||Language school representatives in Berlin are confident that students will love not only the city, but also their own institution, offering a good infrastructure for high quality teaching and socialising. This trend is city-wide, and Carolina Diaz Soto at GLS Sprachenzentrum is one example: "Our school's aim is to be more than just a school, it is to be a student's first friend in a new city," she says. "Our programme is very rounded, with a strong focus on extra-curricular activities and accessibility, not just culturally but also socially."
Other spokespeople in Berlin echo the same sentiments. "Students like the very familiar atmosphere with other students and teachers at our school," says Erich Thaler of BSI Private Sprachschule, while Patrick Semidei of DID attests, "Students simply enjoy learning German here. They definitely feel that they are taken care of."
With schools aiming to ensure that students soon feel at home in the city, contented students are quick to fit into a lifestyle that combines learning German with taking advantage of the huge range of entertainment and leisure options.
Berlin is a buzzing city. It has beautiful architecture, great art and museums to discover, fascinating history, the lovely Tiergarten (1) in the centre of the city, but, most of all, an undeniably youthful energy that renders the city full of possibilities. Many agents testify to the appeal of socialising and shopping in Berlin for their clients, and it is the shops, clubs and cultural scene that draw many students here initially.
Semidei asserts, "Berlin attracts the younger crowd that is more into partying, shopping or relaxing - simply having fun - because Berlin is a very young metropole, it is still emerging and developing and rather experimental and exciting." Thaler agrees with this, pointing out that with over 180 different ethnic groups, it is easy for all visitors to quickly integrate into the city. He adds, "The music club culture is most important to young people. Famous clubs like the Sage Club or Maria am Ostbahnhof are at the top of their list."
There are plenty of other attractions too that ensure visitors of all ages go to Berlin. The city, for instance, is synonymous with the Second World War, and the post-war division of the city into East and West Berlin was a lasting testament to the days of a deep political and cultural divide in Germany. Nowadays, few remnants of the wall remain, but there are plenty of reminders of the past. The Checkpoint Charlie museum (2) traces the history of the Berlin Wall and charts the stories of some of those who escaped across the border.
Just walking around the city also provides visitors with an insight into the differing architectural styles. While Berlin has successfully blended back into one city, the architecture in some eastern parts is unchanged since the fall of the wall in 1989. East Berlin boasts some of the hippest parts of town now, such as Kastanienallee and Hackescher Markt, full of trendy bars and independent shops.
Some of the other main city attractions include the boulevard of Unter der Linden (3); the Jewish Museum and Holocaust memorial; Potsdamer Platz's central shopping district; the Brandenburger Tor (4), the original western gate to the city and the point where west and east would meet; and the Reichstag (5), seat of the German parliament and crowned with an ultra-modern glass dome, designed by Sir Norman Foster, which offers splendid views of the city from its internal walkways.
The remains of the bombed out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Kurfürstendamm and the Siegessäule (victory tower) are other sights worth seeing. As Semidei says, "There really is no single best thing to visit in Berlin". However, Diaz Soto at GLS Sprachenzentrum has a novel idea for those on a short visit. She suggests taking a train from the main train station (Zoologischer Garten) to Alexanderplatz (6), which takes in many city highlights; the Tiergarten, Reichstag, the Hamburger Bahnhof (museum of contemporary art); Museums Island; Berliner Dom (cathedral). "Once in Alexanderplatz, head to a seemingly boring-looking office building, Alexanderplatz no. 5, ride up to the 12th floor and dance the night away whilst enjoying some of the most breathtaking views in town," she says.
In the summer, Berlin has an added appeal for visitors, as there are opportunities to go swimming or enjoy the beach-like qualities of the Berlin Beach Club in Leipziger Strasse, which has palm trees, beach basket chairs and a wooden boardwalk. Semidei relates, "Summer in the city is great here. People sit outdoors in cafés and restaurants, the beer gardens are open everywhere, and there are open-air concerts and theatres. You find sandy beach bars right in the centre or great natural lakes with crystal clear water for swimming, sailing and relaxing in and around the city."
Thaler points out that there are highlights throughout the year. "From the Winter Wonderland Berlin, the film festival Biennale in February to beach volleyball parties in summer, to great Asian Pacific weeks and the Berlin culture festival in autumn: all seasons have a lot to offer," he says.
Eating and drinking in the city is something of an adventure too. "We have more streetside/riverside cafés than in Paris," observes Diaz Soto, "with the advantage that ordering a coffee and croissant in Berlin does not cost one month's wages." She continues, "It is a very pleasant surprise, just how cheap eating and drinking is. In fact, it is a rule that expensive restaurants in Berlin are often mediocre whereas cheap ones are excellent."
"Agent viewpoint"Our students choose Berlin among other famous cities in Germany as there is so much history involved, it's a powerful city and offers plenty of leisure options like any other big city in Europe. Plus this year, with the World Cup, the interest has been even greater! DID is our number-one choice [in the city] due to its excellence, infrastructure and client service."
Tereza Fulfaro, Central de Intercambio (CI), Brazil
"Berlin is centrally located within Europe and easily accessible with two large airports. Served by several low-cost airlines, Berlin is an easy and cheap destination for most students. Students are always looking for somewhere vibrant, exciting with a rich history and culture - Berlin fulfils all these requirements. Students can appreciate not only the historical architecture but also take a glimpse into the future with the new 'Hauptbahnof', an example of the contemporary architectural styles emerging all over the city."
Laura Woodhead, Cactus Language, UK
"Berlin is an astonishing place, full of life and very exciting, so students have lots of things to see and do. Moreover, there are a lot of cultural attractions and this is also important for them. In their free time, students in general like going on excursions, visiting museums, and enjoying the nightlife. They also like to visit the place where the Berlin Wall was in East Berlin and other historical places related to the Second World War."
Inma Sánchez, Choices, Spain
"In my opinion, the most crucial reason Polish students choose Berlin is its location. Berlin is situated near Poland so it easy to travel to and not too expensive. Polish students are still very price sensitive. They try to find a good quality service accompanied with student-oriented prices. Schools in Germany attract people because they help students to make contacts with foreigners (other students etc)."
Anna Burec, Sprache.pl, Poland
"Our students like the idea [of going] to Berlin, as they know that the "old and new" German capital is a fascinating city, changing so rapidly in terms of architecture, shopping possibilities and lifestyle. Immediately after classes, students walk to discover the city centre - to see many cultural and historical places as well as to "discover" cafés, bars and restaurants."
Helen Koraleva, Znaniye Centre Study Group, Russia