“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.

                            

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.

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.wg-gesucht.de/wg-zimmer-in-Bremen.17.0.1.0.html

https://www.studenten-wg.de/angebote_lesen.html?detailsuche=aus&stadt=Bremen&fuer=Zimmer+in+WG

http://bremen.homecompany.de/

http://www.bremer-oekumenisches-wohnheim.de/de/kontakt/

http://schwarzesbrett.bremen.de/verkauf-angebote/rubrik/wohngemeinschaftsangebote-verkauf.html

http://twentyfirst.apartments/en/twenty-first-bremen-2/

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.

Urban Gardening in Delmenhorst

by Liz Bodenman ’20

Over the course of the Spring Semester, I had the pleasure of participating in an Urban Gardening course called “Projekt Seminar Wollepark,” in which students would travel to the nearby town of Delmenhorst once a week and participate in a project to help improve the conditions of the public park. 20 students in total, we were expected to break up into groups and come up with projects according to our interests. My group was interested in the perception of Garden Culture, and what certain people idealize when imagining their perfect garden. The idea behind this was to go to Delmenhorst and ask its residents (who are a very diverse group of immigrants and refugees) to draw what they pictured the perfect garden to be. Every week for 12 weeks we would go and ask different people to draw for us; the end result was a published photo book containing pictures of the drawings and participants, as well as a summary of our findings.

I enjoyed this course because it was a break from the normal university curriculum and offered an opportunity that Dickinson does not offer. I was able to go out into a community I was unfamiliar with, practice my German, and befriend other “Ausländer” like myself who were starting a new life here. It was also very interesting to learn about permaculture, building structures to attract certain insects desirable for the garden in the town center that the class helped maintain, and develop a basic understanding of urban planning. In the future, I highly recommend students take this course if it is added again. Otherwise, for those with an interest in gardening, urban planning, or simply volunteering with children and the elderly, take the 10-minute train to Delmenhorst and stop by the Nachbarschaftszentrum Wollepark. You will surely be welcomed with open arms. Wollepark Website: http://www.wollepark.de/

Kurth-Voigt and Bremen: My Opportunity to Explore my Passion

by Liz Bodenman ’20

In the first semester of my time at Uni Bremen, I had the privilege of utilizing funds granted to me through the Dickinson German department’s Kurth-Voigt Research Prize. Securing the grant required me to formulate a viable research question and plan with which to explore possible answers. My question, though still unanswered, pertains to the vegan and vegetarian movements in Bremen and Germany as a whole. How are these two movements so successful in a country that hails meat and dairy in nearly all its traditional cuisines? Though I was not going to get a satisfying answer during the few months I lived in Bremen, I was able to expand my mind through attending two exciting events, funded by Kurth-Voigt.

My start-up workshop. Photo creds to Momentum Novum (the runner of the conference)

First I was able to participate in a three day sustainability conference in Heidelberg, where I attended several different workshops pertaining to food consciousness and the environment, where themes on vegan/vegetarianism echoed throughout. During the conference every participant took part in one block workshop where they worked in groups to formulate a project. My block workshop pertained to the world of ‘start-ups,’ taking us through all the steps necessary to have a successful start-up, then having us present a start-up of our own creation at the closing ceremony. The conference was very international, but getting the German perspective on sustainability proved invaluable for the ways in which I would view German vegan and vegetarian organizations/companies. Then to get an idea of which companies and organizations existed in Germany, I did a bit of digging and found another event useful in exploring my question.

On the way to the Veggienale Fair in Frankfurt

This next event was a day-long ‘Vegginale: Ecological Fair’ in Frankfurt. These Vegginale Fairs are held throughout the year in the major cities across Germany, featuring different national and international organizations and companies relating to sustainability. There is a specific emphasis on veganism and animal rights at these conferences, as vegan/vegetarian activists typically go hand-in-hand with purely environmental activists. Stands were occupied by everything from clean energy firms to a couple selling their homemade vegan honey. The diversity of the content at Veggienale was a good representation of how many ways Germans choose to express care for sustainability and equal rights for all beings.

If I had decided to continue my research project and use the remainder of my grant funds, I could have gone on a few more trips in which to learn about and observe the vegan/vegetarian movements in Germany. My curiosity on the topic remains open, and I plan on exploring it to some extent during my final two years at Dickinson. The Kurth-Voigt is a wonderful opportunity for Dickinson students of German who are curious about an aspect of German life, society or culture and wish to explore it further.

