Category Archives: Information


I sit down and am exhausted writing this entry.  I am in the middle of packing, but out of fear that I would procrastinate, I am giving an update now.

I had my presentation yesterday.  In the meeting were Herr Ball, Frau Westermann (Sylvia), Professor Neumann, Herr Fischbeck (Head of MWG), and this other guy from the MWG.  And Me.  So it was a small audience, but every important person from my summer was there!  I was pretty, oh I don’t know, not really nervous, but just antsy.   It was a 20 slide presenation, that when I had practiced it took me about 30 mins to get through.  So I had practiced it about 4 times… but that is almost two hours of non-stop talking!! I have never given a presentation for that long.  I was frustrated going into the presentation because I knew I would have to rely on my notes more than I would like.  All the technical words just aren’t fully in my vocabulary yet, like I know them when I read or write them, but to just think of them on the spot is harder.

We got all set up in the conference room at the MWG headquarters.  Herr Ball and Professor Neumann were both a little late, and after a few technical difficulties we were up in business.  I felt very comfortable with everyone in the room, the german word I would use is ‘sympathisch’.  I don’t really know how to translate it appropriately… But I really like all 3 people, Slyvia, Herr Ball and Professor Neumann, and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual.

I guess presentations are done differently here, because I stood in the back of the room with the computer.  No one looked at me the entire time I was talking.  I had printed handouts, so they were looking at them and the big screen.  But after a few slides of me trying to be all animated like I would be in America, I just started plain reading what I had written in my notes to say.  So HORRIBLE presentation in my opinion, but no one seemed to care.  Cultural differences.

After I was done, they talked for about an hour about what the next steps would be.  It was soooo cool to be a part of this meeting.  And understanding everything in German!  To watch them bicker back and forth, explain different things from engineer to business man, reason things out, and project a plan was really interesting.  I liked watching Sylvia, because she was the only woman, and so to see her battling right in there with the guys was great.   (I asked her about it afterwards, and she said that one of the frustrating things about being a woman engineer is that, for example, when she goes to meetings with Herr Ball, people just assume she is his secretary.)

After they came to a conclusion, the spotlight turned on me for 20 mins.  Herr Fischbeck, from MWG, started drilling me.  On personal issues… like if I siblings, what my future plans were, why I like engineering, what I thought of the American health care system, about Calvin College… It was kinda cool, everyone seem genuinely interested in what I had to say.  And the best part was, that I just spoke.  I mean yea, I stumbled and said things wrong, but I was embarrassed or worried of what they would think when I made these mistakes.

So we then took ANOTHER picture… haha, in front of the MWG building, in the exact spot that I took one with Herr Fischbeck earlier in the summer.  I can’t wait to get a hold of that picture – I made Herr Fischbeck promise to make sure I would get it. 🙂

Then Sylvia and went and got Ice Cream.

Then I went back and did laundry, went to the train station 2 times to say goodbye to people.  There are only a few people left here that I know, all my close friends are gone.  So perfect time for me to be distracted with the responsibilities with leaving.

Today is Wednesday.  It was my last day of work.  I went in, got everything organized, made a binder of everything I did and then was done.  I said quick goodbyes to everyone in the office.  As I was saying goodbye, it felt like I had only just arrived.  When I walking to the train station to come back to Magdeburg, I just had to talk to someone.  I didn’t know why… so I used my German cell phone to call my mom.  I started bawling right there on the street.  Walking, crying, talking in English… lets just say I got a few stares.  I was sad to be leaving, but at the same time glad to be done.  I guess I didn’t know how to handle the conflict- all of a sudden I was just over come and bawling!

Then I had to go and un-register in the city of Magdeburg at the Bürgerbüro.  So that I wont be getting mail anymore at Walther Rathenau 19, Zi. 528. No loose ends left in Germany.

I have been slowly packing and cleaning… very slowly.

My foot is huge.  It has really ballooned up.  I’m a little worried about the heat and all the walking Im going to be doing in Italy.

