1 General information
o Alexandra Sonnemans
o Master Architecture
o Berlin, Germany
o Technische Universität Berlin, Fakultät VI Planen Bauen Umwelt
o 01/09/2009 – 31/07/2010
o Subjects and design project
2 Preparation and contact with your own faculty
I studied two master semesters at the TU Berlin, faculty of architecture. My first plan was to stay only the first
semester (Wintersemester), but after a few months in Berlin I realized I wanted to stay longer to improve my
german and profit from the interesting and vibrant city Berlin is.
After the confirmation of my own faculty I recieved a confirmation of the faculty in Berlin (TU Berlin) and I had
to fill in some forms for them. To prove my knowledge of the german language I included my high school
diploma. The TU Berlin can arrange a room in a student flat near the faculty for you, but I decided to look for
my own apartment in other areas in the city. (see chapter 'Accommodation').
My own faculty provided mainly information about the Erasmus scholarship; information about the TU Berlin
was provided by the TU Berlin and ofcourse I had to figure some things out myself. All the questions I asked
my own international office were answered and also the international office of the TU Berlin answered my
questions before and during my stay. The first week they organized a meeting on how you should enroll. This
was very clear and the enrollment was quickly settled.
It was not very easy to find the study program of the TU Berlin; this is because they only publish it online one
or two weeks before the semester starts, which is in October. And even the website where it was published
on wasn’t easy to find. (see chapter 'Study Programme'). The design projects were presented on one whole
day by all the different departements. Because the study program was published so late, I couldn’t complete
the Learning Agreement with the right courses, but it was no problem to make an Agreement with the old
courses as an indication. As soon as the new courses were online I made an update. On this day the student
group raum A (http://www.raum-a.net/themen/tu-berlin/) handed out information booklets about the technical
facilities of the faculty and their cafe, cafe A, which is a very nice place for coffee and bagels inside the
To apply for the design course I had to send a short portfolio and motivation, but I don’t think this is required
for all of them. For other courses the signing up was just on a list, not online. A lot of people are interested in
some courses, so I would make sure you are always there on time if you want to sign up. The lists are usually
on the doors of the departements and ‘open’ on a certain time which you can see online. Most departements
have their own websites, so it is important you know these instead of only the TU Berlin one. The language
courses were arranged by another Faculty (ZEMS). For these you had to enroll online.
It is also possible two follow courses (I think only lectures) at the UDK, the Universität der Kunste, which is
very close to the TU. (For more information: www.udk-berlin.de). They also had a lecture series on monday
evening, including Wiel Arets (who also teaches there), Peter Cook and Herman Herzberger.
After completing a course the teachers made a ‘Scheine’, a document with the SWS/ECTS and your grade,
to prove that you passed. You had to pick them up at the secretariats of the departments. This was well
organized and easy. To complete the Transcript of Records all the courses, ECTS and grades had to be filled
in and shown to the International Office of the TU Berlin, including all the 'Scheine'.
3 Study programme
You can find the study program here: https://lsf.zuv.tu-
The design course I did was part of the department Adip. They always have guest professors and this
semester it was architect Mark Lee from LA (he will be there next year as well). The design was in Berlin,
which is why I chose this one. I think the level of Mark Lee was very high; he was a very good teacher. But I
don't know if he represents the TU Berlin. A lot of the students in this course were Erasmus students; the
teaching was in English because Mark Lee didn't know so much german himself. I regret that I didn't discover
more about the german way of designing, but I am very happy with what I learned. I heard prof. Leibinger
(Fachgebiet Leibinger: http://www.fgl.tu-berlin.de/) is very well known and respected and so is prof. Geipel
(Fachgebiet LIA: http://www.lia.tu-berlin.de/). He did a lecture series that I followed and which I enjoyed very
I have to say that the students and teachers were very, very nonchalant. A lot of the classes didn't start on
time (like 40min. late), even when there were presentations. Also the lectures could start 30min. late, or
sometimes they didn't start at all. I wanted to follow more lectures but a lot of them were cancelled.
The second semester I participated in a course of the art department (Fachgebiet Bildende Kunst:
http://www.a.tu-berlin.de/bildende_kunst/a5/aktuell_1.html) about the Berlin Biennale. Prof. Burkle was very
nice and involved. The rest of the second semester I spent working on my history thesis about a
german/Berlin architect. I think it was great to do this in Berlin, because I could obtain a lot of information in
the archives, museums and visit a lot of his oeuvre.
What i found very inconvenient was the overlap of the semesters in Berlin and Delft. This contributed to the
prolonging of my stay.
4 Funding and prerequisites
I didn't find it very hard to apply for the Erasmus scholarship, but it was a lot of work. A pity is that the
scholarship for the second semester will arrive when I am back in Holland, after my stay, so I had to keep in
mind that I didn't have the money during my stay there. My health insurance offered an international version
that I could arrange online. Further I opened a bank account (with Sparkasse, that was free of costs), which
was very easy and practical.
Cost in Berlin are not so much higher then in my home city, but you do make some extra cost
(accommodation, traveling costs, culture, going out, study material etc.)
