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.  

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.  

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.

Vienna calling!

At the beginning of March, we spent five days on an academic excursion in Vienna, the capital of Austria. Our Spring semester students shared their impressions of Vienna:

(Photo: McKenna, Grear, Noah, Abby, Riley, Gabe, and Dr. Ludwig in the St. Stephen’s Cathedral)

Abby was especially impressed with Vienna’s architecture: “One of my favorite parts of Vienna was how beautiful the architecture of many of the old buildings is, so it was super cool to see an exhibit in the Wien Museum with blueprints and modals of Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). The cathedral is so beautiful in person, but its scale makes it impossible to notice all the details. This museum was very memorable for many reasons, but this exhibit detailing the cathedral is definitely near the top of the list for me.”

Dickinson-in-Bremen student McKenna majors in Art History. She visited the Vienna Secession, which is an exhibition for contemporary art. McKenna notes that the secession was smaller than expected but she enjoyed her visit there, nonetheless. Her favorite was the Beethoven Fries, but she liked other pieces there as well!

Spring student Riley described the city as “enriching, inspiring, and historic.” According to Gabe, Vienna is “a must-visit city in Europe. Not only is it home to a wide variety of historically significant sights to see, but also serves as a cultural hub. For example, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, which is a beautiful catholic church, serves visitors from all walks of life in order to introduce them to the historic cultural significance of the city.”

Grear was particularly interested in Vienna’s history: “As a practicing Catholic, I greatly enjoyed the rich religious history surrounding the city of Vienna. I found learning about the interconnectedness of the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church with the Habsburg Dynasty to be particularly interesting. My attention was also grabbed by the extensiveness of Catholic/historical artifacts found in the Austrian Imperial Treasury as well as the tradition surrounding the burial of Habsburgs in the Imperial Crypt.”

Overall, our excursion was a great success!

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

 

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

Independence Day Dinner 2023

We hope you had a great Independence Day!  Here are some moments we captured at the Independence Day Dinner organised by the Carl Schurz Deutsch-Amerikanischer Club e.V. at the Restaurant “Waldbühne”.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2022

As every year, we were happy to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Carl Schurz German-American Club in Bremen in a festive atmosphere…

Our student Vasilisa with her family and the President of the German-American Club, Ulf-Brün Drechsel

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening and a great meal!

Listening to a welcome speech before dinner

Dance in Bremen

by Shannon Vogel

At the University of Bremen, the Hochschulsport provides many fitness classes for students to take for a relatively low price. Dickinson will also reimburse you up to a certain amount to take these courses. You can see a list of past/current course offerings on their website, as well as when registration goes live for the upcoming semester. They offer several styles of dance, martial arts, team sports (volleyball, rugby, etc.) and yoga.

I took a Modern Jazz course this semester, where I got to meet several other Uni Bremen students. Our class had the opportunity to perform at the Breminale, a music festival in Bremen. The class focused on learning a few combos, as well as an entire choreographed dance.

While the Hochschulsport classes provide many options, they do follow the semester class schedule (generally the lecture period), which means the courses won’t run the entirety of the time you are in Bremen. For me, I arrived in February and left in August, but the Modern Jazz course only ran from April through July. Since I still wanted to dance/exercise for the entire semester, I found an independent ballet studio in the city. There are a lot of dance studios throughout Bremen, but the one I settled on was polkadotBallettStudios. I found their prices fair and the staff helpful. They offer modern and hip-hop classes as well, but they are primarily a ballet studio. I signed up to take classes twice a week, and really enjoyed it! I got to learn some new German vocabulary, as well as meet people my age who don’t study at Uni Bremen.

If you’re interested in a particular style of dance, I do recommend researching all of your options in Bremen, as there are many studios in the city.

Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera)

by Nick Rickert ’23

Last week Evan and I were delighted to attend Theater Bremen’s performance of the classic German musical play “Die Dreigroschenoper” (The Threepenny Opera), written by Bertolt Brecht with music composed by Kurt Weill and first performed in Berlin in 1928. This was our first time attending a theatrical performance in Bremen. Having only read a brief synopsis of the narrative beforehand, we came to find that the production was much less of what one might expect from an opera but rather a musical supported by a modestly sized jazz ensemble (with no conductor!). I wouldn’t call myself an avid musical goer, but I was enthralled by the lively assortment of characters and fantastic music.

Adapted from an 18th-century English ballad opera, “Die Dreigroschenoper” tells the precarious love story between the antihero Macheath (Mackie Messer), a prominent gangster, and Polly Peachum, whose father controls the beggers of London and is determined to put Macheath in prison after the two become married (not to mention tying the knot just days after meeting for the first time!). I was immersed as soon as the curtains opened silently to reveal a rugged wooden floor with a steep slope and the beggars laying in darkness.

I was stunned by the singing voices of Polly and Macheath, whose dialogue and ballads easily stole the stage whenever they appeared. In between these moving scenes Evan and I couldn’t help but chuckle at every move of the corrupt chief of police “Tiger” who broke the fourth wall by having a short interaction with the drummer, breaking one of their cymbals. I also found it heartwarming that since it was the last performance of this production, the director bade thoughtful farewells to several cast members leaving the theater company. Later that evening I couldn’t help but hum ‘Die Moritat von Mackie Messer’ to myself.

 

Globally Integrated Semester on Entrepreneurship in Bremen – Reflection from Sierra Stevens

As part of the GISEB (Globally Integrated Semester on Entrepreneurship in Bremen) program, we recently had the pleasure of welcoming some great visitors to Bremen! Check out these wonderful photos, taken by participant Sierra Stevens! Stay tuned for more photo and video content!

This is what Sierra had to say about her 2-week stay in Bremen:
“I was initially very nervous about traveling to Germany. Not only had I never traveled out of the country, but I also didn’t know any German. Sophie’s expertise (an exchange student from Bremen University) calmed my nerves a bit, but I was still anxious about the trip.
However, the minute I landed in Bremen and boarded the tram, I knew it was going to be an incredible trip. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, kind, and understanding about our lack of knowledge concerning the German culture and language.
The food, despite its surprisingly low cost, was incredible. I am a very picky eater, but I didn’t have a single meal that I disliked. Even the cafeteria food at the University of Bremen was delicious. The Dickinson-in-Bremen program treated us to a number of meals at luxurious restaurants and cafes, assisting us through our interactions and ensuring we acted in a respectful manner.
The program assistant and academic director of the Dickinson program in Bremen were especially helpful. Leandra handled our large, occasionally rowdy, always tardy, group with ease. She treated us as friends and offered earnest recommendations daily. I am thankful for her friendliness and diligence. Dr. Ludwig was equally as supportive, giving us informative lectures on German entrepreneurial history, the country’s opinions on America’s contemporary issues, and instructing us on how to behave in a “German” way. She was always enthusiastic in answering our many questions and was clearly passionate about her job. She truly wanted our group to have a wonderful experience (and that we did).
Our itinerary was packed with business visits and informational sessions, with plenty of free time mixed in. Some of the highlights included a tour of Mercedes Benz, a visit to Beck’s Brewery, meeting with members of the Bremen Senate, the Emigration Museum in Bremerhaven, exploring the restaurants and gift shops in the Schnoor and the Schlachte, as well as our trip to Berlin.
There is plenty more I could say about the experience, but I will end it with this. I had an extraordinary time in Germany and I will definitely be back. This trip is one that I will remember forever.”
Photo credit: Durden Dickinson Bremen Program