However, the past few weeks in Bologna have been more than beautiful weather and frisbee in the Giardini (a wonderful park right outside the city walls). I have also been quite busy studying for (and taking) my first exams. That's right, it's exam season! As with everything else to do with the university here, exams have quickly become a source of confusion and stress, especially because they are the only form of evaluation and consequently the basis for my entire final grade for each class.
My first exam was for Istituzioni di storia del cinema (History of the Institutions of Film). Given that I had not been regularly attending lectures for most of the semester (largely due to conflicts with my teaching job and with another class), that I had not seen any of the 40 films on the syllabus, and that I still had nearly three entire books to read (in Italian!) in four days, I was quite worried. Freaking out might actually be a more accurate description of the state of things. So, I decided to talk to the professor and make sure that I was clear on the format of the exam so I could began to plan my studying. Her office hours were at four o'clock on Thursday. Great. I decided to skip my 3-5 class to make sure I get a chance to speak with her. Oh, wait. There's a note on the door saying that she won't be coming until five that day.
At this point it's too late to walk all the way across the city to where my class is and back, so I settle in for an hour (....and a half...) to do some reading while I wait. Eventually the professor shows up and I manage to make it into her office before most of the crowd that has formed by this point. We clarify the format of the exam. She informs me that nothing is different for Erasmus students (Erasmus is the European exchange program--we American students aren't technically Erasmus but we get lumped in) and, in response to my question about whether there are certain sections I should focus on more than others, that I just need to know tutto (everything). She ended the session by reassuring me a bit: "Don't worry, you don't need to be intelligent to pass this exam, you just need to read and memorize everything." Thanks a lot. My intelligence, and not my slow reading and difficulty memorizing in another language, really is the issue at hand.
Needless to say, I did not emerge from the meeting much comforted.
Frantic studying ensued. I read more pages in Italian in less time than I thought possible. I highlighted, made flash cards, watched YouTube clips, and didn't leave my kitchen table for approximately two days (other than a quick study break to make oatmeal cookies with my roommate).
Then came the day of the exam. I woke up earlier and made it to the building where the exam would be with plenty of time. After more frantic skimming of the book I would need to write two essays about and my notes and flash cards, the professor finally arrived. She then proceeded to take roll, calling out all the names for a group of about 200 gathered students as we all stood in the hallway (around 20 of these students were absent, because why, after all, would you show up to take the exam you signed up for when you can just turn up next month and try again?). Once she had checked off all of our names, she announced that only the first 96 students would be able to take the exam at this point (10am) and that the others would have to return at 11:30. Having no idea where my name sat in relation to all of the others, I decided to just go in and see what happened.
What happened is that the two professors administering the exam each passed out different copies and we spent about 10 minutes sitting there while they got that sorted out. When I finally did get my copy of the exam, I was in for a nice surprise. Contrary to what the professor had told me several days before, the exam was different for Erasmus students! Instead of 30 multiple choice questions relating to the 40 films and two books and two essays answering questions about a third book, I only had to answer the multiple choice questions! Furthermore, many of these questions were exactly the same as the "sample questions" given out (with answers) the last day of class. Facilissimo (very easy)! I finished in about half an hour, and then spent another hour twiddling my thumbs and staring at the frescoes on the ceiling until we were finally allowed to leave.
So there it is. One down, one and two halves to go!
Fortunately I have something like a ten-day break before my next exam, so I can take my time studying for this next one (and spend some more time on Project Amy-tries-to-have-Italian-friends--Take 4)!