Berlin, Germany and Rotterdam, the Netherlands

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Berlin, Germany, Rotterdam and the Netherlands

This 13-day program provides you with a riveting, in-depth experience of the pursuit of sustainability in two exemplary European countries.

The highlight of the course is our time in Berlin and Rotterdam where you network with some of the world’s leaders in sustainability, from government, ecology, architecture and design, urban planning, engineering and activism. You also tour sites such as a biodynamic farm, a cutting-edge storm surge barrier, a university dedicated to sustainable development, floating architecture and specialized research facilities.

The Berlin and Rotterdam program has dedicated grants and scholarships. See the funding section below for more information.

Early admission deadline:Monday, January 15, 2018
Rolling admissions continue until the program reaches capacity
Final application deadline:Friday, March 30, 2018



Taught exclusively in English with a preparatory online component, this program lets you see sustainability in action in Germany and the Netherlands—two countries widely recognized as leaders in innovative response to climate change.

In Germany, the focus is on the energy transition to renewables. We explore the cultural factors that predispose this population to embrace green politics and sustainable practices, even at personal cost. In the Netherlands, the focus is on the Dutch approach to sea level rise and flooding in a country where 26 percent of its terrain is at or below sea level, and a further 29 percent is subject to inland flooding.

After the daily excursions, you can enjoy the vibrant cultural scene of three first-class European cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin. One of last year’s participants describes the program best, “The Berlin and Rotterdam program raised my awareness of sustainability and introduced me to innovative new concepts. Some of the incredible speakers and projects we got to experience changed the trajectory of my life. I have new career goals, which are more multifaceted, and I also feel much more aware of the world in general.”

Join us for an information session to learn more about the program:

  • Tuesday, January 23 at 5 p.m.  in Williams Hall, Room 741
Sunday, June 10, 2018 Recommended arrival in Amsterdam
Sunday, June 10, 2018 Program housing first available
Sunday, June 10, 2018 On-site orientation
Sunday, June 10, 2018 Classes start
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 Rotterdam
Sunday, June 17, 2018 Train travel to Berlin
Saturday, June 23, 2018 Classes end
Saturday, June 23, 2018 Conclude in the morning in Berlin
Saturday, June 23, 2018 Program housing last checkout date

The itinerary for 2018 will include meetings with a wide variety of experts and site visits, similar to the 2017 program itinerary, which included:

Day 1 - Amsterdam

  • Orientation and lunch at Dappermarkt (local market)
  • Canal tour in a vintage boat
  • Ferry to Amsterdam Noord
  • Tour of an innovative, sustainable home and discussion with the architect and homeowner
  • Welcome dinner and presentation on urban resiliency by Anna Goede from Rainproof Amsterdam

Day 2 - Amsterdam

  • Marjan Minnesma, founding director of Urgenda, the NGO that sued the Dutch government to be more aggressive in reducing GHGs
  • Lunch and conversation with Tracy Metz, design expert and author of Sweet & Salt: Water and the Dutch
  • Interactive tour of water-themed paintings at the Rijksmuseum

Day 3 - Rotterdam

  • Tour of Maeslantkering, the innovative storm surge barrier that protects the Rotterdam region
  • Presentation by Wynand Dassen, project manager of the Rotterdam Resilience Team, on the 40th floor of an iconic building by Rem Kohlhaas
  • “Make Room for the River,” presentation by and discussion with Hans Brouwer of the Rijkswaterstaat, ecologist and project manager for the Royal Dutch Water Board
  • Dinner and conversation at the StayOkay Hostel

Day 4 - The Hague

  • Visit the Ministry of Environment & Infrastructure for a discussion with Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Management, about water management and sustainability in Dutch development policy
  • Discussion with Peter van Wingerden, CEO of Beladon, a firm specializing in floating and amphibious architecture and design
  • Introduction to the Dutch political system and tour of parliament
  • Relaxing evening on the beach of Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague

Day 5 - Delft

  • Tour of historical center of Delft
  • Presentation on “Building with Nature” by ecologist Bregje van Weesenbeeck at Deltares, an engineering consultancy and research lab
  • Tour of the Deltares water simulation facilities
  • Exploration of the city

Day 6 - Rotterdam

  • Bicycle tour of architecture and sustainability
  • Free afternoon and evening

Day 7 - Rotterdam to Berlin

  • Train trip from Rotterdam to Berlin
  • Welcome dinner at Hasir, a Turkish restaurant
  • Walking tour of historic Berlin

Day 8 - Berlin

  • Karin Franzen from GIZ, a German international development agency, on renewable energy technology transfer between China and Germany
  • Bicycle tour of the decommissioned Tempelhof Airport, now a massive public green space in the heart of Berlin
  • Lunch at YAAM, an African complex of makeshift restaurants, clubs, street art and socializing on the Spree River
  • Discussion and tour of the Institute for Creative Sustainability focusing on cultures of sustainable and alternative urban development with Director Michael LaFond
  • Dinner in the Biergarten at Schlachtensee, a local beach

Day 9 - Berlin

  • A presentation by Charlotte Lorek, engineer for the Öko-Institut, on the coal phase-out
  • A presentation by Paul Hockenos, environmental journalist and author, on sustainability and the political landscape in Germany
  • Free afternoon and evening

