Column: Unwanted Characters

| Lisa Waldera

Lisa Waldera (24) is a master’s student Communication Studies from Bremen, Germany. For three years now, she’s been living on campus. Next to her study, she regularly visits the cinema and enjoys concerts of all music genres. Every other week she writes about her life at the University of Twente.

Photo by: Annabel Jeuring

With the end of the first module not that far behind us, it’s time to look back at that specific moment of time we all endured. The time of the academic year when it becomes less about being presentable in public, but rather about keeping it together for only a few more days. As a student, stress and unclear skin also take over my life on days like this. And what is it that I really need more than sleep at those moments? Exactly. A dreadful and repetitive afternoon of group presentations!

I feel everyone is very well aware that they could do better things with their time. However, the professors in the front sit through the event as if they might actually enjoy it.

The only use of these boredom-filled afternoon events seems to be the chance to compare yourself to the one group with insane photoshop and time management skills in the course. And let’s be honest, it is mostly a downward comparison. The stress that my own project is not good enough to pass the course, slightly kicks in. Is this the reason why I am forced to endure this?

While the courses change, certain unwanted characters at these end-of the-module events do not. The one student who is not understandable but was still chosen to present. The one student who, unfortunately for him and me, sweats through their button-up shirt. The student who does not notice that the light of the projector is projecting on his or her forehead. An unsettling question arises in me: what role am I am actually representing in this recurring play? I consider asking the people around me, but discard the thought for fear of possibly crushing my self-esteem. Dutch people are direct, honest and do not spare you. I learned that early on.

The only comfort is the certainty that during these moments, I know it is last time I will have to forcefully pretend to be friends with my own group members. Actually, I cannot even complain about most of them. Still, procrastination and unproductiveness of the group led to last minute changes to make the project somehow presentable.

At the end of the last presentation, the final and relieving slide appears – ‘Thank you for your attention! Any questions?’

Everyone suddenly wakes up in the room. After a short and tired applause, the last presenters of the day look into the audience. Silence. They prepare to move back to their seats. But then it happens – the most unwanted character at any presentation has their moment to shine. The one student who actually dares to ask questions…