Berlin, Germany and Rotterdam, the Netherlands

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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.

Penn-in-Berlin & Rotterdam is no longer accepting applications for 2019

Early admission deadline: Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Rolling admissions continue until the program reaches capacity
Final application deadline: Monday, April 15, 2019


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.

The primary learning objective is to develop a substantive understanding of the cultural factors involved in the practice of sustainability in the Netherlands and Germany. In the Netherlands, where 26% of the terrain is below sea level and another 29% subject to inland flooding, the focus is on water management and adaptations required to deal with sea level rise and to improve urban resilience. In Germany, the focus is on the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables in electricity generation, transportation and heating. We also pay attention to how the Netherlands and Germany use their knowledge and experience in connection with development projects abroad. After the daily excursions and meetings, you enjoy the vibrant cultural scene of three first-class European cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin.

At the end of the program, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the pursuit of sustainability in these two European countries. This will equip you to better understand the complexity of the situation in the United States and elsewhere in the world. In the words of a recent participant, “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.”

Bicycling: Because bicycling is an essential part of the experience in the Netherlands, participants should feel comfortable on a bike or plan to learn how to bike confidently before the program begins. Most of our biking is urban and not strenuous, but there is an optional biking excursion to the Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier that requires a basic level of physical fitness and comfort on a bicycle.

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

  • January 24, 2019, at 6 p.m. in Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 140
Sunday, June 16, 2019 Morning arrival in Amsterdam
Sunday, June 16, 2019 Program housing first available
Sunday, June 16, 2019
12:00 PM
On-site orientation
Sunday, June 16, 2019 Classes start (online begins at the beginning of Summer Term 1)
Sunday, June 23, 2019 Train travel to Berlin
Saturday, June 29, 2019 Classes end
Saturday, June 29, 2019 Conclude in the morning in Berlin
Saturday, June 29, 2019 Program housing last checkout date

The itinerary for 2019 will include meetings with a wide variety of experts and site visits, similar to the 2018 program itinerary, which included:

Day 1 - Amsterdam

Arrival in Amsterdam. Meet at the Hostelboat Waterland in Oosterdok.

Bike to Amsterdam Noord
We’ll take the ferry and bike to Buiksloterham, an area in development in Amsterdam Noord, where urban planners and the city have put emphasis on the circular economy.

Meet with Bart Aptroot of One Architecture
Bart is the director of One Architecture in Amsterdam, one of the initiators of ‘Hackable City’, and lives in Buiksloterham.

Drinks and snacks at de Ceuvel in Amsterdam Noord

House tour at DIY house at Bosrankstraat

Day 2 - Amsterdam

Tour of the Rijksmuseum
Artworks ‘living with water’

Visit and lecture at Urgenda
Marjan Minnesma, managing director and co-founder of Urgenda Foundation, won a court case against the state of The Netherlands forcing government to act on climate issues. She headed a much-publicized 600 km march to the Paris Conference of 2015. Now, Urgenda is focusing on making The Netherlands energy neutral in 2030.

Boat departs for Rotterdam, dinner on board

Day 3 – Delft-Rotterdam

Arrival in Delft
Bike to Maeslantkering (two-hour bike ride)

Visit/tour Maeslantkering
The Maeslant storm surge barrier is the last part of the Dutch Delta Works and is the world’s largest moveable barrier. We will visit this impressive construction with a guide.

Visit the Floating Farm with Peter van Wingerden
Peter is the one of the founding directors of Beladon, an architecture company specializing in innovative, iconic, amphibious design. “Producing food for a growing world population that is becoming increasingly wealthy is developing into a bigger challenge by the day. There is continuously less arable land available. The ever-growing metropolises, which are a result of the enormous demand for city residences, cause an increasing gap between the inhabitants and agriculture. On the Floating Farm we produce and convert fresh milk into healthy dairy products consumable for people of all ages, and close to the target group of city residents.”

Meet on the boat for guest lecture by Mark Wagenbuur
Mark Wagenbuur’s cycling blog is world-renowned and has earned him the title of Dutch Cycling Ambassador.

Day 4 – Rotterdam

Energy transition at the Port of Rotterdam
Alan Dirks is the Program Manager for Policy & Planning, Environment Management at the Port of Rotterdam. His focus is on energy transition, circular economy and safety. He is responsible for his department’s contribution to Port of Rotterdam’s Energy Transition Program. He will be accompanied by his colleague Remco Neumann, who is the Program Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility for the Port of Rotterdam.

