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About Germany
Country Handbook

Universität Bielefeld

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Program Snapshot

The vibrant student city of Bielefeld, located in the heart of the Teutoburger Forest, provides students with all the amenities of an economic, cultural and academic center, with the feel of a German university town. The University was founded in the Humboltian ideal, with aims of re-establishing the unity between research and teaching. The excellent location also puts it in easy traveling distance to many other parts of Germany and Europe. Explore Bielefeld!

Situated in the heart of Germany, Bielefeld is the cultural, academic and economic center of Eastern Westphalia (Ostwestfalen-Lippe), a region of two million people. The inhabitants of Bielefeld live on the edge of the Teutoburger Forest (a unique range of low mountains) and benefit from the advantages of a modern industrial center that has the parks and open spaces of a garden city. The older part of the city, with its medieval castle Sparrenburg, reminds visitors of the city's history, while the new shopping district is designed in a contemporary style. Bielefeld offers a wide variety of cultural life with theatres, concert halls, well-known art galleries, and excellent sport and recreation facilities.

ISEP Exchange: undergraduate and graduate programs available for an academic year or semester

ISEP-Exchange for US students.

Chance of Placement
ISEP Exchange chance of placement for US students is excellent.
For the most current chances of placement, see the Sites Open for Applications for US Students

Program Dates
Academic year: October to September;
Semester 1: October to February;
Semester 2: April to July.

Fast Facts
Bielefeld, Germany (pop. 320,000)
Student Enrollment: 22,000
Language of instruction: German, some English
University Home Page
Course Information
International Office Homepage
"Studieren an der Universität Bielefeld" Video
Bielefeld City Video

Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Economics, Health Sciences, History, Law, Linguistics, Literature, Mathematics, Pedagogy, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Sport Science, Technology (biotechnology, computer science), Theology.

Courses taught in English
Although students should have some German proficiency to study in Bielefeld, courses are available in English in certain disciplines: English Literature, Cultural Studies, Linguistics, British and American Studies, Sociology. A handful of courses are offered in Education, Psychology, Politics, Economy, Natural Sciences, and Informatics (typically on an advanced level).

Academic Notes
ISEP exchange students are advised to consult the website of Bielefeld University for their prefered course options. Exchange students register for courses after arrival at Bielefeld Univ. Further information will be given during the orientation weeks. Please note that at Bielefeld University the main teaching language is German and there are in most subjects only very few English taught courses. However, all courses in British & American Studies, some courses in Linguistics and some international track courses in Educational Science, Sociology, Politics, Informatics and Intelligent Systems are taught in English. Some of these courses may be of general interest to students of other subjects.


Distribution of transcripts may take until the beginning of the following semester. Transcripts are sent to ISEP and then immediately released to the student’s home institution if there are no outstanding financial obligations.

Language Notes
Language Requirements: 2 semesters of German is recommended. 3-4 semesters of German is required to follow courses conducted in German. Students wishing to enroll solely in English-taught courses are not required to provide German proficiency (provided courses are available). They are, however, required to take German language courses as part of their program in Bielefeld.

Language Notes: German language courses are offered at all levels in conjunction with regular courses during the academic year.

Pre-session: A 3-4 week intensive language course and orientation program is included in ISEP benefits (September or March). Additional language programs on a fee-paying basis can be arranged on request.

For more information on courses and language options, see the:
German Options-at-a-Glance
German Language Advising Chart

Special ISEP Application Instructions
ISEP participants with at least junior-year standing are preferred.

Hints for Researching Courses
Researching courses in English on a German university homepage can be difficult and confusing. Here find a quick guide to navigating a university website, finding courses in both English and German, and some translations of common words and major fields of study. Download the ISEP Guide to Course Selection

Housing and Meals
Students receive a stipend for rent and meals. They are housed in residence hall single apartments or rooms in shared apartments (shared bathroom and kitchen). Rooms/ apartments are always single occupancy. Students can cook meals in the student residence kitchens or take advantage of the student mensa and cafeterias where a broad arrange of low-cost meals are offered.

