Friday, October 2, 2009

The Saga of the Classes

While I'm waiting for the latest episode of The Office to load I decided to ramble about the difficulty I have had this week in getting enrolled in classes. The title of this post indicates that this is a saga, which is fitting because the Icelandic sagas are long, tedious, often boring stories. Unfortunately there are no Vikings in this saga though, just a bunch of unhelpful Spaniards.
We'll start at the very beginning, even though part of this story has already been told. The day after I arrived, I presented myself at the Office of International Relations to register. They told me to go see Sofia, the International Relations representative on my campus, the following day to select my classes. Unfortunately Sofia was out sick for the following two days, and then it was the weekend. Monday when I went to Sofia's office I was turned away because I had arrived at her office at 11:30 AM and there was a huge line, so no one else was allowed to get in line so that Sofia could leave at 1:30. Yes, that's right, most offices in Spain (banks, government offices) are only open from 9:30 to 1:30. Tuesday morning I got to Sofia's office at 9 and was first in line to see her, only to have her tell me that I was missing a crucial signature on my Learning Agreement from my responsible professor. I told her that they had told me in the International Relations office that I didn't have a responsible professor as an exchange student, but when she tried to call them no one answered, so she gave me the name of the professor I needed to meet with. This sounded fishy to me, so I walked back to the International Relations office (far, and uphill) and asked one of the women working there, but not the one I had originally been talking to when I arrived. She said that yes, I would have to go see this guy, everyone has a responsible professor.
This is pretty ridiculous. Although I am taking classes in literature, geography, and history, my responsible professor was some economics professor, whose office is on the other campus, miles away on the other side of town. And I would have met with him while Sofia was sick if I had known I needed to, but now it's the first day of classes and they are starting without me. Sofia told me to send him an email to request an appointment, which I immediately did when I got back to my computer and then spent the rest of the day checking to see if he had replied. When I woke up on Wednesday (the second day of classes) and this dude still hadn't responded, I decided to go back to the original person I had talked to when I first got here, and since I was so frustrated I indulged myself and took a taxi. Now, the Office of International Relations is across the street from the Junta General de Asturias, where the Asturian Parliament meets. Therefore, when I got in the cab I thought it would be simplest to just say, "A la Junta" and then walk from there. The elderly cab driver, however, heard "A la ruta" or something like that, and started driving me out into the country. Only it took a little while before we headed out into the country, and I don't know my way around so I didn't know we were on the wrong course. Finally, and much to both of our dismay, I realized his (my?) error and after a bunch of what I assume was Spanish profanity we turned around and the angry cab driver took me to where I needed to go, 20 minutes later than I should have arrived. Still don't think that one was my fault, guy.
OK, at this point the story starts to go right for me. Monica, the person who was helping me when I registered, told me again that I have no responsible professor and then called Sofia and chewed her out for confusing me so much. Turns out ERASMUS students, which are exchange students from within Europe, have to play by these rules, but students here on convenios, or direct exchange agreesments, don't have responsible professors. You guys couldn't tell I'm not from Europe?! Didn't you notice my conspicous lack of a mullet?! (Sorry, I'm not being fair to Europeans. Not all guys have mullets. Some of them have faux-hawks. No really guys, it looks cool . . .)
Monica also explained that I would only be enrolled in the classes after I turned in my learning agreement, but I should attend them this week to make sure I don't want to change anything and get the form to them by the 15th. Then she told me to go see Sofia again, so she could show me how to find out what rooms the classes I wanted to take where in, since I had already selected my schedule and made sure it didn't conflict from the timetables online. Or so I thought. I had thought that you only had to go to each class once a week, because they aren't at regular times, or even the same time each day. Turns out you have to go to every session of a class. This is dumb, because the classes don't meet at regular times. For example, one of my classes is Wednesday from 1-2, Thurday from 12-1, and Friday from 12-1, while another is on Wednesday and Thursday from 4-6. This makes finding classes that don't conflict with each other so much harder than if the class was just at the same time every day. Infuriating.
So the schedule that I had wasn't going to work, but all of the classes that I need to transfer back to tech to meet the requirements for a Spanish degree fit, so I just had to fill the spaces with some throw away classes to meet the minimum number of hours. So now I'm taking Iconology and Iconography (taught by Robert Langdon?), as well as a class on the contemporary history of Spain.
Well I got this all figured out by Wednesday afternoon, and was even able to go to my first class, History of 19th and 20th Century Literature, that afternoon at 4. That was . . . stressful, because I was overwhelmed by the speed of the Spanish being spoken. That particular professor likes to call on random people, but I think he learned that I'm a foreigner as we were collaborating as a class on a list of Spanish heads of state since 1800, and all I had on my list was the current king, Juan Carlos I, and Francisco Franco before him. There are some other foreigners in that class too though, a few French girls and an American from Colorado who was born in Mexico. I talked to him after class, but he speaks Spanish way better than I do and already has a bunch of native Spanish friends, so we'll see how that goes. Nothing really of note on Thursday, had two classes but they weren't as stressful, I guess it was just first day nerves. Today I didn't go to my one class because it was during the Welcome Meeting for international students, and there I got some information about a student organization that offers trips to various sites of interest. I'm tired of typing now and you're probably tired of reading, so we'll wrap this up. Here's a picture that I took last weekend when I went to the old town that I didn't include in that post, as a prize for those of you who read this far.

Plaza de la Escandalera, in the center of town next to the Junta and the Campo de San Francisco. The building is the headquarters of some bank, but is one of the most famous buildings in town.


  1. The way that you have been treated is just wrong! I feel like coming over there with my sledge hammer and showing them the correct way to treat a nice young man but due to international laws against carrying a sledge hammer on a plane, I won't be able to do that! Hang in there, you will soon be thinking in Spanish and they are in for some major trouble because you are a very smart American. They will be trying to keep up with you! Aunt Connie