“Six Months Turned into Six Incredible Weeks”

by Molly Wells ’21

Like most other American university students studying abroad, I too was sent home early due to the cancellation of the Dickinson-in-Germany program. All I seemed to read and hear for a while is about the coronavirus and how “the world is ending.” I, for one, was slowly coming to terms with the fact that these next few months would not be the ones in which I live in Bremen. Because, however, I spent some of the best weeks of my life in Bremen, I have chosen to focus on the positive and fun aspects of my time there.

The best experiences in life revolve around the people that one meets. This was certainly true of my experience in Bremen. I could not have asked for a better group of people to study abroad with. Each one of us desired to fully immerse ourselves in Bremen culture as well as truly improve our German. The “springies” (students studying abroad in the spring) consisted of five language nerds ready for adventure. And what an (short) adventure we had.

My second evening in Bremen (and other students’ first) was spent in an Irish pub in the Viertel of Bremen watching a Werder Bremen soccer game. While I cannot say I watched a lot of the game, I was thoroughly entertained by the reactions and faces of the German soccer fans. Werder Bremen was (and still is) doing quite poorly in the league as I understand it, but that game was quite an exception. They ended up defeating one of the best teams in Germany. I took this as a sign that my time in Bremen was going to be just like that: a great victory in the face of adversary. In some ways, it was.

One of the more “German” experiences I had revolved around what is known as a “Kohl-Tour.” When I first heard of this mysterious activity, I thought people were saying “Kultur” which means “culture.” I thought this sounded like the perfect way to immerse myself in Bremen culture, since the activity itself was named “culture!” While “Kohl-Tour” in fact means “kale (or cabbage) tour,” it did show me a glimpse of Bremen culture. We gathered on a Saturday mid-morning with shopping carts full of alcohol and loudspeakers. We then proceeded to walk in a huge loop which was probably around six miles long. Every so often, the leaders of the group would announce “Kreuzung!” and we would stop and play various games or crack open a new beer. I was mostly fascinated by how accommodating everyone was. Something like this would be seen as extremely disruptive in the US, but we didn’t travel through any neighborhoods, and everyone who passed us met us with a smile and a wave. Every time a bike was seen headed our way, we would shout “Fahrrad!” until everyone had moved to the sides of the path. At the end of our long journey, we gathered to eat the famous “Grünkohl” (kale cooked with sausages or veggie sausages) that had been cooked earlier that morning. It was a great way to meet other Uni Bremen students as well as get a taste of part of Bremen culture. I thought I had walked a great distance during this experience, but little did I know, it would not be my farthest walking adventure I had in Bremen, Germany.

Another of the “springies” and I were supposed to go to Poland on an excursion in early March, but this was the first trip to be cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. We decided we wanted to travel somewhere ourselves during this time instead. I love hiking and have only been “real” backpacking once, but I knew I wanted to try my hand at the activity again in Germany. The other “springie” loves walking and can walk for miles upon miles without getting tired. Therefore, we decided we should go on a backpacking trip. We did not have camping gear, and my walking partner was not entirely attracted to the idea of sleeping on the ground for four nights, so we decided we would stay in hostels instead. I’ll just say I don’t think my body would have survived if it hadn’t had a bed to sleep in each night, given the amount of walking we did.

We decided we wanted to walk along the Rhine river; I had found a bike path we could follow that was supposed to take us through a nice scenic route hitting three major cities. We took a bus down to Bonn and then walked to Cologne and then Düsseldorf in four days. Turns out that the route I had found was under water in early March, but we persevered nonetheless. Our total distance walked ended up being around seventy miles, and the sites were beautiful. My feet were not quite as beautiful; I still had two blood blisters over a month after we got back…

Despite the bodily pain of the trip, I had such a great time. Seeing a different part of Germany was wonderful and walking through it was even better. Walking forces one to take in all the details of a place. The places and the river we took in were simple yet magnificent. I returned to Bremen, however, with the conclusion that none of the cities we had traveled through were as beautiful as Bremen.

There were so many other experiences I had during my time in Bremen, but I have rambled about my emotional attachment to the place long enough. Each experience I had was only incredible because of the people I shared them with. While I wished I could have spent more time in the beautiful city of Bremen, I know I will return soon. I will forever be grateful for the six weeks I was able to spend there. Thank you, Bremen.


