German 340 – Comparative Cultures: USA – Germany

Every Fall, Dickinson students take this seminar, together with German students. In this course, we reconstruct and evaluate important stages in the more than 300-years old history of German-American relations. Then we ask in which way both cultures have mutually influenced each other.

First, we looked at German emigration to America. In the US census of 1980, more than one fourth of US Americans stated to have German ancestors. For a long time, Germans represented the largest immigration group in the USA with “parallel societies,” but today Germans are completely assimilated. The special history and stories of German immigration appear to be almost forgotten. In the second part of the seminar, we traced the ambivalent image of America as a motor of modernity and a symbol of capitalism – as it developed in the second half of the 19th century. We saw in which way America has always been seen as the “other,” as a counter project to European culture and society – as model and competitor, myth and object of scrutiny, as a target of wishes and dreams, but also of fears and attacks. In the third part, we critically evaluated the transfer of US American pop culture to the former Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) after 1945, with a side-glance to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Many points of criticism that have been and still are being voiced towards the American culture (which is supposed to be flat, fixated on money, and the like) seem to be contemporary ideas – and yet, we found out that most of them are actually 100-150 years old.

Based upon these insights, we could eventually analyze up-to-date resentments, alienations, and stereotypes more profoundly and better classify similarities as well as differences in socio-cultural attitudes of both countries. >Dr. Janine Ludwig<

This is what students said:

In my opinion the class was very interesting. It was a good decision to choose it as “General Studies.” I really liked learning about the history and the relationship between America and Germany. Especially the fact that the class consists of students from both countries was really enriching, because of the different perspectives. That made the discussions in class much more interesting. I really liked how the seminar was structured, that we started with the history 300 years ago and ended with the present. Because of that well-structured system it was very informative. One of the most interesting aspects for me was the emigration from Germany to America. By preparing a presentation about the topic and reading many texts about it, I learned a lot. In this context the trip to Bremerhaven to the “Auswandererhaus” was a great experience for me. >Patricia Brüggemeier<

I especially found this course  interesting because not only is it composed of class discussions, but also constitutes presentations and field trips, which were helpful in understanding Germany and its culture. For example, during the semester we had the opportunity to visit two different cities. We first visited the emigration center in Bremerhaven, where German immigrants first took off on their journey to America. There, we were able to experience and learn about the process of the Germans’ emigration and immigration. In December, we visited Berlin, where we mainly learned about German politics. One of the most exciting experiences that I had was when we met Dr. Hans Morrow, a East German politician who experienced the Second World War. Other than the two field trips, we also presented on topics that we chose in the beginning of the semester. Doing the presentation definitely helped me understand the course material better and also to prepare myself for other” Referate” that I had to do for my other classes. >Kyu Ri Hong<

Although I have studied American history and German history separately in the past, it was really interesting to focus on how they relate to one another. One thing I especially enjoyed was when Prof. Ludwig talked about her own experiences growing up in the DDR. It was incredible to see the actual files that the Stasi had on her father. To us, the GDR seemed more like history. Now it feels much more recent and learning about it helped me better understand current-day Germany. Personal experiences helped me fully absorb what we were learning. Also, having grown up in Pennsylvania, I was interested in our classes which covered my state’s close ties to Germany. Many people I know have German heritage, and now I understand their history a little better. I feel like I have a much clearer picture of the influence the US and Germany have had over one another. >Frances Youmans<

I have never wondered about the relationship between the United States and Germany. Therefore, I’m not sure why I’ve chosen a course called Comparative Cultures – USA / Germany. Anyway, I do have a few prejudices about the USA. Especially in the last one or two years the public opinion in Germany about the image of the USA changed for the worse and so had mine. That’s the reason why it’s so exciting to look back on the history and ask ourselves how and why the relationship between the USA and Germany changed and developed from last 300 years to today. Maybe we can learn something from this history? What I’ve learned is understanding. Understanding for the different historic experiences of each state and how it has formed the societies and their positions on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ve got a new perspective on the relationship between the United States and Germany. >Maike Schukenbrock<