Which brings me to Italy!! Tomorrow, I’m going to pick up my dear friend Andrea Beukema in Berlin, because she is coming to Italy with me and Diane.  We will spend the afternoon in Berlin and then head back to Magdeburg. On Friday, we will get up early, and gut this room clean for my meeting with the Hausmeister [emmm.. Resident Director?] at 9am.  Then we will head to Frankfurt to catch our flight on Friday night to Milan, Italy.  Diane, Andrea and I will be conquering Italy until Aug 16.

Soooo after tomorrow morning, I won’t have internet.  So this is the last post for a week or so!



Today was my 21st birthday.  I am offically an adult – everything is legal to me now as an American citizen.  Crazy.


I do wish I was home so I could have celebrated with my friends and family.   I had a typical day in my Magdeburg life, with one suprise! Feco’s parents are here!  So I got back from work, took a little nap, went and played volleyball at the beachbar, Feco’s mom made some killer Hungarian food for dinner and then we all went back to the beachbar where I enjoyed a Gin and Tonic.  It was a very pleasant night; weather was perfect and the people were fun.   What else is there to say really? I don’t feel any older haha but now I have to get used to saying that I’m 21!

last real week.

This is my last real week of work.  Im making steady progress on my powerpoint. Today I went to the Fachhochschule to meet with Professor Neumann.  He has a special program that I used to complement my analysis for the PV (photovoltaic) section of my project.  It went ok… its hard to do such a large analysis on over 200 buildings! So I starting to realize that my data is not going to be as accurate as I would like.   And without any actual building data, how accurate can one be?  But the goal of this summer project was just to get a basic underlying foundation for the continuation of the whole project and to project the first feasibility analysis.

Sorry I have been anti-blogging lately.  It’s just that I stare at a screen all day.  And then I come home and get distracted with friends or go play volleyball.  The past couple weeks have been busy with goodbye parties because everyone is leaving.  By this Friday most of my people will be gone.

pics and cardsHere is my wall!! It is shaping up nicely. Filled with pictures, a Uni Magdeburg Calendar and birthday cards!  Shoutout: Em! I tried to copy your picture wall, haha… a pathetic attempt!

end is in sight.

example pp slide

That is an example slide from the final presentation I have to give.  I worked through about half of it today, so this is very first draft – in fact, I already see two mistakes just on this slide!  I am trying to use the power-point style that we use at Calvin in our engineering presentations… I’m not sure what my employers will think – hopefully they will like it!  It is very different from a few of the power-points I have seen that Sylvia has made. On Tuesday, Aug. 4, I will be going to the MWG headquarters to give this presentation of my work from this summer.  So MWG employees, Sylvia, Herr Ball, and Professor Neumann will be my audience.  I think it’s a very good thing that I have to do this, even though I don’t really want to prepare for it.  If this were in English, I would kill it.  But the fact that I have to do it in German… it’s going to be interesting.  I’m just going to have to practice… a lot!  This will be different from my night speech class last semester, where I would run thru a speech I had just written two or three times while eating, running out the door and walking up to class… and then have my professor say that I was one of the few that ‘clearly prepared extensively’.

But I’m trying not to look that far ahead yet, otherwise I will miss out here.

Things are simmering down in the dorms as people continue to leave… Or maybe it’s just me getting anti-social and removing myself a little more. Or I think I’m finally used to living here and the initial dorm excitement has finally worn off.  Despite this feeling, I know that I have made some friends here that I will keep in touch with.  And it’s great, because the invitation to stay with any of them if I travel has been extended.  I have also given the Chicago/Grand Rapids invitation… so we’ll see if anyone ever comes to visit!

elevator friends

bread and blanketsa few pictures of friends before and after we grilled in the park one night. countries represented: hungary, italy, poland, latvia, uruguay, united states of america. crazy huh?

OK really funny story.  So in the top picture, in the elevator, the guy on the far left is my hall mate.  He lives right across the hall from me.  He is the first person I ever met here, so he has a special place in my heart.  His name is Ferenc Kun.  His nickname is Feco.  This is pronounced ‘Fatso’.  Im not kidding.  When he first introduced himself as ‘Fatso’, I thought he was kidding.  He wasn’t.  The other day, I was in his room and he was skyping with his brother.  He said goodbye to him and I almost started dying of laughter.  His brothers nickname is ‘Chubby’.  No joke.  Feco didnt understand why I thought it was so funny, so I had to explain what being ‘chubby’ meant, and how it was similar to ‘fatso’.  So there we go, Hungarian brothers by the names of ‘Fatso’ and ‘Chubby’.

