Memorable Experiences: Volunteering and Cultural Engagement in Bremen

by Vasilisa Pallis ’24

During my study abroad year in Bremen I was incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to not only study in a German University and learn so much, but also volunteer. Before coming to Germany, I feared I wouldn’t get the opportunity to use my Russian as much, since I am a double major in German and Russian. But I was happily surprised when I was able to not only take classes with Russian content but also volunteer with Ukrainian refugees at the “Nachbarschaftshaus Helene Kaisen”, an open space for events, social facilities, and recreational areas in Bremen.

Glance at American Delegation at Special Olympics in Bremen.

There are numerous opportunities within this cultural center for Ukrainian children and teenagers to participate in different activities, such as learning English, and German, or simply having a place to go to after school. There I started a “Sprachcafé” (a language café) for Ukrainian teenagers, to practice their language skills. It was an incredible experience to get to meet such brave young students who have gone through such a horrifying experience and get to simply speak with them and get to know them. I loved having a chance to use my Russian as well as German, it was so cool to be able to speak almost three different languages at the same time. I am so grateful to have had this memorable and fulfilling opportunity.

American Delegation being interviewed in the city center of Bremen.


In addition to my help with Ukrainian refugees, I also had the opportunity to help with Special Olympics Bremen. It was amazing to get to help during the Host Town Program when the US delegation came to Bremen before heading off to the Special Olympics in Berlin. I loved meeting the different athletes, making them feel comfortable, showing them around Bremen, and helping with their training before the Olympics. All in all, I am extremely grateful to have experienced my year in Bremen and to have helped in any way I could while in Bremen. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am proud to say I have enjoyed and learned so much from it.

Romano De Caprio’s Internship („Praktikum“) in Rhineland-Palatinate

by Romano De Caprio ’24

Gerd Schreiner is a local politician for Rhineland-Palatinate, and he is currently fighting to make big changes. Throughout the month of March, he was gracious enough to let me experience the beauty of German local politics.

Mr. Schreiner is a member of the “Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands“ (CDU) in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is a successful Christian-democratic, conservative, and economically liberal party in Germany. He is the head of the ‘Klimaschutzpolitik’ for his faction, which means he has input in every form of climate protection-based policy in Rhineland-Palatinate. When I first arrived in Mainz at the end of March, I had no idea what to expect. All that I wanted to get out of this internship was to be able to see how the inner workings of German politics function. It did not take long for me to see Mr. Schreiner meet with numerous Mainz Citizens daily and work with them to better his beautiful city. On the very first night of my internship, Mr. Schreiner said to me “Come to my event tonight, it will give you a true insight into the way politics work here.”
The event was called a podium discussion, which Mr. Schreiner was the moderator of. I was unaware until the beginning of the event that the two men discussing at the podium would be Nino Haase (non-party) and Christian Viering (Die Grünen), the two men running for Mayor and at the time in a run-off race. Although it was apparent that they were competing against each other, their civility and respect for one another were incredible. Even though I might not be German it was evident to me that both candidates had the goal to make Rhineland-Palatinate better for all. The event itself was delightful and truly set the tone for the rest of my time in Mainz. The next day I was able to sit in on the CDU-Fraktion’s group meeting where they discussed what they would say at the next Parliament meeting, and then I was able to witness them in action hours later as the Bundestag met. My everyday life in Mainz was simply enhancing and unimaginable, every day was so different from the last.

One day Mr. Schreiner took me to the city of Sinzig to meet with businessmen and discuss how to avoid another possible flood. After that meeting, Mr. Schreiner drove me around the town so that I could see the impacts of the last flood and he informed me of all the tragedies that occurred in a certain area. The next day we met with two architects from Berlin and Mr. Schreiner gave them a private tour of Dom St. Johannis, the older delicate Cathedral in Mainz. I was very lucky to see the insides of this beautiful historic Cathedral for myself, and I could not believe how spooky the hidden crypt aspect was.

However, my absolute favorite experience of my internship did not even take place in Mainz. On a Friday in late March, Mr. Schreiner, his team, and I drove to a town called Würzburg in Bavaria. There we learned about the new innovative ways that people are becoming more carbon-friendly and what adaptations ‘Wine Mountains’ have made in the past few years. Both topics were insightful to learn about and everyone was extremely nice. It was tricky to understand the Germans from Bavaria because they have a very unique dialect, but I had an amazing time.

Overall, working for Mr. Schreiner was simply a pleasure, I was genuinely excited to go to his office every day. I did not have the most rigorous amount of daily work as my big project was to write an article on the differences in carbon neutrality in sports stadiums between the US and Germany, that will appear in a book published by Mr. Schreiner. This article took up the majority of my time in Mainz, and along the journey of writing it, Mr. Schreiner was extremely kind in helping me. He taught me a lot about the German grammar errors I was making but more importantly, this project taught me how to take it upon myself to research a topic and gain expertise on it all on my own. I am very grateful Mr. Schreiner took me on to be his “Praktikant” and it has been a memory of a lifetime for me!