One topic of the seminar that I enjoyed was the Americanization of Germany. While living in Germany, I have noticed an American influence here. I always hear people referencing Hollywood movies, talking about American bands, or using English words and I never really knew where this came from. I just assumed it had something to do with the American occupation of Germany and the fact that the U.S. is an influential country. It was interesting to learn about the details of Americanization, such as how different groups have reacted to it, what aspects in particular have taken hold in Germany, and why young people have gravitated towards American culture. Both the class readings and ones I found on my own were helpful in better understanding the topic. I enjoyed building off of what we learned in class, while researching for the paper. Because the topic of Americanization is so big, it was nice to be able to focus on what interested me. At the beginning of the semester we did a lesson on German immigration to the U.S. and how Germans have impacted American culture. I liked learning about the exchange between the two countries and how over the past hundreds of years both have played a role in shaping the other’s culture. >Molly Burger<

There were some very interesting parts of German 340, and most topics I found very intriguing, but if I have to pick a favorite, it would be the German influence of Pennsylvanian (in addition to other German communities that existed within the United States). Growing up, my Nana always talked about how we were Pennsylvania Dutch. From her home cooked meals to the way that she decorated her house, she always made a point that she was influenced by Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. I always used to take note of that, but I never really looked into what it really meant until I started studying German 3 years ago. In my previous German classes, the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions were always mentioned, but they were never fully elaborated, as they were in this class. I am very appreciative to have a better understanding of my heritage, as well as the traditions and the historical background that came along with that. I guess my lack of knowledge regarding the traditions that come along with my heritage really attests to how well integrated my German ancestors were into American society. Going to the emigration Museum in Bremerhaven was particularly interesting because I was able to see the common conditions of German immigrants to America. While I was not able to trace back my relatives to see if they immigrated from Bremerhaven because no one in my family knows the surnames, it was interesting to imagine what it was like for my an-cestors who immigrated to American from Germany all those years ago. I will definitely do some more research and reading on this because of its interesting nature in addition to the personal connection that the topic has for me. >Ben Soder<

I found the second half of this course particularly interesting because I learned new things about the German history and culture from the last century. In particular, the terms Deutscher Sonderweg and Americanization were both new for me, and I think that they both reveal something very important about the German culture. We discussed that the term Deutscher Sonderweg claims that the country Germany is unique because it has changed its government from aristocracy to democracy in a way that is incomparable to any other European countries. This opinion about the unique German path causes disputes and one can easily argue that every single country is unique in its own way because no country on earth has ever gone through the “normal path.” Furthermore, after the collapse of 1945, the term Sonderweg took a rather negative meaning because of Hitler’s rules and Germany’s fault in the Second World War. After we learned about the Sonderweg, we concentrated a lot on the aftermath of WWII and in particular, the role which the USA has played in Germany and the way the USA has been perceived by the Germans throughout the past decades.

For me it was interesting to learn more about the American influence on the development of German culture in the second half of the last century and to discuss whether or not there is room and proof to believe that the Germans have been Americanized in a different way than any other nation. Some claim this because of the state in which West Germany found itself after WWII – had it not been for the American support, it would probably not have recovered so fast from its loss. The presence of Americans was also important because of the cultural changes and influences that they brought with themselves – economic support and interdependence as well as pop culture were among the most interesting topics for me. I found the last classes that we had (for example, the class in which we discussed rock music or the last class in which we had the debate between “Americans” and “Germans”) very intriguing because the events which we discussed are still relatively fresh in our memory, and I also believe I can relate more so to the last century because my parents and grandparents have talked to me a lot about this period of our history and have shared their own experiences with me. Hence, reading more about this part of the German history gave me a new perspective and helped me understand better the relationship between Germany and the USA and which events have been important in shaping the interdependence between the two countries. >Stefani Zaharieva<

Working in Bremen

By Katelyn King ’18

During my time in Bremen, I decided to look for a job to help supplement my travel addiction. I asked Dr. Ludwig for some help and she remembered seeing an email come through her inbox about a student assistant job with Faculty 10, the language departments. Janine Ludwig inquired about the job for me and I applied by submitting my German resume and cover letter, which I had just learned to write in my language class. During the interview, I was offered the job as the student assistant for the ERASMUS office for FB10.

