Christmas should be a time spent at home, with family. But for many of the UG’s international students who have to sit exams in the two days before Christmas, plans of a cosy family Christmas are being turned upside down.
The scheduling of the UG is to blame, with week fifty-one of the academic year falling in the week immediately before Christmas Day on the Saturday. For many, the week has become a de facto midterm exam week with tests and lectures right up to Christmas Eve. International students who have to travel long distances home have had to decide between expensive, last minute flights or to spend festivities alone in Groningen.
Irish biomedical science master student Adam Fylnn’s timetable has been stretched to the extreme, he says, with an exam at 11 in the morning on Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas. It has become an expensive exercise in logistics to find a way back to Dublin. ‘If anything goes wrong with the exam or I miss one of the two last airport trains on Christmas Eve, I’m bollocksed. I’ve also had to really shell out for these tickets just so I can take the exam: 200 euros one way!’
Adding insult to injury, says Adam, is the fact that the UG has proved it can administer foolproof online exams. ‘The facility to sit these sorts of exams already exists; we spent a year doing them in this way. Why not simply have the exam online, or show some good grace and move the bloody thing?’
If anything goes wrong with the exam or I miss one of the two last airport trains on Christmas Eve, I’m bollocksed
Until four days ago, Danish premaster business student Casper Hauskov was in the same boat. ‘In Denmark, the big Christmas celebration is on Christmas Eve. My business methods exam would have been on the evening of the 23rd at 18:00.’ Would have been. Until late last week, when the six hundred students in his programme were sent an email informing them their exam would be moved to December 21. ‘It is a sigh of relief’,’ but this might not have happened without the pressure of fellow business student Nefeli Matiani-Saxon’s petition.
Nefeli, who herself has lectures until December 24, noticed that members of course group chats she was part of were up in arms about the prospect of sitting an exam, or attending lectures on Christmas Eve. Nefeli said her petition, viewed over two thousand times and signed by more than five hundred students, has ‘gained enough traction for her faculty to move all lectures from the Wednesday of that week online’.
Nefeli’s petition had parents as far afield as Bahrain and the US appealing to the UG to feel some Christmas spirit and reschedule their children’s classes and exams. ‘I really feel for those who have to travel outside of Europe, they are really impacted by having lectures in the lead up to Christmas.’
For German student of medicine Lea Hoffman, Christmas cheer will be in short supply. Lea will be sitting her immunology exam on the evening of December 23. Lea is pragmatic about her exam though; she will sit the exam in Groningen and fly home to Munich late in the evening. ‘It is annoying but at least I’ll be home just in the nick of time for Christmas. I have students in my class who have to go much farther than I do.’