German Studies

Academic Department Introduction

German studies concerns the languages and cultures of Germany, Austria, and German-speaking Switzerland. Our language courses emphasize quick acquisition of communication skills. Many upper-level courses are conducted entirely in German.

We offer small classes that draw upon interactive and innovative materials. At our Wintersession in Berlin, students improve their German while living in a major European capital. Students in our paid internships in Dresden spend the summer working in a professional environment.

Learning goals

  • Speak, read, and write German with advanced proficiency.
  • Understand key historical moments and representative German-language cultural production from 1800 to the present.
  • Build the intercultural fluency necessary to thrive in the different cultural contexts central to our increasingly connected world.

Programs of study

German studies major and minor

Students gain transcultural perspectives on developments in German-speaking cultures.

Course Highlights

  • Like GER 202 on campus, this course strengthens and expands all language skills including idiomatic grammar review, oral and listening practice, readings on contemporary and historical topics, and practice in composition. This course will be taught as an intensive Wintersession course in Berlin and will feature an important cultural component.
  • Before Disney, there were the Brothers Grimm: in this course, we will learn about the origins of fairy tales in a tradition of oral folklore, consider the tales' development in literature and culture, and examine their continuing impact today. What were the functions of these often so ‘grim’ tales? Can we find them reappearing today as foundational fictions by which children are taught to understand their world?Primary readings will be in German. We will practice reading, writing, and discussion in German, and will review select grammar topics.

Research highlights

  • Emily Bell ’14 received the 2014 U.C. Berkeley Prize for Undergraduate Essays in German Studies for the thesis she wrote in our department, “Representations of the Staatssicherheitsdienst in Christa Wolf’s Was bleibt, Antje Ravic Strubel’s Sturz der Tage in die Nacht, and Hermann Kant’s Kennung.

  • Katharina Christoph ’21 assisted Professor Thomas Nolden in the editing and publication of two volumes of collected essays: Beyond the Textual: Practices of Translation and Adaptation (Königshausen & Neumann, 2022) and In the Face of Adversity: Translating Difference and Dissent (University of Chicago Press, 2023).


  • Study abroad

    We encourage students to study abroad in a German-speaking program, and we work closely with them to find a good fit. We work primarily with Tufts in Tübingen, which offers courses at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen.

  • Wintersession in Berlin

    Led by a faculty member of the German Studies Department, Wintersession in Berlin provides an intensive language experience, including daily classroom instruction as well as an exploration of the daily life, history, and culture of this European metropolis.

  • Dresden summer internships

    We offer two paid summer internships in Dresden. At Entwicklungspolitisches Netzwerk Sachsen, students work at an organization dedicated to environmental, educational, or social policies. At Stiftung Frauenkirche Dresden, students can work in arts and cultural management, architectural research, international outreach, or peace and social justice.

  • German Club and Living Learning Community

    Our club collaborates on German-related campus events, field trips, and other activities. Located within a Wellesley residence hall, the German living learning community gives students the opportunity to practice speaking German outside of class on a daily basis.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Careers of German studies grads include government, higher education, journalism, media, and publishing. Recent employers include an immigration law firm, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in Washington DC, and the Deutscher Bundestag, the federal parliament of Germany. A significant number of our graduates have received Fulbright awards or German Academic Exchange Service awards for study in Germany or Austria directly after graduation.

Department of German Studies

Founders Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Thomas Nolden
Department Chair