Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My first ORAL EXAM in Senegal…

So, that entry that I wrote a few weeks ago, the one complaining about the Senegalese education system and how there was no structure, how the professors seemed to not care, that one…well, I am going to take some of it back, or at least in regards to my History of Islam class! Dr. Ba does care and he has a very clear syllabus with 9 readings and lots of work! The entertaining thing is that we received the texts/readings and an overall summary/syllabus of the course four days ago…I mean what type of professors give out syllabi on the first day of classes!?

I had my first oral exam today (11/10/08), and all I can say is that it did not go exactly how I wanted it to go. But, how often do exams go the way you expect?! It was my first oral exam in a non-language class (though the exam was in French) and it consisted of my professor giving me a general subject; then giving me 10 minutes to prepare an oral response, which I would present to him; and finally ending with me answering a series of short answer questions on the same topic. My topic was “La conjoncture Islamique: 9e-12e siècles”…I was not happy when I heard this, nor were Anna or Amelia, who both had the same topic. The problem with our topic, not to complain…but I am going to, was that the class technically starts with the 10th century and the amount of time that we have actually spent on this period of time (9th-12th centuries) is contained on approximately a page of notes, if that, compared with pages and hours of discussion on topics that I will mention below. I didn’t have much to work with!

I had studied for hours: FRIDAY NIGHT, ALL DAY SATURDAY, and ALL DAY SUNDAY. I gave up a night out to Baobab IV (our Toubab bar), a trip to L’Ile de Madeleine (National Park in Dakar area), and who knows what else by studying things like: the three sects of Islam, the Islamic schools of thought, the differences between foreign and local marabous, the divisions that were created between politically engaged Islamic leaders and those that married into royal families to spread Islam, the Atlantic slave trade and its effects on the Islamic movement, Jihads, Nasr ed Din, etc… However, among all this complaining, I can say that I have a better understanding of Islam from the 10th-19th century, I just wish that my topic would have had more information that I could have talked about!

So, after I presented on “La conjoncture Islamique”, I was asked questions about Bilad es Sudan and the Berbers, Arabs, and Mauritanians…I answered as well as I could and noticed that I received a plus sign…the people before me (topic: prosélytisme et commerce) received stars and scores like 15 out of 20 (French grading system). I am hoping that my plus sign turns into a score of 9 or 10 out of 20… I can only hope! Anyways, it was an experience with Dr. Ba interrogating me on a subject that I really didn’t know too well or have much information on. The overall consensus was that our “group” (Anna, Amelia, and I) had the hardest topic and people genuinely felt bad for us. I will hopefully be a little luckier with our second oral exam and I will for sure work my butt off on our final paper (which I have decided to write on the differences between the French and Koranic school systems and their effects on Senegalese society). 

On a final and other note, today we started classes at UCAD (University of Dakar)! It was a good way to end the day. In our “Dakar en Transition” class there are 15 African students from all over western African, most of whom are journalism majors, and all of the Kalamazoo/Beloit students. The class is at the journalism school at the university and meets MWF 5-7pm…not excited about the evening class time, but the class is going to be really good! It is a continuation of a class that we were taking prior to leaving for St. Louis, except now we are at UCAD and there are African students in our class. I think that after having a class with Senegalese students in St. Louis we all have a better understanding and sense of how to go about interacting in this class at UCAD.

All in all today was definitely a roller coaster of emotions and events! All I can think about now is that all I need to do is pass…grades do not transfer…everything is pass-fail…


Side notes: before class we ate chocolate cake at Anne-Marie’s house for her birthday, on our way to class we took a car rapides, on our way home we got ice cream!

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