A Case of the Mondays

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 13, 2012

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Monday, June 13, 2011

Greetings. These last two weeks have unfortunately been plagued by lingering end-of-semester deadlines, among other things. Perhaps the most troublesome deadline so far has been my first economics class. In case I have not mentioned this before, I am taking online economics classes (201 and 202) through Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) so as to prepare for Hopkins next year. Going into it, I knew that I would have to arrange for a test proctor in China for this first test (most students are in Virginia and take the test at one of several campuses). The proctor would be emailed a secret password which would be entered online, allowing me to take the test.  I didn't realize what a tremendous burden securing a proctor would turn out to be. 

In accordance with the school's recommendation that I send in my proctor request application ahead of time to ensure there is time to take the test before the deadline, I sent in my application about two weeks before the final test deadline (we had a week-long span to take the test). This took a lot of effort on the part of my proctor, who is required to be a full-time faculty member at Nanjing University. I asked a girl who teaches English here to help me proctor, as I had helped her practice presenting and editing her doctoral dissertation. The proctor application required that the proctor have a school email address, and that she submit a letter on official school letterhead agreeing to be my proctor. 

The thing is, most students (and even faculty) at Nanjing University do not have university email addresses. She borrowed her friend's email address, and somehow found University letterhead. I waited a week for a response from NOVA before emailing to see if the request had gone through. I was deferred to several different people before getting a response days later- No, they didn't agree to let her be my test proctor because they could not find her listed as faculty on the Nanjing University website (!!!?!?!). 

Ummm... can you read Chinese? Obviously they cannot- and besides, that's not how it works over here. Nobody even uses email- the official channels of correspondence are text messaging, calling, or QQ (like AOL instant messenger.. kind of), so many if not most faculty are not listed online. I replied to their email expressing dissatisfaction at how culturally insensitive their decision was, and how they are hindering my success in the courses. The guilt trip worked, and she approved the request. But guess what? The proctor's (my proctor's friend's) email address did not work, the email did not go through. So I had to have my proctor contact my friend explaining the situation, and in the end NOVA asked the proctor (my proctor's friend) to send them an email, and they would reply with the test passwords.

Finally, after rescheduling with my proctor several times to accomodate this excessively long process, the passwords were emailed. Early Sunday morning I sat down with my proctor to take the tests and finished the first one in half an hour. Anxious to put this hurdle behind me, I went to log into the second test only to get an "incorrect password" message. Nothing could be done... so my proctor had her friend re-email the school informing them that the password was wrong, and now we are just waiting for a response. So much for crossing that off my to-do list! What a total hassle...

All this drama has left me little time to work on a research paper for my Chinese grammar class, which is due on the last day of June but which I need to get done this week. Just thinking about writing this paper inspires a panic attack, but at least I have a lot of books to draw from and a topic selected (comparison between Chinese and English affixes). 

Just this weekend I learned that I have a final exam on 6/28, the day before I leave China, which means that I'll be in panic mode until the very end of the semester. I'll have another paper due over the summer while I'm in America, but fortunately that class should end this Thursday so I can have my Thursday mornings back. 

Not to mention I'm still working all day 3 days a week. I was feeling particularly weary on the subway ride to work today, dreading the hours ahead. But, as it is Monday, the translators hadn't translated many documents for editing, so I was allowed to go home 2 hours early! Just a fluke, I am sure. On top of that tiny piece of relief, the weather's supposed to be back in the (upper) 70s tomorrow, which will be a nice break from the upper 90s of late. 

I also managed to lose my Bank of America debit card yesterday (that is, the only way I have of getting money outside of my school stipend). I remembered that I had withdrawn money from the ATM, and realized I must have forgotten to take my card back. I was ready to call BoA and cancel the card right there, but instead I went to the bank the next day and explained the situation. Long story short, the ATM will "eat" your card if it's left uncollected for 3 minutes, which apparently mine was because they were able to go in and retrieve it. What a relief!

I should also mention that the internet is back up and running again- to a degree. Obviously, the big 'threats' are still and perpetually will be shut down (facebook, youtube, twitter, etc), but google is readily accessible and I can almost always connect to my VPN. So much for the lock down... though I'd still like an explanation. Relatedly, you might want to check out this article in the NYTimes, which caught my attention.

I'm attaching just a few pictures of hazy Nanjing weather, and I'll attempt to upload the Dragon Boat video from last post.
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Wei'An on

"how culturally insensitive their decision was, and how they are hindering my success in the courses"

^Good strategy.

Very helpful info re: online economics. I have to take econ in Taiwan for SAIS, and their own online class is $1200 (whaat?) so I was thinking about NOVA. Maybe I'll shop around for something proctor-free.

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