My job included answering emails in German or English, filing paperwork, organizing applications for outgoing students, creating transcripts as credit certificates arrived from professors, and helping incoming students to create their class schedules. I was kind of like a mini Verena, with half of the responsibility, but with 200 students. I worked 6 hours a week, at the times that fit my schedule and that were outside of my boss’s schedule (we shared the office and the only computer).

The position really helped me out financially and helped me to improve my formal German, as I had to communicate professionally via email. It gave me professional experience in a foreign country to put on my resume, which not only backs up my computer and management skills, but also substantiates my listed language proficiency. I also learned to appreciate all the support that we get from Dickinson, Janine Ludwig, and Verena Mertz, because the ERASMUS students are on their own for a lot of things. I would highly recommend seeking employment in Bremen. It might seem intimidating at first, but it is definitely worth it.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #3: Lana Lux

by Janine Ludwig

For the third William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen on November 9, 2017, we cooperated with the Institute for Cultural German Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen. The student workshop, organized by Dr. Janine Ludwig, was the opener of a three-day conference on German-language literature written by migrant writers from Eastern Europe and Russia, under the title: Migration Foreground, Province Background. German Speaking (World) Literature from Eastern Europe.

In this workshop, the Dickinsonians currently studying in Bremen and German students talked with the author Lana Lux about her debut novel Kukolka. The novel tells the story of an orphan child named Samira who lives in a protectory in Dnipropetrovsk, Eastern Ukraine. At the age of seven, she loses her best friend Marina who is adopted by a wealthy German couple. Subsequently, she decides to flee the orphange, hoping to make her way to Germany to reunite with Marina. Instead, she finds a new “home” in an Oliver-Twist-like gang of teenage beggars and thieves led by the pimp Rocky who adores her and calls her Kukolka (Russian for “little doll”). For years, she thinks he is saving money for her to make her finally see the “land of plenty” called Germany. When, at the age of twelve, she finds out  that this will never happen, she leaves him for a beautiful young man named Dima who becomes her great love and promises to take her to the wonderland that is Germany. He keeps his promise, but only to talk her into and later force her into prostitution. While still clinging to her naïve hopes for a better life, she ends up in a brothel with other Eastern European girls, with similar stories and the same shattered dreams. Samira manages to escape again, and a Ukrainian woman named Olga who can translate between both worlds helps her to finally meet her friend Marina again after eight years of separation.

With Lana Lux, who came to Germany at the age of ten from the same town as her protagonist, we discussed the different images and (mis-)perceptions of Germany as a new dreamland for migrants. Lux read passages from her both funny and hyper-realistic novel which we then analyzed. In this lively talk, our guest answered the students’ questions and told memorable stories from her childhood in the Ukraine, her first impressions as a school child in Germany, her experiences of being discriminated against as a Jew, and her yearning for her homeland which she has not visited in almost twenty years.

Lana Lux describing the scrutiny at the border control when she entered Germany

The workshop also related to our current seminar “German 340 – Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” in which we analyze the former emigration from Germany to the United States and the myth of America as a “promised land” for immigrants. Comparing these findings, we opened the discussion to larger questions of flight and migration and cast a cultural studies oriented glance at the current image of Germany in the world.

At the evening of the same day, Lana Lux gave a public reading of her novel which was also sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden as part of our Literary Series. The IfkuD conference, which was open to our students as an opportunity to take a peek at up-to-date German academia, also cooperated with the renowned international literary festival globaleo (November 3-13).

