Tag Archives: tests

The Big Storm before the African Sunrise

It’s probably actually quite incredible that I made it this far with only one breakdown, but today the last straw flew through the window and still managed to blow back and hit me in the face.

Cork board week before finals

True, no specific, life-altering destruction came my way, but sometimes the accumulation of a thousand incidences manage to imitate that kind of problem.

Two weeks ago, with short breath, racing mind, and finals falling upon me, I defaulted to my classic stress management technique– obscene organization.  A list for everything.  Color-coordinated notes.   A couple hundred flashcards.

Finals Week: Covered up the schedules with what I thought was more important...the people I love.

It’s just what I do.  My mind’s version of making sense of wacked out disorder and the impossibility

of perfection.  And it helps a lot.  When I sit for a test, I remember where it was at in my notes and what color they were.  When I’m trying to write, I have an uncluttered space with everything I need within reach.

My law class drags on for another two long weeks, but all the others are done as of today– 4 exams and 2 papers later.  It wouldn’t have been so bad, if that whole Spanish language thing still didn’t trip me up.  But it does.

As such, writing takes forever.  But last night it was fun.  Last night, it almost felt like one of those long CSS Thursday nights–always so painful, but in some inexplicable way, fun.

Me and Joe McCarthy were getting along just fine, till about 2am when I realized my sentences were beginning to seemlessly flow back and forth between English and Spanish.  I called it quits and went to bed.

The morning started unassuming, what with the paper and some note taking, but disorder descended…fast.  It almost feels petty to enumerate, but I don’t think that somehow makes them mean less.  Because today, the accumulation of these incidences was enough to  make it really hard to choose a positive attitude.

My USB drive disappeared, and without it, I didn’t know how to print at school.  I tried buying another one, but I couldn’t find one.  And the people at the store were rude.  Once I did figure where to email my paper to print it, I learned that the email was down (how does that even happen?)  Thankfully, the mean lady who always works behind the printing counter took pity on me and let me borrow a USB drive.  As such, I made it to class, with my final project, in time.

paper wads of former notes

As I sat for my Cold War final, I realized that if I hadn’t attended a single day of classes, I could have passed the test.  That was nice, but it sort of made all my crammed time studying a detailed Cold War timeline a little irrelevant.

And then, I thought it was all over.  But it wasn’t.

My camera spontaneously broke last week.  I planned on  going to the mall outside of the city after my test with this month’s check and replacing it.  I walked into my program office 30 minutes before it closed to learn that I couldn’t get any money without filling out all my evaluations. And I couldn’t fill out my evaluations right away, because I didn’t have access to a USB drive to print.

I’ll get the check on Monday, but it means that my new camera and Morocco are all going to be out of pocket expenses.  And it’s a long story, but as a result of bank accounts being in the wrong countries and currency stuff, the reimbursement money is never going to end up back in the account I want it in.

At the mall, they wouldn’t accept my credit card, because I only had a copy of my passport.  After a brief, but dejected walk out of the mall, I returned in search of an ATM (because they don’t require IDs).  After about an hour of searching, I made my way back to the electronics store, and this time I walked out, camera in hand.

An hour and half later, after verifying that my finances all check out for my trip tomorrow, I was curled up in my bed with the covers pulled tight, my computer, and an episode of One Tree Hill.

–and the post-final crash commences (but not too much), see I got a full day ahead of me now.  What with that whole flight to Marrakesh in three hours and whatnot…

(please pray for my safety.  they just had some power change hands via elections last week)

I am woman.

Let it never be said that I didn’t walk into the lion’s cage.

Broadly speaking, Spain has been a wonderful experience.  Academically, it’s been a never-ending crockpot of failure.  And furthermore, so unfun, except in the two classes I am doing the worst in (ironic, isn’t it?)

So on that note,  let us recognize that which the rest of the world so vehemently seems to profess and I have adamantly denied since kindergarten   Grades matter, but they aren’t always the best measure of improvement.

I think I’ve always rejected this claim on the basis of the absence of objectivity.  I’d feel better with myself if I upright faced failure rather than rationalizing it away.

In my father’s words, “You can either use it as a kick in the butt, or you can whine about it.”   If I pretended falling short of my goals was okay, then I was tricking myself into feeling better.

We are suppose to fail, right?  (hence the fall first)  So aren’t we cheating ourselves out of something if we call failure anything other than what it really is?

Spanish is not something that I’m good at.  I think I’m not good at it for the same reasons I could never get good marks on Strunk & White Grammar tests in high school.  I stink at grammar.  I can’t put raw language in lists and make a story about it (how I passed AP bio).  I study in CSS, because it all is a story–history, where ideas comes from, how ideas form governments, etc.  This stuff excites me.  I just have to think about it and apply it.

