Living and Learning in the “Green City”

New summer internship program immerses students in a German city that’s serious about sustainability

Freiburg, a city in Germany’s Black Forest, has been dubbed the “Green City” because of its extensive use of solar power—for everything from city hall to a new soccer stadium—and a raft of projects to create climate-neutral homes and buildings. On city streets, bicycles outnumber cars. It’s the perfect living laboratory for studying climate protection efforts in action.

This past summer, three Bryn Mawr students did just that, thanks to paid internships created through a partnership between Freiburg’s Innovation Academy and the College’s Career & Civic Engagement Center and Department of Environmental Studies. Innovation Academy organizes excursions and educational tours around the themes of innovation and sustainable development.

The internships grew out of the relationship Bryn Mawr built with Innovation Academy as part of the 360 program course titled Climate Change: Science & Politics. Since 2010, this signature program has enabled students to participate in a cluster of courses focused on common problems, themes, and experiences for the purposes of research and scholarship.

Professor Carol Hager, who co-edited Germany’s Energy Transition: A Comparative Perspective (2016), first reached out to Innovation Academy when planning a trip to Freiburg as part of the Climate 360 program in 2015—and they’ve been a steady partner ever since.

“Last fall, the Academy told us they wanted to pilot a summer sustainability internship with a few trusted schools, Bryn Mawr among them,” recalled Hager. “Thanks to Katie Krimmel and Jennifer Prudencio in the Career & Civic Engagement Center, we were able to get the internship set up for this summer.” Hager said she hopes to see the number of placements expand in the coming years.