The exams loom closer by the day. Make that the hour, as it’s twenty-four hours exactly until my first exam is up. Standard oral exam fare: two videos, two presentations and a whole host of questions on global issues that range from predictable to out-of-the-midnight-blue. I gave both the videos a run-through this afternoon after the usual Saturday morning Northern Lights rehearsal at Mary’s, with the newbies in tow, and an audition with Gospel Choir for Grey Day. If we get through, that’s just one more date to add to the list. Heck, by comparison, exam season looks a heck of a lot less stressful than the three weeks that follow it. Rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal. Not to mention a gig every three days or so. Or more. And that’s just the music side – doubtless there’ll be other things to do. Like, say, going for a night out without any reason in particular. I never thought I’d actually propose that as an option, but I suppose I should face the facts: clubbing in Durham, kitsch as it is, is still pretty fun. And I don’t suppose I’ll be getting much nightlife in Amman – or Spain, if they’ll have me. That’s ok – I prefer wildlife over nightlife anyday – but the total absence of it may be a bit odd. You know, like the way you miss something the minute it’s gone, even if you never really gave it much thought; like a book you never got around to reading, or a friend who left the country. Yeah…. on that basis, I think I probably should be making the most of it whilst I still can. A language degree being what it is, a large number of the people I see around the place will be gone by the time I get back – or not, since I tend to hang around in the company of fellow linguists anyway.
On that note, I broke an age-old unwritten rule the other day and actually got talking to a bunch of first-year Arabists. It arose from an educated guess from across the DSU cafe. One group of students were sat around a table reading from sheets, all of them looking somewhere on the scale between fear and hysterics. Between that, and the unmistakeable al-Kitaab on the desk, it was pretty obvious they were Arabists. So I went over to say hi and to clear up any doubts about the upcoming oral exam and to help insofar as I could.
There seems to be this unsaid rule that first and second year linguists don’t interact. The reason is fairly understandable. Unlike any other degree where department mingling might be an easy way to make new friends, with a languages degree you’re saddled with the knowledge that the year abroad spoils any and all attempts to get to know the first years. Especially first year linguists, since, like you, they’ll be taking a year abroad as well – the one following yours. So whereas you might come back to find first-year English or History students still kicking around, any linguists of their year will be out there in the wide beyond doing what you just did. And before they get back, you’ll have graduated and moved on. Case closed. I guess that’s why there’s not much mingling; there’s no future in it. The college parents system tries to rectify that to some extent by pairing first years with second-year students in their field in their college, but I’ve only seen it function properly with one or two cases. Which is a crying shame, because you’d have thought that linguists would appreciate an eye-in-the-sky, as it were, more than any other degree. But then, I can’t really talk. I’m not exactly a regular at the Arabic Café run by the fourth years because I find it a little intimidating. Hypocrite alert. It’s funny, that. Speaking Arabic’s not a problem abroad, but put me in a situation where I’m supposed to engage an Arab or a Spaniard in conversation in the UK and it’s suddenly a great deal harder. I wonder why that is?
Back to the grindstone – got to try to enthuse about Hispano-American language policy and domestic equality in Latin America… Oh summer, you can’t come fast enough!