The German university year is divided into a winter semester that starts at the middle or end of October and ends at the beginning of February and a summer semester that begins in early April and ends in mid-July. Each semester students can choose courses from a variety of different academic subjects and classes (5 courses are possible only with an overload). Different types of classes are available, including lectures (indicated with V for Vorlesung) and seminars (with S). Dickinson students have a choice of classes within 12 departments and 142 programs.
Shortly after arrival and settling into Bremen, students meet with the Academic Director to discuss their academic plans and objectives. The purpose of these meetings is to finalize the enrollment process, with the help and advice of the Academic Director, while remaining flexible in determining their semester schedules. At this time students can express their needs in regard to their specific major, minor, and distribution requirements, all of which can often also be fulfilled at Uni Bremen. Students may seek academic guidance at any time and are asked to meet with the Academic Director periodically to discuss their progress. Full-year students are obligated to take part in German 340, which is a comparative culture course specific to the U.S. and Germany and is taught by the Academic Director. The academic orientation is also intended to help the students’ transition into a different academic culture.
In contrast to Dickinson the University of Bremen has not only a larger campus, but it also has approximately 10 times as many students. While being a University of Excellence, Uni Bremen is also a public university. This means larger classes and a different norm for student-professor and student-student interactions. Lectures tend to be larger, some with more than 100 students, whereas seminars are usually restricted to a class size of 25 students. Most classes meet once a week, and like at Dickinson, each professor has his or her own attendance policy. Professors and lecturers expect their students to work independently to build upon the information they gain in the classroom each week. This often means finding additional materials and reading beyond the syllabus or in-class materials. In addition to this, university students are expected to learn in a “self-reliant” manner. There are fewer tests and assignments throughout semester and instead students often give one oral presentation per seminar and are required to complete a final test or paper, upon which their entire course grade is dependent.
The common “European Credit Transfer System” (ECTS) is based upon the number of hours in the classroom and the amount of preparation necessary for the work required. In addition to that, it also calculates the amount of time taken for studying, for preparing presentations, and for writing papers. One Dickinson course is equivalent to 6 ECTS “points,” and Dickinson students are expected to take a normal load of 4 courses, or in this case a total of 24 ECTS points. For full-year students the mandatory intensive language course prior to the arrival in Bremen counts as one Dickinson class credit. Only the final grade of the mandatory German 340 is calculated into the GPA, however the other courses and final grades will appear on the transcript.
UNIVERSITY SERVICES AND FACILITIES
The University of Bremen offers a number of services and facilities available to all students. The campus library not only provides one of the largest catalogs in Northern Germany, but also offers quiet work spaces and is staffed with helpful librarians. The university also features a self-learning center for languages and will soon offer a writing center similar to Dickinson’s. Students who have learning disabilities, difficulty adjusting to the academic structure, or other special needs are welcome in the campus psychologists’ office. The Dickinson-in-Bremen Program has a fully-equipped room on campus that is exclusively for Dickinson students. The Dickinson Room is intended as a work space and a convenient place to spend down-time between classes.