Online teaching! Literature about the events of 1989

by Janine Ludwig

“Und es hat ‘Zoom’ gemacht” – is a famous line from a German song called “1000 und eine Nacht” (a thousand and one nights) by Klaus Lage.

Zoom has hit us all in March and quickly became the ubiquitous tool for online teaching. Since mid-April, I was teaching classes online, especially for our wonderful students who had to leave Bremen and suspend their study abroad.

One seminar dealt with literature/novels on the events of 1989/90 and beyond in (East) Germany. In order to make it more attractive and give the students somewhat of a substitute for not being in Bremen, I invited seven German guests to participate in the online meetings:

Introductory sessions:

  • Egon Krenz, Head of State of the GDR in the fall of 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, attended a meeting and answered students’ questions. He described how accidental the fall of the Berlin Wall actually was, what the immediate Russian reaction was that he received, at what point he realized that his government was losing control over the events and why he thinks the socialist Eastern Bloc eventually lost the Cold War.
  • Emeritus Professor Wolfgang Emmerich, University of Bremen, leading West German expert on GDR literature, talked about how and why he re-wrote his standard book on GDR literature after 1990 and how he was criticized for that (as being a political opportunist). He also gave an insight into personal relations between intellectuals and writers in East and West, sadly describing debates with some of his East German friends/writers who were less enthusiastic about the reunification than he was.
  • Prof. Philipp Kneis, Oregon State University, and I reported for the students how we experienced the fall of the wall as teenagers. Our biographies, memories, and perspectives were not entirely the same, which hopefully was interesting for the students to understand. For instance, Prof. Kneis was in the church community (unusual in the GDR) and described the role of the church in the revolution of 1989.

Sessions on Wende novels:

  • For the meetings in which we discussed literary texts, all four authors of the novels we read were so kind to accept the invitation to participate and talk to our students: Jens Sparschuh, Jens Wonneberger, Bernd Schirmer, Kerstin Hensel.
  • We discussed passages in their texts and asked them questions about their ideas behind it, or what they think about our interpretations. They shared intriguing insights into the writing process, disclosed some hidden allusions in the texts, their biographical background and how they as writers experienced the upheavals of 1989 and later on, including difficulties in a completely changed literary sphere.

I am happy to say that remote online teaching is working much better than expected. It is not the “real deal,” but it works. And it was great to see our students regularly at least on screen. Of course, it demanded a quick adaptation to a new system, format, and way of teaching – but where would it be more adequate (and easy) to master such an adjustment than in a seminar about the monumental societal changes that occurred in East Germany in and after 1990…?

Sad Good-Bye in Corona Times

Janine Ludwig

Despite the rapid developments in the Covid-19 crisis and although some students had already left Bremen, we still had a small farewell dinner in the prestigious Bremer Ratskeller to say good-bye in a proper fashion.

Besides, we are still working flat out to get everyone home safely and to insure academic conintuity, t.i. to help each student to still make the most of this very unusual semster. Preparations for online courses are underway!

Academic Internship

by Corson Ellis ’21

IHMG conference  © J. Ludwig

From March until August of 2019, I helped the International Heiner Müller Society (IHMG) and Dr. Ludwig, the Academic Director for Dickinson in Bremen, with her work on the role of women in the works of Heiner Müller, a famous East German playwright, poet, essayist, and dramaturge. I attended two conferences (on Heiner Müller, organized by the IHMG, and Bertolt Brecht, organized by the International Brecht Society), helped translation, gathered research materials, digitized documents, and had the opportunity to get an article published in the IBS’s online journal “Communications” (ecibs). It was a formative experience, teaching me about time management, self-discipline, and the amount of work that is required in academia (it was a lot more than I had ever thought). Having already held a job in the US, the internship in Germany showed me in greater detail the difference between German and US work environments.

