I’ve never actually failed something before. Sure, I’ve been unhappy with my grades at times, but literally failing has been something I’ve managed to avoid. Until now.
A week ago, I showed up at my final for “History of Argentina,” expecting to be handed a test form or a blue book. Instead, the professor collected blank paper from each student (which I had to borrow seeing as I wasn’t expecting this), and hand-wrote the three essay topics on the top of each person’s paper. Why he couldn’t have used the whiteboard puzzled me, and I now wonder if we all received different questions. I raced through through the essays, the sentences flowing easily from my pen, a testament to the improvement of my Spanish.
It wasn’t until Sunday night that I received the fateful text. I did not pass. Normally, I would have fallen into utter panic at what would seem to be a complete catastrophe. However, this is Argentina — things like this happen. So regularly, in fact, that every exam is followed by a “recuperación” (a make-up test) the next week. Sure, I was thrown into a dismal mood at the prospect of having to study all over again. But I was surprised at how comical it all appeared, even in the midst of it.
I showed up, and was handed the cluttered sheets of my shortcomings. To my surprise, the first two essays were marked with nothing but “correct,” while the third had some unintelligible scrawl that clearly had the opposite message. I already knew I had botched this one, as I realized I described the term of the wrong president. But a swell of relief engulfed me when I realized I had done okay on the first two.
This time I was prepared, and handed him my notebook paper for my new topics. I was ready for anything, and I was a little disappointed when “the period of Peronism” and “Argentina’s problems from the perspective of a foreigner” titled my pages. I had studied a lot this time, and wanted to put all of my knowledge to use. The all-too-obvious Peronism was no challenge for someone who has lived in Argentina for a few months, and the second essay seemed like an unnecessary gift for the foreign student. Clearly, I shouldn’t complain that he let me off easy. I just wanted to prove that I had studied hard this time and make use of my new knowledge.
When I finished, I handed the papers to him and was told to wait ten minutes. I sat there, wondering what he would think of my scattered essay trying to address the entire bundle of problems the country has faced, when he gave me a simple nod and said, “You passed.” And that was that.