Berlin, Germany and Rotterdam, the Netherlands

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Berlin, Germany, Rotterdam and the Netherlands

Stay on the cutting edge of environmental and urban sustainability, and network with the world’s leading minds.

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

The think tank of the Green Party in Germany

Architectural bike tour in Rotterdam

Meeting with the energy expert of the German Green Party in Berlin

Urban gardening as public art on the decommissioned Tempelhof Airfield in the middle of Berlin

Discussing energy politics with students and faculty from the University for Sustainable Development in Eberswalde, Germany

Posing on a green roof in Rotterdam

Inspecting the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier in Rotterdam

Eating herring in a market in Amsterdam

The Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier

Tour of a pumping station in Katwijk, the Netherlands

Photovoltaic lab at the University of Business and Technology, Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

Tasting strawberries at an urban garden along the Spree River, with Michael LaFond, director of the Institute for Creative Sustainability

Grüne Liga is an East German environmental NGO

Bike tour of sustainable water management and architecture in Rotterdam

Taking a walk through the Brandenburg Forest with the Dean of Forestry at the University for Sustainable Development in Eberswalde

On the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier

In Zeeland

Train station in Rotterdam

The hostel in Rotterdam

In front of Sanssouci in Potsdam

New food market in Rotterdam

Program Description

Discover the lively culture and practice of sustainability, environmentalism and green policy-making in Germany and the Netherlands.

This 13-day program introduces students to the cultural aspects of sustainability in two exemplary European countries. In Germany, the focus is on the energy transition to renewables and the cultural factors that predispose this populace to embrace green politics and sustainable practices, even at personal cost. In the Netherlands, the focus is on how cultural factors play a role in the way the Dutch approach issues relating to sea level rise and flooding in a country where 26% of its terrain is at or below sea level and a further 29% subject to inland flooding.

Taught exclusively in English with a preparatory online component, this program gives students the chance to see sustainability in action in Germany and the Netherlands—two countries widely recognized as leaders in innovative response to climate change. The highlight of the course is travel to Berlin and Rotterdam where you meet local and federal policy makers, ecologists, architects, urban planners, engineers and activists. You also tour sites such as a biodynamic farm, an innovative storm surge barrier, a university dedicated to sustainable development, floating architecture and specialized research facilities. In addition, you are encouraged to enjoy the vibrant cultural scenes of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin.

Student Experiences

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Student Blog
Read about the experiences of last year’s students on their blog:

Program Calendar 2018

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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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)
  • 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 stylish hostels in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and in a centrally located dorm in Berlin.


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 & Fees

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

Tuition and fees for 2018 will be posted in February 2018.

  • Tuition for summer 2017: $4,072
  • Program fee for summer 2017: $2,400
    Includes accommodation with breakfast, all museum entrance fees, cultural activities, all local transport costs and administrative costs. It is expected that the program fee for summer 2018 will be significantly lower because of a generous grant from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures.
  • 2017 Estimated Cost Sheet (PDF)


There are three options for funding support:

  1. The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures provides grants of up to $1,500 to undergraduate students who are currently (2017/18) or have been previously enrolled in advanced German courses (GRMN 301 and above, taught in German). These grants may be used to defray program and/or travel costs. Please allow the review committee 10 business days to consider all applications. To apply, send an e-mail indicating your interest and intention to participate in Penn’s Berlin and Rotterdam summer abroad program, along with a list of German courses you have taken or are currently taking. Successful applicants will be asked to contribute to a blog about their experience on a departmental site and to participate in an informational event during the subsequent fall semester. Applications and any questions may be e-mailed to Program Director Simon Richter at

    Applications are accepted through March 1, 2018.

  2. 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

    Online applications must be submitted online by February 1, 2018.

  3. The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities will also provide grants. Details and deadline TBD.

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:

Penn Summer Abroad Office
College of Liberal & Professional Studies
University of Pennsylvania
3440 Market Street
Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA

Tel: (215) 898-7326
Fax: (215) 573-2053

*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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