IHMG Conference, March 2019 © J. Ludwig

Above all else, the conferences left a great impression on me. It helped me realize that even in field of the study of a single east German intellectual, there can be a great variety of perspectives and debate. I saw people who were passionately engaged in debate that remained civil and friendly, while constantly looking at Müller’s or Brecht’s works in a new light. It helped me develop my own ability, especially in an academic context, of looking at concepts or artistic works from multiple perspectives and trying to figure out not just what the author intended, but also how a play about the Haitian revolution can provide an insight into modern politics in the USA.

Prof. Dr. Florian Vaßen, IHMG, in Hannover

Theater play in conjunction with IHMG’s Müller conference in Hannover









IBS Conference in Leipzig, June 2019 © Raffaelle Di Tizio

I spent 6 months in Germany, yet the time flew by, and before I knew it my internship was over, my finals completed, my bank account closed, and my rental bike returned. The time that you have to spend abroad is fleeting, and I encourage everyone to take the risks that I did. Try to get an internship, take a class you might not normally take, go on a Flix bus ride for 20 hours. Dickinson makes sure that you have all of the tools to have a once in a lifetime experience while in Germany, and it is up to you to seize that chance.

Nature Ranking: University of Bremen among the best worldwide

© University of Bremen

International top spot for the University of Bremen in natural sciences – Their scientists are among the best from young universities worldwide. The renowned Nature Index ranks them 18th of 175 universities under the age of 50. The Nature Index 2019 Annual Tables highlights the institutions and countries which dominated research in the natural sciences in 2018. The ranking provides important criteria for benchmarking universities and research facilities, and therefore indicates the international research quality.

“I am delighted that the University of Bremen has achieved such a good ranking worldwide and at the same time holds the top position among the young German universities,” says Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter, Rector of the University of Bremen. “This shows how strong our scientists are in research.”

Top-quality research output in Earth and environmental sciences 

In the special field Earth and environmental sciences the University of Bremen takes the 3rd place, leading the group of the 14 young universities from Germany. Professor Michael Schulz, director of MARUM – center for Marine and Environmental sciences of the University of Bremen, is pleased by the top spot: “The research with focus on ocean, polar, and climate sciences is top notch in Europe.”


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Film Night: “Free to Rock – How Rock & Roll Helped End the Cold War”

by Zoey Tu ‘21

On November 13, a film event was held by the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen, at the suggestion of the U.S. Consulate General Hamburg. It was also a featured event for all students who take German 340 “Comparative Cultures: USA-Germany.” In addition to the required reading materials in class, which mainly focused on political issues, the film offered a distinctive perspective of the American cultural influence in the communist world from the 1950s to the 1990s – how soft power played a significant role during the Cold War.

Doug Yeager, the producer of this documentary film, attended the event and was interviewed after the film by Dr. Janine Ludwig, Academic Director of our program. Yeager gave insights about his motivation for making this documentary and emphasized again the huge but unconscious power of music as well as other kinds of popular culture. He talked about the twelve-year process for the team to complete this documentary, which includes interviews with Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States, and Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, who both realized the significant role of rock bands in the USSR and recognized the idea of freedom behind this specific music genre.

The 60-minute film introduced how rock music influenced the young generations in East Germany and the Soviet Union, explained how it was banned in the socialist world, and how it contributed to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. When rock music first came to the socialist world, it won great popularity among the youth. It awoke and inspired the young generations to demand the right to listen and play the music they loved and the right to express themselves freely. However, the idea of rock music – freedom and rebellion – was against the authoritarian governance of the Soviet Union.

It was a battle between two different ideologies: Democracy and Commu-nism. The US government hoped that rock music could be used as a certain means of propaganda. Looking at the results, this type of cultural propaganda was effective. The dissatisfaction among the Soviet public due to the censorship of rock music eventually led to movements as well as riots between the youth and the police, urging for freedom of expression. The idea of freedom, represented by rock music, also widely spread to the Baltic countries, since they demanded independence from Soviet control as well.

All pictures: © Calvin Wirfel

Compared to other factors, the soft power of pop culture has been less discussed in public discourse when analyzing the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, it is an area that is worth further research. Therefore, the influence of US pop culture is included in the syllabus of the German 340 class, taught by Dr. Ludwig, and will be discussed further. Moreover, besides the required readings and the class discussion, the film is also a good supplement for the students to gain a better understanding of different cultural influences.