Estimated Personal Expenses
Costs for housing, meals, semester fee (including free public transport in Bielefeld and the state North-Rhine Westphalia) are covered by the stipend. ISEP students are responsible for all personal expenses including: optional fees (e.g. computer, language, science lab fees), books, entertainment, travels, etc. The amount below is provided as a guide; the actual amount needed will vary depending on courses and personal habits. Your personal expenses per month, including books, are estimated at 200-400 € per month. This will vary by personal spending and consumption habits.

Students should always inform their host ISEP coordinator of their arrival time, which should be during regular business hours (M-F). Germany has a safe and reliable network of public transportation which will take students from the airport to their host site easily and most people in Germany will speak (some) English, many even fluently.

Once settled, the orientation program at Bielefeld University offers students an official welcome day, help with registration, tour of the university and library, introduction to the study system, tour of the city of Bielefeld, social events and evenings out, trips to nearby places of interest etc. The cost-free Brother-Sister Mentoring Program supports all international students at Bielefeld University who apply for it. It provides them with student mentors, who are familiar with studying and living in Bielefeld and will help their mentees settle into Bielefeld, find their way around the university, the city and surrounding area, understand the German academic system, and get to know other students or people living in Bielefeld.

Three to four weeks of intensive German language courses (20 lessons per week) during the pre-sessional orientation program are included in ISEP benefits to help students navigate the German speaking surroundings. ISEP Students are expected to take part in these courses.

Student Activities
At the university, many artistic and cultural activities take place, such as concerts, exhibitions, readings, talks and other events. Students can take part in theater groups (some of them in English), the university choir, orchestra or big band. The sports facilities offer a rich program of all kind of sports to participate in, including water sports in the indoor pool, located in the main university building. Taking part is mostly cost-free for students, however some offerings will be on a fee-paying basis (at comparatively low costs). Students and administrative staff alike participate in university events like.
Students and administrative staff alike participate in Nacht der Klange (Night of Sound), the Lesenacht (Readings night), the Uni Theatertagen (University Theater Days) and the Asthetik-Festival (Festival of Aesthetics).

Life in Bielefeld
Student life in Bielefeld is vibrant. Student pubs and clubs around the city offer weekly events featuring music and dancing, while local cafes provide a cozy place to relax and talk. Additionally, Bielefeld offers four movie theaters, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an ice skating rink, a concert hall, several theater houses (which stage plays, operas and dance performances), two puppet theaters, museums and galleries. A medieval castle, a farmer’s house museum, a wildlife animal park, and multiple festivals help round out Bielefeld’s cultural activities that are open to all.

Excursions: The International Office organizes a low-cost activity program where international students can meet other students and get to know different places in and around Bielefeld. Trips to Cologne, Bremen, Bonn, Berlin, as well as to places such as the open air museum in Detmold, the 'Herforder' brewery, the theater, and activities like ice skating, hiking or barbequing are all part of the program.

Founded in 1969, Universität Bielefeld combines the best of German university tradition with innovative research and teaching structures. Total enrollment: approximately 22, 000 students from more than 100 countries in 2015. Bielefeld University is located not far from the city center in green and lush surroundings. All 13 faculties and the institutes are housed on one campus and are located within a short distance of each other. This provides an ideal framework for successful study and research, supported by one of the best libraries in Germany. The central hall of the main building is a lively meeting place: with its shops and cafes, it forms an inviting center in which to chat, relax, and meet people. The International Office arranges day and weekend trips, and many other events for both German and international students. ISEP Participants who would like a Bielefeld student ‘buddy’ should apply for the Brother-Sister Mentoring Program before or after their arrival.

What Past Students have to Say
Successfully preparing for and delivering lectures, writing papers, and attending the equivalent of nineteen semester hours in a foreign language helped to vastly increase my self-confidence and sense of calm when dealing with stressful situations. I believe that living truly independently for the first time, buying and preparing my own food, and having complete control over and responsibility for my own schedule, helped me greatly focus on my own personal and career goals. I feel, for perhaps the first time in my life, that I have a definite goal and path to the future in my mind. -Nathan Schulz, Iowa State University