I’ve had an interesting saga with one of my professors so far. It’s one of mutual respect and constant battling. It’s turning into being a learning experience, but not the type I thought I would get when I signed up for the class. The teacher teaches an Irish film course that, in the beginning, I was very excited about, but she seemed to make it her personal mission to shut me out of the class. I, on the other hand, have refused to drop the course since I’m only taking it to learn.
The First Battle: The Lines are Drawn.
On the first day, I strolled in happy that I would finally end my isolation in the small town where I’d be stationed. The teacher casually walked into the class and hid what I swore was a wand into her trench coat. She then proceeded to scan the attendance list giving a smile and a nod to the other students.
She suddenly landed on my name and her eyes bulged a bit as if it were some ancient curse words never to be spoken or read about. Then singling me out with a menacing grin, proceeded to tirade me in German about how I wasn’t registered with the right major for the class. After doing this she gave a look of expectation, clearly assuming that I would run for the door and beg for her forgiveness.
Now, I’m normally a pretty calm person and like to avoid conflicts at all costs, but I could tell she’s done this to more than one foreign student in the past. So, I decided to make a stand for all my foreign fallen comrades who were casually tossed aside like old fruit in the past.
After an awkward silence where the class looked at me, then her, then me, I mounted my argument. I tried explaining in broken German that I was an exchange student here on a scholarship and the school’s office said I could take whatever I want. The look she gave me was like I had laid a smelly fart in her face. She seemed a bit vexed and shot back saying “I have to do a project if I wanted to stay in the class, just like the other students” and that “couldn’t take it for credit”, or “ohne schein” in German, all while waving her finger at me as if I’d done something wrong.
This was her mistake because it freed me from caring at all about the outcome. It’s not that I wouldn’t try and do all the work. It’s just that I still really wanted to take the class, and now she had nothing to hold over my head. I was taking the class solely to learn. Whether I got a piece of paper saying I took it or not, I could care less. I agreed. She seemed surprised.
The class went on, and afterwards I told her I would be missing the class next week because I was going to England with the school I was teaching at. She muttered something inaudible and then grunted. I wished her a nice day and went off on my merry way.
Battle Two – The e-mails and Sweet Sweet Victory.
Later that day I set up my brand new University e-mail, and had a lovely message already waiting for me from the professor. The e-mail stated that she had checked with people “in her department” and that “I really wasn’t allowed to take the class”.
German e-mails are very polite when they want to be, and she was pouring it on. She addressed me in the politest grammatical form possible, apologized a million times for the inconvenience, and wished me luck.
Any sane person would probably leave it at this, but I’ve been isolated from civilization for a while and was bored. So, I decided to continue. I wrote her back an e-mail politer than hers and informed her that I would still love to take the class and would go as soon as possible to the exchange student office to sort things out. I also cc’d the e-mail to the head of the foreign student program and asked them if there was anything I could do. I went to the office where they swiftly added a major to my student records at the Uni. They also were kind enough to print me out a copy and foward the good news to the professor.
I went out and ordered a cup of coffee. I then clasped my hands together and gave a low chuckle of victory like mad scientists do in old movies.
I have yet to get a response to that e-mail.
Battle Three: Punctuality
Sometimes things strike at the wrong time. What happened to me today was equivalent of my navy being destroyed by a storm.
The trip to England was fun and relaxing. I had almost forgotten my sweet victory from the week before until today rolled around. I packed all my things and set out. I arrived at the train station to be informed that the train was going to be late. This was bad news. This meant that I would be rushing to get to class. I knew that if I didn’t get there on time the professor would ring my neck and claim victory. I would be utterly ruined.
I like to think of myself as fairly punctual; in fact, I get pretty anxious when I’m running late. Usually, when I am late it’s for a legit reason. This is usually accepted in the U.S. as long as you have a legit excuse. Here in Germany they take things to a whole new level though. Yet, everyone at the train station seemed to be very calm and happy about the train being late, as if they had been plotting with my professor. Traitors!
The train finally arrived. I picked a seat and looked at my watch every five minutes thinking about the different scenarios that could take place. I told myself I would get there with five minutes to spare and the teacher would curse her friends at the train company. But as the train moved on, I realized more and more that I was probably going to be late.
I dashed off the train pushing old people and innocent children out of my way. There was yelling, but no time to look back. I arrived at the building sweating and panting, clunked loudly up the stairs, and caught a glance of my watch.
“Five minutes late,” I thought, “I can explain this.”
I creeped toward the door and tried to sneak in. I pushed. I pulled. I rattled. It was locked. I gave a light knock and heard some shuffling behind the door.
It opened a crack.
I saw two green eyes staring at me and heard “zu spät” or “too late”. The door then slammed and I heard a manical laugh on the other side of the door as the other students screamed in horror. I shook my fist in the air and screamed “why?!”
Next Course of Action
I’m not going to give up. I’ll be there next week and this time an hour early. It will be awkward, but I’m not going to lose this war.