It is with complete awareness of how downright stereotypically the (seemingly single) awfully long word “Wintersemesterabschluss” comes across that I make a beginning to yet another of these humble quasi-journalistic pieces of mine; nevertheless, the truth is, as it happens, somewhat different from the impression: there are, in fact, three otherwise perfectly self-sufficient words hard-hammered into the one abomination of a word which, converted to English, would mean about as much as “conclusion of the winter semester” – that is, as for my very case at any rate, fortunately a successful one.

German-style term examinations at Leipzig University proved to have been an utterly unprecedented experience to me. — That is, however, not to emphasise the fact that I was to undergo most of the exams in my third language, but rather to say that the whole format of oral examination at the academic level had been absolutely Greek to me. I am well aware that in tertiary education in our country it is by far the most employed form of examining; the thing was that my own previous experience of the past few years spent in Edinburgh had simply not prepared me for such a thing – not in the slightest.

In Scotland and, it appears to be safe to assume, the rest of the entire United Kingdom, end-of-semester exams usually comprise almost exclusively of several standardised papers which are based either on multiple-choice questions or a set of questions for short essays – or, as the case may very well be, a sort of disproportionate combination of the two. In contrast to that state of affairs, the German academic environment is much more similar to ours.

In this semester, I was signed up for seven courses in total – assessment for two of which consisted of preparing and presenting a paper to the class of the respective seminar already during the course of the semester; the other five exams – which had, nota bene, the much dreaded oral format – I was to pass in just four consecutive days. Once again, a genuine marathon of revision lay ahead of me. Thank heavens for the IB drill…

Albeit in part to my surprise, I somehow managed to pass all of the exams – and even quite well so, actually. — Though I must admit that I had not felt entirely at ease with the prospect of thirty-minute-long chats to be led purely in German; in the end, all went well, and the only thing which truly puzzled me were the received marks… In our country, students can get a one, a two, or a three, or alternatively anything on the range from an A all the way down to an E, while in Edinburgh we only get a simple percentage; in Germany, one is also the best mark, but then it descends by odd stages, seemingly by rounded thirds. — It goes as follows: 1.0 – 1.3 – 1.7 – 2.0 – and so on and so forth up to four, meaning that a German two is thus a little better than the same mark at a Czech university.

Summer semester in Leipzig begins no sooner than in April, but somehow I find myself rather looking forward to it already.

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