Embarking on my fifth year of college, I’m getting ready to test out my newfound appreciation for UCSB. After a year of studying in Granada, Spain – by the way, the best thing I’ve ever done for myself – I’ve come home with a whole new perspective on the world, and in this case, on the little things that make my life easier.
As I think about the next few weeks, attempting to plan ahead and get organized, I’m comforted knowing that classes start on the 24th. Not a week or two after, or sometime around, but actually on Monday, September 24.
“No shit,” you say. I know – it seems like a strange detail to even notice, but at the Universidad de Granada, classes just kind of started. Sometime … eventually … ma–ana … when the professor got around to feeling like giving lectures. This laid-back attitude toward scheduling was a prevalent part of the Spanish lifestyle, at least what I saw of it, but definitely held firm throughout the year with the professors. Classes were canceled here and there, started 15 minutes late, ended sometime around the hour, and the semester ended substantially earlier than scheduled, allowing time to study for the phenomenally intimidating ex‡menes.
“Examen,” in Spanish, means something to the effect of “a vaguely-worded series of questions read out loud in a huge, echoing room full of whispering students, to be answered in an essay while everyone smokes cigarettes.” While a little nicotine fix would definitely take the edge off these awful tests, it was still absolutely bizarre to look around a room full of test-takers and watch them light up, one by one, as we all struggled through the oddly-phrased preguntas. The professor was invariably soft-spoken, and my classmates used the question-reading time as a moment to jot down a few notes on the desk or whisper about who would answer which question, paying no attention to those of us leaning out of our chairs trying to decipher the Andalusian accent.
Us foreigners – whether or not we were naturally smokers and/or cheaters – were baffled by the madness and usually spent the first half-hour decoding the questions, and we were definitely not going to get caught cheating and sent back across the Atlantic. After several of these drawn-out, tortuous tests last year, I now look forward to a pleasant, straight-forward scantron final, where I can at least read the questions I will be answering.
After I make it through the first quarter back – adapting, adjusting, getting it together – Winter Quarter will be here. In Spain, I started wondering why we call it “Winter” Quarter when we don’t really have winter in Santa Barbara. I bought my first heavy, long winter coat last year, which I actually wore in class – along with sweaters, gloves and a scarf, after sweating my way up the hill in an insanely crowded bus full of equally well-wrapped students. Yet somehow, on the bus, no one else seemed to be sweating in their 8 layers, and in the not-so-well-heated classrooms, no one else seemed to be cold without their extra bulk.
It’s pretty difficult to write with gloves on, which is just one more reason I’m ready for school in Santa Barbara, where I won’t have to seek out a radiator (sometimes even one that actually works) to huddle next to between classes. This fall, I’ll stroll along the beach when I have a break, and reminisce about how much I miss mellow Espa–a despite my bitching about some of the little frustrations.
Alexis Fillipini is a former Daily Nexus opinion editor.