Upon the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the William G. and Elke Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen, est. 1985, we put together a short history of the program. See here:
“Change” is possibly the best word to describe our last year here in Bremen, and so much has happened that we are unable to put it into one paragraph. First, Dr. Janine Ludwig took over as as new Academic Director of the program; the former director for one year, Carl Wege, took the chance to lead a research project in Bielefeld. After Dr. Ludwig, accompanied and assisted by Jens Schröder, a Bremen student and Program Coordinator since 2008, made an introductory visit to Dickinson at the end of September, during which we had many meetings and talks with different departments and people, we came back with a basket full of contacts, plans, ideas, requests and wishes. So we slowly started to restructure the program in order to meet these new challenges, to establish closer ties with the University of Bremen, and to improve the overall quality of our students’ stays.
We started small by first improving the Dickinson Room, which acts as our office and is also the place where our students can work and spend time between classes. We are now able to show movies, to invite people or parents over, and to hold video conferences and meetings there. Additionally, we created a media presence around our program, most visibly through our collective blog, where students also have the chance to upload pictures and videos. Of course, we are on Facebook as well ;-).
Dr. Ludwig designed an immensely rich and deep course for our Dickinson and Uni Bremen students that spans 300 years of transatlantic history: “Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” that is part of the German major and listed as German 340 (please see: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/bremen/2018/01/20/german-340-comparative-cultures-usa-germany/).
Furthermore, Dr. Ludwig enhanced and enriched our excursions with stronger academic and historical content, matching students’ general academic interests. Whereas our first excursion to Vienna more generally presented the history of Germany, Austria and Europe, the next field trips where specifically designed according to student interests and majors: in Berlin, for example, we met with the German parliament representative from Bremen, Dr. Carsten Sieling, for a talk about the financial situation in Bremen and the economic crisis.
We also met with Hans-Ulrich Klose, a high-ranking politician and former major of Hamburg, who now serves as the federally appointed Transatlantic Coordinator for German-American partnership. Both visits gave the students unique insight into German politics. On our last excursion, to Brussels, we met with Dr. Helga Trüpel, a Member of the European Parliament who talked about Bremen’s relation to and role within the EU parliament. We visited the EU parliament, the embassy of Bremen and – of course – the Atomium. In each city we also tried to create a balanced program for the students, including time to pursue their own interests and to get to know life in the city itself.
At home, we intensified our ties with the University of Bremen. Very helpful in this process is the new head of the International Office here at the University, Dr. Annette Lang. Our closer cooperation led for example to an invitation for our Dickinson students to attend a private discussion with Auma Obama, half-sister of President Barack Obama. Dr. Ludwig contacted and continues to meet with many people at Uni Bremen, making our program – which formerly had been best known to students from Cultural Studies – more widely known and present on campus and in various departments. Last but not least: Our own cooperation agreement was also renewed this July. President Bill Durden and Rector Wilfired Müller signed the improved agreement which also served as a “birthday” present for our program – this year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our partnership.
A telling sign of the strong relationship between Bremen and Dickinson followed in early July: the first presentation of an honorary degree in Dickinson’s history outside the United States! German writer and poet Günter Kunert was
conferred with the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters here at the University, led by President Durden and attended by Rector Müller, Professor McGaughey (of the Dickinson German Department), students, friends of Dickinson College and members of the university.
But we cannot forget our core responsibility of the program – our students. Among other things, Dr. Ludwig helped our student Kelsey Power to secure an internship at the Psychology Department here in Bremen. For a semester she was involved with the daily routine of the clinic and part of a team that performed diagnostic and therapy sessions as well as statistical tests to generate IQ scores. A valuable insight for a psychology major! (http://blogs.dickinson.edu/bremen/2010/04/26/internship/)
Besides their studies, the students followed their different interests. Andrew Shuman joined a local soccer club where he could continue practicing, as did Braeden Eastman and Thomas Vari with ultimate frisbee; other students went to festivals and travelled across Europe. Brent Te Velde, a program student from Trinity University, was able to enter the music conservatory here in Bremen and continued playing the organ in several nearby churches. And, of course, all students became huge fans of Werder Bremen, the professional local soccer club. They went to matches and training, bought jerseys, and collected autographs. This experience was only topped by the World Cup, where they celebrated every victory Paul the Octopus predicted in the streets with thousands of other Germans, doing so – most importantly – in German and with the German friends they made!
