Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Taste of English Exams

The University of Kent in Canterbury give its students the entire month of April off to study. All of April off. Hear that American schools? Which means English kids dutifully head to the library every day to "revise" and American kids go on European grand "backpacking" tours to Barcelona, Brussels and Santorini. Living the life.

I'm not excepted from this either. From April 1st, I left the UK and headed to the Eiffel Tower, the Ponte Vecchio, the Grand Canal, the Berlin Wall and the gyro capital of the world/slightly dangerous protest city/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants set (Athens and Santorini).

When I returned, I spent the end of April doing nothing and most of May doing nothing, while English kids scurried off to "revise," English for study. On the day before my exam, I finally picked up my books and made my one trip to the library for a hellish day of I Told You Rosemary You Should Have Been Studying All Of April And All Of May Instead of Watching The Hills Every Day reminders to myself.

My grades don't count, so I wasn't that worried for exam day, but English kids were. They clumped outside the exam hall an hour before, smoking, heads bent over notes, quizzing each other on the answers, "Marketing, Premium...what's the other one? Bloody hell what's the other one?... Oh, enterprise!" (Those probably aren't the exact words).

You aren't allowed to bring anything into the exam hall except writing utensils, ID, a cell phone turned off and a jacket. One girl had a few extra items in a zip locked bag as if she were going through security at the airport.

My exam was in the Sports Centre. About 200 desks covered the basketball court in an orderly fashion. I had an assigned seat and my test was already propped on my desk. I felt like I was taking the SAT all over again as kids sat quietly with their hands folded, a sense of anxiety pervading the hall. Then a loud speaker out of Star Wars or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World booms "There will be no smoking." Duh. Then other directions. Then, "It is now 9:30. Begin." Woah! I'm used to starting at your leisure. But it was the SAT; people picked up their pencils and began.

Proctors prowl the aisles like stormtroopers in Star Wars during the entire three hour exam. Five minutes in one stormtrooper told me my jacket had to be under desk, not on the back of my chair. I'm sorry but I don't know how to tuck an entire essay in my thin, Old Navy throw that I would wear to the beach. Chill, stormtrooper.

I left the hall an hour before the 200 other kids taking exams, which is a little worrisome. But I strolled home excited to watch The Hills, maybe eat a pie and continue doing diddlysquat.

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