Reflections on My Semester Abroad in Germany

by Brendan Harlan ’22

I wanted to get a tattoo while in Germany, but instead I got my COVID-19 booster shot.

That’s really not a sentence I ever envisioned myself saying when I dreamt of going abroad, first as a prospective Dickinson student and then as a first-year and sophomore pre-pandemic. However, like everyone else in the past two years, what I dreamt of and what I experienced were two very different things. I’m glad that I got the chance to spend 21 weeks in Germany though, across a stretch of time that saw the country choose its first new Chancellor since 2005 and weather a second winter of a global pandemic.

At Dickinson, I’m majoring in International Studies and in German, but my experience out of the United States amounted to less than a week spent between Victoria in British Columbia and a jaunt across the New York-Canada border to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Flying in and out of the Frankfurt airport represented the first and second international flights of my life.

In Heidelberg, Berlin, Bremen, and all the other places I visited in Germany, I enjoyed the feeling of being somewhere vastly different than my usual haunts in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. I loved walking through the Bremer Altstadt, up the winding roads leading to the Heidelberg Schloss, around the Brandenburg Gate, and up countless stairs to get views overlooking Köln, Leipzig, and Dresden. I listened to a choir perform in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche and to trumpet sonatas performed in the Bremer Dom. And amongst other places and things, I also looked for scenes where old things and modern things were next to one another, like the cranes towering over Hamburg or the City-Hochhaus tower looming over the New Town Hall in Leipzig.

Oftentimes in city centers in Germany, if you sound like an American tourist, people will respond to you in English. However, I’m quite proud that the grocery cashiers and coffee shop baristas rarely switched from German when talking with me. I became confident enough with traveling by train and tram too, that, multiple times, I was approached with questions about directions and train arrival times and whether certain tickets worked with Deutsche Bahn or not. I usually stumbled through my German responses, but I always felt flattered that at least it seemed like I was from around there.

I also ate a lot of great food and pushed myself to avoid any US-based fast food (except that one chicken sandwich from McDonald’s that tasted better than any McDonald’s I’d had before). I developed a love for cappuccinos, Schnitzel, Döner, and Radler. I collected souvenir mugs from four different Christmas markets. I experimented with multiple ways of how to make home fry potatoes, which jam to buy for my traditional German bread, and how to best budget my Euros between Aldi, Rewe, and the other grocery stores. I figured out how to get free COVID tests in the Winter too, as cases rose and 3G rules became 2G rules.

What I most appreciated about my time abroad, though, was the separation from my normal life and usual perspective on things. It was a double-edged sword, as I did find being away from my usual support system quite difficult, but I also learned about myself as I was able to view my life in the US from an almost third-person perspective. I thought a lot about how I’d ended up in Germany, how I’d become who I am, and what I want next from myself. In my classes, I learned about the last century of international relations from a German perspective, discussed the history of the relationship between Germany and the US, and examined the histories of immigration and the social welfare state within Germany.

I also met a lot of people, including people from Germany, Austria, Vietnam, India, and Alabama. I had great conversations about cultural differences such as how Uni Bremen differed from Dickinson, went to a science talk auf Deutsch in a bar, made German food with my roommates for a Christmas dinner, and attended a Werder Bremen game in the fans’ standing section behind the goal. Since I went to see Werder Bremen play, on the day that both their head coach and assistant coach resigned due to fake COVID vaccination cards, they’ve risen from 11th in the 2. Bundesliga table to 2nd with four games left to play.

Throughout my time abroad, I took a bunch of photos and expanded my knowledge of popular German music. I also developed a closer relationship with my parents, despite being an ocean apart. I hosted my girlfriend, who I originally met in a German 101 course, for Christmas break, and showed her around Bremen and Heidelberg. And, lastly, I learned how to wear a scarf properly, bought a turtleneck, and once walked over an hour from the city center to my WG in the dark with my roommates after we accidentally missed the last tram of the night.

So, I may not have a tattoo from my time abroad in Germany like I originally wanted, but I did do a heck of a lot and have memories just as enduring as a tattoo. I’ll just have to return at a later point to get that tattoo. Bis später, Deutschland.

Photo credit: Durden Dickinson Bremen Program

University of Bremen Reduces Ties to Russia to a Minimum

University of Bremen press release

The University is reducing its ties to Russia to a minimum. At the same time, it declares its solidarity with Russian researchers who have written an open letter against the war in Ukraine. Additionally, there are offers of assistance for refugees.