Please hear a sound bite here:

Please find the link to the movie presentation here: https://www.freetorockmovie.com/

and the poster here: Poster Free2Rock Bremen rev.0

A cooperation between the William G. and Elke Durden Dickinson Bremen Program, U.S. Consulate General Hamburg (specifically Dr. Susanne Wiedemann, Cultural Affairs Assistant), Carl Schurz German-American Club (specifically Ulf-Brün Drechsel, Vice President), the University of Bremen, especially the department English Speaking Cultures (specifically Dr. Karin Esders-Angermund), and the Institute for Cultural German Studies (ifkud).

Finding a WG

by Liam Pauli ’21

In deciding to come to Bremen for the fall semester, I thought a lot about the chance to live in a Wohngemeinschaft (WG), a shared flat with other German students. It was an opportunity that I felt I could not refuse, but I assumed that since I was leaving Germany in January, it would be hard to make that living situation work. It was not until this past June when Ms. Mertz, our Dickinson-in-Bremen program coordinator, emailed us recommending that we try to live in a WG. I thought it would be a good idea, so I pursued it.

From the links she provided us (here below), I chose to apply through wg-gesucht.de. From approximately 15 WG applications, I got six replies, with one being my final choice. And it was probably the best decision I have made in Bremen so far. My WG is near the University of Bremen in the Studentenwohnheim on Vorstraße, which is a great location to commute from by bike to the university (and my bike was left to me by the former occupant of my room). The guy who used to live in my room is studying abroad as well, which made it very easy for me to live in his room while he is away (these types of rooms are called “zur Zwischenmiete”). The 6 tram line is a 5 minute walk from my WG, which gets me directly downtown in approximately 15 minutes.

I have five flatmates, four of which are German, and they speak German with me every day and correct me when needed. It’s great to have other people around too, but it’s also really nice to have my own furnished (möbliert) room and space. Our WG gets along really well and we have a chore list that we rotate through each week. Every week on Sundays, a different person cooks for everyone to have a Sunday “family” dinner. WG life really gets you immersed in the German culture by seeing how Germans, and specifically German students, live, eat, speak, and go about their daily lives. I would highly recommend living in a WG to anyone considering living in one.







https://www.stw-bremen.de/de/wohnanlagen-bremen/wohnanlage-horn-lehe (scroll to the end to find free rooms)

https://www.stw-bremen.de/de/wohnanlagen-bremen/wohnanlage-weidedamm (scroll to the end to find free rooms)

https://www.stw-bremen.de/de/wohnanlagen-bremen/wohnpark-am-fleetspittaler-stra%C3%9Fe (scroll to the end to find free rooms)

https://www.stw-bremen.de/de/wohnanlagen-bremen/wohnpark-am-fleetvorstra%C3%9Fe (scroll to the end to find free rooms)

https://www.stw-bremen.de/de/wohnanlagen-bremen/wohnpark-luisental-28-29 (scroll to the end to find free rooms)

Summarizing Bremen 2018-19

by Corson, Liz, James, and Jack ’20

“The best thing about studying abroad in Bremen is the degree of freedom that one has. The German school system and the Dickinson in Germany program emphasize individual study and initiative, which meant that I was able to study the topics that interested me at a pace and timing that worked for me, allowing me to strike my own balance between work, social life, and travel.” >Corson Ellis<

“With Dickinson in Bremen I realized I was capable of being so much more independent and self-reliant than I previously thought. The program really encourages students to take agency in their abroad experience, as well as exercise their German-language skills to the fullest extent with which they are able.” >Liz Bodenman<

“To sum up my experience in Bremen, I am really glad I went. The Dickinson Program was very well run and helped a lot. I believe that I learned much and it was a very important experience that I will never forget.” >James Moore<

“Being away from Germany, the good times of training in both English and German come back to my mind and remind me how Bremen has treated me so well. And I wish to say goodbye and thank you to Bremen from the bottom of my heart. Good morning and good night Bremen, I hope to visit you again very soon.” >Jack Xia<

Biking in Bremen 2019

by Jack Xia ’20

This is a verdict from a person who grew up in Beijing, a city of 20 million people. It is a recollection of my exchange semester at Bremen. To summarize, I want to show you how Bremen blossoms in different seasons. As the Germans say, there is no wrong weather, you’re wearing the wrong cloth.

