Over the past two weeks in Sevilla the weather has been warming up (we hit 85 last Thursday) and it was also, unfortunately, the season for midterms at the university. At first I was nervous for this experience since I had no idea what to expect. I had heard that the Spanish/European grading system is much harder than in the U.S. (a 1 to 10 system with 10 being the highest and nearly impossible to get) and considering that my exams for my science classes at UMD are problem sets or multiple choice, I uneasy with idea of five essay exams. However, looking back I had nothing to worry about.
While all the exams were essays, they were all slightly different formats. My exam for Arab Influence on Spanish Literature was a usual homework assignment just done in class and my Cervantes exam consisted of questions that we had gone over frequently in class. The exam for my flamenco class definitely required the most study time and memorization while my two history classes were both open note and we only had to respond to one of the two topics provided.
Even though I was not accustomed to essay exams, the strangest thing about my first finals period in Spain was that one of my professors didn’t even show up on the day of the exam. Our class sat in the room for an hour and 15 minutes before leaving and the next class period he apologized and said that he had been sick. I found it very Spanish that he did not call the school to let them know (and to let us know), have a proctor give the exam (which all that needed to be done was hand out paper and write two essay topics on the chalk board), or email the class.
Another interesting aspect of the exams was that the paper provided by the professor was just plain white printer paper, which is the complete opposite of the notebook paper here that looks like a grid of graph paper. I felt bad for the professors having to grade my paper since my handwriting is already nearly illegible, I cannot write in a straight line on blank paper to save my life.