Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Today in academia.

Today I woke up on the early side to put the finishing touches on my Proyecto de Investigación proposal for Sociology and Anthropology of Art, as well as make it to an internet café in time to print it out before class. Since most things, especially at UBA, are done "Argentine Style" i.e. lay it out in front of everybody instead of having individual consultations, I needed this to make sense.

I was right. Today, "Argentine Style" was taken to a new level when our Práctico professor read our exam grades out loud in front of everyone, also informing us out loud about what issues we had on the exam.

Coming from Bryn Mawr, where it is against the Honor Code to even utter a word about grades, this was a very foreign concept to me. However, in the end, it didn't really make me feel that uncomfortable, because students aren't competitive here. They compete more against the system, which, as Guille puts it, "means they never win." So, this was more about commiseration and being impressed with the lucky few who got a 9 or 10 out of 10. Our fairly large section has boiled down to 15 or so dedicated individuals who actually came and took the midterm and didn't drop the class i.e. I, as a non-native speaker, probably should not be in this class.

I got...a 6/10 (PASSING). The lowest grade in the class, though one other kid also got that grade. His comments for me? I had "problemas de escritura" (writing problems). Well, no shit sherlock, thanks for that helpful tidbit. You try to take an exam over 300 pages of complex anthropological theory in a second language at the most prestigious university in the country. Then we'll talk.

This was a low moment and a bit of a blow to my existence as a foreigner, a feeling I haven't had in a really long time, surprisingly. And then, to make matters worse, we moved right into having to explain our research projects to the entire class. I understand my topic and I had thought about it a lot, but it's a hard topic to describe even in English. He called me about 3rd, and I just went for it. At least a couple people understood what I was getting at. He then read the important sections of my proposal out loud, said my questions were clear and well-developed, and didn't see any problems with any of it. YES. Most other people's topics were a lot more complicated and nebulous so we had to spend tons of time talking about them and deciding if they would work. Thank god I didn't have to do that.

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