Berlin Excursion January 2019

Stasi

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

We visited the Stasi Museum and prison. We learned about the operations of Stasi, and how involved they were in East and somewhat West Germany. In the museum, we saw how many files they had for each individual, e.g. what they bought, where they lived, where they worked, what facial features they had, etc. We looked at the technology they used to spy on others and how outdated it seems today. Our tour guide also explained how Stasi members were trained, and how they would spy on people such as going into their apartments when the family was away. The tour guide did a great job of explaining how big of an influence the Stasi was, and how much bigger they were than other organizations such as the Gestapo. We also visited a Stasi prison and the tour guide was falsely imprisoned. He showed us all the prison rooms and he shared his experiences. He explained the circumstances and situations in the prison really well, such as sanitary conditions, the mental, physical, and emotional abuse.  The tour guide shared his own experience of how he was captured, and how it was a struggle to have a normal life after being in prison for so long when he was finally released.

 

B.K. and Christa Tragelehn

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

After a few days in Berlin learning about the living conditions in East Germany, on Saturday, January 13th, we had the pleasure of meeting a man and his wife who had, as I like to put it, lived the full East German experience. They had lived not only through the everyday difficulties in the GDR, but through the specialized difficulties of being at the center of a theater scandal. Theater Director, author, and translator B.K. Tragelehn, an older, kind-eyed gentleman who enjoys stroking his cat and smoking cigars, welcomed us into his warm and cozy apartment for a chat and “Kaffee und Kuchen.” As we entered, his wife began serving us immediately, being the perfect hostess, and letting us gawk at the 18,000 books that covered their walls.

Christa & B.K. Tragelehn (middle) with group (Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi, Dr. Falk Strehlow)

Gently puffing away at his cigar, Herr Tragelehn recounted the pinnacles of his life. Being a child in Dresden whose family was subjected to the WWII bombings (firestorm). Befriending and working alongside famous playwrights Bertolt Brecht, Erich Engel, and Heiner Müller. Meeting his wife for the first time (who he has been with for over fifty-five years). And perhaps most fascinating, being sentenced to work in the coal mines after directing the

B.K. Tragelehn with Liz

GDR-critical play Die Umsiedlerin in 1961. His wife chipped into the story too, explaining how difficult it was to live on little money, trying to make ends meet while her husband toiled in the mines.

Visiting the Tragelehns was my favorite part of Dickinson in Bremen’s Berlin excursion. It was truly awesome to meet such kind Berliners who were willing to give us a glimpse into the East German world. It was a very valuable, memorable experience.

 

Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi (from left) at the German Historical Museum

 

WG Life

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

Deciding to live in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft) was one of the best decisions I’ve made during my study abroad experience in Bremen thus far, if not THE best. There are several reasons I’ll urge you to find a WG in place of living in the Studentenwohnheime that Dickinson guarantees, but here are the main three:

  1. Community

Upon my arrival in Bremen I was tired, confused, and nervous to begin my new life. But all those feelings vanished when I first walked through the door of my WG, greeted with a hug and a ‘Willkommen zu Hause’ from my new flat mates. Since that first day, the two young women and three young men who live with me have been nothing but helpful, supportive, and uplifting. They make coming back to the WG feel like coming home. You won’t be able to find this living alone in the Studentenwohnheim.

  1. Language Practice & Utilization

The five other young people I live with are German and have agreed with speak only German with me in order to help enhance my skills. Though sometimes it is difficult to wake up at 6am and speak auf Deutsch with whomever I encounter in the kitchen, it has really pushed me to improve my language skills. I highly recommend when searching for a WG, you try to live with Germans who are willing to help you with your speaking skills.

  1. Location

My WG is located in the Neustadt, an up-and-coming part of Bremen full of students, immigrants and young families who make it a vibrant, yet homey place to live. I am an easy bike ride away from the Altstadt, Hauptbahnhof, Viertel, and the Weser. While Horn, the area in which the Studentenwohnheime are located, is nice, it doesn’t begin to compare to other parts of Bremen such as Neustadt.

