UMBC and the University of Kassel in the city of Kassel, Germany, entered into an interdisciplinary and multifaceted partnership in 2015 encompassing education and research in all areas. For undergraduate and graduate students, the partnership offers streamlined programs for study abroad and short-term visits. For faculty and staff, opportunities exist for research collaboration, sabbatical stays, and research visits.
Most of the information of this page is directed at students, faculty, and staff of UMBC, who are interested in participating in or need information about the partnership with Kassel. But in the final section, we also collect some useful hints for Kassel students visiting UMBC.
UMBC and the University of Kassel share very similar profiles. Like UMBC, the University of Kassel, in its current form, is a relatively young institution, founded in 1971, and rapidly growing, with now more than 24,000 students. The expanding main campus in Kassel is located close to the city center and makes for a very vibrant city atmosphere. The University of Kassel offers a wide range of Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral programs, similar to UMBC.
The City of Kassel, population 200,000, is situated just about exactly in the geographic center of Germany, on the high-speed train line between Frankfurt (1.5 hours) and Hannover (1 hour). Other example distances by convenient train are Göttingen (20 minutes), Munich (3.5 hours), and Berlin (3 hours). Kassel celebrated its 1,100th anniversary in 2013 and has an illustrious history as the capital city of the principality of Hessen-Kassel and a city of many firsts. For instance, Kassel is the long-time professional home of the Brothers Grimm, who collected their famous fairy tales in and around the city and who initiated the entire field of academic study of the German language. Kassel was the first in many cultural and scientific endeavors, such as first purpose-built opera house, first public museum, still unique tapestry museum, and more.
The mountain park Wilhelmshoehe, largest in Europe, with its unique water arts received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2013. The city also hosts the Documenta every five years, the largest contemporary arts exhibition in the world. One of the most recognizable exhibits of Documenta 7 in 1982 is Joseph Beuys' city-wide installation "7000 Oaks," which is the inspiration for the UMBC's "Joseph Beuys Sculpture Park" located inside the the campus loop south of The Commons Garage.
Kassel also has a strong industrial past with leading locomotive manufacturing since the 19th century and continuing until today (think: see a New Jersey transit locomotive in complete paint screme ready for delivery sitting next to a roadway). More recently, Kassel became the home to many newly founded companies, e.g., related to solar energy, that resulted in many cases from research at the university. In this way, the city is also home to several research institutes related to hot topics of today.
Fundamental information on study abroad is summarized at the webpage studyabroad.umbc.edu maintained by UMBC's Study Abroad Office. The information here completements this by providing additional information specific to the UMBC partnership with the University of Kassel.
UMBC and the University of Kassel have instituted an undergraduate exchange program. The first group of Kassel students will arrive at UMBC in Fall 2015, and the first group of UMBC students is being formed to travel to Kassel in Spring 2016. Each group should consist of about three or four students. Dr. Gobbert, Math & Stat, UMBC, MP 416, email@example.com, is planning to accompany the UMBC students in Spring 2016. Please contact me if interested! We are actively recruiting!
The study abroad program is administered through the Office of International Education Services at UMBC. UMBC students need to apply by October 10 for travel in the following Spring semester. Participants in the study abroad program register full-time at UMBC, but actually take classes equivalent to (at least) 12 credit hours at the host institution abroad. The courses abroad must be pre-evaluated for credit-bearing transfer to UMBC (VOT form). UMBC students pay full-time regular tuition during the semester abroad. They have access to student housing at the University of Kassel as well as their state-subsidized food services (such as full warm self-serve lunch for about $4). Free local transit is included in the student status in Germany, and there is no need to own a car in Kassel. The cost of living in Kassel, Germany, tends to be cheaper than around UMBC.
All undergraduate students interested in spending time in Germany can participate, both legally and profitably. Germany as a country is sufficiently different from the U.S. to make the experience exciting, but both life in general as well as the setup of university courses are similar enough that there is not much of a culture shock.
Concretely, on the central issue of course selection, the broad range of majors in Kassel allows students from any major to find useful courses. Fundamentally, useful courses can be within the major, courses that can count as General Education courses at UMBC, and language courses in German, both advanced and basic ones designed to meet the 201-level foreign language requirement at UMBC.
The following gives some specific information that we assembled so far. We are happy to work with interested students to gather more information on their particular cases. It is only in the spirit of giving concrete examples that certain types of UMBC students are called out; the exchange program can be made to work for students in any major and of any class standing. (Recall that UMBC does not require any more to take that final 30 credits at UMBC, hence also your final semester is an option for study abroad.)
First of all, you can clearly study abroad for any length of time, in particular, for an entire academic year. This would work well also with Germany academic year from October to July. However, if you wish to study abroad in Germany for only one semester, then the timing of semesters makes it clear that the U.S.-Spring semester is preferrable. The regular German semesters are Wintersemester (winter term) from October to February and the Sommersemester (summer term) from April to July. Thus, studying in Germany for the Wintersemester would interfere with both regular Fall and Spring terms at UMBC, and it is therefore preferrable to study in Germany for the Sommersemester. Its start in April invites then also the idea of traveling to Kassel earlier, such as February or March in order to participate in an intensive German course before the start of the semester.
Get advice on course selection in Kassel as early as possible! The idea should be to plan the entire acacemic year of courses, so that Fall (at UMBC) and Spring (in Kassel) can be coordinated, also potentially including a coordination with Winter courses at UMBC and/or some preparatory reading in January-February before traveling to Kassel in March. The courses in the Fall can then serve to prepare for the study in Kassel, and overlaps can be avoided.
Sophomore-level STEM student at UMBC: Many students in STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have to take MATH 221 Linear Algebra and/or MATH 225 Differential Equations. The course MATH 225 exists as a direct equivalent in Kassel, so it is ideal for taking there. The course MATH 221 is part of a two-semester sequence in Kassel. By taking MATH 221 in the Fall at UMBC, students would be well-prepared to take the second semester of the sequence in Kassel, which would transfer back to UMBC as MATH 290 Special Topics. Both MATH 221 and 225 are offered as lecture courses with approximately 80 to 100 students, who are divided into about four discussion sections. The faculty in Kassel has offerend to make English-language discussion sections available. The lectures would still be in German, but an English-language textbook will be identified to read along with the lecture in German. This textbook can be identified ahead of time, so you can read ahead in January-February before traveling in March.
Seminar courses in Germany: At German universities, seminars are small courses with no more than 20 students, in which each student works on an individual project under the guidance of a faculty member and gives an oral presentation to the class. Very typically in mathematics, the project consists of studying a research paper, and the presentation constitutes an explanation of the paper. UMBC students will be allowed to choose papers in English and to present their talks in English.
In the following, "SWS" indicates German Semesterwochenstunden, which means literally semester weekly hours, or contact hours in English. The first number in the notation 4+2 indicates the number of contact hours in lecture, and the second one the contact hours in a small-group discussion section. For instance, the notation 4+2 indicates that the course has 4 lecture contact hours and 2 discussion contact hours. Notice that a contact hour in Germany has 45 minutes. Thus, the 4 lecture contact hours are administered in two class meetings of 1:30 hour per week, and the discussion section is administered in one meeting of 1:30 hour per week.
Slide presentation introducing the partnership and UMBC