Anyways, I think there is real merit to studying outside of your strengths.  Unfortunately, outside of your strengths, stuff is a lot less fun.  Maybe because, I don’t know, you can’t/can barely pass your tests.

All to say, this semester is open range shooting on my GPA, but at least I can take pride in coming here anyways.  Doing it in spite of knowing how hard it would be.  And what’s a couple numbers in comparison to all the other experiences I’m getting along the way?

on the river, Valencia




What goes up

This post was originally titled, “Please don’t say I told you so,” but it no longer seems a appropriate.

I’d been looking forward today by pretending it didn’t exist.  Tests are hard, and I knew I would probably be getting the two tests I took last week back.

I busied myself with chintzy grammar exercises while I waited for my law professor to arrive this morning.  He is always at least 30 minutes late.  When he came in at 9:30, I knew the exam return was for real, because he never carries anything.  Clutched in his left hand was a small folder.

After dolling out the homework for next week, he pulled out a sheet with all of our grades.  I thought he was going to post it.  When it became obvious that he wasn’t, I thought he was going to call out our grades by our student ID numbers.  Nope.

He just yelled out our names and grades, in front of everyone.

I don’t know how Rowe ended up at the beginning of the alphabet, but I was one of the first grades he called out.  My heart practically melted inside me.

Before I can say what I got, I must explain how grades are given out here (at least as best as I’ve been able to understand it).  It’s on a scale of 1-10, but  nobody gets 9s and 10s.  A 7 is good, and anything above 5 is passing.

Recalling that this is the class that I was literally incapable of reading the textbook at the beginning of the semester, I wasn’t hoping for much.  But somehow I cranked out a 5.3.  My slow, deep exhale was much akin to the involuntary sigh I gave out after my oral comps exam last spring, to which the history examiner smiled a little and said, “Relieved much?”

I thought for sure the professor must have smudged my grade a little, but it was a straightforward 20 question multiple choice test.  There’s no way.  I just passed it on my own.

Imagine my surprise when the professor continued to yell out the scores, and mine, that of  the befuddled and practically-formally-illiterate foreigner was higher than almost a third of the class.  Guess effort counts for something, though as my next class proved, it offers no promises.

Commence language class.  This course has actually been the best, most valuable class I’ve taken here in Spain.  As opposed to inane theoretical legal concepts cheaply rooted in philosophers we barely even study, I literally use the concepts I learn in language all the time, and it’s actually fun.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm and inclination to talk in class does not transfer to five page exams.  It wasn’t disastrous, but it was still pretty darn ugly.

But the hard thing is, I really have no idea what else I could have done.  I started studying early.  I asked questions.  I met with the professor one-on-one.  I wrote a custom study guide.  I sought out online resources.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that the first test really was disastrous.  I was counting on this one to work its magic grade raising capabilities.  And now, all that’s left is the final.

I hate it when you get evaluated and people say, “I’m sure you did better than you think you did,” because they have no idea.  When you get the test back, you can say in the long run it all doesn’t matter, but that depends on what long run you are talking about.

If you’re talking about law school, it all means a lot. (Side note: I’ve been having a lot of developing thoughts about law too; expect a post on the topic soon)  In the long run very little matters, but does that mean we shouldn’t care about it now?

Lesson from all of this?  Wish I could tell you.

Step back, breath, repeat

A few things that felt noteworthy…

1. Who knew if you wrapped bacon in bread and cream cheese it would actually taste good?  Sometimes pick a random sandwich that you know nothing about (it said British, but how was I suppose to know what that means?) it works out.

2. Still wavering between I’m completely set and I have no idea for my tests tomorrow, and it all makes me quite uncomfortable.  I just wish it could all be over.

3. Checked out the book the law class lectures are based on to review major themes for tomorrow’s exam.  About 7 weeks ago, I checked out the same book.  It took me and google translate about two days to get through the first 10 pages or so.  I just perused through the first 40 pages in about an hour.  Guess that means I’m learning something.

4. My new computer has a self-destruct button (or something that might as well be).  Apparently if you bump the internet button (why there is an internet button I’ll never know) and the function key at the same time, your computer will stop picking up all internet signals.  As frustrating as this might be, I troubleshooted the problem myself…with a computer who’s help functions are all in Spanish.

I’d like to take my ability to think clear under pressure (I need to have an internet connection) and transfer that to the two and half hours I’ll be sitting for exams tomorrow.

If today is any sort of indication of what I’m capable of, I think there’s hope, despite the knot that is still a little tied up in my chest right now.