Now that I have convinced you that WG life is the way to go in Bremen, here are the best places to find a WG:

Viel Erfolg und viel Spaß!

Thanksgiving Dinner

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

On November 24, 2018, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Germans who accompanied us. Everyone at the event wore formal clothes like suits and dresses. Before dinner, we introduced ourselves to other friendly Germans. The organizer of the event, the President of the Carl Schurz German-American Club Neil van Siclen, introduced himself. Then, we could select our food from a variety of options. There were green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, casseroles, turkey etc. that came along with a salad bar.  You were welcome to eat as much as you can (I had four plates). There was vegan and vegetarian friendly food as well. While we ate, everyone introduced themselves to the table and had conversations with each other. It was mostly German, but we could also speak English when something was too difficult to translate. The table was diverse with people from different age groups and from different areas of Germany. After the meal, we played a little quiz game with prizes. The Dickinson participants were really good: three of the four contestants received a prize. At the end of the evening, people went to the bar and ordered some drinks. It was a nice evening where we made some fun memories.

Cooking in Bremen

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

One of the biggest differences between being a student at Dickinson and a student in Bremen is the access to healthy eating. While Dickinson has multiple difference spots on campus from which students can quickly get nutritious ready-made snacks and meals, Uni Bremen only has a few eating spots with limited open hours. Therefore, it is impossible to depend solely on the university to provide oneself with food, making cooking an essential skill to have when studying in Germany.

To ease the transition of going from American convenience to German independence, the Durden Dickinson in Bremen Program provided us with a professional cooking instructor and a night of fun food experimentation! To add to the experience, Uni Bremen students interested in studying at Dickinson for the year were invited to cook with us, thus making it not only a time to learn new cooking skills, but also meet new people and further enhance our German speaking skills.

After spending the evening shopping for ingredients, bustling around the kitchen, and enjoying the fruits of our labor together, we concluded that cooking is far easier and more enjoyable than it may seem for those of us who are beginners (or let’s face it…those who are too lazy to make a nice meal after class).

Bremen for Runners

by Ben Soder ’19

Bürgerpark

Getting Started: Bremen is quite a nice city for running. The fields to the north of the city, the Bürgerpark, and trails along the Weser are great scenic places to train. Additionally, you will never share a busy road with cars, given the great biking/waking infrastructure in the city. All in all, you can’t go wrong running in Bremen!

 

 

Here are links to some good runs from the apartments on Spittaler Strasse:

5 miles through Blockland: https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200125871

Run to the 1 mile race course in the Burger Park (soft surfaces): https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200129711

10 mile run through Bremen: https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200133767

Stadtwaldsee (lake with great swimming): https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200135885

These are some good starting points that will lead to areas of Bremen that are definitely worth exploring. One of my favorite things to do while abroad in Bremen was to find new places to run. Don’t be fooled when you step off your train or bus when you first get to Bremen… There is much more to the city than the Hauptbahnhof!

 

Cross Country/Track in Germany:

Now, the previously mentioned routes are great and all, but you will get very bored out there running alone. There is no track or cross-country program affiliated with the University of Bremen. Instead of running for the University, you will have to join a club if you want to join a formal team. Of all the clubs in Bremen, your best option is ATS-Buntentor. Marian Skalecki coaches a competitive group cross country and track runners. For further information, visit the Buntentor website (https://www.atsbuntentor.de/sportangebot/laufen.html) and/or contact Marian (Director Ludwig has the email address). The German Cross-Country season starts in October, so if you would like to compete, it is recommended that you come in with at least some summer base training and join the team immediately when you get to Bremen in late September/early October. This club is not only a place to train and compete, but also a great place to work on your German skills and meet some awesome people!

