Conquering the Bremen Night Run (Nachtlauf)

by Riley Robinson ’25

Getting ready for the Bremen night run.

I first heard about the Nachtlauf at the welcome dinner shortly after arriving in Bremen. A former DiB student and Dickinson alumni listed it as a must-do during the spring semester in Bremen. However, the encouragement came with an adamant warning: “ONLY do the 5k”. It made sense at the time, given that I had never run more than a 5k even on a treadmill. However, a few months later, when our Program Coordinator Insa delivered a reminder about the Nachtlauf and how we were to register, I was immediately infatuated with the idea of running a half marathon in Germany. This decision came with a little over a month to go before the race, which, as you know, is simply not enough time to train for something like this when your cardio is in the gutter. Nevertheless, I was able to recruit someone crazy enough to run it with me, fellow DiB student and Vanderbilt representative Grear. 

Throughout the next month, Grear and I trained extensively for the race. Fueled by raw determination, a slight addiction to crunching run times on the Strava app, early mornings, late nights, and a few David Goggins interviews, we were up to half marathon condition in no time. The journey was a surprisingly great way to learn about Bremen as well. It allowed us to experience new areas of the city that had previously been under our radar. Running through the tranquil, picturesque dairy pastures of Blockland offered a much-needed escape from the bustle of city life. And completing final stretches of long runs along the Weser allowed us to soak in the buzz of social life along the grassy fields adjacent to the river, reenergizing us for the final few miles. Before we knew it, race time was near. Despite the Berlin excursion being the week of the race, which obviously isn’t an expert precursor to a half marathon, we were ready. 

Race day. What started out as a beautiful, sunny day, quickly turned into the most violent summer storm we’ve had in the early season. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s the kind of storm I’d be more than content with sitting outside and watching as the rain pours down onto the earth, smelling that fresh scent of summer rain while feeling the cool breeze wash over my face. But that night, I must run 13 miles in it. What made it worse was that it’s the first rain we’d seen in weeks, and it defied the typical Bremen storm (intermittent spurts of light showers) with consistency and heaviness. But nothing comes easy. 

The hum of excitement couldn’t be dampened. The beginning and end of the race was held in the Marktplatz, the plaza front and center of the Dom. The Marktplatz was alive and teaming with racegoers, all in matching blue race shirts and soaking wet from the cold rain, desperately trying to avoid the downpour. Amidst the tents, vendors, and various encampments of people, I located my team (Grear). After a messy rush to check bags and seek shelter, we were in the starting line a little after 8:55 pm. Crammed in with the other racers, we waited in anticipation. At 9:00, the starter gave us the signal. We were off. 

The race was a blur. The route followed the pedestrian walkways alongside the Weser, through city streets slick with rain and dark, and muddy dirt paths with little light. Over bridges and through tunnels crowded with spectators, the rain never let up, and we trudged through puddles and mud in the dark with a thousand others. The one thing I noticed right away is that I was one of the only racers hooting and hollering at the spectators cheering us on. This is the kind of energy I typically bring to these sorts of events, but it fell flat against the silent thud of shoes on the pavement. This was much more of an American way of participating. I’d learned the Germans tend to be quieter and uniformed, and a half marathon was no exception to this attitude. I was still surprised by the lack of excited expression. My favorite part of the race was running through a tunnel under the bridge near the Beck’s factory, where a group of musicians with large drums beat to a driving rhythm that echoed off the walls, creating an acoustic effect that heightened the moment and injected much needed energy. 

Finished the Night Run!

A little under two hours later, around 11:00 pm., we crossed the finish line. As the tiny sparklers went off around the path to the finish line, with crowds cheering us on, an overwhelming sense of accomplishment fell on me. Despite being drenched, chilled, and utterly exhausted, I couldn’t help but embrace the post-race euphoria that hung heavy in the air as we gathered ourselves in the crowd of racers who had finished with us. It was official. The Americans had conquered the Nachtlauf.

 

Exploring Berlin and Weimar!

Found the Brandenburg Gate!

After our trip to Vienna in March, our Spring students now had the great opportunity to do a second excursion. Our destination: Berlin. 

Exploring the Tempelhofer Feld.

 

Gabe, Grear and Riley at Tempelhofer Feld.

Vanderbilt student Grear says: “Berlin was both one of the most unique and diverse cities that Germany has had to offer me. It gave me the opportunity to experience fascinating European history alongside rich international culture.”

