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Finals at Otago

So, I only just now realized how much time has passed since my last blog post.  That may lead you to assume that was a result of more crazy travels, but that was not quite the case.  At least initially.

After returning to Dunedin from my Queenstown adventures with Brigid, I had two days before the start of final exams. I was unlucky (or maybe actually lucky) enough to have to sit exams on the first two days of testing.  I then had two days off, another final, one more day off, and then my last exam.  Ordinarily, I would do little to no preparation for my finals, if I even had any to take in the first place.  This is because as an English major, I generally exclusively write final papers that take the place of an exam.  And on the off-chance that I do have an actual final, it’s usually not difficult because I’ve been reading and discussing the material all semester, rendering cramming unnecessary.

That was definitely not the case this semester.  As a result of me frequently blowing off classes during the second half of the semester, and also partially a result of the complete lack of class discussion (and thus the elimination of any real engagement with the material on my part)m I was not nearly as comfortable with my class subjects as I would be at home in Valpo.  No longer was studying optional; I absolutely needed to make up for lost time.  However, the one good things is that I became familiarized with the Kiwi way of learning: avoid class all semester, then live in the library for the entire exam period.  I actually had an easier time than many since my exams were so early and close together.  Mike and I spent a lot of long days in the Central Library and St. David’s preparing for finals, but his first exam was the day of my last one so he had at least twice as many hours to log into studying.  At least there was always someone to keep me company and go on coffee breaks with.

Now, even the actual exams themselves were outside the realm of familiarity for me.  I’m used to professor who teaches the class being the one who administers the exam in our usual classroom; at Otago, the setting is more like that of a standardized test in that you have a proctor who you’ve probably never seen before in your life, in a room that none of your classes or tutorials were even in during the semester.  There are a few things you should know (that I didn’t) before going in to take your test.  (1)Arrive in the location early and make sure you know exactly where it is.  I was that jerk who walked into every exam moments before the clocked started and make a ruckus.  (2)Bring your student id.  I only had mine with me by chance for the first one.  I’m assuming that requirement is because the proctors don’t know you so, in theory, it would be very easy to cheat.  (3)Be careful where you sit, and make sure you’re exactly where they tell you to go.  At least one person in each of my finals (NOT me, thank you very much) started taking the wrong test, since usually there are multiple courses testing out in the same room.

Overall, I prefer the finals and class system at home.  The fact that finals at the University of Otago are worth so much more than the internal assessments (I’d heard of exams holding anywhere from 50-90% of the semester grade), coupled with the fact that class attendance holds no value, encourages students to cram and then you don’t actually learn or retain the material.  It’s so easy to ignore classes and just copy down notes that there is minimal incentive to actually to and sit through 50 minutes of a lecturer talking at you.  I have a new appreciation for the discussion-based classes I have at Valpo.  Here, I never actually learned the material.  Mike kept thinking it was strange that I repeatedly came out of my exams describing them not as difficult, but as “annoying.”  That was because, thanks to my cramming, I knew the works well enough, but didn’t care about any of them enough to want to write on them.  I had nothing brilliant or interesting to say about anything we had read, so the in-exam essays were a very tedious way to spend three hours.

Anyway, I apologize for this rather boring post.  But seeing as I did come here under the guise of academics, this aspect of being abroad needed to be addressed.  I look forward to sharing my travels with my family through New Zealand next!

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