For me, April was an especially awesome month, for even though it meant the beginning of our Sommersemester, it also included my first trek ever into Eastern Europe. However, there was one little catch, and that catch was the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano (pronounced eye-yuff-ohhhhhh-whatever) in Iceland. As I’m sure you all heard, the eruptions from the volcano produced a massive cloud of volcanic ash that slowly crept over Europe and forced the cancelations of thousands of flights each day.
Naturally, the cloud eventually did cause the cancelation of my flight, which I should add was direct from Bremen to Kaunas, Lithuania (a total of maybe 2 hours in the air). Because I had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time, my awesome companion and fellow Dickinsonian Kara Elder (who is studying currently in Moscow) and I quickly agreed that it was necessary to find another means of transportation so that our trip could go through as planned. After some discussion, we eventually decided that we would travel by train, even though this increased the duration of our trips greatly. For Kara, it meant traveling 13 hours by train (around Belarus) from Moscow to Riga, Latvia, and then catching a bus for a 5-hour ride to Kaunas. Loooooong.
Well, not that I want to play the one-up game, but mine was a tad longer and not quite so easy. I boarded the train out of Bremen at 2:17 pm on Tuesday, and after making four connections and riding for 25 hours, I finally reached Kaunas on Wednesday at 4:30 pm. This epic and somewhat scary train ride took me into the heart of Poland and caused me just a bit of grief. Throughout these rides, I was asked by the Polish police to produce my passport, continually worried about missing my connections or whether or not I was traveling in the right direction, and was even gossiped about by two Polish women but in sign language (I glared back at them, but if you ever want to make me feel totally uncomfortable, learn sign language and use it to blatantly communicate with someone about me.). The biggest problem was the communication barrier.
Obviously, the first language there is Polish, and even though I don’t speak a lick of Polish, I didn’t envision this to be a huge problem from the get-go. Before I left, I was taught how to ask politely (in Russian) if one spoke English or German, but whenever I attempted to do this, it was clear that the train conductors did not want to deal with me. Now, I know that my pitiful attempts at “Russian” probably discouraged them from talking to me, and it certainly could have been the fact that very few people with whom I spoke actually knew German or English, but I kind of wondered to myself whether or not this “unwillingness to help” was really a reflection of the public perception in Poland of Russians. I know little on the subject regarding Russian-Polish relations, but I think I know enough to guess that there’s a little reason for some contempt towards Russia amongst the Polish community. Anyways, it wasn’t a huge deal; I was usually able to find one person that could either speak German or English and could help direct me/encourage me that I was headed in the right direction. These trials and tribulations also didn’t detract from the trip as a whole; quite the contrary, for it was lovely traveling across the Polish countryside and being able to see the architecture and general “quality” of the buildings change as I moved further into Eastern Europe.
In Kaunas, I of course met up with my fellow Odysseus and spent a few great days just walking around the city, taking in the crumbling-yet very charming-buildings, the quaint, cobblestone streets, and the general demeanor of the Lithuanian people. While the Lithuanians displayed looks of stiffness and stoicalness when we passed them on the street (which I expected due to reports I had gotten regarding the people of Moscow), they were always very helpful when we needed help or directions or just engaged them in a quick dialogue. They were certainly curious of us. Having spent the past 8-9 months in Moscow, Kara is quite familiar with the look that Eastern Europeans take to be “normal,” if you will, and has little trouble in reproducing it; I, on the other hand, am not and certainly looked foreign to any that passed us on the streets and received a few curious stares (but again, not out of contempt or malice). Needless to say, don’t go wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the words “Biglerville Athletics” across the front; you’re asking to be noticed. Another thing that should be mentioned is the food. Kara and I enjoyed a meal at a typical Lithuanian restaurant, and there we enjoyed dumplings filled with various kinds of meat or fish. While a simple, these meat dumplings were incredible. Covered in creamy mushroom and onion sauces, it wasn’t too much of a task for us to finish each and every last one. Anyways, to make a long story shorter, the trip to Kaunas was simply amazing, and having a little company made it that much better. I’d strongly encourage to visit Eastern Europe, for the area truly has a different feel to it. As for me, I absolutely want to go back one day.
Hello and welcome to the blog of the Bremen-Program!
The new class of students has arrived in Bremen. They came from different German cities where they attended a language camp, among these cities were Dresden, Saarbrücken, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf. Some students even took the chance and went to the Oktoberfest in Munich before coming to Bremen.
But before classes start, the students had to apply for a residence permit, proof of residence, library cards, wireless network passwords and many more things. But the first encounter with German bureaucracy is done and we even found time for a day trip to Hamburg!