I have already gotten a few birthday things in the mail 🙂 I just open them – I can’t wait for longer.

Side-note: I hope it’s okay that I created my own Calvin logo up in the corner by cutting and pasting different images together… If it’s not, someone please let me know.

a game.

Here is an update on my language situation.  In the dorms with all my friends, we speak English.  Only this is very poor, broken English.  In order to communicate, I think of what I want to say, then think of the dumbest and easiest way to say it.   And I have to talk slowly.  Doing this works, we are all able to communicate.  It’s really fascinating actually.  But this means my English is actually getting worse.  I will find myself using words incorrectly or saying things are grammatically atrocious.

My German on the other hand isn’t really getting practiced either.   My listening and comprehension is better from being at work, but I really don’t talk a lot when I am there.  So I would say that my speaking hasn’t really improved that much.  Which is sad.  Ok, I’ll be fair – my German is definitely improving, how could it not be, I am surrounded by it when I step foot outside of my dorm, but it’s not at the rate I hoped it would be.

So my English is getting worse and my German isn’t really getting that much better.

Here is the game.  A lot of the students here actually do have pretty decent English.  So when they talk in English, I try to see if I can express what they just said in German.   I usually can.  But then there will be some phrases where I really have no idea!  And then I get frustrated haha.  I think some people have seen me and been a little confused as why I am slow to respond to what they just said.   I just randomly started doing this in my head and then realized that I was doing it…  sometimes I think I am so weird.

and so it goes.

Right now I’m sitting on the roof of my apartment building.  I knew I was going to sit down and write a bit, so I thought, eh, why not go outside and catch the setting sun.  I hope I don’t’ ever get in trouble for coming up here.  I’m listening to Duets: An American Classic by Tony Bennett and feeling quite jazzy and romantic.  How could I not with Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder serenading me? The only thing missing – a glass of wine.

I’m at the point in the trip where I have settled into life and routine.   There aren’t going to be anymore huge surprises or bureaucracy that I’ll have to go through.  I’m perfectly content to be here.   And at the same time, I can’t stop thinking about excited I am for my last year at Calvin.  I can’t wait to start my classes, my senior design project, live with my girl friends again, figure out what the heck I’m going to do with my life…

Today is Monday, July 13.  It is my Grandma’s 87th birthday!  I called my Grandparents from Skype to wish her a Happy Birthday; it was good to hear their voices and words of encouragement.   I’m glad I actually got through and they picked up!

Work went by surprisingly fast today.  My workstation has been moved though.  Instead of working from Herr Ball’s office, I will be working in the conference room with this other new guy.   I’m not sure if he was hired full time, or is just doing some contracting work.  But he has been around for a couple weeks now.  It was crazy though – he didn’t take a lunch break I don’t think he ever went to the bathroom!  I am constantly drinking (they have bottled water and juice available) so on my third trip to the bathroom I was feeling kind-of ridiculous.   Working in there will add a little accountability to not get distracted.  And I get to see and hear more interactions between the engineers, instead of being so isolated in my old office.

As to the status of my project, I am pretty sure I am done with all the basic busy work.  Ok, anything to do with this project will feel like busy work because I have to do it over 200 times.  But the most basic busy work is complete.   In the next part I will actually be producing numbers, not just presenting background information and collecting data.  This excites me, mostly because I actually have no idea if this project is feasible.  As the CEO of MWG said to me when we parted, “What you are doing here is very important; it decides if we move forward with this project or not.”  Yikes! Pressure is on!  But as with every project, in hindsight I can see so many better ways to accomplish what I have done.  I feel like one trip to MWG could have provided so much information that I am merely estimating.  A week working with an actual MWG employee would have been so beneficial.   But all in all, I am fairly confident I will get this project done.

