Exams in Ireland

Monday, December 12, 2011

I've been sitting in front of my computer for a few hours now, knowing that I need to start studying for my next exam but that is of course not happening so here I am.  There's really not much to update on since I've barely moved from my kitchen table in the last three days but I am too mystified by the process of exams in Ireland to not make a post about it. 

 In the U.S. final exams are fairly laid back. You would have a scheduled final time but the test would take place in the classroom you regularly attend and if your professor is feeling nice they will just give it to you on the last day of classes so you don't have to stick around for the actual scheduled date.  You would also only get one "reading day" between the end of classes and the start of finals to study.

In Ireland, however, exams are like SATs on crack. 

The process begins with a week long "revision" week.  As you can see from my frequent posts, I struggled to utilize this week in the way it was intended.

After revisions the exams are spread over a week and a half.  Most of the exams for UCD and Trinity are held at a place called the Royal Dublin Society or RDS.  I'm not sure what this place's main function is but I'm pretty sure it's actually just there to hold functions.  My bus goes by it on my way to Blackrock and every day there are signs advertising for Knitting Fairs or Priest Concerts or other strange events.  I'm hoping UCD has some type of deal with the RDS because I cannot begin to imagine what the cost might be to rent these halls for two weeks.  Considering the university is state funded I would not be happy to know that my money was going to rent out these halls when there are hundreds of perfectly good classrooms on campus that could serve the same purpose.

After entering what looks like an airplane hanger, you have to find your assigned seat number and then mill around with the hundreds of other students waiting to be herded into the exam hall.  You aren't allowed to bring bags into the hall so they have a "cloakroom" (aka a space on the floor) that you can check your things for a euro per item (ripoff).

I was amazed upon entering the hall.  I don't know how many desks and chairs the hall holds but I've never seen anything quite like it.  Actually, I just checked out the RDS website and apparently the hall we were in can hold 1800 desks.  Impressive.

O.W.L.s at Hogwarts?
They come around and check your id a few times; you have to put the cover of your calculator on the floor under your chair; there are of course no phones allowed; if you leave the hall at any point you're not allowed back in.  There's a man that speaks into a microphone and tells you all the rules but I was so far back I couldn't see him... it all felt very Big Brother-ish. I was actually more nervous about doing something wrong during the exam than about the exam itself.

My favorite part was that the people that walk around during the exam to make sure you're not cheating are called "Invigilators," which I think is just the coolest name.  I wonder if anyone has ever grown up hoping to become an Invigilator.  It's kind of like Terminator for the less physically fit. 

Though for being Invigilators they weren't too vigilant.  They didn't realize I had a graphing calculator until an hour into the exam.  Luckily they just gave me a regular one but if I had been planning on cheating I'm pretty sure I would have had plenty of time to do so.

Overall it was quite an experience.  The exam itself wasn't so thrilling but it's over with and I'm moving on to my next exams... as soon as I get off the internet.

Vocab Lessons

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another procrastination post!  My  first exam still isn't for five days and I also found out that my finance exam is open book/note so I'm having an even harder time motivating myself to study.  Instead, I've decided to give a little vocabulary lesson.  The U.S. gets a lot of flack for basically forcing it's culture upon other countries.  Living in a country like Ireland, however, has shown me that even with all of the exposure to McDonald's and the Jersey Shore, the U.S. hasn't been able to impose all of it's words and phrases around the world.  These are just some words that have different meanings at home and I thought I'd take some time today to share them.

1.) Jumper - Here a jumper is a sweater. At home a jumper is an overall dress that little girls wear.  This one isn't too hard for me to remember since I don't think many people wear American styled jumpers after the age of five.  And using "jumper" to mean sweater has been used in the U.S. just not very often by me.