Day 10 - Berlin

  • Travel to Eberswalde for meetings and conversation with faculty and students of the University for Sustainable Development
  • Participants present “Sustainability in the Era of Trump” at a public event organized by the City of Eberswalde, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the University for Sustainable Development

Day 11 - Eberswalde

  • Meeting with Kerstin Meyer, senior associate of Agora Verkehrswende, on decarbonizing the transportation sector
  • Meeting with Marta Otwinowski and Benjamin Wehrmann, journalists for Clean Energy Wire
  • Meeting with Claudia Kemfert, director of the Department of Energy, Transportation and Environment at the German Institute for Economic Research

Day 12 - Potsdam

  • Guided tour of the Telegrafenberg, the site of major scientific and climate related institutes since the 19th century
  • Tour of Sanssouci Park (palaces of the Prussian and German Imperial Family)
  • Meeting with Jobst Heitzig at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for a discussion of smart grids and electricity supply from renewables
  • Potsdam river cruise to view historical palaces
  • Farewell dinner at Wahnsee Biergarten

All students register for a total of one course unit (c.u.)*. Course offerings are subject to change. Course registration is completed by the Penn Summer Abroad office for students who confirm their intent to enroll and submit the required pre-departure documents.

Comparative Cultures of Sustainability

GRMN 181 / ENVS 181 / URBS 181 (1 c.u.)

  • Taught by Simon Richter
  • Fulfills requirement: Cross-cultural analysis

This hybrid course (with online and study abroad components) explores the role that cultural and cultural-historical factors play in predisposing citizens to accept sustainability as a national, local and personal priority. In the online portion, students become acquainted with the cultural histories of German and Dutch attitudes toward sustainability and the environment. You also develop tools for analyzing and interpreting cultural differences. The course highlight is a 12-day trip to Berlin and Rotterdam for on-site visits to exemplary institutions noted for their ecological leadership.

Students will be housed in a centrally located dorm in Berlin. While in the Netherlands, students will live on the houseboat, MPS Waterland Amsterdam, and travel the waterways between Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Nijmegen for a first-hand experience of Dutch water management and delta urbanism. 

Students may be interested in pursuing an internship at the conclusion of the program:

  • The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania offers $5,000 of competitive funding for Berlin-based, unpaid internships with a focus on energy policy. The deadline for application for Kleinman funding is April 15, 2018. Application instructions will be posted in fall 2017.
  • The Department of Germanic Languages can offer assistance in finding a sustainability-related internship in Berlin or another German city. Early applications get the best results. Please e-mail Simon Richter for more details about the process, and get advice and strategies on how to find an internship in Germany from the Young Germany website. German language proficiency is required for most internships.
  • Students are encouraged to contact companies, NGOs and ministries in Germany and the Netherlands directly.
  • The Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German development office) offers internships in departments across their company.

Tuition and fees are subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and may change without notice.

  • Tuition for summer 2018: $4,224
  • Program fee for summer 2018: $2,625
    • Penn Summer Abroad deposits ($500) will be deducted from the program fee amount
    • Includes accommodations, some meals, cultural activities, site visits, local transport and administrative costs

There are three options for funding support:

1. The Adolf Klarmann Travel Fellowship of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

Penn freshmen, sophomores and juniors who currently receive financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year are eligible to apply for the Adolf Klarmann Travel Fellowship to help fund participation in the Berlin and Rotterdam program. Recipients are selected based on academic standing, financial need and demonstrated motivation for participating in the Berlin and Rotterdam program. There is no language requirement for freshmen and sophomores, however, juniors must be, or have been enrolled in advanced German courses (GRMN 203 and above).

Applications for this fellowship are no longer being accepted.

2. The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy supports qualified undergraduate and graduate students pursuing professional and academic research opportunities related to energy policy through competitive grant funding. Students are encouraged to apply to the Kleinman Center as either individuals or as a team. Support may be used to cover research expenses, team project costs, conference registration or travel, and other professional development activities. A brief description of the request and an itemized budget are required. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis during both the academic year and the summer months. Please allow the review committee ten business days to consider all applications. Questions may be e-mailed to Kleinman Center Deputy Director, Cory Colijn, at

Applications for this fellowship are no longer being accepted.

3. The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities Travel Fellowship

Penn undergraduates who currently receive financial aid are eligible to apply for the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) Travel Fellowship to help fund participation in the Berlin and Rotterdam program. Recipients are selected based on academic standing, financial need and demonstrated motivation for participating in the Berlin and Rotterdam program.

Applications for this fellowship are no longer being accepted.

Student Video

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Student Blog

Student Blog

Read about the experiences of last year’s students on their blog.


Contact Information

For details about the program, courses, or location including academic advising, travel dates, housing and orientation:

Simon Richter

Program Director
Simon Richter
Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures
University of Pennsylvania
Tel: (215) 898-7332

For assistance with application, financial questions, pre-departure or other general information:

Nicola M. Gentili

Penn Summer Abroad Office
College of Liberal & Professional Studies
University of Pennsylvania
3440 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA, 19104-3335
Tel: (215) 898-7326

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.

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