“Our concern and sympathy goes out to all people affected by this war,” says President Bernd Scholz-Reiter of the University of Bremen. “Due to the Russian government’s belligerent and illegal attack of Ukraine, we see ourselves forced to reduce cooperations and collaborations with Russian scientific institutions to a minimum.” This means that currently active exchange programs will be frozen and no new ones initiated. However, contact will be maintained with Russian researchers. What will be significantly affected are the cooperations and collaborations with St. Petersburg State University, the Higher School of Economics, Belgorod State University (BELGU), and five other previous partner institutions in Russia. The university is acting in alignment with the recommendations made by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany.

The President thanks the Russian researchers who found clear words against the military attack on Ukraine in an open letter. “We declare our solidarity with them and remain in personal contact with many of them.” The letter was recently published on the internet. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, more than 380 scientists had signed it within 24 hours. Among them are numerous members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is considered the most recognized research institution in the Russian Federation.

Cooperations with Ukraine
The University of Bremen maintains several cooperations with Ukrainian universities, colleges, and scientific institutions, including the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, the Vadym Hetman National Economic University in Kyiv, the Odessa National Maritime University, and the Uman National University of Horticulture. “We stand by our partners,” says the President. There are numerous students and employees from Ukraine or with Ukrainian roots at the University of Bremen, with whom the university unites in solidarity.

Offers of Help
The university is in contact with Bremen Student Services Organization (Studierendenwerk Bremen) regarding the establishment of counseling services for its Ukrainian students and the possible intake of refugee students and scholars in the Student Services Organization’s apartments. The apartments for visiting scientists of the University of Bremen will also be made available.

In addition, the university will do everything in its power to offer refugee students from Ukraine follow-up opportunities in its degree programs. This is to already be made possible in the upcoming summer semester. The planned immediate recognition of Ukrainians as refugees will also allow prospective students to access HERE AHEAD (Academy for Higher Education Access Development) programs at Bremen’s state universities. The institution prepares international prospective students with and without a refugee background for studies in Bremen.

The full press release can be found here:

EUASA Conference

by Dr. Janine Ludwig

As part of the EUASA Conference Committee, it gives me great pleasure to announce that the 2022 EUASA conference will take place on February 10th and 11th, via Zoom. Please join the European Association for Study Abroad, for a virtual conference intended for study abroad professionals based in Europe (although anyone is welcome to join us!). More details and free registration information can be found through the link below. We look forward to seeing you there!

Conference Website:

Thanksgiving Dinner 2021

Even though Christmas is just around the corner, we still wanted to share some photos from our Thanksgiving Dinner this year, organized by the Carl-Schurz Deutsch-Amerikanischer Club!

Every year, the Carl-Schurz DAC hosts a traditional American Thanksgiving Dinner here in Bremen – this year we got to enjoy our dinner at the Maritim Hotel.

It was a lovely evening filled with yummy food, good music, challenging trivia quizzes and nice conversations.

Thanks again @ CSDAC for inviting us!

But now the Dickinson-in-Bremen team wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Hapy New Year – see you in 2022!

Photos: © Carl-Schuz Deutsch-Amerikanischer Club e.V. / TeiCon

Christian Wulff Speech

On November 15th, 2021, Brendan Harlan ’22 and Dr. Janine Ludwig had the opportunity to attend a speech by Christian Wulff, the 10th President of the Federal Republic of Germany (2010-2012), on the topic “Streitunkultur als Gefahr für die Demokratie” (Discussion non-culture as a danger to the democracy). The event was organized by the political foundation Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Bremen.

The talk was followed by a panel discussion in which, among other things, it was explained to what extent argument culture has changed in recent years. Afterwards, Dr. Ludwig and Brendan had the chance to briefly talk to Christian Wulff himself.

For more information visit:

Photos: © Marcus Schmidt, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Going to a Werder Bremen Game

by Brendan Harlan ’22

A while ago, before the COVID numbers were spiking, I was lucky enough to see a Werder Bremen soccer match.

Going to a Werder Bremen game was on my bucket list of things to do while in Bremen and I’m incredibly glad that I got the opportunity to see Werder play. Words cannot describe how crazy experiencing a Werder game was for me. I’ve been to Red Sox – Yankees games before, where there’s a certain level of excitement and tension amongst the fans, but the atmosphere at Weserstadion and the experience of being amongst diehard Fußball fans was incomparable.


Video credit: Durden Dickinson Bremen Program