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My First Graduate Exams

24 November 2011

Dear Mum,

It’s been a long time; I paused writing for a while because the semester had intensified with activities, both academic and extra-curricular. My supervisor is spurring us on to do a good job for our dissertation so we could take advantage of a possibility to upgrade our MPhil to PhD in the second year. This is my goal now. Could you imagine that I’ve had to change my topic’s focus about three times? Sometimes, I resort to watching Big Bang Theory. It gives me some sort of inspiration though, seeing young ‘chilling’ academics…. and beckons to me, that I can also get there. However, I’m drowned in the fun of the video, I watch the series episodes back to back, I never thought 23 November would be here soon… in fact. yesterday. I had been doing some reading towards that course I dreaded as my most difficult. Further, I felt the professor had some suppressed issues with me because of a response I gave in class about some derogatory remarks he made to. On 22nd night though, a couple other MPhil pals I’ve been learning together with up till now converged at the ‘Learning Ground’ to close up discussions. Luckily we had some past questions to kill our anxieties. It was fun galore amidst joking and cup-drinking. It was even more fun when the professor burst into the room from his daily athletic runs. That was the ‘pass’ omen.

At 5am, we all wished the paper had been scheduled for the morning. I told one friend of the option to write in the morning upon request; he caught the joke and blushed. The wait time was done a trip to the canteen, answering phone calls, glancing over summary notes, and dosing off more often than I drank water. The transition from 12noon to 2.30pm when I had set an alarm seem to have been catalysed. It was soon here; I rounded up with two more friends who had joined me for finish up. We packed up and headed to the exam hall via  car-pooling. Friends offering other courses had been waiting for the call to enter the hall. We exchanged pleasantries and wished each other good luck while others settled friendly scores via hugging. Soon, we were to enter the hall. It took sometime to locate our seats cos we were writing with some computer science undergrads. My friend Lucas’ mother was the head supervisor. We exchanged smiles and a quick word, then off to my seat. She tactfully resolved some answer booklet colour coding challenges and successfully bid us start the exam exactly at 3.30pm.

The weather was lukewarm with me seated in front right behind a mate I call the VC (Vice chancellor) because he calls me the Registrar (I share the same name with the University registrar). The 3-hour paper was 90% photocopy of the past question we were solving throughout the night; one more question had been added. It’s not everything I readily remembered. I said a short prayer and penciled draft points on the question paper. 40-marked question 1 was naturally demanding, but structurally easier to deal with.. I set out to finish it on four pages in about 45 minutes. Lucas’ mum passed by. “Joseph”, “Hello”, I smiled back. “How’s the paper? Is it ok?”, I responded in the affirmative. “All the best”, she wished me and went on ahead.

Throughout the paper, my lack of sleep and recent frequent numbness told on me. I felt I was not in the room, and did everything including silent soliloquy to assure myself that I was alive and writing my most difficult paper. Still I felt absent-minded, resisting to go take a squirt (2 and 1/2 men). I managed to finish 3 out of the 5 required questions and began the fourth one which was similar in structure to the fifth. The Heaven’s started dripping like a colander as if to bless what I had written so far. The breeze became all-natural, fresh and minty. The rains increased my harbored urge to go pee. I finally called for someone to escort me to the pissing joint. How refreshing! Even more refreshing taking some drops from my Heavenly Father. Back to my seat, I had about 30 minutes more. I finished up with the responses I was very sure of, and prayed for a miracle to remind me of what I did not remember. One point came through, and that was it. I keep trying to remember till 10 minutes to time, when I made educated guesses on the sheet.

Stop work! Mrs. Kastner beckoned in synchrony with the rain’s last drop we heard on the roofing. Our sheets were collected. We were bade goodbye at 6.35 amidst the sounds of turning and screeching metal-wooden desks and chairs. Mum, its one down… five more to go!
Talk you soon, Kweku

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