Besides, the Bremer Nachtlauf (Bremen Night Run) happens every May – a great, friendly, fun event. Dickinson students have joined and ran 5 or 10 k through the city center. Up-to-date infos on other running competitions in Bremen and vicinity can be found here: http://www.runme.de/wettkaempfe/bremen/

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving and 4th July in Bremen

by Stefani Zaharieva ’19

Over this past year, the Carl Schurz German-American club in Bremen organised two big events which we were able to attend. We had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving and Independence Day with the German-American community of Bremen. 

The Thanksgiving dinner was on the fancier side and everyone dressed up. The meal was really good and even upon our arrival we were greeted with sugar cookies in the form of pumpkins and a glass of champagne. We talked with some of the German guests including students who were in their senior year in high school. So if you are coming to Bremen this coming fall and are sad to miss Cafsgiving as well as real Thanksgiving dinner with your family, don´t worry. The Bremen program has it all figured out and you will have the chance to celebrate this special day even abroad. 

The 4th of July was a casual celebration – a dinner in the style of picnic. We all brought food with us and shared. It was potluck style, and Molly and I brought watermelon since that is the perfect dessert for those hot summer days. We have been extremely lucky with the weather this past semester – a lot of sunny and warm days thanks to which we really started loving Bremen. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, and it was nice to have one last get together before everyone starts leaving. 

Internship at BIZME

by Molly Burger ’19

Kneipenquiz

Messe DRAUSSEN

Over this past “Semesterferien,” the two months break from classes in February and March, I interned at the Bremen Information Center for Human Rights and Development (biz). I knew I wanted to have an internship in Bremen even before arriving here and was lucky enough to find out about biz after skyping with Janine Ludwig and telling her about my interests. Biz ended up being a perfect match for me. Everyone there was super friendly and willing to explain something if I didn’t understand it (usually because of the language barrier). I spent most mornings in the main office area attending meetings, or assisting with various tasks, and most

WeltWeitWissen-Kongress, May 2018 in Bremen

afternoons I was in the information center/biz library where I assisted visitors and worked on small projects. Even though there was a certain pattern that I fell into, there were always events, such as a “Kneipenquiz,” the “Messe DRAUSSEN,” and the “Weltweit Wissen-Konferenz” taking place. Through my time at biz I was able to learn more about international development and what working for an NGO would be like, as well as improve my German.

Further info: https://www.bizme.de/

Vienna Excursion – Café Culture and Food

by Kyu Ri Hong

The first thing that comes up in my mind whenever I think of Vienna is coffee and food. There are so many options for good food and coffee and desserts in the city. While we were in Vienna for a little over a week, I was able to experience the café culture as well as try many traditional dishes. Upon arrival, we went to a traditional Viennese Restaurant called “Restaurant Vienna” where I ordered the Wiener Schnitzel vom Kalb. The Wiener Schnitzel is a deep fried, tender-hammered meat (it has to be veal to be called “Viennese;” if it is pork, it will be cheaper and only called “Schnitzel”) and is usually garnished with a slice of lemon. Depending on where you go, you could also get a side of potatoes, a mixed salad, or cranberry sauce. For dessert, I ordered a typical Viennese pastry: Apfelstrudel, and it usually comes with warm vanilla sauce and powdered sugar on top.

Ordering a coffee at a Viennese café is not as easy. For example, when ordering a latte, you should ask for a ‘Melange’ instead of ‘Kaffee mit Milch.’  To get the whole Vienna café culture experience, I went to a traditional café called “Hawelka.” When ordering a beverage at a café in Vienna, you are always served a glass of water with it, which I thought was great because usually in Europe, you have to buy your own glass of water; it is rare for people to ask for tap water. Hawelka is one of the oldest cafes in the city and is usually crowded with both locals and tourists, just like it was when I went to get my cup of hot chocolate. Nevertheless, the waiters were nice and the hot chocolate was delicious.

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, recent events, 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.

Dr. Hans Modrow

In December, we visited Berlin, where we learned much about German politics. One of the most exciting experiences was when we met Dr. Hans Modrow, an East German politician who experienced WW II and was the last communist premier of the GDR. 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.