 

                                                     

In between museum visits, theater plays, and sightseeing, the students had some free time to explore the city on their own. Gabe McGough finds that “even in a short amount of time, you can find so much cool stuff in Germany just by walking around!”  

On our last full day, we did a day trip to the city of Weimar. This was Abby’s favorite part of the excursion: “It was so interesting to learn about how many important moments in German history took place in that quaint little town. The juxtaposition between its importance in classical literature and its Holocaust related history was especially striking.” 

The Duchess Anna Amalia library in Weimar.

Painting of Goethe at work at the Goethe museum in Weimar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the day, our excursion was a great success, or, in Riley Robinson’s words: “Between nightly adventures within the vibrant Friedrichshain district, being left in awe of the immense historical implications of Checkpoint Charlie, and exploring unique locations such as the abandoned Tempelhof Airport, the week in Berlin left me with one realization: I am not getting into Berghain.”

Becoming a Bremen Town Musician

by Abby Jones ’25

Statue of the Bremen Town Musicians in the city center

When I began telling family and friends about my upcoming study abroad in Bremen, the first response I got was often about the famous Grimm fairy tale “The Bremen Town Musicians.” Although these famous animals never actually made it to Bremen to play music, I have been overjoyed to participate in the music scene during my exchange semester. Playing trombone has been a hobby of mine for the past 11 years, so it was a priority for me to find a way to keep playing while abroad. This has been an invaluable experience for me as a musician, but even more so as a world citizen and language learner. 

The first contacts I made with musicians in Bremen were with members of the Unibigband Bremen, the big band jazz group made up of both community members and students of the university. A musician was kind enough to lend me a trombone free of charge, and I began to attend rehearsals. This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways, making it an incredible learning experience. Although meeting a whole group of new people speaking German was a bit awkward and stressful at first, through the language of music, communication came easily. In the familiar setting of a music rehearsal, speaking German began to become much more fluid for me. Many members were just as nervous about their English as I was about German, creating an environment of working together for mutual understanding. This helped me immensely in getting over my fear of making mistakes when I speak.  

Abby (second to the left) at trombone practice

I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a trombone instructor at the University of the Arts Bremen. Through these one-on-one lessons, I have learned so much both musically and culturally. After so many years of playing trombone, in order to improve, I have to break habits formed from years of experience and try slightly different techniques to get more out of my instrument. Because it is mostly a mental battle, it has been extremely interesting learning from someone of a different cultural background. I have gained some insight into how language is connected to many parts of life. 

Together, these experiences have been crucial to my adjustment to and enjoyment of the Dickinson in Bremen program. I was able to find a community of people patient with my slow German and willing to answer my random questions about life in Germany. Many of them have taken the opportunity to ask me about American culture, leading to fun moments of connection that feel to me like what exchange programs are all about. In weeks when schoolwork gets particularly tough, having time carved out to socialize and relax with music has helped me find balance.  

In addition to participating in music myself, I have also enjoyed attending performances of professional musicians in Bremen. The arts are very accessible to students, with tickets to theatre and opera productions costing only around eight euros! In this way, I have been able to get really great seats to impressive classical music productions.  

Engaging in music in Bremen has made me memories and taught me skills I will carry with me long after this semester is over, but for now, I look forward to enjoying my last two months as part of this community.  

“It is fun, scary, exciting, amazing, and the most unique thing I have ever done.”

by Gabe McGough ’25

The Durden Dickinson College program with Universität Bremen has been an excellent experience thus far! The Austausch (exchange) program is situated in the northwest of Germany and offers world-class courses in a multitude of fields, including but in no way limited to law, STEM, history, and art. During my time at Uni Bremen, I am focusing heavily on the University’s programs surrounding German international and domestic law as well as foreign policy. I chose Universität Bremen after first taking my academic goals, personal interests, and career aspirations into account. After weighing out the myriad pros of attending against the scarce cons, I decided that the unique academic system, the independence of living alone in a big city for the first time, and the myriad career connections and possibilities I would come across would be worth it.

