Of course, the central part of my life has been school. The semester is already half finished, which is crazy to think about. It's definitely going by faster than Winter Semester did. Overall, my classes are going well. I have already given two in-class presentations: one in International Management (in English) and the other in my literature class (in German). The first one took a lot of preparation, and my group met once or twice a week to share ideas and put together a lesson and discussion. However, when the time came to present, everything went well and the professor even came up to us at the end to tell us we did a great job, something that isn't a standard practice in Germany. The presentation for literature, on the other hand, ended up being a complete nightmare. My team members hadn't finished the reading in time, we had communication problems, and during the presentation itself, it became evident that the three of us had misunderstood the reading. I've never had such a bad presentation in any language, in any country, or at any education level! The only thing I can be happy about is the management presentation counts towards my grade, while the literature one does not. I still have two more presentations coming up in my other two classes. With any luck, those will go as well as the management one did!
As part of my classes, I've been on a few excursions as well. Almost a month ago, I went to see the play Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) with my Women Who Wrote History class. It was exciting to go to a nice theater, and I'm happy to report I was able to understand most of the dialog, but the play itself is not one I would recommend to others. It was hard to connect to the main characters, a stuck-up professor turned obsessive husband and his wife, a Caberet worker who cheats on him. I still enjoyed the evening, though, as I was able to talk to the professor during the intermission with a couple other people. We didn't talk about the class, but just about life in general. A couple of weeks later, my literature class went to talk to an editor and publisher at a beer garden instead of having a regularly scheduled class. He talked about the business of publishing books, everything from the regulated book prices in Germany and how that effects printing to how they decide what color and design they put on the covers of books they publish. Quite interesting stuff, at least to me. Lastly, although not quite an "excursion," my Prussian Foreign Policy class went to the State Archives (which is housed in the building next to the history building). We saw books full of letters and other documents from Prussia, several signatures were pointed out to us, and the guide kept saying things like, "Look how well these have been preserved!" (Which, with the history of the country, that actually is pretty impressive.) I don't feel like I got a whole lot out of the little trip, but I asked one of the Germans in the class about it, and he responded, "Yeah, I'm not sure what the point of that was. Sure, we could use these letters in our research, except we can't even read the handwriting!" So at least I'm not alone and the language wasn't the issue.
While I haven't traveled anywhere too far since the semester started, I have taken a couple of day trips. Over Easter weekend, my friends Kailen, Alex and I said we wanted to go someplace for the long weekend, but soon realized, wherever we went, the city would most likely be shut down for the holiday. Instead, we headed out to Potsdam, the city to the southwest of Berlin for a little break from our first two weeks of classes. For those who don't know, Potsdam, while small in comparison to Berlin, is still a rather large city and complete with its own palace, Sanssouci. This was our first stop, and we took the tour of the summer home of Friedrich the Great before walking around the grounds for a while. This was the first nice weekend since October, and the weekend before was the Festival of Tulips, so the entire park and city were in bloom and it was lovely to walk around. After a while, we walked over to the downtown area and had lunch and a beer, and just sat for hours in the sun, talking about our own travels through Europe during the break.
One other weekend, I went with the EAP program to Beelitz, a small town in Brandenburg, to celebrate Spargelzeit, the Asparagus Season. A group of about 35 of us got on a train and headed out west to a farm, where the big group had white asparagus, potatoes, and (for the most of us) schitzel. It was delicious food, but I probably met my quota of oil and butter for the following month, oy vey. We also had a few hours to walk around the farm, see lots of small vendors with their crafts for sale, and even took the opportunity to try asparagus creme liqueur. It sounded and looked rather disgusting, but was actually quite good, like tasting a sweet asparagus.
With the exception of these exciting points in my life, not much has been happening in the past eight weeks. I'm mostly spending time in class and hanging out with my friends. When I'm not busy with my life here, I'm busy planning my life for next year back in Davis. It feels a bit unreal that in just a couple of months, this experience will be over, and I'll be back home. It's up to me to live the next two months to the fullest, because I really don't know when I'll be able to come back to Berlin. But the question is, how do I balance school with exploration? It doesn't seem to be coming as easily this semester as it did last semester.