“My Reflections on Interning in Bremen”

by Benjamin Wiggins ’24

Coming to Bremen, I wanted to find a way to both gain more professional experience and practice my German in a more formal, businesslike setting. Thus, it was great having the opportunity to intern with Mr. Drechsel, who operates both his own brand consultancy, BrandMerchand, and is the country manager of the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) for an English brand valuation consultancy named Brand Finance. The latter releases annual reports ranking the most valuable brands across different business sectors and countries. As part of my internship, I gained valuable experience translating report pages and advertisements into German, researching various business trends in the German economy affecting brands in multiple sectors, and always remembering to speak in the “Sie” case – a skill acquired both slowly and imperfectly.

As I started my internship, Brand Finance had just released an assessment of how sustainable fans and stakeholders perceive European soccer clubs to be–something German clubs are very focused upon. A project I worked on over the weeks with Mr. Drechsel was identifying different points of contact at each of the clubs in the 1. and 2. Bundesliga, Germany’s professional soccer divisions, while also noting a few of their sustainability projects and initiatives. It was interesting seeing the different aspects of Sustainability as denoted by ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) each club focused upon–some clubs were very environmentally focused while others had primarily social initiatives–while also learning about how the clubs, or Sportvereine, are structured as both professional corporations and historic sports associations. For example, one club, Borussia Dortmund, still has stocks that trade on an exchange. After collecting all the information, it was time to write email proposals to 12 teams who would likely be interested in the report. Writing business proposals was certainly not something I practiced in my previous courses, so I was pretty nervous beforehand. However, in the end, after countless rereads, corrections, and input from Mr. Drechsel, I was able to send out 15 targeted emails and even receive some responses.

Doing an internship in Bremen is something I recommend to everyone as it allows you to practice speaking and writing styles not often taught in the classroom. As I jokingly told my parents when they asked how it was going, I can talk about a poem in German, but giving Excel directions must be a C1-level skill. If you are interested in an internship, do not think that a few false conjugations while speaking or forgetting a word now and again disqualifies you from one. I certainly made many speaking errors, but I got to work with a supportive boss who gave feedback and corrections to support my language learning. Lastly, be open to everything. The research and writing I got to do for this internship were all really interesting and, as I look to pursue a Master’s in Accounting, connected well to my overall career goals.

Kathryn Baker’s student job: The German Lutheran Identification Project

by Kathryn Baker ’23

In February of this year, I was offered a job at the University of Bremen by Dr. Thorsten Wettich. Dr. Thorsten Wettich is currently working on multiple religious projects, including the one I am helping with: The German Lutheran Identification Project. There are also two other students, besides me, from Uni Bremen that are working on this project funded by the American Academy of Religion. The Collaborative Research Grant of the American Academy of Religion is used for students from each university of the applicants in the USA and Germany to support Thorsten Wettich with the observation of German-speaking (online) worship services in the USA and interviewing one pastor and one member in the congregations.

The focus of this project is to gather more information about German Lutheran churches and services in the United States. Dr. Wettich traveled to different German Lutheran Churches all over the USA, attended services and interviewed pastors and churchgoers about what it means to be German and Lutheran. He interviewed over 35 people, and one of my jobs was to transcribe interviews and write down important notes. We have had workshops that go into detail about how to analyze data from the interviews and how to interview people. I was assigned a German Lutheran Church in the Baltimore area. I attended their online church services, interviewed the pastor of the church and then transcribed the interview. My focus was on the differences between the German Lutheran Church he preaches at, and the English-speaking Lutheran Church he also preaches at.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. I have learned many new skills including how to transcribe interviews, how to properly interview people, analyze data and coding interviews. Even though I am not being paid anymore for this job after June, I am currently still helping with the project. I will be helping with the publication of the findings and hopefully presenting this project online in the future. Even when I am back at Dickinson, I will still be working on this project!

Academic Internship

by Corson Ellis ’21

IHMG conference  © J. Ludwig

From March until August of 2019, I helped the International Heiner Müller Society (IHMG) and Dr. Ludwig, the Academic Director for Dickinson in Bremen, with her work on the role of women in the works of Heiner Müller, a famous East German playwright, poet, essayist, and dramaturge. I attended two conferences (on Heiner Müller, organized by the IHMG, and Bertolt Brecht, organized by the International Brecht Society), helped translation, gathered research materials, digitized documents, and had the opportunity to get an article published in the IBS’s online journal “Communications” (ecibs). It was a formative experience, teaching me about time management, self-discipline, and the amount of work that is required in academia (it was a lot more than I had ever thought). Having already held a job in the US, the internship in Germany showed me in greater detail the difference between German and US work environments.

IHMG Conference, March 2019 © J. Ludwig

Above all else, the conferences left a great impression on me. It helped me realize that even in field of the study of a single east German intellectual, there can be a great variety of perspectives and debate. I saw people who were passionately engaged in debate that remained civil and friendly, while constantly looking at Müller’s or Brecht’s works in a new light. It helped me develop my own ability, especially in an academic context, of looking at concepts or artistic works from multiple perspectives and trying to figure out not just what the author intended, but also how a play about the Haitian revolution can provide an insight into modern politics in the USA.