Further information:

http://www.deutschlandstudien.uni-bremen.de/aktuelles/

http://globale-literaturfestival.de/

 

 

 

Orientation Week: Settling in

by Molly Burger & Kyu Ri Hong

 

IKEA Trip

An orientation week trip to Ikea is an absolute must. Sure, pretty much everything in your apartment is already from Ikea, but hey at least it all matches now. Maybe grab a carpet, some curtains, and a plant or something, and definitely don’t forget to pick up posters for your wall. I still somehow have yet to discover a store downtown that actually sells posters, so my room is basically a mini Ikea store at this point (which is awesome cause Ikea is awesome). Plus, although you’re not in Sweden, Germany is definitely a lot closer than the US, so maybe the meatballs or whatever food you like to get there is a little bit closer to the real thing (probs not but still).

Uni Orientation Events

You know all of those super random sounding activities in the orientation week that Verena told you about, like the Erasmus movie night, the city tour, and all of those bar crawls? Go to them! They’re usually super fun and are great opportunities to meet new people. You don’t have to go to all of them, but try to check out as many as possible. At the very least you’ll have a good time and get to know a new aspect of Bremen.

Explore Bremen

Christmas and New Years in Deutschland: the holidays from northern, to southern, to central GermanyExplore Bremen! Now’s your chance to just walk around the city for as long as you want before classes start. The sooner you get to know the streets, restaurants, bars and museums of Bremen the better and you’ll really feel like the city is yours. And now’s the perfect time to see the sights of Bremen, like the “Stadtmusikanten”, which I actually visited twice during the orientation week. Hanging out in the city during orientation week is a good contrast to the time you’ll be spending with other students getting to know the Uni Bremen and it’s a good amount of time you can spend at museums, concerts and the theater, all of which Dickinson reimburses.

Registration

Now that you’re in Germany, you have to make sure that you have your visa. There is also something called the Meldebestätigung, which is a proof of your residence in Germany. In order to obtain these two documents, there is an office on campus called the BSU. It is only open for a certain period of time on only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays so there’s always a line. I highly suggest that you go and wait in line at least an hour before the opening hour and wait. I got there 45 minutes before the opening hour and had to wait almost three hours just to go through a 10-minute-long process.

Grocery Shopping

Life in Bremen will definitely be different from that at Dickinson. One of the biggest challenges (at least that’s how I feel about it) is having to provide your own meals. There definitely is an option to eat at the Mensa but I don’t have class every day, hence I’m not on campus every day. There are a few supermarkets nearby. For example, I mainly go to the REWE Supermarkt on Wätjenstrasse, which is two tram stops away. It’s close and convenient since it’s right by the tram stop. I also like to go to the market in the city which is open from 9:00-14:00. There’s definitely more fresh options of fruits and vegetables at the market.

Study Buddy

A study buddy is the best way to make a German friend. The university pairs you up with a German student that probably shares the same major (not necessarily in my case) with you or the same interests with you. You have to sign up for this online. It’s nice to have someone who you can practice your German conversational skills with and to meet up regularly just to talk or to explore more of Bremen.

Opening a Bank Account

In order to receive your monthly stipend, you’ll need to have a German bank account. There’s a bank called Sparkasse on campus that you could go to. It took me two weeks just to get an appointment here, so I suggest that you go to the bank as soon as you have your Meldebestätigung, since that’s one of the documents you need when you open a new bank account. The appointment lasts only 15 minutes and you get your credit/debit card, along with the pin to your card/s, in your mailbox after about a week.

Looking Back at a Year in Bremen

by Lee Mottola, ’18

 

It is really hard to put into words what this year abroad was for me. I guess I’ll start by saying it was real. It was a real experience, it was filled with happiness, laughter, friends and wonder, it was filled with anger, frustration, loneliness and regret. It was everything I needed it to be.

