Last Monday was my birthday. Not a whole lot went on the day of: I went to my class (Mondays are my long days), dealt with not having internet at my apartment, and really didn't do much to celebrate the occasion. However, my friend Izzy did invite me over to her apartment and made dinner for me-burritos! Yum. I also met her roommates, one of which is studying economics at Humboldt University of Berlin. She was surprisingly excited to find out that I was an econ major, and kept telling me that I should have chosen Humboldt instead of Free University, before I told her that, because of my program, I can actually take up to two classes each semester at one of the other Berlin Universities. "There's only two problems, though. The classes are heavily based on math, and almost all the classes are in English, since they tend to focus on international economics." "I'm sorry, I don't see how those are a problem." (Background information, for those who don't know: before I changed my major to economics, I was studying math.)
Apparently, in the 5 minutes that we were talking, she decided she really liked me, according to Izzy. "The girl who hardly ever gives compliments was GUSHING over you after you left!" Yay! Germans like me!
This past Saturday was the real birthday celebration, though. Marta had her birthday 3 days after me, and since 90% of our friends overlap, we decided to make things simple and have one potluck birthday party. It was a lot of fun to get everyone together over food-we had nice comfort food like macaroni and cheese and shepherd's pie, as well as desserts and apple beer. Add in balloons and music, and it was a lot of fun for everyone there, especially us birthday girls.
Along with fun comes frustration, however, although they aren't at all related in this case. I had my first group presentation for one of my classes today, talking about the S-Bahn in Berlin during the Cold War. Two weeks ago, I hadn't heard anything from anyone else in the group about starting to plan our presentation, so I took the initiative and emailed everyone, asking to meet on Saturday, November 13th. When the time came, it was only myself and one other person, out of 6 people in the group. (To be fair, one girl emailed me back and said she was traveling that weekend, so she couldn't make it.) Since German styles of presentations are very individual, even in this so-called "group" presentation, the two of us brainstormed a few sub-topics for ourselves and the rest of the group.
The six of us ended up meeting for a few minutes after class last Monday, where the other four decided on their topics and we agreed on a time to meet on Saturday, November 20th. I sent an email to everyone on Friday, reminding them of the meeting on Saturday and for them to have their PowerPoint presentations ready to give me so that I could put it all together. Saturday rolls around and...myself and one other person were there. Not even the same other person as the week before. She gave me her presentation and we decided on an order for everybody to present, and I sent out the email to everyone, telling them of our decisions. Not even 5 minutes later, one of the no-shows emails me back, basically asking, "So...what am I supposed to be talking about here?" Again, being a highly-independent presentation, I told him he could talk about whatever he wanted to, save for what the other five of us were talking about.
One of the guys did send me his PowerPoint earlier in the week, so I now had half the group's work. This morning, I get an email from one of the other members, giving me her PowerPoint slides. 4/6. By this point, I was PISSED at my group (and had already spent the weekend ranting to several of my friends and my parents), but there was no more time for me to worry about the others, as I had to start worrying about my own part of the presentation. When class starts, the last person in the group told me that she didn't want to use a PowerPoint for her section, which is why she never sent me anything. Fine, whatever. We get up to the front of the class, my computer in hand, and Mr. "What I'm a talking about?" says that he didn't prepare anything and therefore he's going to join a different group and present a different week. He still stood up there with us, making everybody around me when I sat back down ask me, "What was up with him?"
In the end, although our group didn't appear the most organized and put-together, at least my part went really well. I was able to understand the teacher's follow-up questions and answer them (always my greatest fear in class presentations, even when they're in English), as well as those from the class.
Even now, though, I'm not quite sure why I was stressing out so much about the group. Logically, there was no reason. As I said, it's highly individual, we just happened to be speaking on the same day on the same general topic, so I really only needed to worry about myself. Also, it wasn't graded. All that mattered was that we did it, not how well we did it.