Visit Hoogheemraadschap van Schieland en de Krimpener Waard
Johan Helmer and his colleagues Roy Kraft van Ermel and Piet Boesberg will share their knowledge and work concerning water management in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is strong in managing their own water systems, but also uses this knowledge in international context, helping other countries. They do this through the international program “Blue Deal.” Johan and his colleagues will share their national and international experience with us.

Architecture Bike Tour
Meet at Waterland for a bike tour of Rotterdam’s famous architecture and resilience projects by Urban Guides.

Day 5 – The Hague

Visit the Dutch government buildings
Tour to the Hall of Knights and both Parliament Buildings: House of Representatives and the Dutch Senate

Travel to Scheveningen to experience North Sea beach culture

Day 6 – Rotterdam

Visit GroenLinks and Rotterdam City Hall
In the last elections, the Green Party won big in municipalities all over the country, including Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Utrecht and Delft. Council members Jeroen Postma and Stephan Leeuwis will tell us about their party. They will focus both on measures regarding sustainability, and on politics; and how they won the elections.

Meet with Dr. Rachel Thompson
Rachel Thompson is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Harvard, as well as a musician, filmmaker and writer holding an MFA in Visual Arts from UCSD and an MA in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. Since 2016, her research on the peculiar indeterminacy between land and water in Indonesia and the Netherlands has been supported by the Social Science Resource Council and involved extended periods of research in Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Guided tour of the Dream Factory
We will visit Studio Roosegaarde a.k.a the Dream Factory. Roosegaarde explores and activates solutions to improve daily life in urban environments. Participators in the interactive tours will learn about the social role in Roosegaardes designs and about the importance of “Schoonheid” (a Dutch word meaning both beauty and cleanliness) as an activator for clean air, water and energy when it comes to mitigating climate change.

Optional: Visit Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower and the Haka Building

Day 7 – Nijmegen

Bike tour Room for the River in Nijmegen
Professor Simon Richter will show us the Room for the River project

Meet in Cafe Waalzicht with Hans Brouwer, project manager for Room for the River for Rijkswaterstaat
Hans Brouwer has been an international spokesperson for the Room for the River project for years, and knows all the ins and outs of the project.

4 p.m. Walking tour of University Campus
This year, Nijmegen is the European Green Capital of the year! It highlights its status with conferences, exhibits and guided tours. We will attend a guided tour and see many sustainability measures on campus in action, such as green roofs, water buffers, solar panels and the sustainable ambitions of the new addition to the hospital in Nijmegen.

Day 8 – Berlin

Train to Berlin

Welcome Dinner at Good Morning Vietnam

City Tour
The walking tour highlights some of the city’s most famous landmarks and historic sites, including the Berlin Palace, Brandenburg Gate, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Day 9 – Berlin

Lecture at GIZ (German International Development Office)
Johannes Uhl, Advisor for Energy Foreign Policy, and Dr. José Schultz, Head of the Department of External Energy Policy, will talk about the Energiewende and Technology Transfer in an international context.

Bike Tour of Tempelhofer Feld
Tour of Tempelhofer Feld and free time for riding. Tempelhofer was one of Europe's three iconic pre-World War II airports. It acquired a further iconic status as the center of the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. Tempelhofer Airport closed all operations on October 30, 2008, despite the efforts of some protesters to prevent the closure. A non-binding referendum was held on April 27, 2008 against the impending closure but failed due to low voter turnout. The former airfield has subsequently been used as a recreational space.

Day 10 – Berlin

Charlotte Loreck, Öko-Institut e.V. (Theme: Coal Phaseout)
Charlotte Loreck holds a Dipl.-Ing. in Engineering Science (TU Berlin and Technion, Haifa, Israel) and from 2007—2010 worked in the Section Sustainable Energy Supply at the Federal Environment Agency in Dessau. She has authored papers on Germany’s nuclear phase out and is currently a Senior Researcher at the Öko-Institut.

Meeting at Heinrich Böll Stiftung
We will be meeting with Dr. Stephanie Groll, who is a consultant for Ecology and Sustainability at the foundation. “The Heinrich Böll Foundation is part of the green political movement that has developed worldwide as a response to the traditional politics of socialism, liberalism, and conservatism. Our main tenets are ecology and sustainability, democracy and human rights, self- determination and justice.” They are a Green Think Tank and an International Policy Network.

Meeting at CHORA Conscious City, Technical University Berlin
We will meet with two teaching fellows, Mortiz Maria Karl, who focuses on the relationship between people, cities and technology and how networked information technology could structure new ways of collectivity and citizen empowerment, and Georg Hubmann, who specialized in climate change and was involved in the Smart Sustainable Districts (SSD) project. They are both part of C H O R A Conscious City, under the direction of architect and professor of sustainable urban planning Raoul Bunschoten.

