June 25, 2013

Exams in USM

Here’s another new experience at USM: examinations! At our home university, usually I just need to enroll, check for the exam dates and venue, attend the exam, write my name, and do the exam. It’s quite the same process at USM, only it’s a bit trickier than that.

First, about the exam schedules. There could be three exam schedules. The first draft usually goes out at 8th week of the lecture. There might be some changes to the draft if, for some reason, a student’s exams are on the same time. The second timetable usually the timetable they use for the exams, and it goes out at 12th week of the lecture. If there’s any other changes whatsoever, the third timetable goes out, but it rarely happens I guess.
Second, the examination slips. Before entering the venue, the students have to print their exam slip. It’s available online, so they can just print it by themselves. The exam slip is the identity card, and with no exam slips, they have to convince the invigilators of their identity. Bringing other ID cards such as the student card or your passport (for the international students) is a way to convince them that you belong to that exam.
This exam slip is tricky, but it’s necessary to prevent any kinds of cheating, such as sitting in your friend’s exam. There’s a photo of the student in the exam slip, so they can just cross-check it.
Third, attending the exam. USM got this system where they only do two exams in a day but it’s spread throughout the campus. The first exam’s in the morning (at 9 AM) and the afternoon exam is at 2 PM. That’s why the exam took longer, about three weeks. If you’re unlucky – like me – your first exam might be in the beginning, and ends on the last day of the exam. *sigh*
Fourth, writing the names. In USM, students are not required to write their names. Instead, they write their index number in words and figures (for example, One Zero Zero Zero One [10001]) on the attendance sheet and the cover of the answer booklet. This index number can be found outside the exam halls or on the exam slip.

Finally, doing the exam. I’m not sure why students need an answer booklet to answer the questions. Most of the lecturer asked for straightforward answers, yet there are about 10 pages of paper in the answer booklet. What about the excess papers? I’m still wondering.

About the difficulty of the exam, I think it’s quite relative. Lucky me, I guess, I’m used to getting harder questions from my home university. This definitely showed in my results as well if you know what I mean.

June 7, 2013

On Exchange in China: Waterparks have RULES!

 By Laszlo Schenkhuysen

This week the average temperature was 35 degrees. Since my roommates and I have finished several courses already we decided to go to the Chimelong water park. Chimelong water park was an amazing park filled with several crazy water slides. The feeling of being able to get into the water while it is that warm outside was amazing. I can't describe how happy I was to be able to do that since it has been almost eight months for me already since the last time I have touched the water. Because the Chinese do not like to be in the sun, and even cary umbrella's with them incase the sun starts to shine, there are almost no pools or beaches you can go to. The day we went to the park was the best day we all had in a long time. It has been so warm during our stay and sometimes even that warm that you cannot move around without getting soaking wet. The park was our holiday in China and we had a great time.

The curious thing about that day was that we got introduced with two aspects of the Chinese culture. The first thing we noticed was that even when it comes to pools the Chinese really emphasise on rules and guidelines. When we got in we noticed that the largest pool which had a stage in the middle was surrounded by approximately 45 lifeguards, all heavily equipped with a whistle. We started to swim and just do what you normally do in a pool but nothing was allowed. When we got on each others neck all life guards started to whistle that we had to get of off each other. When we went under water you could even hear the whistle underneath because 10 of them started to blow. Swimming under water was apparently not allowed. Splashing some water in each other faces was not allowed as well. The only thing we could do in this large pool was standing and listening to the music, because that is what you normally do in a pool right?

The other aspect of the Chinese culture came to play when we splashed water in each others face. What happened here introduced us to the fact that China really is a collectivist society. Since we were the only foreign people in the park a lot of people already looked at us. Some Chinese that were swimming nearby saw that we splashed water in each others faces but did not really understand the point. I noticed that some started to do it a little to each other but stopped after one time to see how the other reacted. When they saw me looking one of them threw a little water towards me and I had to laugh, because you could see that they did not know if I would like it or not. I splashed some back and three of his friends came to join him and started to splash water against me as well. My roommates joined and we stopped after about five minutes. We stopped because the lifeguards started to blow their whistle again, but when we looked around us we noticed that no one was swimming near us anymore. I am not lying or exaggerating but within a area of 4 meters we were circled in by 40 to 50 Chinese all facing us. I could not hold myself so I splashed some water in one of their faces and the Chinese on their turn started to scream and throw water on all five of us at the same time. You could not even hear the whistles anymore as well as that I was not able to see because of all that water flying around. All Chinese teamed up to battle the foreign people and it was the strangest but funniest thing I have experienced during my stay in China.

The fact that the Chinese put a lot of emphasis on rules became clear to us as well when they finally opened our apartment complex private pool. The pool is so convenient and nice after a warm day to cool of and relax, however our pool is bound to some rules and regulations that I have never seen before. There is a time schedule for the people in which they are allowed to go into the pool. In the morning from 09:00 to 11:30, from noon 14:30 to 17:00 and in the evening from 19:00 to 21:30. The period from 11:30 to 14:30 is the hottest time of the day in China and exactly that time we are not allowed to get in. Besides the time schedule we have to pay three euro for one round which is equal to 2,5 to 3 hours. This was a bit disappointing but I am still very happy to have a pool nearby to cool off.