In Bremerhaven, at the North Sea

I arrived in Germany on July 6th 2016 as a cocky american boy with romanticized expectations for the summer and the year I was about to have. I left Germany on July 28th 2017, humbled and appreciative of everything my year threw at me, every challenge I had to surmount. From the lowest low of being truly alone, no friends no family and limited ability to talk to those around me in the small Bavarian town of Tegernsee, to challenge of my first days of class at German University, to the realization that the life I had been building over this past year was about to end, there were moments where I was extremely unhappy. But now, being back at Dickinson, every time I’m asked about my time in Germany, without hesitation I say it was the best year in my life. After hearing about the bad times I’m sure that’s hard to believe, but for every time I was down in the dumps there were five I was over the moon with happiness and excitement. My last day on the job as a beer delivery boy and the goodbye everyone at the brewery gave to me, my first time at Oktoberfest, meeting the incredible students and teachers at the University of Bremen, traveling to 13 different countries with friends new and old, scoring my first goal as a member of the Uni Bremen Lacrosse Team, nights spent on my roof with my best friends just talking and being surround by people you love and that you know love you.

Dickinson group and puppet in the emigration museum, on an imitation of a ship to America

All of those great things that happened to me felt so much more satisfying because I knew they were not achieved without effort, without difficulty. I love Bremen, without a doubt. That city gave me so much in the ways of opportunities to study and research incredible topics with engaged and passionate professors, to the friends I made in and outside the classroom, I will be forever thankful for the year I spent there. As I said earlier its hard to put the enormous sea of emotions I have about Bremen and Germany into words but I hope you now have some idea about how special this place can be. If I could hit the rewind button and start it all again without knowing what I know now, reliving every difficult moment and every triumphant experience I would, I wouldn’t change a thing about my year abroad because above all else it was real. 

Annual Report 2016-17

Another year has gone by. Another group of students has spent a year in Bremen and has gone back to Dickinson for their senior year. Please find our program report on what we did in this past academic year here:

Durden Dickinson Bremen Program – Annual Report 2016-17

 

Greetings from Bremen!

Janine Ludwig, Academic Director

Independent Research Project on NATO

by Lee Mottola ’18

 

It was an idea born in the streets of Vienna. Originally I wasn’t convinced I could or even wanted to do it, but after deep discussion with my Program Director and Professor Dr. Janine Ludwig my idea for the Kurth-Voigt Research Project was born. Only days after writing my proposal to research the coming federal elections in Germany, and what that would mean for Germany’s future in the NATO alliance, specifically what their plans were regarding the now infamous 2% military spending goal for members, I had heard that I was awarded the scholarship.

Research began immediately upon my return to Bremen from our class trip to Vienna, with the guidance of both Professor Ludwig and Professor Ulrich Franke of the University of Bremen and INIIS (“Institut fuer Interkulturelle und Internationale Studien”) I discovered various sources, from German talk shows to parliamentary speeches, which deepened my knowledge on the subject and its complexities. But any student could have found these very same sources and used them to write a paper whether they were in the US or in Bremen beside me, that is why I was determined to differentiate the content of my research by getting first hand accounts and information directly from those shaping these important decisions. To that end I reached out to German politicians of all parties and coalitions, as well as members of the German NATO community. Not all of my efforts were successful and many of those I tried to contact were too busy to schedule an interview at the time. However in the end I was able to conduct four interviews with members of the German parliament, Johannes Kahrs (SPD), Dr. André Berghegger (CDU), Florian Hahn (CSU) and Dr. Tobias Lindner (Grüne) in their offices in Berlin and Hamburg to discuss their expectations for the coming election and how it would influence Germany’s future roll in NATO.

After months of collecting all this data, in July it finally became time to sit down and write this paper. What I originally anticipated as being a 20-25 page research paper quickly grew beyond my expectation simply because of the detail and complexity of the subject. A lot of blood, sweat, tears and Club Mate (an amazing energy drink made of yerba mate tea) were poured into my work. There were many days when I wanted to chuck my laptop out of the five story high window of the Dickinson room on the Uni Bremen campus dashing all my work asunder, but in the end I persevered and delivered the final 34 page copy of my “Magnum Opus” mere days before leaving Bremen. Of all the things I did while abroad, of all the opportunities I took, this research project, though incredibly demanding, frustrating and at times down right tortuous, is my proudest moment from the year abroad. And it never would have happened if not for a stroll through the streets of Vienna. 

