Italian Finals: As Told By An American

I failed a final in Italy and lived to tell the tale! It still sucked, but read more if you want to laugh at my utter negligence in Supply Chain.


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Ok sooo… it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve last published anything.  In fact, since my last post, America made the worst mistake of 2016 elected a new president, which I could make many comments on, but this post isn’t about me getting political.  Rather, this is an explanation of sorts as to why I haven’t been on my blogging game.  It’s also a harrowing tale about the dangerous of hubris and the human condition.  Ok, really it’s none of that – it’s just me telling you about taking finals in Italy, which is WILD, so the real warning here is that this post will contain a lot of rambling and memes.

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Me, when you ask me how finals went.

Any student will tell you that Finals Week is the actual physical manifestation (if time can actual be any kind of physical manifestation…) of suffering, or that Finals Week confirms the existence of Satan himself, and to those two ideas, I say yes.  Did you think I was going to disagree? They’re both true.  I hate finals.  They suck.  Period.

In Italy, finals are intimidating because most of the time, you literally don’t get anything else grade-wise to prove that you actually have some idea of what’s going on in class.  Unlike in the US, where there’s an abundance of homework, projects, and usually class participation, you get one shot in Italy, and that’s the final.  Well, technically you get more than one chance to take a final, but more on that later.

But wait – I’m getting ahead of myself.  Before you take a final in Italy, there are other things you have to do.  Finals in Italy are like the boss battle at the end of a level, which you can only get to by passing certain checkpoints.

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Me, staring finals in the face.

The first checkpoint is actually getting your student ID and what’s called a “matricola.” Student IDs are pretty self-explanatory – basically, it’s an ID with the worst photo you’ve ever taken.  Mine looks like I just tortured a baby lamb and feel smug about it.  Literally looking at ID photos are like looking at the dark version of yourself through some kind of perverted mirror that leads to a dimension devoid of all joy and logic in an environment where chaos reigns.  But I digress.

A matricola is a just a fancy-pants Italian way of saying ID Number.  This number is important because you basically have to write it on every single test you take.  Without it, you are nobody.  Or at least you are a somebody who can’t take exams.  In which case, you are irrelevant to Finals Week so you may as well be nobody.

In the US, you just kind of show up for finals and hope for the best.  In Italy, you have to register for finals before showing up and hoping for the best.  A cool thing about the Italian finals system is (wait for it) that you can actually choose when to take the final.  Like… what??

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When I first found out about this, I thought I was being punk’d, because not only can you choose when to take the final, but you can take it multiple times if you fail or don’t do as well as you would have liked.  For a minute, I felt omnipotent.  In what world can a student retake a final?? In what world do I not have to accept my mistakes?? Italy, apparently.  But looks can be deceiving.

As it turns out, the opportunity to retake a final isn’t always so honky-dory.  You still have to confront your failure due to the fact that you actually have to accept and reject the grade.  Rejecting your grade is like rejecting some base part of yourself – the younger, more hopeful part that had dreams and aspirations before the exam somehow went sour.

Ok, I’m just being dramatic, but it’s what I do best.  In reality, four out of my five finals went pretty swell, so if we’re looking at this in the perspective of the good old American pastime of baseball, I’m batting .800, which is pretty damn good.

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The Italian school system @Me

Unfortunately, this is Italy, and they’re not really all that into baseball, which is respectable, but wrong, in my opinion.  The one final that went really really really (really) badly for me was Supply Chain, which happened to be taught in Italian, but it wasn’t even my in-fluency  (that’s not a word but you get me) in the Italian language that tanked me in taking this final.  It was just my overwhelming lack of knowledge in the Supply Chain.

Because I’m feeling ~extra-festive~ I’ve decided to explain my failures in Supply Chain through a modified (and abridged because I’m LAZY) version of “The Night Before Christmas,” which I like to call “The Day I Really Hated Myself.”

‘Twas the hour before finals, when all through the bus
Not a person was stirring, no chaos or fuss;
I was looking over my notes with care,
While saying a silent and tearful prayer;

At university, my sanity hung on by a thread,
While dimensions of pallets danced in my head;
I hoped I could take this exam quickly and nap,
But little did I know this would be a trap,

The exam room was filled with chaos and clatter,
As nobody knew what the hell was the matter.
When given the exam, teeth began to gnash,
And quickly my dreams turned to ash.

I looked at the very first question with woe
As I realized the answer I did not know,
Suddenly, failure seemed very near,
And it was for my future that I began to fear. 

Each question the same story, each made me sick,
For I knew that this end would not be so quick.
With two hours to go, only I was to blame
For not knowing the Spoke-Hub distribution paradigm.

‘Now, COOPER! Now, LAMBERT! Now, STEVENS and PAGH!
On, COYLE! On FORRESTER – it seems like a fog;
None of these names helped me, none of them at all
Of the questions on the test, this knowledge seemed so small.

I wanted to run and to hide and to cry,
Because this stupid test was like a Gemini;
Two-faced and deceitful, I’d rather have the flu
Than deal with this stupid hellish review.

This, my friends, stands as proof
That even studying for days isn’t always bulletproof.
The summaries I reviewed seemed useless abound,
And it looked like my luck wouldn’t turn around.

When I finally turned it in, it felt like a dismissal
As I knew for sure my grade was in trouble.
I walked out of the hall, knowing I’d have to study again that night
For tomorrow I had to face another exam much to my fright.

And that’s the end of my dramatics (for now).  I haven’t gotten that grade back, but never have I had the feeling of failing something so spectacularly.  Luckily, I can retake it in May, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that it went so horribly wrong.  If there’s anything I learned in Italy, it’s that no matter where you are, finals still suck.

I hope everybody has a happy holidays and an even happier New Years – good luck to everybody taking finals (or getting their scores back)!


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