Some of the University of Bremen’s special features cannot be seen immediately – they’re not made of stone. Dickinson College has no building of its own on campus. Only the unspectacular office of the director on the fifth floor of the Sportturm Building. The guests from Pennsylvania are among us on campus, they learn German, go to lectures and seminars. And they’ve being doing all that for 35 years.
However, that is not the case at the moment. In March of this year, the welcome students from North-East USA had to fly home due to the corona crisis – that was even before the semester had begun. “We tried our best and succeeded in allowing everyone of them to continue the semester digitally and to complete it – the online offers from the University of Bremen were gladly used,” says Dr. Janine Ludwig, Academic Director of the college in Bremen. Even those who were only able to stay for six weeks spoke highly of their time in Bremen and would like to return at some point.
Virtual Replacement as a Bridge
Because “her college” is something close to Janine Ludwig’s heart, she has tirelessly created virtual replacements in order to bridge the contactless time. Contact to the noble, private institution in Carlisle, North-East USA, is, after all, the oldest exchange program that the university maintains. The transatlantic partnership, which was established by old presidents, continues. This means there is scientific communication on all levels, students and teaching staff are active in both directions. And currently virtually. The director is happy about the commitment from her Bremen colleagues.
Controversial Political Topics
That is why the political scholar Stefan Luft will hold a highly anticipated Zoom seminar on the issues of migration and integration in Germany. For her online seminars in the summer semester, Janine Ludwig thought of surprising aspects for the societal-political lectures. One of the people who was available to take and answer questions from the American students was Egon Krenz, Chair of State during the period of change (“die Wende”) in the GDR. “He clearly admitted his preference for socialism,” smirks Janine Ludwig.
Authors Present Their Books
The literature scholar is extremely well connected in the literary scene as the Chairwoman of the International Heiner Müller Society and Vice Spokesperson of the Bremen Institute for Cultural Studies of Germany (ifkud). The authors Jens Sparschuh, Jens Wonneberger, Bernd Schirmer, and Kerstin Hensel also took part in the seminar and presented their literary works on the time after 1989 online in Dickinson lectures.
Classes in German
For the director it is important that the students go to classes held in German. “We’re very old school,” she says. English classes are exchangeable and not connected to the country. “That is something special in Bremen.” Janine Ludwig hopes that teaching can continue as normal soon, as the partnership with one of the USA’s oldest colleges makes the University of Bremen shine.
Feel Right at Home
Those who go across the campus can see the mark of this extraordinary relationship – the bright red seats – the Dickinson Chairs. The home of the chairs are the Adirondack Mountains, the highest mountain rage in the US State of New York. The cult garden chair with the fanned backrest has been around for more than 100 years. “Our guests see the chairs that they are familiar with from their home campus and feel right at home,” says Janine Ludwig. 26 red chairs are here so far. Annette Lang, Head of the International Office at the University of Bremen, states the aim: “50 chairs, 50 years of partnership”. Thus, sponsors are very welcome.
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