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #2: Thomas Meinecke

Workshop, Reading, DJ-Set

by Janine Ludwig

On June 2nd and 3rd, 2017, the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen hosted the acclaimed writer Thomas Meinecke.

Please find the poster here: DLS Meinecke 2017 Poster (Grafikdesign Sibyll Wahrig)

Meinecke and Ludwig. Foto: Verena Mertz

Thomas Meinecke has received several prizes and many labels: postmodern author, writer of pop literature – although pop philosophy would be more accurate – feminist writer and even queer studies icon, because his new novel Self will surely become a reference text. Meinecke’s other professions as a musician, texter and singer of the alternative cult band F.S.K., as a DJ (Berghain, Pudel Club a.o.) and performer with the format “turntable” (Plattenspieler) at the Berliner Hebbel am Ufer, seem to reflect in his postmodern writing style: His writing technique has been described as sampling, t.i. mixing and juggling with phenomena of 20th and 21st century pop history as well as of diasporas and gender identities, and is based on a wide theoretical background, ranging from Judith Butler to Barbara Vinken.

 

Public lecture and DJ-Set in the club Spedition on June 3rd

Meinecke and Ludwig during the reading. Foto: Verena Mertz

His brand new novel Self (“Selbst”) deals mainly with blurring (gender) identities, love, and erotic desire by analyzing phenomena from fashion (androgynous models), music/ entertainment (e.g. David Bowie or Mykki Blanco music videos), and life style (techno clubs, selfies, beards, intimate shaving, feminist porn). As part of “The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen,” he held a public lecture in the off-scene arts & culture & music club Spedition which had hosted him before. An attentive audience of 60-70 people followed a lively mix of reading, video clips and discussion between Meinecke and presenter Janine Ludwig. Afterwards, DJ Winkhorst warmed up the crowd before Thomas started to turn the tables from midnight to 3 a.m.

 

Workshop at the University of Bremen, in cooperation with the IfkuD, on June 2nd

Meinecke (left), next to Janine Ludwig and students. Foto: Verena Mertz

In addition, Meinecke gave an intimate breakfast workshop to both our current group of Dickinsonians and Bremen students at the University of Bremen the day before. One of the threads of his multi-perspective novel happens to deal with utopian, libertarian German immigrants in Texas in the mid-19th century. Ironically, a German society of nobleman (“Adelsverein”) bought land in Texas in order to get rid of German communists by sending them there to colonize it. However, they were duped with dour land, and the colonists, a bunch of intellectuals with little farming experience anyhow, struggled for survival. They did, however, under John O. Meusebach, manage to sign a peace treaty with the hostile Comanche tribe – supposedly the only one which was never broken and is still commemorated annually by the Comanches today.

Lee making a good argument. Foto: Verena Mertz

Meinecke has extensively researched on these settler colonies and produced a film (at the behest of Alexander Kluge/dctp) for which he interviewed the descendants of the “Texas Germans” – who still speak the language, infused with some English terms: “Die sind hier reingemoved.” „Die Kuh ist über den fence gejumpt.“ Despite the settlement fiasco, the descendants still proudly remember the peace treaty as well as the fact that the colonists opposed slavery and some even defected from the confederate Army (and were killed in consequence). We watched snippets from the film, read passages from the book and discussed the idea of “communes” without government, but shared work and property. The workshop presented amazing insights into an almost forgotten culture between the “Beethoven Männerchor” in San Antonio, the “Wurstfest” in New Braunfels, the “Vereins Kirche” and “Social Turn Verein” in Fredericksburg (named after Frederick of Prussia). All this followed up nicely to the seminar “German 340: Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” which Janine Ludwig taught in fall 2016/17 and which (among other things) covered German immigration to the US in the 18th and 19th centuries. But most of all, it was a unique opportunity for the students to meet, work, and discuss with an author of such a stature in an almost private atmosphere.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen, this year in cooperation with the Institute for Cultural Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen and the Kunst- und Kulturverein Spedition e.V., was sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden and the Dickinson College. We are grateful for the generous support and also thank the Spedition for wonderfully hosting Saturday’s evening event.