In other news, my left foot has really been bugging me.  It started to hurt a couple weeks ago, but I just kept running and playing basketball on it.  Well I went for a run yesterday and had to stop because it hurt so badly.  I’m kind-of limping actually :/ I’m trying to take it easy for a while.  There is no way I am going to get tangled in the medical system here if I can help it.  I’m nervous though, because when I go to Italy I’m going to be walking a LOT.  I really hope it feels better in 3 weeks!

me on roof

And we have moved on to cello sonatas in my iTunes.  Now I’m feeling classy!  Well I’m going to read for a little bit up here.  I borrowed a book from a friend.  It’s Death in Venice and seven other short stories by Thomas Mann. It is in English, which is a cop-out since he is a fairly well known German author.  Gosh it is just so peaceful up here.   It’s nice to escape and be above all the hustle and bustle of the city.  The image to my right: windmills lazily turning above the tree tops with a hazy orange sky and a lining of clouds above them, and with a bright blue sky above the sun.

Thanks for keeping tabs on me.


Ok, german word for the day:  Termine = appointments.

As I said earlier, I had an appointment with Herr Ball to go see some sort of Bio-gas plant.  Ok.  This ended up being a private hour and tour with the head of one of the largest bio-diesel plants in Europe.  I was shocked and flattered.  First, we [me, Herr Ball, and I don’t remember his name], sat in a conference room where he talked about the whole process, got out props, the specific plant, the problems and advantages of bio-diesel and the future of it.  He gave me some literature and then I got a private tour of the plant.  It was incredible.  It was hot, the machinery was fascinating, and the head of the plant [I wish I could remember his name!!] was really nice.   As I walking through, I was just thinking about how lucky and privileged I have been!!  And the fact that Herr Ball would go through all this trouble just to set this up!  I thought that he had some other motivation with this trip, like he had to check on something or talk with someone in particular.  But no, this was just for me.  Just for me to learn and experience.

MWGI thought we were done.  Earlier in the week, Sylvia had mentioned something about a meeting on Thursday with the MWG.  But then she said that it fell through, and was going to happen later on in July.  While we were touring the bio-diesel plant, Herr Ball got a call saying that MWG wanted to take a picture of me, like now.  For the MWG newsletter.  For an article… featuring… me.  As he was telling me this, I was kinda confused, but just went with it.  So we get to the MWG headquarters and head upstairs.  We end up having a meeting with the head of MWG, who was charming and would throw in random English words that he knew.  It was great.  He didn’t really know anything about me, and asked straight up, “Why is an American doing this project?” Haha I was like, good question. It was cool hearing Herr Ball talk/kinda brag about me, and describe how I came to find this project.  After he named dropped Professor Neumann, it was crazy.  The head of MWG immediately seemed to approve of me.  So apparently Professor Neumann is kinda a big deal around here.   I got the basic history of MWG and we talked about the difference between now and the DDR [typical].   He had to leave a few times and when he was gone, Herr Ball would crack jokes about him, saying he thought he was such a big-wig.  Haha I was loving it.  All this time I sitting here like… ok, once again, we are at a meeting, completely focused on… me.  His secretary brought in water, coffee and a bad of MWG paraphernalia for me, including a baseball cap.   Herr Ball was late for another meeting, so he had to rush out.  I was left with the head of MWG.

Then we got down to business.  It was time to take the picture.  So we went outside and took one in front of the big MWG logo.  Haha I could tell he felt completely awkward and I was eating it up.

Two things to comment on regarding these events.  Everyone is shocked, and I mean really shocked that I am an American and I know German.  Like the head of the Bio-diesel plant would tell everyone we ran into that, “She is an american- and she knows german!”  The second thing.  I have been to three outside field trips/meetings, and every time I am the only woman there.  And every time, someone has commented on my looks in a joking or sarcastic way.  I have gotten three different words, schoen, hubsch, und attracktiv, which all basically mean the same thing.  For example, one guy said something to the effect of, “Oh yea, Herr Ball always arrives with beautiful women”.  And the head of MWG made a comment twice that he didn’t want to be alone in a picture with such an attractive woman.  It’s like, ok, I’m flattered.  But somewhat inappropriate?  I assume it’s just a cultural difference.