When it comes to the benefits of studying abroad in Germany though, I have found that it is the small, everyday parts of life that have made the experience truly special. Of all the experiences that I have had that have had the most impact on me, the most changing have been my encounters with the local community, the differences in the academic environment, my living situation, and the exploration and travel I was able to do. Beginning with the locals, the people of Bremen are unique. In my experience, they have been incredibly polite, accommodating, and very supportive, especially when I would try to practice my (clearly non-natural) German with them. Overall, the city of Bremen has a very friendly culture. From the Easter Festival to the Latin-American Weekend, there is always something for the adventurous student to do! While the study-abroad experience is incredibly fun, there are academic requirements that I must meet to get credit for my Bremen courses back at Dickinson College. While the immense range of course options offered at the University of Bremen is incredibly impressive and the courses themselves are expertly run, certain aspects of German pedagogy have been a little strange to adapt to. For my courses this semester, virtually every assignment of substance is either a presentation, paper, or formal final exam. While cutting a lot of “graded for participation/completion” notes from the grade book seems slightly daunting at the start, the amount of free time for deep study of concepts found to be the most interesting and for working ahead on my major assignments, I believe the system supports learning more efficiently than the system adopted in the United States. Along with that and the engaging discussions led by professors and other students in Socratic-seminar-style classes, the academic environment at Uni Bremen is amazing to experience. Outside of academics though, there is quite a lot of free time for Dickinson Students.

In my free time between classes or before going to bed during the week, I spend some time in my dorm room, and by dorm room, I mean a miniature apartment with a bathroom and kitchenette. In my solo residence in Findorff, a beautiful and quiet part of the city right next to the Bürgerpark, I had to learn how to prepare every meal for myself every day, as well as meal plan (every major store in Bremen is closed on Sunday). Not only was it a delight to experiment in my kitchen cooking whatever I want, but it also allows me to be responsible for every step of independent living, including doing the dishes. The affordability of German grocery stores such as Edeka, Aldi, and Rewe make it incredibly affordable to cook delicious, sometimes extravagant, healthy meals. While studying hard and learning how to be successful on my own in one of the most beautiful and fun cities I have seen, I like to take the opportunities around me to go on fun trips with friends to see more of the beautiful part of the world I live in. Dickinson provides two week-long excursions per year to Vienna and Berlin, one in the spring and one in the fall. Luckily, my cohort and I were able to be a part of both.

Photo: taken in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna

The Vienna trip was astounding. We were taken to ornate palaces, beautiful underground restaurants, to the resting places of a large portion of the Habsburg family, and so much more. In our free time, we were able to explore the beautiful capital of Austria and take in so much of the history and culture of the city. We are set to leave for our Berlin trip soon, which we all believe will be on par with the Vienna trip! The Cold War museums and shows in the theatre will likely be incredibly fun and a great place to learn the history and nuance of the area. While Dickinson provides trips though, the ease of Deutsche Bahn and the location of Bremen in proximity to amazing things to explore allows for incredibly easy one-day or weekend trips. As an example, two months ago I went to a city in the Netherlands, called Groningen, for a day to explore with a group of friends. To do the trip, we simply bought our cheap tickets on Flixbus, met at the bus station at 8:00 AM, rode the three and a half hours to the city, explored and enjoyed the cafés all day, then rode the bus back home a little after midnight. Trips like this are incredibly easy in Bremen, there are cities like Köln, Hamburg, and Hannover all within train distance, and there are a multitude of ways to get everywhere else.

Overall, I highly recommend any Dickinson student interested in applying for the Universiät Bremen Program to do so. It is fun, scary, exciting, amazing, and the most unique thing I have ever done. If you are interested in this experience I urge you to contact the Dickinson German Department. The Dickinson staff on campus here at Bremen are incredible at their jobs and are very kind and nice to work with. Thanks for reading about my experience in Bremen so far.

Bremen Up Till Now

By Noah Salsich ’25

I have had an amazing time in Bremen so far! I am a junior who studies political science and environmental studies as my majors and have a German minor. I am studying in the Dickinson in Bremen program only for this semester, as last semester I studied in New Zealand.

When I arrived, I started my intensive language school prior to starting up normal classes at the University of Bremen. Spring DiB students come in February to take two language classes and to set up our visas and other logistics, which helped get me adjusted. I took my class with about 10 other students who were mostly aspiring Uni students or planning to work in Germany. I made some great connections there and enjoyed practicing my German with people in the same boat as me. I am now in my fifth week of classes at the University Bremen, and I love it. My classes are really interesting, and I’m taking a great mix of courses on environmental policy and political inequality, all of which go deeper into subjects that I wouldn’t be able to learn about at Dickinson.

