Monday, May 28, 2012

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter

These past few weeks have been tough. I know memory is selective, but I don't recall ever studying this intensely for exams before. My first two went ok... they were both oral exams which I am not at all accustomed to. We were pummelled by questions from the prof 15 minutes after having received the case we were meant to analyse. Your entire mark boils down to how you perform in those 15 minutes. Talk about inducing utter panic. I have yet to receive my marks for those exams, but following the quizzing session, both profs said they thought I could have done better. Comforting. Thanks. I most recently suffered through my international economics exam (the one for which I hadn't attended half of the classes.) At 6pm on Friday evening we received two questions: one legal and one economic. I don't think I have ever drawn such a stark, white, BLANK upon reading an exam question. We had until 6pm the following day to send our answers in. While everyone in my house was partying in the kitchen (2 of our house mates just had a send off party), I was buried in the basement tackling the law of the WTO. (In particular, the EU's Generalized Preference System and the principle of non-discrimination between trading partners). Not fun. Somehow, despite lack of sleep and waning mental concentration, I managed to pull something together - I figured if I inserted enough economic acronyms into my text it would at least appear that I knew what I was talking about. To reward myself for a traumatizing 24 hours, I headed out to soak up the late evening sun and take in some of the Jazz Festival acts on an outdoor stage nearby. The upside to this whole sordid affair was how happy I felt after having finished it. I could not wipe the smile off my face!
On the subject of grading and evaluation, the Brussels method differs greatly from what I've become used to in Canada. Here, all grades are on 20 - the highest you can actually hope to attain is a 17 and a pass is a 12. That doesn't leave much margin between an A, B, C, or a D. Also, the system is much less anonymous. My profs in Montreal haven't the foggiest idea whose exam they are marking when they correct it. Here, you write your name on your exam and obviously for the oral evaluations the prof knows exactly who you are. Furthermore, everyone in the class finds out how everyone else has performed! I hate sharing my marks let alone finding out everyone else's so that was an unwelcome throwback to high school. All this to say - only two more left to go. Come June 4th, I will be FREE. I cannot wait.
Before you begin to feel too sorry for me, I have been making time for a little bit of fun ;) We had a 4-day weekend in honour of the Ascension so I took off to Lyon. I had forgotten what a beautiful city it is. I stayed with friends I met when I was living there in 2007. Even though I had a lot of studying to do, I spent my breaks going on trips to the market, running along the water, and meeting up with friends. I requested that we have a crêpe dinner like we used to do back in the day.
Day trip to Annecy:
Finally, I am proud to say, I completed my 1/2 marathon yesterday! My goal was to make it past the finish line in less than two hours and my official time was 1:50:08 so I was happy with that. There were bands keeping us motivated along the way and crowds lined up on either side of the path cheering for anyone and everyone. About 30,000 people ran it, so once you hit an up or a downhill you saw the most spectacular sight ahead of you. I was surprised to find that it demanded more mental concentration than physical prowess. You had to focus so hard on not tripping on the crushed water bottles and caps all over the ground or on the feet of the people in front of you who suddenly decided to stop running and walk. I almost fell trying to pass someone in a tunnel. I witnessed a couple of people go down though - it wasn't pretty. I know it sounds cheesy but events such as these really lift my spirit and renew my beliefs in the good of humanity. A mass of people from all over the world running together while being encouraged by strangers - it gives me hope.
After spending the afternoon recovering in bed, I rallied 'round to attend my friend's birthday celebrations - it was a beautiful, warm, summer evening and there was a festive mood in the air. Birthday cupcakes and chocolate-covered strawberries = yum
last night's sunset.
Today we have a public holiday due to the Pentecost (gotta love Belgium and its religious holidays). I am heading to the park with a picnic and my international criminal law notes. Nothing is going to stop me from enjoying this sunshiny day.

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