about other cultures.

Moving Abroad

1Do I need to apply for a visa?
American citizens and students from a European Union country do not need a visa to enter Germany. You will need to apply for a residence permit after your arrival. We will take care of this and other formalities together during orientation. Students from other nationalities, please check with the German consulate nearest you regarding visa requirements.
2How much should I pack?
It is always a good idea to pack less than you think you may need. Throughout the year you will probably accumulate clothes, souvenirs, and books you may want to bring home, and then you’ll be grateful for extra space left in your suitcase. If there is something that you need and did not bring, take heart! Freiburg has many affordable shopping options. One year, an AYF student arrived with just his backpack as his sole piece of luggage – and he did just fine.
3I am arriving before the check-in date, what should I do?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to move into your WG early (we simply can’t get your keys before the move-in date). Many German cities, including Freiburg, have very affordable hostel options. Finding accommodation without breaking the bank should be relatively easy.
4I am arriving in Freiburg after the check-in date/time, what should I do?
We strongly encourage you to arrive at the designated meeting place on the designated day and time so that you can promptly move into your WG and begin the orientation process with your fellow AYF participants. If this is not possible for any reason, contact AYF staff and we’ll find a solution.
5What is the transition like moving from the US to Germany?
Like any transition, it may not be easy at first. Some people experience mild friction, others full-blown culture shock. Life in Germany is different in a lot of often small ways but there are also many similarities. Feel free to talk to AYF staff about your experiences or contact past students to see how they coped with the transition. Many of them will be happy to share first-hand advice for managing the transition. Past AYFers can be readily contacted through our Facebook group.
6What exactly is culture shock?
Culture shock is something that almost everyone experiences at some point after moving abroad. It is a very normal and manageable process. Once the initial excitement of living in a new country wears off, you may begin to feel frustrated about the differences in daily life you may run into (grocery store etiquette, banking differences, etc.). What at first looked quaint now seems annoying. But once you are more established and have found your rhythm and daily routine, like at home, you can start to appreciate the little differences and begin to understand that just because something is done a different way, this doesn’t make it the wrong or the right way.
7What do I do when I feel homesick?
Homesickness is completely normal. Talking to someone often helps! Your most valuable resources when you are feeling homesick are the members of the AYF team and your fellow AYF students, who know exactly what you are going through. If you don’t feel like talking, try watching one of your favorite movies, reading a book in English, listening to your favorite artist, or going out for a walk or run. If you suspect it may be something more than homesickness or a case of the blues, we strongly encourage you to talk to AYF staff. They will not only be there for you but can refer you to professional help as well.
8Should I go home during the year/for the Holidays?
Your year abroad is a special opportunity, a chance to call a new place home and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences – including spending the Holidays in Germany. Then again, some students report that going home for the Holidays was a nice break and that they felt re-energized for the rest of their year abroad.

Student Life

1Is Freiburg a student friendly city?
Most definitely. The Innenstadt completely surrounds the university, integrating the central campus completely into the city, and throughout the city, you will find many special offers solely for students. A very reasonably priced semester transportation pass is available for students as well. All this, and the cheap housing options available to you, makes Freiburg quite an affordable place to study.
2Will I be able to join clubs through the university?
Of course! During your year abroad you will be a student at the University of Freiburg, and you will have all the options that a German student has. At the beginning of each semester you will receive information about the intramurals sports program and a booklet that outlines the student clubs one can find in Freiburg.
3How do I make German friends?
The key here is to put yourself out there and not be afraid to speak German. The first step, of course, is to just start a conversation with someone, whether they are in a class or club with you. Many students here are very open to exchange students and are also excited about making a new friend and practicing their English or helping you with your German.
4What does a German university student do for fun?
What do you do for fun? That’s probably what the majority of German students do as well. Although the university in Freiburg doesn’t have a football or basketball team (we know how big of a deal sports are at the Big Ten schools), students here spend their free time much like any other university student in the US.