Irish Jumper
American Jumper

2.) Biscuit - A biscuit in Ireland is a bit like a cookie but usually without anything in or on it. To me they are kind of like a cross between a cookie and a cracker.  They are also sometimes known as "digestives" here which I think is the worst name for any type of food.  In the U.S. a biscuit is more like a dinner roll.  Also, biscuit is one of those words that if you say it enough times it doesn't even sound like a real word... just in case you were wondering.
American Biscuit

Irish Biscuit

 3.)  Chips - I'm sure this is one everyone knows but I guess it can't hurt to point it out.  Chips in Ireland are french fries in the U.S.  What we call chips at home are called crisps here.  I have a hard time saying "crisps" so I generally just call everything chips.  I do love the fact that Ireland has "Chippers." Chippers are basically shops that just make chips and sell them any way possible.  They have dozens of different dips and sauces to douse your chips in. On any given night you will see hundreds of people at these places after a night out dancing.
Delicious by any name

4.) Boots - At one point or another before coming to Ireland I had been exposed to most of these terms I am listing.  The one term that caught me completely off guard, however, was "boots".  The night before my first frisbee practice at UCD I got an email reminding me to bring some warm clothes, plenty of water and "don't forget your boots!"... umm boots? How am I ever going to play frisbee running around in boots?!  Is this some kind of resistance training where you wear something really heavy so when you put on normal shoes you run quicker?  Fortunately with the magic of google I realized that boots here are cleats at home.  I averted disaster and showed up with my cleats in hand and acted calm and cool the next time boots were mentioned.  I even helped some of my less informed friends when they were confused by the word. 
Not for playing frisbee


5.) TK Maxx - No, that's not a spelling mistake.  TK Maxx here is the Irish/UK version of TJ Maxx.  Myself and a friend were so confused by this little change that did some research to discover that there was at some point in the UK another store that started with TJ so they simply changed the letter and renamed the store.

<- Very original ->

6.) School - If you say that you are in "school" in Ireland, people will assume that you are still in high school.  While in the U.S. everything is called school, here you would say college or university. At home if someone were to text you saying 'where are you?' you would say "I'm at school" while here you would say "I'm at college."  It's funny because I remember the first time I heard it the Irish way I thought it sounded so strange but now it's almost second nature.  I have enough trouble with looking young so I need to remember that I'm in 'college' not 'school'.

7.) Kid - I've been told the American usage of "kid" is strange to some Irish.  Even at home it generally means someone younger or closer to childhood, however we still use it all the time.  "I'm meeting up with some kids from school" to me means 'I'm going out with some friends from college', while an Irish person is probably picturing me running around with a bunch of 15 year olds at a playground. 

8.) Ride - One I won't go into great detail about but it drives me crazy.  The word "ride" is used here in a strictly sexual sense.  It's one of the hardest things to take out of my vocabulary and it usually causes me to stutter around sentences that involve bicycles, buses, cars, trains, etc.  I've gotten much better but it's still something I have to actively work on remembering.  I also feel like I sound snobby when I say "I cycled into town" or "I got a lift from a friend" so I'm not sure how that's going to go over when I head back state side.

 9.) Craic - Pronounced like "crack"... not to be confused with crack cocaine.  In Ireland "craic" is used all the time and in many different ways but it is generally used as a term for fun, or what's up. It's just a general way to greet someone and see what's going on.  If someone came up to you and said "How's the craic?" they are not questioning the quality of a recent alleyway purchase you may have just made, they are just asking you how things are going.

10.) Yard - When my roommate back in Boston told me about playing sports in her garden when she was younger I kept thinking, "wow your mom must hate you for stomping all over her flowers."  To me a garden is where you grow flowers and vegetables.  A garden in Ireland is called a "yard" in the U.S.  To the Irish a yard is a concrete slab most likely located in a questionable neighborhood.

11.) Football - I thought this one was easy.  There's American Football and then there is European Football, known as soccer in the U.S.  Of course Ireland never makes anything that simple.  Depending on where you live in Ireland "football" can be referring to soccer or it can be referring to "GAA football" which is an entirely different sport.  Those who call the Irish version "football" will often call the European version soccer like Americans do.  There's also the problem that many Irish also follow American football so when someone brings it up, no matter what, some type of clarification is needed.

Well.  That killed a solid two hours that I should have been using to study.  Also, only two weeks til I head home for Christmas.  This is great since I just got a strong urge to go snowboarding which is not really a possibility here.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Living in the City Centre has so many benefits that I in no way regret my move, but I have been struggling with finding a place to run.  The motivation to run comes so rarely that I really need to take advantage of it when it hits me.  When I was living in Boston I had a bike path just behind my apartment on which I could run for miles with only one or two roads to cross over and some bicyclists to dodge.   UCD also had a nice path and a large enough campus that I could get a decent run in without having to go out on the roads.

