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Student Experience: Berlin Summer School 2017

Submitted by krystle.monahan on Wed, 05/03/2017 - 2:10pm

COMS student Monica Henderson has kindly agreed to share her unique experience with all of us while attending The Summer School in Berlin on a group study program (! Watch this space as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates!

Here is an excerpt from her article, 7 Things You Should Know About Group Study Programs:

Making the decision to participate in a Group Study Program (GSP) isn’t easy. There are so many factors to bring under consideration–does this fit into my degree? Is my GPA good enough? What if I don’t get along with the other students? Or, scariest of all–how do I afford it?

These thoughts all went through my mind before submitting my application. Here are seven things that I know now (two days before departure) that I wish I’d known (or advise that you know) months ahead of time.

1. The cost (for my GSP, at least) isn’t much more expensive than a regular spring semester spent at UCalgary 

“Between my flight, GSP costs, and tuition, my trip is costing $4700. This is actually $1100 cheaper than the estimated cost I received at the Berlin Summer School info session in Fall 2016.” 

“…Then, everyone in my study program received a $1000 Study Abroad Travel Grant.”

“Save up for your flight with a part-time job or squeezing pennies to set aside some student loan money, and you are on your way!”


2. Book post-GSP accommodations & transportation as soon as possible.

“If you plan on continuing to travel after your GSP (which is heavily encouraged by the Study Abroad office!), make sure you plan and pay for all your accommodations at least a month ahead of time.”


3. Advertise the GSP you’ve chosen to your friends!

“It is definitely something you shouldn’t keep secret. This is especially true if the only reason you’re hiding it is because you are afraid of application competition, which brings me to my next point…”


4. They aren’t as competitive as you think.

“I spent a lot of time in the weeks after submitting my application, stressing about whether or not I’d be accepted into the program. Turns out, they just want to make sure that you have done your research and can bear the financial responsibility.” 

“So always try; nothing ventured, nothing gained!”


5. Group dynamics are KEY!

“My apartment roommates for the Berlin program and I have been extra proactive about communicating and getting to know each other’s allergies & quirks before we spend two weeks in close quarters and under the demanding circumstances of a GSP. We have been keeping in touch on a Facebook group message, as well as organizing get-togethers to put faces to names and get to know personalities!”

“Sub-points: be open to making new friends, and be open-minded in general to other lifestyles and core beliefs.”


6. They are an incredibly useful way to check off multiple degree requirements.

“At least three of the people on my group study are officially finished their degree after this program. Instead of waiting until Fall semester to take 4 months to complete three classes, they chose a GSP. Now they have the opportunity to finish three classes in two weeks, and end their degree with a travel adventure!”


7. Finally, they are a lot of work—but not too much.

“…But with the bulk of the theoretical readings out of the way, the rest of the course focuses on a lot of experiential learning (walking tours, museum tours) and weekly reflective journal entries. Our final projects are also not due until almost six weeks after the GSP is concluded.”



This content was originally featured on Monica’s personal blog,