One of the main things I love about living in Bremen is the independence and the ability to explore and live in such a great city as Bremen. The public transportation in this city is very efficient and accessible, and I am able to get to know the city and really make it feel like home. An area of the city is somewhat of an arts district and there are great cafés along the water and shops to visit. I am also fond of the climbing gym in the city, so I have places I know well.

I also have just loved speaking to and being around Germans. It is a special type of feeling to have someone ask you a question at a bus stop and be able to answer them, or to have a conversation in passing with your classmate. Making friends or talking with strangers in German and then zooming out to realize what I just did makes me so happy. I think it is also important to mention culture shock. Due to my experience abroad last semester, I was more comfortable living on my own in another country, and was already somewhat familiar with how culture shock might feel. But that type of thing is hard to predict, especially because this time I would be speaking and surrounded by a foreign language. Culture shock did hit me differently here because although New Zealand is just about the farthest I could have gone from PA, it is an English-speaking country and has been very much influenced by the UK, so it wasn’t that much of an adjustment. In Bremen, I have had to adjust a lot more. But dealing with that change has been a great learning experience, and I’ve learned a lot about how to handle it. One of the biggest ways I deal with it is through humor and awareness. I try to be cognizant that it isn’t something that fully goes away, and try to laugh at the mistakes I make and keep moving, it’s part of the experience. Even normal things like grocery shopping take me longer. Like in the US, a lot of daily products have minor differences that are hard to discern for a foreigner, and it once took me three different tries to buy the right type of cream. My flatmates have a joke that whenever I go shopping, it’s pretty much guaranteed I will buy something wrong. It’s those type of things that are just part of it, and I find fun.


All in all, it has been great, and I will treasure my time here.

Talk with Students in Lviv (Ukraine)

One week ago, our students had the chance to talk with four Ukrainian students from Lviv via Zoom. The talk was facilitated by Dr. Randall R. Miller, Senior Consultant to the Chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District, with the support of the Chancellor of WCCCD and Bob Wood, Professor at the Catholic University in Lviv, in cooperation with our program. Four Ukrainian students, Sofiia, Olha, Kassandra, and Yaryna shared their experiences with studying in a war-torn country. Our Dickinson-in-Bremen students shared their thoughts after the talk:

 

“What struck me most was the normalization of the students’ experiences. Much like many people in the west have likely grown numb to seeing updates about the war in Ukraine in the news, the Ukrainian students and their professors no longer react to air sirens like they did at the beginning. It’s heartbreaking that Ukraine has been exposed to war for so long that it has settled into daily life like any other routine.” (McKenna Hillman) 

“The part that stuck with me most about hearing the Ukrainian students speak is how they have had to get used to so many horrific things. The students discussed their daily lives as consisting of daily bomb threats and sirens, frequent reminders of the fallen, general fear for loved ones, and an inability to make plans for the future. At the same time, it took them time to articulate what living in a war is like, often iterating that it just feels like normal life now.” (Abby Jones)

“It is a sobering experience to listen to current students of University in the country of Ukraine. They are similar to my peers and I, with the responsibility of school and their personal lives. But they live in constant fear of violence, whether it be inflicted on them or their family or their friends.” (Riley Robinson)

Learning about how life amidst a war has been normalized to a degree through these students was both fascinating as well as deeply concerning. I was particularly struck by the students’ description of their current reactions to air raid sirens as opposed to when the war was just beginning as well as some University classrooms doubling as bomb shelters. I recall one student saying she sometimes didn’t even react to bomb warnings and simply stayed in her apartment because it had become a normal part of her life at this point. (Grear Boyd)

“The meeting with Ukrainian students really demonstrated the reality of the impacts of the war, the day to day impacts on individuals are covered less by the international media so it was interesting to hear their perspectives, especially about continuing their lives with a semblance of normalcy amidst the chaos and terror of war.” (Gabe McGough)

 

Afterwards, the Dickinson students as well as the students from Ukraine had the opportunity to attend a talk by Dr. Ludwig, titled: “The War in Ukraine explained. An Update after Two Years,” which was followed by a Q&A session.

