My First Exam Day

MA Refugee Protection student blogger IanHi, my name is Ian. Briefly, I am a 50–year-old, father of four, South African-born, UK-schooled, who lives in Israel, where I practise Employment and Refugee Law. I have just completed my first module in the University’s MA degree in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies and I now await my first examination results with some trepidation. My degree course is taught by distance learning with students hailing from all corners of the globe.

In this, my first blog, I will recall my exam day experience. I flew to London for a few days in order to visit family and sit the examination at the same time. Luck would have it that examination fell on the same day as a 24 hour strike on the London Underground. Senate House, University of LondonAs a Trade Union Lawyer it was a bit of poetical justice that I should be on the receiving end of what it feels like to be a member of the public directly affected by a strike!  A pre-arranged taxi failed to collect me from my sister’s flat in Putney (a suburb in south west London), leading to a bit of a scramble in order to reach Senate House (pictured) in Russell Square by way of train to Waterloo and then a half an hour brisk walk over the Thames, through Chinatown, down Charing Cross Road and up to my destination.  The last time that I had been in the area was three decades ago as an undergraduate at SOAS!

One physical change that I noticed, apart from me of course, was that back then there were fewer brand name coffee and takeaways than today. So where once I would have nipped into a family-run Italian sandwich bar, on this occasion I made do with a panini at one of the many branches of Costa Coffee!

Prior to the examination, the rules were read out by the invigilator – a variety of rules including no non-see through pencil cases on tables! What did the invigilator actually think that I had to hide in my lucky mascot red Manchester United pencil case?

The examination itself was absolute torture for a hand that had not written with a pen for longer than three minutes – let alone three hours – since its owner was 21!  The exam itself was a challenge. You were allowed to take in plenty of notes and even had the question in advance! However there is no guarantee that what I wrote is what the examiner wants to see!

After the exam, my pre-arranged taxi did show up to fetch me – but two hours late owing to the strike! So, tired but relieved, I got in to the cab who crawled back to Putney. Looking at me (judging my age probably) and then at the University building, my cab driver assumed that I was some leading academic. “Refugees” I proudly answered when he asked me my field of expertise!

Ian is studying the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies by distance learning in in Israel.

6 thoughts on “My First Exam Day

  1. Ian, congratulations on surviving your first examination day. It will get better with time, and you will sweat less if you put yourself through the a timed exam many times prior to the actual examination. I usually use this technique starting two months prior, and the actual exam felt like another practice day. Best luck in your studies!

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  2. Great exam story Ian, thanks for sharing – the whole flying-into-London-for-exams experience is one a lot of us get to have with this university – it never gets boring, that’s for sure ;)

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  3. Ian, what a piece of blog! I can almost identify with the pen and writing experience even though it had been just 9 years since such a prolonged writing…leave alone the calculations.I am doing Msc Public Health while having a demanding role in WHO Ebola response in Sierra Leone. So I would leave office like I am going for a long call, go write the papers and get back in time for other engagements! Just not the exam days I was used to!
    Oh and I like that you are a Man United die-hard even in exam time! :) Good luck in everything.

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  4. I loved reading your blog post Ian! As much as I was thankful to be on the other side of our module studies, I must say I have been missing the online dialogue of co-students like you and am counting down the weeks til the next module starts up. You paint such a vivid picture of your day and exam experience- and man what bad luck for the exam day to coincide with the strike /: And I completely agree with you about the writing with pen for that long; I had some serious hand cramps during the exam. Wishing you well when the results come out- I’m sure you did extremely well. Hope to study with you on a future module again soon! Enjoy the short study break (:

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  5. Ian, as I was reading your blog I was thinking of the superficiality of the human differences. Before I started reading, it did not cross my mind that this smiling, happy white dude, who is probably a Christian or Jew has anything in common with me. It dawned on me then, after having read the blog, how many things you and I have in common. You are South African, working with refugees, attending the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies course and support Man United all of which I am too. It was pleasant to read your observations of what has changed in that part of London as you retraced your footsteps of by gone era and you strolled towards UoL Senate House. In particular how fast food outlets replaced family businesses of old. I equally found the hand writing exercise tedious and unnecessary. There must be a better way, preferably electronic, to write the module exams. Thank you for sharing this beautiful blog! Will stay tuned!

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  6. Thanks to all of you who took time to reply to my blog. I know that this might sound a bit naive and indeed trite but one of the more refreshing aspects of studying in this framework is the possibility of communicating with students from so many different backgrounds. Whilst this may be quite normal for those students that live and work in a city like London it is not for others, like me, who live in particularly intolerant (at least in terms of relating to the “other”) parts of the world. I have just started reading Harper Lee’s sequel (an annoying word that) to “To kill a Mockingbird” . I seem to recall a sentence (I may be mistaken) from that great book along the lines of that when things come down to it – people are just people. Something which I, for one, am being happily reminded of by our communications.

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