Bremen was in its February winter when I arrived. The gloomy days and rainy weather definitely affected me in the early days. But I soon adapted after restocking my wardrobe with some wind breakers and rain proof jackets. I learned to compensate the rain with warm coffee or hot soup. Also, the weather makes studying inside GW2 and the Dickinson room more enjoyable because I appreciated the serenity much more. The mist and drizzle on the stone roads by the Roland statue add to Bremen’s charm as a romantic, fairy-tale city. The winter days passes slowly but surely. I noticed the sun sets at a later time too. Eventually the weather was warm enough that the flowers blossomed at the Botanika. I could walk to Rewe instead of biking. At one time, I woke up overheated because there was no air conditioning. In contrast to the weather, I had a much more predictable and reliable bike.

The relationship between my bike and myself would be best characterized as one of companionship. Our short but nonetheless unforgettable journey is one of love and pure enjoyment. And I have nothing but appreciation for it. My bike in the special army green livery has been more than forgiving. When I rode it back on a cold February day, it had a subtle presence of reliability and perseverance. Indeed, these are rare adjectives to be used for something as simple as a bicycle. But riding on that bike gave me a feeling of confidence and pureness, and I would trust it as a war horse. It’s that feeling when you get a used baseball glove or a pair of hockey skates from your dad or uncle; it wants you to use it, instead of treating it like a garage queen. Perhaps because of this sense of dependability, I decided to use my bike to its full potential. I had it serviced three times for tire and light change. Swapfiets is the Dutch company that I’ve rented my bike from for fifteen euros per month. It promotes the Danish love of bicycling through providing rental service in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Denmark. To standout and to relate to its Danish origin, Swapfiets’ bikes can be easily distinguished by the iconic front blue tire and the Dutch style bucket support on the front wheel. The word “Fiets” in Dutch means bicycle, which also rhymes with the English word “feet”. This self-explanatory name invites people to substitute their foot with bikes from the bike company.

In my humble opinion, biking in Bremen has been very enjoyable because of the relatively small size of the city. Tram 4 and 6 are the two trams that’s close to my WG. I follow number 6 to get to the inner city of Bremen and tram 4 to get to my gym. I usually follow the route to Schwachhauser Straße and turn left on Kirchbach Straße and with zigzagging in a community on to Fredrick Straße. My Thai boxing gym is located right by the station “Am Hulsberg”, so I follow this direction at least twice a week to train. At Carabao I became a friend to my trainer Julius, also a Uni Bremen student. We would talk about school, about our plans for future and just about anything and everything while we train. Being away from Germany, the good times of training in both English and German come back to my mind and remind me how Bremen has treated me so well.

Biking becomes even more enjoyable when it is a group activity. Together with Corson, James and Sandi, we explored so many parts of Bremen. We biked from the Osterdeich to the Westliches Hollerland. Eating out was also fun because we biked there together and back. While biking, I’ve learned that Bäckerei Otten has above the standard croissants, Eis Molin has amazing Nutella flavored ice creams and the Dim Sum Haus near the Hbf cures my lust for food from home. Some might expect Bremen to be homogenous in sense of culture. But I strongly disagree. The range of culinary experience one can find is surprising. To name a few, one can find authentic Greek, Turkish, Philipino and Afghani food.

A majority of my experience is closely attached with my bike. I enjoy biking. I enjoy the breeze when I pedal. I enjoy my control of the bike. I am able to capture and remember the neighborhoods, as I bike past the buildings, the bus stops and the ice cream parlors. In the present days when efficiency is so emphasized and applauded for, to bike is somewhat against this philosophy and to be different. I also ride bicycles in Beijing, but only as a mean of transport. In Bremen, however, biking becomes enjoyable and entertaining. Therefore, I hope to use this blog as a way to reflect and commemorate my six months in Bremen, as my memories are inseparable with my swap Fiets. And I wish to say goodbye and thank you to Bremen from the bottom of my heart. Good morning and good night Bremen, I hope to visit you again very soon.