Looking Back at a Year in Bremen

by Lee Mottola, ’18


It is really hard to put into words what this year abroad was for me. I guess I’ll start by saying it was real. It was a real experience, it was filled with happiness, laughter, friends and wonder, it was filled with anger, frustration, loneliness and regret. It was everything I needed it to be.

In Bremerhaven, at the North Sea

I arrived in Germany on July 6th, 2016 as a cocky American boy with romanticized expectations for the summer and the year I was about to have. I left Germany on July 28th, 2017, humbled and appreciative of everything my year threw at me, every challenge I had to surmount. From the lowest low of being truly alone, no friends no family and limited ability to talk to those around me in the small Bavarian town of Tegernsee, to challenge of my first days of class at German University, to the realization that the life I had been building over this past year was about to end, there were moments where I was extremely unhappy. But now, being back at Dickinson, every time I’m asked about my time in Germany, without hesitation I say it was the best year in my life. After hearing about the bad times I’m sure that’s hard to believe, but for every time I was down in the dumps there were five I was over the moon with happiness and excitement. My last day on the job as a beer delivery boy and the goodbye everyone at the brewery gave to me, my first time at Oktoberfest, meeting the incredible students and teachers at the University of Bremen, traveling to 13 different countries with friends new and old, scoring my first goal as a member of the Uni Bremen Lacrosse Team, nights spent on my roof with my best friends just talking and being surround by people you love and that you know love you.

Dickinson group and puppet in the emigration museum, on an imitation of a ship to America

All of those great things that happened to me felt so much more satisfying because I knew they were not achieved without effort, without difficulty. I love Bremen, without a doubt. That city gave me so much in the ways of opportunities to study and research incredible topics with engaged and passionate professors, to the friends I made in and outside the classroom, I will be forever thankful for the year I spent there. As I said earlier it’s hard to put the enormous sea of emotions I have about Bremen and Germany into words but I hope you now have some idea about how special this place can be. If I could hit the rewind button and start it all again without knowing what I know now, reliving every difficult moment and every triumphant experience I would, I wouldn’t change a thing about my year abroad because above all else it was real. 

Biology Courses at Uni Bremen

by Katelyn King (’18)

Structure and function of vertebrate is your basic vertebrate biology intro. I specifically remember learning about the parts of an egg and drawing a bird skeleton for lab and dissecting a fish. Lots of labeling the parts of different animals.

Animal diversity had a lot of insects. I remember the professor explaining that every insect plays a role and that’s why she doesn’t even kill a fly. I think this class went through the phylogenetic tree and focused on some of the systematics.

I also took ‘Ecology of the Giant Mountains’ which was mixed undergrad and masters students. It was offered in English and had a week-long trip to Poland for independent research. I collected and pressed wildflowers. That trip happened in May and I was so sad it was at the end. I was able to actually make some friends who invited me to things and were interested in what I had to say even if they had to decipher it. It was a very emotionally and physically challenging trip that pushed me to work on a mountain building trails the summer after graduation.