Prof. Dr. Florian Vaßen, IHMG, in Hannover

Theater play in conjunction with IHMG’s Müller conference in Hannover









IBS Conference in Leipzig, June 2019 © Raffaelle Di Tizio

I spent 6 months in Germany, yet the time flew by, and before I knew it my internship was over, my finals completed, my bank account closed, and my rental bike returned. The time that you have to spend abroad is fleeting, and I encourage everyone to take the risks that I did. Try to get an internship, take a class you might not normally take, go on a Flix bus ride for 20 hours. Dickinson makes sure that you have all of the tools to have a once in a lifetime experience while in Germany, and it is up to you to seize that chance.

Urban Gardening in Delmenhorst

by Liz Bodenman ’20

Over the course of the Spring Semester, I had the pleasure of participating in an Urban Gardening course called “Projekt Seminar Wollepark,” in which students would travel to the nearby town of Delmenhorst once a week and participate in a project to help improve the conditions of the public park. 20 students in total, we were expected to break up into groups and come up with projects according to our interests. My group was interested in the perception of Garden Culture, and what certain people idealize when imagining their perfect garden. The idea behind this was to go to Delmenhorst and ask its residents (who are a very diverse group of immigrants and refugees) to draw what they pictured the perfect garden to be. Every week for 12 weeks we would go and ask different people to draw for us; the end result was a published photo book containing pictures of the drawings and participants, as well as a summary of our findings.

I enjoyed this course because it was a break from the normal university curriculum and offered an opportunity that Dickinson does not offer. I was able to go out into a community I was unfamiliar with, practice my German, and befriend other “Ausländer” like myself who were starting a new life here. It was also very interesting to learn about permaculture, building structures to attract certain insects desirable for the garden in the town center that the class helped maintain, and develop a basic understanding of urban planning. In the future, I highly recommend students take this course if it is added again. Otherwise, for those with an interest in gardening, urban planning, or simply volunteering with children and the elderly, take the 10-minute train to Delmenhorst and stop by the Nachbarschaftszentrum Wollepark. You will surely be welcomed with open arms. Wollepark Website:

Internship at Clinic

by Sandi Kadric ’20

I did a an internship at for the last two weeks in March and every Friday from April to July. I shadowed a nurse anesthesiologist. They are very nice, and they are very helpful in explaining procedures during surgeries. I had the chance to prepare the patient before surgery such as setting up the medications, blood pressure, EKG, and IV bag. I actually had patient contact and interaction, which is difficult to do in America especially in a hospital setting. Everyone spoke ONLY German with me (except for a couple of words here and there), and yes, I had to ask questions to the patients, and it helped me to learn to be confident.

I learned different methods of certain surgeries. For example, patients lose more blood during knee replacement surgeries than in America. I had the option to choose what surgeries to watch, so I saw a variety of surgeries such as spine surgery, joint replacements, general surgeries, etc. I learned the differences between the German health care system and American health care system, and I would recommend anyone who is pre-med to do this internship because – aside from learning so much – you can receive a letter at the end and put it on your medical school application. It will help you look diverse and stand out from other applicants.

Community Service at Retirement Home

by Sandi Kadric ’20

Every Tuesday at 3pm, a group of Dickinson students visited the retirement home in Bremen to talk to four over 90-year-old women. The women came from different areas in Germany such as Bremen, Berlin, a town in now present-day Poland, and a town in the vicinity of Dresden. They talk about their times growing up in the Nazi regime, running from the Russian soldiers, or any consequences that resulted from the second World War. They are not afraid to give insight on personal, tragic stories as they are instantly comfortable with sharing with you since you walk in the door. However, the content is not always heavy as sometimes they fast forward to present day and talk about their families, pets, cooking, etc. The environment is always open and friendly as we always treat ourselves to coffee and cookies.

The women are still mentally sharp for the hour and a half, sometimes two-hour meetings. They want to get to know us well, so it leads to free-flowing conversations. Sometimes it is difficult to understand their German by not knowing some of the words; however, there is a worker that accompanies us who helps us understand the content and is able to translate us in English if ever needed. Speaking to these women gave an insight into the German identity, and it always put a smile on their faces as well as the Dickinson students.

Internship at BIZME

by Molly Burger ’19



Over this past “Semesterferien,” the two months break from classes in February and March, I interned at the Bremen Information Center for Human Rights and Development (biz). I knew I wanted to have an internship in Bremen even before arriving here and was lucky enough to find out about biz after skyping with Janine Ludwig and telling her about my interests. Biz ended up being a perfect match for me. Everyone there was super friendly and willing to explain something if I didn’t understand it (usually because of the language barrier). I spent most mornings in the main office area attending meetings, or assisting with various tasks, and most

WeltWeitWissen-Kongress, May 2018 in Bremen

afternoons I was in the information center/biz library where I assisted visitors and worked on small projects. Even though there was a certain pattern that I fell into, there were always events, such as a “Kneipenquiz,” the “Messe DRAUSSEN,” and the “Weltweit Wissen-Konferenz” taking place. Through my time at biz I was able to learn more about international development and what working for an NGO would be like, as well as improve my German.

Further info: