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Tests and Reviews

FRANCE | Tuesday, 20 October 2015 | Views [351]

In Integration, we started looking at integrals. On the first day of class, the CM professor had explained that the point of the class was not to teach us to integrate better. Which is good, because if that had been the point, spending five weeks without even mentioning an integral would have been typical… I mean unhelpful.

Except that in a way, he wasn’t entirely right. We weren’t learning tricks that made integration by parts seem boring by comparison, but we are learning about the Lebesgue Integral, which is arguably learning to integrate better. I mean, you can integrate more functions this way, and who wouldn’t want that?

Harp was more practice with rounding my fourth finger, putting a space in between the thumb and index finger, and practicing the exercises and pieces that I’d gotten before. One of the pieces, “Trop Penser de mes amours” was a bit boring, so Madame Luce suggested that I try variations, like moving the right hand up an octave, or having the left hand play chords instead of single notes. Which is a slight improvement, but it’s still kind of dull. At least I had “The Foggy Dew” to work on putting hands together to keep life interesting.

Then we’re at Topology and my first exam of the semester. Fun times.

Actually, we’re only at topology and two hours of class before my first test of the semester. Because clearly the best thing to do is to make sure that when students are taking a test, their brains are kind of tired from having spent two straight hours on math.

The good thing is that the math we were doing was all Cauchy sequences. Which is nice, because Cauchy sequences are cool. I tend to think of them more as analysis than topology (...because they make sense) but either way, the exercises were nice. Doable.

The test was… less so. I had the triple problem of the math, language barrier, and having no idea what I was supposed to be doing on this test. Language turned out to be the least of my problems. The questions were challenging and unexpected, (we were asked to show that two functions were distance functions, and another function was a homeomorphism. We’d never done this in the CM or TD, and we barely even went over the definition of homeomorphism. Those were half the points.) and I had no idea how much I should be writing. Given that I ran out of time before I even got to look at the last two parts of the final problem, I was thinking that I must have been writing too much. Then I saw the solution key and realized that if I’d written any less, I probably wouldn’t have gotten full credit. So that was great.

After the class ended, I noticed a lot of people from it gathered right outside the classroom. Given this was a new thing, I was assuming they were discussing the test we’d just taken. Which probably meant none, or at least a minority of them, thought it had gone terribly well. Students don’t gather to discuss an easy test. I considered trying to hear what they were saying so I could get a better idea of what they thought, but I had an hour to eat and get back to Russian, so instead I fled the building.

Russian was a relief after that. Even if we did move on from the accusative case (which I was very comfortable with) to the genitive (which I wasn’t really.) But I’m starting to get better adjusted to the way the class works. Plus, the professor brought in Kvass for us to try. Only one of the students had had it previously. Kvass is a non-alcoholic grain-based drink. It smells a lot like beer, but it tastes kind of like Coke, only less sweet and with a more bready taste. So actually nothing like Coke.

While we were trying it, someone walking outside called out, in English “Looks good. Can I have some?” The professor explained it wasn’t alcoholic, and poured him a cup. He came around around to take it, and thought it was very good, which surprised her. (The one student who had tried Kvass before hated it, so our professor had brought her candy instead. Fortunately, Russian candy is apparently better than Finnish candy, or she might have dropped the class.)

The CM for Topology was cancelled, and Thursday was a good day.

I woke up Friday and started panicking. Because which was more likely: that the Integration professor had announced 2-3 weeks in advance that we were having a test, or that I had misheard and the test was actually this week. The latter. Why give students that kind of advance warning? History of Math was definitely not for another week because I could see online that the course had been cancelled and replaced with a review session, but Integration was going to be happening today. And I hadn’t studied.

My concerns turned out to be unfounded. The Integration test wasn’t for another week, so we got to spend another week leisurely going over proofs of exercises. It was lovely.

At the end, I had an envelope to give to the professor explaining how I needed 3 grades. So I kind of hung back and waited for the French students with mathematical questions to finish. And next to me, there was a girl doing the same thing. And holding a form in her hand. We kind of looked at each other, and started talking to each other, and discovered we were both Americans in an exchange program taking Integration. Instant bonding! Her name was Mina, she was from Texas, and she was taking math classes at three different universities this semester. And that was about all we had time for before she had to go get to another one of those universities.

Like I said, History of Math was replaced with a review session. So the professor gave us two old exams and we spent the first hour answering the questions on Ancient Greece (previous years had covered more material before the midterm than we had), and then we went over them in a group. Near the end of the first hour, I was having a very hard time staying focused on the test. Even though I can now listen to French for hours on end without getting tired and needing to go crawl into a corner with English music, it’s still a lot harder to stay focused enough to produce good French for an extended period of time. Which is going to make tests next week fun. Final exams will be even better.

And then, since the TD was cancelled, I actually had time to eat a Friday night dinner before 8:30. It was super exciting.

And finally, it was time for French class. Which was easy. Not painfully easy the way the A2 class would have been, (I finally noticed the level of textbook that the lessons for Russian are coming from. A2. My French and Russian are definitely not at the same level.) just comfortably easy. OK, maybe easy enough for me to get slightly bored, because I started writing Japanese in my notebook. This certainly added for a challenge, especially when the professor could at any moment ask me to answer something in French or English. But it was a language class. It was a French class, taught in French. When the professor switched into another language to make a concept clear, it was my native language.

And suddenly, that’s all I need for a class to seem incredibly simple.

Tags: analysis, classes, french, history, math, russian, topology

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