Sarah H. 05-06

So it’s January in Bremen and it’s coooold here! We got some snow the other day, and since then it’s all turned into ice. But the temps are staying unusually low, which makes the whole biking/walking everywhere thing kinda a pain.
On the bright side, I’m moving in with my host family tomorrow! They live on the outskirts of the city, off of the public transportation lines (you can see cows out their back window). I’ll have a small bedroom on the bottom floor, with my own desk, small dresser, and closet. My family’s really sweet. It’s the mom (Christine), dad (Rolf), daughter (Mareike, who’s my age), and a cat (Schwarzes). Mareike’s moving out in the spring to start college, but it’ll be nice to have her there while I’m still making the transition. I feel like this will enhance my experience here alot. Not only will it give me more practice speaking, but it will also expose me to more cultural and everyday German experiences. Plus I won’t have to cook for myself every night.
Next week our the two other Dickinson students are coming and we’re going on a group trip to Vienna for a week. We get to leave Luisental at 5 a.m., drive to Hannover, and fly from there to Vienna. Prof. Stollmann bought tickets for us already for a bunch of random cultural things, like the theater and opera. During the day we’ll have the chance to wonder around the city by ourselves. I’m curious to see the differences between German and Austrian cities. I’ve only ever visited Salzburg, and it’s a really gorgeous city. Hopefully Vienna will meet my expectations.
mit freundlichen Grüßen,

It’s officially Christmas time here in Germany! Today was St. Nicholas Day, when St. Nicholas visits all the children and delivers small presents and candies to them. At the grocery store today I heard one mother telling her children to behave themselves, or Nicholas might not come tonight. In some places they also do parades throughout the town. It’s a cute holiday, plus this way the kids get presents both on St. Nicholas Day and Christmas. Sounds like a good deal to me.

This weekend we took an Ausflug to Goslar to see the Weihnachtsmarkt there. It was a 3 hour trip both ways, but definitely worth the travel time. Goslar’s a small town, but it was covered in decorations and lights. In the center of the town they had the main Weihnachtsmarkt, with lots of craft and food stands. They were selling Gluehwein everywhere, which is a special spiced wine made around Christmas time. It’s served hot, plus it’s pretty potent, so it warms you up pretty quickly.

There’s also a big Weihnachtsmarkt in the Altstadt area of Bremen. We visited it Friday night, but didn’t get to see too much, because everything closed down at eight. Along the river they have small wooden booths set up with merchants dressed in old fashioned costumes. The city looks gorgeous, and smells like Schmalzkuchen and the cookie hearts they sell everywhere. Hopefully I’ll have time to explore it more before I leave for home (in eleven days!!)

Here are a few pics of Goslar and the Gingerbread house that Caroline and I made:

Goslar Weihnachtsmarkt

Caroline and I with our Gingerbread House

So we’ve been in Germany for over 2 1/2 months now, and in Bremen for about 1 1/2. Time’s really weird here. Part of me feels like I’ve been in Europe for a year, and another part of me feels like we just got here. It’s so bizarre. But we’ve all settled into our own routines since classes started. A typical day consists of rolling out of bed, catching the bus or riding my bike to the Uni, going to class, and then playing on the computers in the Dickinson center for a few hours. It’s really hard to motivate myself to do work though. I think it’s because I haven’t found any good “study space” yet. At Dickinson I could remove myself from my room and go to the library or even our living room or kitchen to write papers or do research. Here I feel like I’m trapped in either my room or the Dickinson center, where people are always coming and going and it’s almost impossible to accomplish anything.
I defintely need to crack down with my thesis research. I’m writing my German honors thesis here in Bremen a year early (yeah, I know, but I’m an over-achiever). It’s on freedom of speech in Germany, and whether or not regulations on hate speech, particularly in regard to national socialism and Neo-Nazis, has actually helped to curb racisim and anti-Semitism in Germany. I’m having some trouble finding ample resources. There’s not nearly as much scholarship on German constitutional law as there is on American con law (a bit of a nasty surprise). But I’m waiting to hear back from one of the law profs here, so hopefully he’ll have some helpful suggestions.
Caroline and I are in the process of lining-up internships for spring semester. She’s interested in working with the local government, maybe in the major’s office. I’m researching internships with Human Rights organizations and with the Buendis 90/die Gruene Partei. I’m really interested to get a look at the German political process from the inside. It’s such a different system from what we have in the States. Just following everything that’s been going on since the Semptember election has been fascinating. Although I have to say, I don’t really have much hope for this coalition (or Merkel, for that matter).
Dan and I are going to a conference in Berlin in December. It’s called “Bringing the World Home” and it’s hosted by Americans for Informed Democracy. The conference focuses on American international relations and how we, as Americans studying abroad, can bring our experiences in Europe home with us. Dickinson’s paying for it, so it’ll be a fun, informative, and FREE weekend in Berlin. Amazing!
Hope that everyone’s having a great time in their respective countries. Freundliche Gruesse aus Bremen!

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