Meet with Penn Berlin Study Abroad students for dinner at Schlachtensee Biergarten (bring your bathing suits!)

Day 11 - Eberswalde

Site visit to Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Faculty of Forest and Environment

Day 12 - Berlin

Site Visit and Lecture at Agora Energiewende
In 2012, the European Climate Foundation and the Mercator Foundation founded Agora Energiewende to tackle the challenges posed by the energy transition. Its official mandate is to develop academically rigorous and politically feasible pathways for transforming energy systems toward clean energy in Germany and across the globe. Since its founding, Agora Energiewende has become one of Europe’s leading energy policy think tanks. It has developed numerous policies that informed the German government and European institutions. We will first meet with Alice Sakhel to talk about the current state of the grid, plans for and obstacles to its expansion and current and future integration of the grid within Europe. She will focus on current issues in the energy transition. Then we will meet with Martha Otwinowski and Benjamin Wehrmann of CLEW (Clean Energy Wire) to talk about the role of journalism in the Energy Transition and Climate Policy.

Lunch at Yaam
Yaam stands for "Young African Art Market" and has been around since 1994. In summer Yaam is a relaxed alternative center filled with beach bars, sand, water and culinary treats from the Caribbean and Africa.

Site visit at ID 22 - Institute for Creative Sustainability led by Michael LaFond
ID 22 is a multidisciplinary, non-profit organization based in the urban lab we know as Berlin. A focus is on the theory and practice of creative sustainability, emphasizing self-organization and local urban initiatives. The Institute coordinates educational services, networking events and publications exploring CoHousing and related projects like CoWorking and community gardening in the context of a post-growth, democratic urban development.

Free afternoon and evening.

Day 13 – Berlin & Potsdam

Meeting at Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) is a political foundation associated with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). “At home as well as abroad, our civic education programs aim at promoting freedom and liberty, peace and justice. We focus on consolidating democracy, the unification of Europe and the strengthening of transatlantic relations, as well as on development cooperation.” We will meet with Jasper Eitze, who is a coordinator for Political Dialogue and Analysis for European and International Cooperation.

Tour of Telegraphenberg in Potsdam
Today Telegraphenberg is a research center for astronomy, physics and geoscience but its name derives from its original use as part of an optical telegraph system first developed in 1832. A few institutions have their headquarters on the Telegraphenberg, among them the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, as part of the Albert Einstein Science Park that includes the hill.

Potsdam city tour
Potsdam was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser until 1918. Its planning embodied ideas of the Age of Enlightenment: through a careful balance of architecture and landscape, Potsdam was intended as "a picturesque, pastoral dream" which would remind its residents of their relationship with nature and reason.

Potsdam to Wannsee Cruise and farewell dinner
From the Potsdam harbor, we will pass between Babelsberg Park and Glieneke Park. We will turn into the Teltow Canal and pass through six lakes surrounded by former palaces and numerous villas of past German film stars.

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. 

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 2019: $4,392
  • Program fee for summer 2019: $2,700
    • Penn Summer Abroad deposits ($500) will be credited to students’ accounts when final program costs are posted
    • Includes administrative costs, accommodations, all breakfasts and some additional meals, cultural activities, site visits, local transport and train travel between Rotterdam and Berlin
  • 2019 estimated cost sheet

Payment is due according to Penn’s Student Registration and Financial Services billing schedule.

There are two options for funding support:

1. 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

Application and deadline for 2019 TBA.

2. The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities Travel Fellowship of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures for Freshmen and Sophomores

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

  • The award amounts to $4,500 and may be applied toward program fees, tuition and/or travel expenses
  • Recipients are asked to write two short blog posts about their summer experience: the first, written during their trip abroad, including photographs and details of both Rotterdam and Berlin; the second, written upon their return, reflecting upon the coursework in the program
  • Fellowship recipients who withdraw from the program forfeit the award. If the program is canceled, the student may not apply the award to any other coursework or program.


The PPEH Travel Fellowship is available to Penn undergraduates who:

  • Receive need-based financial aid during the 2018-2019 academic year
  • Have been admitted, or are in the process of applying to the 2019 Berlin and Rotterdam Penn Summer Abroad program
    • Admission to the Berlin and Rotterdam program is required before the fellowship awards are announced; however, students may apply for the PPEH Travel Fellowship before receiving their admission decision

Application deadline: February 16, 2019

Student Video

If you have a problem viewing this video, please watch it on YouTube.

Student Blog

Student Blog

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



Program Facebook Page

Visit our Facebook page to view short video diaries from last year’s program.

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:

Fisher-Bennett Hall
Penn Summer Abroad Office
College of Liberal and Professional Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 101
3340 Walnut Street
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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