“While I found many aspects of Dr. Ludwig’s Ukraine talk interesting, I was particularly intrigued by her explanation of the role that social media continues to play in the ongoing conflict both on Russian and Ukrainian sides. Specifically, Russian use of misinformation to continue to justify aggression towards Ukraine was of interest. Yet, as I have seen these videos myself on my personal social media accounts, I was particularly captivated by the discussion of Ukrainian use of popular media platforms to spread awareness of inadequacies of the Russian military in order to both rouse international support for their defense efforts and to promote national morale.” (Grear Boyd)

“I found both our conversation with the students from Lviv and Dr. Ludwig’s talk incredible. Not only did I get to talk with students, folks my age, experiencing the war first hand as their day to day, I got to understand the war, tactics and its current status much better than I ever would have. I think what struck me most was how normalized war was for the Ukrainian students – one girl apologized for being so tired, as there had been air raid sirens all night and she had classes in the morning, in the same tone I might complain about the weather.” (Noah Salsich)

 

The morning after these talks, Russia launched massive drone and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities – the largest airstrike on its energy infrastructure so far in the last two years of this war.

Christmas Markets in Bremen

The holidays are approaching… And beautiful Bremen does not have just one, not two, but several Christmas markets, for instance:

At the market place.

At the river promenade.

At the train station, welcoming you to to the city.

See a video by Deutsche Welle (German wave) here.

Here are some impressions of what it looks like in Bremen right now:

All sources: BTZ

Source: bremen-city.de

 

Unesco awards Bremen the title of “City of Literature” (Stadt der Literatur)

The Unesco has included Bremen in the network of “Creative Cities”. Alongside Bremen, six other German cities are part of this network, each recognized for their contributions to contemporary art and culture. Congratulations, Bremen! 📚🌟 #Culture #Literature #Unesco #Bremen

If you are interested in finding out more, click here to read the article.

Experience Bremen at Home

View of the Market Square

Sunset at the Schlachte

“Would you like to discover the most beautiful corners of Bremen from home, visit our parlour from your couch or take a stroll through the winding Schnoor? Would you like to take a virtual tour of the museums and knowledge worlds or sail on the Weser?”

Famous Schnoor quarter

If so, then you should definitely take a look at the Visit Bremen website. There you will find lots of amazing videos, information, 360-degree tours of Bremen, as well a guided visit of the City Center. Pierre will take you on a tour of the Marktplatz square – known as Bremen’s ‘Gute Stube’ or ‘drawing room’. But what else can be found at the historic marketplace? Get ready for some surprises!

Further information can be found here: https://www.bremen.eu/tourism/bremen-at-home

And here: https://www.bremen.eu/tourism

Kathryn Baker’s Reflections on Studying Abroad in Bremen

by Kathryn Baker ’23

I studied abroad in Bremen for the full year. In that year I had some of the best times of my life and some challenging times. When I visited Munich back in 2016, I thought it was an amazing city and wanted to go to Germany again. In my first semester at Dickinson I started with German 101. When I found out there was a study abroad program in Germany, I told myself I must go. I had never even heard of the city of Bremen until I learned about the Dickinson in Bremen program. Fast forward 2 years later and I’m flying to Bremen! I struggled at first with all of the cultural differences, and I had a hard time figuring out how to work German household appliances (I may have broken the toaster). But after living in Bremen for a few months, I figured it all out. In my free time I explored every part of Bremen, and I fell in love with the city. I lived with 7 other students in a Wohngemeinschaft (WG), close to the most beautiful park in Bremen, the Bürgerpark. The majority of the students I lived with were German so I practiced my German with them and tried to understand what they were saying when they spoke fast. My flatmates and I became really good friends, and we went out together in Bremen many times. One of my flatmates even came along with my boyfriend and me to take pictures when he proposed! Some of my favorite memories include going to the Bremen Weihnachtsmarkt with my flatmates, visiting Köln with other Dickinson students, getting engaged in the Bürgerpark, going to my first pride parade in Bremerhaven, and staying with one of my German friends in Berlin for Berlin pride! I have so many funny and amazing stories ranging from getting stranded in Belgium, to clubbing in La Viva in Bremen. One of the challenges I struggled with was all of my classes being in German. The first semester of classes were especially difficult for me, but the longer I lived in Germany and the more I spoke German with my flatmates, the easier it got. The second semester of classes at Uni Bremen was much more fun since I could understand better. Despite the difficulties I had during my study abroad, I would say this was the best experience of my life. I loved Bremen so much that I am applying for EU citizenship now so I can move back to Bremen in a few years.