A brief summary of my overall spending on cost of living for a month:
Accommodation € 300 - 350
Food € 200
Insurance € 15
Local travelling costs € 206 / semester, +- 34 / month
Textbooks/course material € 30
Entertainment € 200
Language course €/
Total € +- 750 / month
It is not very difficult and expensive to find an apartment in Berlin. I'd really suggest you try it (on your own or
in a shared one), because the apartments in Berlin can be very beautiful, with wooden floors and high
ceilings. In the districts Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Neukölln you can find the cheapest nice appartements.
You can choose to look for shared appartements (called ‘WG’: Wohngemeinschaft) or one for youself alone.
Two good websites are: www.studenten-wg.de and www.wg-gesucht.de. Here you find all kinds of
appartements in every area of the city. Best is to look for ‘Zwischenmiete’ (= temporary). On
http://berlin.de.craigslist.de/sub/ you can also find apartments, but you have to be lucky. A lot of the
apartments on that site are for very short stays, like a week.
Some apartments in Friedrischain still have old heaters with coals. It isn’t very practical but interesting to
experience, and it is a lot cheaper (but more work). I lived in three different houses during the year, but that
was great, because I got to know three parts of the city very well.
6 Language and Culture
The first month I arrived in Berlin (September) I attended a ‘Deutsch intesiv Kurs’ to fresh up my German.
This course was four hours every day. It was the first place where I met people from all over the world that
also applied for Erasmus and that were not only from the faculty of Architecture (although still a lot of them
were). During the semester I took another course to keep improving my German. This course was called
‘Arbeit mit Fachtexten’. I think a course during the semester is alright, but if you really want to improve your
language skills you have to speak it as much as you can during the whole day, every day, because the
course was very short and with a lot of people so you don't get much chances to practice.
I spoke a lot of German but also a lot of English, because it's easier, everybody knows it and a lot of the
people that live in Berlin aren't German. So if you really want to speak German you have to do it and suggest
7 Free time
Free time in Berlin is not hard to spend, I don’t think I got bored any minute the whole year I was there. I
actually would have liked to stay even longer. There is so much to do and see, it’s amazing.
Information you can find on websites like: http://www.residentadvisor.net/ and http://berlin.unlike.net/ and
magazines like the Zitty or Tip Berlin, but also a lot of the things that happen aren't planned or published, so
you have to bump into them or know the right people.
In the areas Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, and Neukölln you find a lot of nice bars, restaurants, galleries and
shops where most of the younger people hang out. Bars don't have a fixed closing time and are usually full
every night of the week (!). The area Prenzlauer berg is also nice, but a bit more expensive and calmer, with
a lot of young parents. On sundays there is a big flee market in the Mauerpark, which is great, cheap and with
clothes, old stuff, food and music. On tuesdays and fridays there is a big Turkish market on the Maybachufer
On thursday evening a lot of the museums are open and free. The Hamburger Bahnhof isn't open on
thursday evening, but in the afternoon you can visit the permanent collection for free.
Going out in Berlin is great, there are parties almost every day in the most amazing places, like old factory
buildings and areas, under and inside the subway, in parks, forests, near the spree, etc.! A lot of bars and
clubs are hidden and parties and open air festivals are secret so you really have to look for them and ask
I travelled by train to Berlin, and a lot of times back an forth by train and by car. It’s not very far and the
german trains are great. If you travel a lot and are not sure about the exact dates the ‘One Country Interrail
Pass’ (3/4 times a month) is very practical and cheap. If you know the exact date you want to travel you can
best book in advance. By car the www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de might come in handy if you don’t have your own
car. Friends also traveled by plane, this can also be cheap and the airports in Berlin are easy to reach with
The public transport in Berlin is very good. The S and U-bahn bring you everywhere, and even the busses are
a good. Also at night the busses are the best option because the subways don’t go the whole night during the
week. And because you have to pay the fee for the university anyway, you will receive the semesterticket to
travel the whole semester with the subway and busses, so i would use it. A bike in Berlin is great, but when
the hard winter comes and it’s minus 15 degrees and the roads are very slippy and full of ice and snow the
subway is your only chance to go to the university. (If you are living in Kreuzberg or other areas like Neukölln
or Friedrichshain the uni is about 30min. with the subway, so even longer by bike.)
The Architecture Faculty building doesn't have a lot of facilities, like printers or machines. The machines can
be found in a building on the Ackerstraße. I had my own foamcutter so I brought it with me from Holland
because it was so much easier. I also think some departments own one so you can borrow it, but it's not very
easy and they only have one each. The printers are in the building facing the Architecture building, with neon
lights around the (new) entrance. On the fourth floor there is a PC Pool, (there is an elevator a bit further
inside the old building) where you create an account with your student card and number and then print from a
computer there. That is also the only place with computers; they don't have any in the Architecture Faculty.
You can also print on the other side of the roundabout in a copy shop, which isn't much more expensive and
Smoking is forbidden inside the building, but not really; lot of people smoke inside the emergency staircase,
and sometimes just outside (and inside!) the studios.
The canteen closes around 4 p.m, so always bring food or go to cafe A, that one is open longer and still
serves coffee, bagels, muffins and beer.