It’s that time of year: exam period. Technically it started this week, but thanks to the black cloud that is ‘revision period,’ it has felt longer than that. I’m writing to you from the library, a shocker because it has been impossible to find a seat in this six-story building since April 1st. Can’t say that I’ve missed it that much, though. I spent my morning in the Old College library before getting kicked out for sneaking in a vanilla latte from Cafe Nero. I’m proud to say that, contrary to previous nasty encounters with Edinburgh librarians, this time I did not cry. (Wait…did I ever tell that story?)
Back in September, as I perused the University of Edinburgh course booklet for a science class that tickled my fancy (and suited my Fairfield U graduation requirements), I stumbled upon Oceanography. This class had a lab part, met three times a week, and had a killer schedule. Plus, it would count for the 2 science credits that the Jesuits claim will make me a more well-rounded person by this time next year, when I’m walking across the stage at Bellarmine Hall in a cap and gown (too much to think about, Mom & Dad?). Oceanography looked perfect.
It didn’t exactly turn out that way. Not only am I possibly the only exchange student in the class, but I am most definitely the only non-Science major in the department’s entire roster. Ever tutor, lecturer, and lab assistant has asked me the same question: “What are you even doing in this class?” Still, I had some good moments that gave me hope. I had a high moment during a three-hour lab session when I rocked phytoplankton identifications and got requests for help from some neuroscience chick from Glasgow who was taking the class for ‘fun.’ I walked out into the beautiful dusk [see: pouring rain] with a satisfied [see: relieved] smile on my face. I also became the teacher’s pet of one lecturer, who found me quite endearing after having a coughing attack in his class and followed me into the hallway to diagnose my allergies. Too bad he’s not the one grading my exam.
Any optimism I felt for Oceanography has now sunk [pun intended] deep, deep beneath the Firth of Forth. A conversation with a classmate led to my discovery of ancient Oceanography texts…aka previous exams that the University freely gives us online. After spending all morning looking over these papers, my mind feels more boggled than it did back in January. The Scottish education system feels very baffling for an American college girl familiar with attendance-taking, 0-100 grading scales, and office hours.
The University of Edinburgh prides itself on helping [see: forcing] students take self-responsibility for their work. This includes not listing page numbers for homework (‘You should be able to identify what pages will be useful for tomorrow’s lecture!’), a bizarre grading scale where ‘average’ lies between 50 and 60, and office buildings locked when they aren’t supposed to. The last one is my current dilemma–a paper due in to the English department last Friday has sat on my tutor’s desk for almost a month, graded but locked behind her door (I’m not even sure if she’s in the country anymore). On one hand, I’ve enjoyed the independence of my Scottish education; on the other, I often crave the reliability and attention I get from the Fairfield U faculty.
Especially today, when the sky is dark, Scottish undergrads are tearing their hair out, and Fairfield’s Lower Level BCC just sent me an email about a ‘de-stressing program’ happening, well, now. On a happier note, after my Friday exam, I only have to finish a paper and take one more exam before a VIP comes to town. Any guesses who it might be?
Ps. Those numbers? The nautical coordinates of Edinburgh. Told you I’m studying hard.