The few times I've tried running since living here, however, have been difficult.  There are a few parks in the area but they aren't really big enough to run through without have to loop around and backtrack a few times.  There's also the problem of the thousands of tourists that like to walk around and take pictures of everything.  This isn't so much a problem in the parks themselves but between the tourists and the traffic just getting to the parks is a hassel.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of it before, but if I just go north I can run along the Quays with almost no interruptions.  There aren't many tourist sites until you get down near O'Connell Street and there are only a couple bridges that you may have to stop at a light for.  It is also a beautiful area with the Liffey on one side and mix of new modern office buildings and old dock houses on the other.  For being in the center of the city it is actually quite peaceful.  I just have to turn on my boy Lupe and go.  The more important problem is, of course, actually finding that motivation to run.  Hopefully this will be easier now that I've found somewhere to go... hopefully.

I also don't think that it is much of a coincidence that as I inch closer to finals my motivations to clean, do laundry, exercise, and blog become greater.

The Liffey

Avoca and Aloe Blacc

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two posts in a week... I'm on a roll!  Yesterday was a surprisingly eventful day though I wasn't expecting it to be at all.  I spent most of the afternoon cleaning and doing laundry and all those other things that no one likes doing but must get done once in a while.  Around 6 my friend Claire came over and we then headed down to Avoca in Blackrock for a small Christmas party that the MiM administration was putting on for us.  They told us we could get two free drinks and finger foods so I couldn't see a reason not to go.  They were expecting more people to show up however there were only a small group of us.  This worked out great since they had a certain number of drink vouchers that they of course didn't want to go to waste so we each got several more vouchers than originally intended. It was also great to be able to sit down and chat with some people that I haven't really had a chance to get to know since the start of the program.

After several drinks and lots of food, my friend told me that she had an extra (free) ticket to a concert in the city centre.  I was on a great take-advantage-of-free-things streak so I figured why not! The performer was Aloe Blacc.  I had never heard of him and I'm guessing most of you probably haven't either.  I bet you do know his biggest song "I Need A Dollar".  I took some videos but the quality is terrible so I'm not going to damage the man's name by posting them here.  I would suggest that you look him up on Youtube though.  I was expecting a little more rap / hip hop but he was much more blues / soul music.  It probably wouldn't have been the first type of concert I would think about seeing but it was actually really great and I thoroughly enjoyed myself!   It also didn't hurt that it was sponsored by Heineken so I got a couple more free drinks out of the night!
Aloe Blacc at The Olympia

Tourneys, Thanksgivings, Lashes and Tashes

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Well I've let another large amount of time go by between posts.  I think the last time I posted I was complaining about the project/presentation combo that I was working on.  After those were done there was an accounting project that needed to get completed so I will use that as my excuse for continuing in my trend of not posting!  I'm not at all happy with my grade for the finance project however today was my last day of classes for the semester so I'm trying to just enjoy that instead of dwelling.

Since my last post I've registered myself with the government so I am officially here legally... only a couple of months late.  I also had a second frisbee tournament.  This was women's indoor intervarsities to which UCD sent two teams, one placing 3rd and the other (mine) placing 5th out of 13 teams! 

Last week was the week of many Thanksgivings.  My friend Melissa, who is from Boston but I met over here, invited me to a dinner she was having on the actual day of Thanksgiving.  It was a delicious dinner and great company and I was very happy to be invited.  On Saturday a few girls in my program decided that they were going to host a Thanksgiving dinner.  Again, another amazing meal!  Sunday afternoon I met up with a few of the Irish that were Boston this past year for another "Thanksgiving" meal though we had it at a Mexican/Italian restaurant.  I've never celebrated Thanksgiving with a burrito before this year but there are definitely worse ways to do it I guess!

Last night was the Smurfit Lashes and Tashes party at Lillie's Bordello.  I haven't had a night out in a while and it was so much fun.  Lots of fun eyelashes and mustaches and of course a lot of dancing!

I've really just been using most of this past week to relax since studying time is coming very quickly.  While at home we would have one day between the end of classes and the start of finals, here we have a full week.  It's going to be hard for me to focus but I should really take advantage of that time to get some studying done.  That, of course, isn't going to start tonight so I'm going to continue the trend I've had going for the past few days and watch a nice Christmas movie before bed.  Oh!  We've also finally gotten our couch and gotten a small Christmas tree!
Christmas tree by candlelight