4th Dickinson College Public Lecture

On May 15, 2017, the Carl Schurz German-American Club Bremen and Dickinson College invited members of the University of Bremen and citizens to the Fourth Dickinson College Public Lecture on:

“Trumped-up Good Relations? – A Russian Perspective on the USA Today”

with Dr. Irina Filippova

 

When Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America on November 8th, 2016, many were shocked – but others may have harbored faint hopes as well. Since Trump had already announced his intention to improve American relations with the Russian Federation, many Russian citizens might have expected a new thaw between the two nuclear powers. But events and debates in the USA over the last few months have left an ambivalent impression: Amid allegations that Russia attempted to influence the US presidential election, President Trump’s team is also under attack from his own party for its members’ relationships with Russian contacts, and with his recent decision to order an air strike in Syria, Trump appears to be adding to the chill.

All pictures: © private

This raises the question of what Russians think of and expect from the USA right now. And more importantly, will future generations improve relations or further entrench the status quo? Irina Filippova, Director of the Dickinson-in-Russia Program at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow (RGGU), provided us with some answers. She had collected statements from colleagues at the RGGU, from the press, from Muscovites, and from Dickinson students currently studying in Moscow. Rather than presenting a political analysis of what can only be described as an uncertain status quo, she gave us a first-hand insight into public opinion in Russia, and the mindset and sentiments of so-called “ordinary people” there.

First, she offered a brief overview of the checkered history of Russian-American relations from the 16th century to today. It started with a meeting of Russian Tsar Peter the Great and William Penn – the founder of the Pennsylvania Colony – as a first diplomatic meeting of the two countries in 1698. From the selling of Alaska in 1867 to the Russian revolution in 1917, to the Allies in World War II and the enemies of the Cold War to the recent crises in Crimea and the Ukraine, the relations between the countries have overall deteriorated. Today, there seems to be even a reduced ability to understand each other on the lowest levels of political communication, a striking lack of knowledge and amount of miscommunication, even down to the language basis.

Dr. Filippova introduced different Russian polling agencies and showed several polls from October 2016 to April 2017 – that clearly indicated how there were some hopes for an improvement in political relations and some support for Donald Trump, but how those have decreased dramatically within those 6 months. Filippova complemented this development with translated headlines from Russian newspapers and pointed cartoons. She rounded up her findings with statements from knowledgeable academics from RGGU. Her personal poll among Russian students and Muscovites of ages around the 40 showed that, unfortunately, the younger people seemed generally less interested in politics than the older ones and that both groups have come to rather disappointed, pessimistic views on the future relations between the United States and Russia.

However, a final flicker of hope appeared in statements from Dickinson students currently studying in the Moscow program: With remarkable clarity and reflectiveness, they explained how important it is to them, besides all clear differences, to engage in discourse, to be confronted with opposing views from Russian students and to learn about their perspective. Those Dickinson students believe in and prove the importance of intensive study abroad programs as Dickinson offers them – they keep communication alive against all odds and train future competent global citizens who hopefully manage to improve political situations in the future.

See the poster here: Dickinson College Public Lecture 2017 Poster

Neil van Siclen opening the lecture

Janine Ludwig introducing Irina Filippova

 

Filippova showing newspaper headlines

Celebrating a great lecture

Vienna Excursion 2017

My tips, tricks, and favorite things in Vienna, Austria

Meghan Straub

All pictures: Meghan Straub

Vienna has quickly become one of my favorite places in the world. I had the wonderful opportunity of living in Vienna for a month while completing my intensive course before coming to Bremen. It was an amazing month filled with travel, history, music, and ice cream. I had such a great time that it was hard for me to pack up my things and leave to start the program in Bremen. Little did I know it then but I would return to my European home of Vienna 2 more times this year (once with my parents and once with the program). As part of the Dickinson in Bremen program we have the opportunity to go on a weeklong excursion to Vienna. We spend the week learning about the history of the city as well as experiencing all of the many facets of culture Vienna has to offer. In this blog I’d like to share some of my favorite moments from the excursion as well as some of my tips as someone who knows Vienna well. But as Julie Andrews says lets start at the very beginning…

