“Veritas, Iustitia, Libertas” are Latin for Truth, Justice, and Liberty and these three words form the motto of the Freie Universitat Berlin (Free University of Berlin) in Berlin, Germany. The university is usually called FU or FUB. (And yes, we know what those letters stand for. And yes, we use them anyways - and it sounds quite different if you pronounce it in German.)
The FUB was founded to be an university free from political influence because the Humboldt University of Berlin fell increasingly under communist-control in the early stages of the Cold War in 1948. Nowadays, the FUB is most known for research in humanities and social sciences, as well as natural and life sciences. It is one of the winners of the German University Excellence Initiative and therefore known as one of the top university in Germany. Like most of the German universities, the FUB is a public university (the FUB is mainly paid by taxes) and 34,000 students study at the FUB at the moment.
The campus differs greatly from those I have seen in Korea so far. In Korea, campuses tend to be compact like a small city itself. Now imagine a nice and rich suburb with lots of trees, small tree lined alleys, a few parks, lots of old brick buildings, family homes, coffee shops, restaurants and general stores. And the FUB is in between all of those. Not as one massive complex but single buildings and a few main complexes.
The FUB values discussions, arguments, and participation during classes. Students are allowed and encouraged to question everything they are taught, for them to be able to reach their own conclusion. This might be difficult in classes with over 200 students but I have not yet met a lecturer who will not find some time to help a student or discuss daily politics if approached by a student. At the Institute of Korean Studies, five to fifty students attend a class together and the topics range from language, history, economics, politics, and culture to mass media in Korea and the interpretation of Korean movies.
Korean and German students in Berlin organize a language and cultural exchange program and the Institute of Korean Studies gives students the opportunity to experience Korean culture first-hand by hosting events for the major Korean holidays like Seollal and Chuseok. At the Institute of Korean Studies you will be greeted by Korean village guardians (jangseung) and you will probably find someone to talk to in Korean, too, if you ever visit Berlin.
Students live all over the city, in the suburbs or in one of the many student dorms. The students organize parties, protests, and events together and participate in interest groups and group activities. Due to the variety of people studying at the FUB, it is never boring and you can get to know people from all over the world and with different backgrounds. The FUB is a little patchwork society that brings all those people together in their strife to learn, discover, and teach.
In Germany, it is not particularly common to be supported by your family or live with your family once you start to study at a university. But students can apply for a student loan and most of the students at the FUB work part time or full time. A great help is that the university fee is not high.
If you study at the FUB, the variety of classes offered is ginormous. You are free to take classes from the FUB and the Potsdam University and the Humboldt University of Berlin, too. You can choose almost anything. In addition, the FUB provides lecture series with well known researchers, artist, and politicians, as well as conferences, symposia, and panel discussions.
All in all, the FUB is a well- rounded university with lots of opportunities for its students and a nice ambiance in the urban and suburban campus areas.
*Stephanie Fiona Finke is currently studying at Ewha as an exchange student.