by Claudia Shapiro ’10
Having finished my first four final exams at UNC it was taking quite a bit of effort to study for Spanish, my last exam before Christmas break. The vocab, verb tenses, and conjugation rules I’d worked so hard to memorize in high school seemed to dissolve before I’d had a chance to file them away in my long-term memory, and now I was stuck, flipping through old notebooks, trying to make sense of the foreign rules that distinguished the preterite from the imperfect.
I set right to work creating an outline for each tense, grammatical rule, vocabulary, and cultural tidbit I had ever learned (or at least written down) in class. By the time I unclenched my hand and shook out my wrist I had a twelve-page handwritten color coordinated masterpiece of a study guide. The clock that had watched me work for well over three hours held its hands perpendicular at three o’clock. If there was anyway I was going to retain the information I had so meticulously recorded I had to get some sleep.
I woke up at ten for my eight a.m. Spanish exam. I jumped into my go-to grey sweatpants and navy sweatshirt, snatched a pencil, and took off, holding my breath as I mentally begged the tears not to come. I was just reaching Kenan Stadium when I realized my sob story was nothing without the precious study guide I had worked so hard to create. I made a split second decision to turn around, sprint back to my dorm, grab the guide, and restart my cross campus trek, wasting precious testing time but hopefully winning my teacher over with such an amazing study guide.
By the time I reached the third floor of Greenlaw, which was not where we usually had class, there was only one guy left taking the exam. He’s still the only person I know, only from a class freshman year, who says hi when we pass on campus. Without warning the tears sprung from my eyes as I thrust the now useless study guide at my teacher, begging her to let me take the exam. She told me it wasn’t up to her, I needed a valid excuse to make up a final and this was not one.
Far from confident but still not entirely defeated, I ran to the advisors office, where I was directed to the proper office. They told me if anyone could help me, she would be the one. After explaining my mistake, staying up too late to make this amazing study guide and sleeping through my alarm, she shrugged and said there was nothing she could do, and at least I had a great study guide to use when I re-took the course the next semester.
Completely defeated, I went back to my dorm, and sat with a calculator and each graded Spanish assignment, trying to figure out my grade with a final score of 0%. Surprisingly enough, I would still have enough points to pass the course with a C, and so technically I was free to start winter break. I tried not to think about what an idiot I was, how I was going to tell my parents what happened, and focused instead on taking a quick nap before going out to a party.
Halfway through sipping on my second beer of the evening I got a phone call from an unknown number. I yelled hello over the waves of talking and laughter, and stepped outside as I held a finger to my other ear.
“Hola, Cloww-dia, this is your Spanish teacher,” was the last thing I expected to hear. “I talked to my boss and he agreed to let you take the exam, so be in my office at eight a.m.”
Though I could have chugged that beer, gone back to the party and celebrated my good luck, I had learned my lesson from the night before. I took full advantage of the study guide I’d made, went to bed at a decent time and was ready to take the test at eight o’clock sharp. I don’t remember what I made on the exam, but I got a B in the class so somehow I was able to learn a really important lesson without any lasting consequences.
I made sure to save my study guide so that my younger brother could put my hard work to even more use. After taking the placement exam he placed out and lucky for him never has to take a college Spanish final, or risk missing it.
Claudia Shapiro ’10, of Hillsborough, majored in psychology with minors in English and history. She hopes to work with children and continue writing in her free time.