  1. Stephan’s Cathedral

Located at the very center of the city, St. Stephan’s is the most important building in the whole city. It is an easy navigation point, many of the city’s sites are within a 10-minute walk from its front door, and it is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. We got an “All Inclusive” ticket which let us do the audio guided tour of the inside of the cathedral, a tour of the catacombs, an elevator ride to the north tower, and the climb up to the south tower. When I was living in Vienna, I never had the chance to do all of these so I was excited and St. Stephan’s didn’t disappoint. I learned so much about the church from the audio guide and the views from the towers just can’t be beat.

  1. The Austrian National Library

Just down the Graben (the pedestrian area at the center of the city) and around the bend is the Hofburg Palace of the Habsburg dynasty and within this gorgeous palace is the National Library. I’d been to the library before, but this time, we had the extremely fortunate opportunity of getting a special tour. We learned all about the care of the books and the history of the building. The best part for me was getting able to see some selected books like a Gutenberg Bible up close and even touch it. My nerdy book-loving soul was close to exploding. The trip to the library was an absolute highlight of our trip for me.

 

  1. Peter’s Church

My favorite place in all of Vienna is St. Peter’s church. Located right off the Graben, St. Peter’s is often overlooked. This church is beautifully decorated and offers free concerts almost every night around 7:30pm. They put out a schedule of the weeks events including concerts by violinists, singers, and most importantly (in my opinion) organists. My favorite thing to do in Vienna is to take a late night walk from the Rathaus through the Volksgarten and the Hofburg all the way to my final stop at St. Peter’s church just in time for the concert. There is something magical about sitting in the candle-lit church as a talented musician plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on the organ while the whole building shakes from the sound. I highly recommend stopping by if you get the chance. The price (just a tip for the musicians) can’t be beat.

  1. The Vienna State Opera

The city of Vienna is filled with music everywhere you go and the very center of that music is at the state opera house. Located between the Graben and the Ringstraße, the Vienna State Opera is housing performances every night including ballets and of course Operas. As a famous attraction in Vienna, the ticket for the Opera can be quite expensive and often go fast. If you really want to see a performance there you have two options. The first is acquiring a standing room ticket. If you wait outside the building in a line about 80 minutes (or more depending on what show is being performed) before the show you can get a ticket for around 3 euros. Though time consuming and often grueling on hot days, a ticket for that price is hard to pass up. Another option is the large screen outside of the opera house on Kartnerstraße. A couple nights a week the opera displays the performance of the night outside free to the public on a large screen. People bring chairs and blankets to sit outside and enjoy the good weather and beautiful voices for free. If you, like me, aren’t that interested in hearing the voices of the world’s best singers and are more interested in seeing what the inside of the opera house looks like tours are also provided during the day. For about 4 euros (with a student discount) you can go on a tour of the interior of the building and learn all about how the shows are organized and the long history and tradition of opera in Vienna. I highly recommend.

  1. The Prater

Right outside of the inner city of Vienna is the Prater. Founded in 1766, the Prater is essentially an amusement park. The park is open from 10am until 1am and housing tons of restaurants as well as rides. The most famous of which is the Wiener Riesenrad or Ferris wheel. The wheel is 212 feet tall and is famous for its appearance in the movie The Third Man. My favorite ride is not the famous Ferris wheel but rather the tower swings. The Prater Tower is 117m high and offers a breathtaking view of the whole city. If you are afraid of heights it will likely be too much for you but otherwise it is a great way to see the whole city for only 5 euros.

I hope that these tips/suggestions help you to get the most out of your visit to Vienna if you get the opportunity to go. If you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have this past year. Ciao!