 

Community Service at Retirement Home

by Sandi Kadric ’20

Every Tuesday at 3pm, a group of Dickinson students visited the retirement home in Bremen to talk to four over 90-year-old women. The women came from different areas in Germany such as Bremen, Berlin, a town in now present-day Poland, and a town in the vicinity of Dresden. They talk about their times growing up in the Nazi regime, running from the Russian soldiers, or any consequences that resulted from the second World War. They are not afraid to give insight on personal, tragic stories as they are instantly comfortable with sharing with you since you walk in the door. However, the content is not always heavy as sometimes they fast forward to present day and talk about their families, pets, cooking, etc. The environment is always open and friendly as we always treat ourselves to coffee and cookies.

The women are still mentally sharp for the hour and a half, sometimes two-hour meetings. They want to get to know us well, so it leads to free-flowing conversations. Sometimes it is difficult to understand their German by not knowing some of the words; however, there is a worker that accompanies us who helps us understand the content and is able to translate us in English if ever needed. Speaking to these women gave an insight into the German identity, and it always put a smile on their faces as well as the Dickinson students.

GRMN 340: Comparative Cultures

When I first enrolled into the course, I was skeptical at what we would be discussing, because as an American raised in the 21st century, I’ve never had to think much about Germans in the context of American culture. I appreciated the way this course was able to go through every major era in U.S. history, speaking about the German presence in each. I also enjoyed hearing more about the German perspective on America (as I’ve never really thought before what Germans think of us… I had no idea how Americanized Germany is, but it makes sense considering the U.S. occupied Germany for many years). It was nerve-racking to complete a 15-minute presentation ‘auf Deutsch,’ but I’m grateful I was able to get some practice before completing presentations in other classes. Overall, I feel like a I learned a lot from the course and enjoyed it very much. >Liz Bodenman<

I really enjoyed the course “Kultur heißt vergleichen: USA / Deutschland.” It was very challenging for me to read long texts in German, but it improved my knowledge of the language greatly. Overall, I learned a lot in this course, and I especially enjoyed studying German-American migration patterns. The trip to Bremerhaven was helpful and informative. I also enjoyed learning about the impact of American and Western culture in the GDR. >Malou Planchard<

I really liked the seminar because I learned a lot about the relationship between Germany and the US that I didn’t know before. It was great to learn about this changing relationship over the course of history and how its developments have influenced our thinking today. Moreover, we had a lot of interesting discussions which were very informative and a great place for exchange of ideas and opinions especially since all the attendees were from different countries. >Isabell Hamm<

I thought the course was really insightful for the relationship between the US and Germany. I liked that we started in the 19th century because most people often start with World War I and omit the immigration influx. Also, I liked looking through the lens of pop culture throughout the 20th century because in America, we only focus on the political tensions. It was unique to also read it from a German perspective of how they viewed cultural traits and where did they come. I thought the discussions went well as we had good debates, and Dr. Ludwig furthered the discussion. >Sandi Kadric<

Roaring Twenties

I enjoyed learning about the stereotypes both America and Germany have formed on one another. I also enjoyed learning about how German people emigrated to America in search of “The American Dream” as I think that this mentality was still as prominent in recent years as it was over 200 years ago. However, my favorite part of the seminar was discussing more recent historical aspects (1920’s-present). Anti-war protests, “the roaring twenties” and women’s rights movements particularly interested me. I also enjoyed learning about Iraq and Palestine and perhaps how the media influences a great deal of what we view on television/in the media. Finally, it was great learning a different approach on how to read articles/pieces of writing. I now know the importance in not believing everything I read as there are many factors to take into consideration such as the writers’ viewpoint/sources which influence what we read. >Amy Hughes<

What interested me the most about this seminar was the content specifically. There was a lot of material and texts given for the students to learn, in more detail, about the topics discussed. This was extremely helpful in understanding each topic every week. Personally, I found the topic I done my presentation on the most intriguing because of how much more I learned by all my research in order to understand as much as I could for my presentation. Overall, I learned an unbelievable amount of content about each topic which in turn, made me very interested in this module. I enjoyed this seminar immensely throughout the semester. >Lisa Doyle<

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