American Junior Year

American Junior Year offers you an opportunity to study at Germany’s oldest university, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität or Ruperto Carola, currently Germany’s highest ranked university. Located in the quaint town of Heidelberg with its traditional romantic flair it is committed to the motto Future since 1386. The relationship between American Junior Year and Ruperto Carola dates back to 1958, making us one of the oldest American study abroad programs in Germany and the oldest exchange program of its kind. Every year, several Universität Heidelberg students spend time at our home campus in Tiffin, Ohio as exchange students. In addition, Tiffin hosts a Teaching Assistant, who teaches in the Modern Languages Department.

Predeparture Handbook

Highlights of the Program

As an American Junior Year student, you will:

  • Study at Germany's oldest university.
  • Live with German students.
  • Have the opportunity to be involved in community activities and meet regularly with a language partner.
  • Be able to study and relax at the AJY study center in the heart of the historic Altstadt on University Square.
  • Discover Germany and explore Europe with Rail Passes and Culture Coupons sponsored by the program.
  • Understand why one of the most popular German folk songs is entitled "Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren".

Program & Semester Dates

Universität Heidelberg, like all German universities runs on a semester system with two semesters per year:

  • Wintersemester (October - February)
  • Sommersemester (April - July)

In order to accommodate American students from both, semester and term-based schools, AJY offers two fall semester options. Students who need to return to the U.S. in January for their spring semesters have the opportunity to come to Heidelberg for an American-style fall semester and are able to return in late December. Students whose school is on a term system are able to complete a full German Wintersemester and return to their home campus after the first week in February. Naturally, students staying in Heidelberg for an entire academic year will complete two full semesters (German Wintersemester and Sommersemester). No matter which option students choose, they will earn between 15-16 academic credits per semester.


AJY students arrive in Heidelberg six weeks before the start of the university semester. The first four weeks (September or March) are spent in the preliminary course designed to prepare them for the demanding University Language Proficiency Exam (DSH) taken in week five (first week of October/ first week of April). Once students have taken this exam, they will have week six for a short break (second week of October/ second week of April).

During the first four weeks, each student will meet individually with the Resident Director for extensive counseling and drafting of a course list. Any open questions with home campus advisors will also be clarified. Virtually all undergraduate courses at Universität Heidelberg are taught in German, making your performance in the Language Proficiency Exam a major factor in determining which courses are suited for you. Furthermore, AJY allows you to attend as many courses as possible during the first two weeks of the classes in order to make informed decisions about your courses. By the end of the second week of the semester a final course selection is agreed upon and signed by the student and the Resident Director. This final course selection cannot be changed. An official copy will be sent to each student's home campus. Aside from the mandatory preliminary course, AJY students enroll in four additional courses (or three additional courses plus 3-cr. academic internship). Most courses earn 3 U.S. credits. Occasionally, a course might have a tutorial or a lab earning an additional 4th credit. Your total number of credits as a full year student will be 30-32 credits.

Student Life

The sooner you are involved in activities in the local community, the more exciting and rewarding your time in Heidelberg is. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. All students receive a five-day German Rail Pass for either fall or spring break.


AJY student rooms are located in university dormitories throughout the city or in private dormitories for students only. All rooms are single occupancy. Dorms are coed with the exception of two women dormitories. 


Unlike cafeterias on your home campus, German cafeterias offer no meal plan for the semester. Instead, you purchase each meal individually and pay with your student ID card. The three large cafeterias, two of them near the AJY Study Center, offer reasonably-priced breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, many ethnic restaurants, cafés, and fast-food places can be found in the Old Town around University Square. Those of you who prefer to cook for yourselves can do so, as all shared apartments are equipped with a kitchen.


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