A pink taxi

A pink taxi

June 30, 2010

Eternal Student

Have you ever wondered whether you would fail your driving test if you were to take it again?

I used that line when faced with an academic board who wanted to test me on Middle Eastern Studies, even though I'd already earned a PhD in the field. Mental nausea is how I felt the day I squirmed myself out of a situation I got myself into voluntarily.

Many times, and with much regret, people forecast their sweetest desires into a "in my next life I would......". I was lucky (some may not concur with me), to get another chance at my academic life. I was in Geneva, my only child was in school all day,  and the University of Geneva only cost a grand total of 500 swiss francs a year for tuition......so I decided to enroll in that university, at the ripe age of 32, toward earning a second bachelors degree, this time specializing in Art History and Arabic.

At first I thought, ha! Piece of cake! Won't I be studying with kids just out of high school? With no knowledge of Arabic? Hadn't I taken an introductory art history class at Smith College a decade ago and visited every art museum in every city that I had lived in?

However, no sooner had I started the program, I was thrown into amphitheaters with interminable lectures and in seminars where I discovered that my fellow 18 year-old students actually had a very strong basis in art history and history per se, a reflection of the excellence of the Swiss public system.

When I joined the Arabic department and took translation classes, I was summoned to the meet the Chair of the department who said that an obligatory exam in Islamic history would exempt me from classes in that field. I had shown my transcript with no less than 6 years of course work in the field, Phd comprehensive exams and two dissertations. When I told him that it would be like failing my driving license after having it passed it a first time, he was surprisingly convinced and allowed me to skip those exams I so dreaded.
The art history professors, on the other hand, didn't cut me any slack! I had oral exams on medieval art history. I memorized the entire Renaissance period also. And I did pass those exams, albeit with a lot of effort put into them. However, when it came to the essays on these subjects, I was given an insufficient grade and they accused my writing of having a "patchwork feel" to it! They wouldn't listen to my long tale: I had earned my french baccalaureat writing the way they had expected me to do now, but when I had gone to the United States, I had unlearned their method, and picked up the "patchwork" writing system which consists of small paragraphs with topic sentences. I wrote my PHD dissertation in that patchwork fashion and was now failing bachelor degree papers because of a constant educational system switch!

As you can see this persistent patchwork writing style permeates this blog!

PS: I  did finally earn my "demi license", after two years of coursework and exams. I then left for Dubai.

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha!Nobody wants to comment about our eternal student-blogger.The hot dog days of summer,especially after a long scholastic year,is not conducive to indulge in the sadistic attachment of the blogger to education and the collection of degrees.I suggest that cool fresh subjects should be tackled,to be read while sitting relaxed by a pool or on top of a mountain!!
    Nightmares repeat when one is stressed,and what better a nightmare than going back to school to compete with fully-hormined,tech savvy kids?!