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.

Class on German-American relations

Mia Siemers, a student from the University of Bremen, shared a few thoughts on studying German-American cultural and political relations over 300 years in the course “Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany,” which is taught every fall/winter semester by Dr. Ludwig:
“I genuinely enjoyed taking this course on the comparison between Germany and America. It gave me a lot to think about and impacted my view on many things regarding the relation between these two countries. Even after the class ended, I still watched several documentaries about the topic. I also wanted to add that the excursion to the ‘Auswanderehaus’ made everything a lot more realistic in an way that you got to experience the journey from Germany to America under the circumstances of the time with your own eyes. I am glad I took the course because of the amount of knowledge I gained and the people I met during class hours.”

Day trip to the Emigration Center

by Mia Siemers

Students as emigrants

Our course “Comparative Cultures–USA/ Germany” went on a trip to the “Auswandererhaus” (Emigration Center) in Bremerhaven. In the beginning, each of us received a biography from one of the immigrants who travelled from different cities to the United States. As the tour continued, we got more information about their crossing as well as their lives in a foreign country. The guide told us a variety of interesting aspects and facts from 1620 to the present. We were able to get an insight into the history of immigration due to a multimedia exhibition. Over all, it was a great experience with lots of new knowledge and laughter.

On the transatlantic ship passage

The final destination

My study-abroad experience in Bremen

by Mac Tambussi ’23

When I was picking which college to go to my senior year of high school, I knew studying abroad was a huge factor in my decision. Ultimately, I landed on Dickinson, which has great study abroad programs all over the world. Before I started school, I went to Germany in 2019 with my host family and fell in love with the country. After I returned to the U.S., I knew I wanted to come back. When I found out Dickinson had a program in Germany, I was ecstatic and had a feeling that when Junior spring came around, I would be back in the country that I grew to love.

When going through the application process, I knew the program was in Bremen, but to be honest, I did not know Bremen existed. Well fast forward to today, I consider Bremen my second home. In the six months I spent in Bremen, I formed friendships, tried new activities, learned more about the culture, and overall just had a blast.

The friendships I made, both people from Dickinson and the USA on the trip, and those from Germany and all over the world, have made a huge impact on my life. My friends and I went on many trips to many different cities/amusements across Germany and Europe such as Cologne, Hamburg, Bonn, Heide Park, Bremerhaven, Berlin, Vienna, and Amsterdam. In addition in Bremen, we were able to travel to different parts of the city, where we would try new restaurants, go shopping, help in service activities, watch soccer, and go to clubs (my personal favorite was Modernes). In addition to that, I and two of my friends joined the rugby team, where we were able to form a solid friendship with them also.

The school aspect was also really cool. For the first two months, we spent time with both Aristoles and Goethe Institute learning the language. This was because almost all of our classes at the University of Bremen were in German. After becoming proficient in German, we began our classes. Three of my classes were business related and one was Political Science related. They were all super interesting and gave me a different perspective on how higher education is in Germany and different viewpoints. All in all, I had a great learning experience in Germany.

Lastly, learning about the culture and trying new foods was a highlight. Having Doner Kebab, Wiener Schnitzel, and Wurst was awesome. Everything was delicious! Trying different things, playing new games, and experiencing the culture from a first-hand experience were amazing. The Dickinson in Germany study abroad experience is one I will never forget. I was able to try so many different things and get to meet and see so many friends! I liked it so much, that I am currently applying for a Fulbright Grant to be an English Teaching Assistant in Germany. I can’t wait to come back to visit. Till next time Germany!

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.

 

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!

GIS on Entrepreneurship in Bremen – Reflections from Kayden Tucker and William Giguere

“I thought the program was phenomenal. German culture is full of some of the most friendly and innovative minds that I’ve ever come into contact with. From the heightened level of sophistication seen in the Mercedes Benz factory to the attention to detail in the art of brewing beer- I learned so much about business abroad here and I’m super grateful for all of the experiences I had the pleasure of enjoying while abroad!”
(Kayden Tucker ’22)

“My time in Bremen, Germany with the GIS program was for sure a time to remember. The Dickinson Program and students currently studying abroad were extremely helpful in preparing us and making a country I have never been to feel like home for two weeks. I was amazed at learning the German culture and learning a bit of the German language on the side. As I had never been to Germany before, I had a wonderful time taking in every experience. Our time visiting local businesses was very eye opening into the global markets and the ways COVID-19 altered business outputs/operations.” (William Giguere ’23)

Photo credit: Durden Dickinson Bremen Program

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