Never in my life did I ever expect to be happy about getting a 68 on something. I imagine that this is a sentiment echoed among many over-achievers: getting less than an A (or, urghf, fine, A-) on an assignment has been known to make me nauseated. This being the case, it’s a damn lucky thing that I was in the soc room last Tuesday, or I may have collapsed in front of my very startled tutor when I picked up my history term essay on Wednesday morning .
Long story short, I was at Q-Soc coffee hours and another visiting student mentioned that they were upset because they got a 67 on a presentation. This was met by general, incredulous, “What do you mean bad?”-type comments from the Irish students in the room. “A sixty seven is good here,” someone said. “Trinity’s a whole other thing.”
No kidding. I went back home to look in the history department handbook and, sure enough, there it was: proof that Trinity is an entirely different animal from the University of Rochester.
To start with (in the History department, at least) there are no grades awarded higher than an 80. Okay… Fair enough, I guess. From 80 points on down, the grades are divided by a “class” system. If you want to think of it in GPA terms (roughly – very, very roughly) 4.00 to 3.60 is a “First”, 3.50 to 3.30 is an “Upper Second”, 3.20 to 3.00 is a “Lower Second”, 2.90 to 2.00 is a “Third” and anything less is a fail (of which there are multiple levels as well, but I won’t get into that here). You’re invited to convert that into As, Bs, etc. as you would at your home school – I can’t do any more maths; my brain is shot. Now, with that in mind, the points fall out like this:
Upper Second: 60-69
Lower Second: 50-59
So when I went in to collect my essay and saw a 68 on the paper, I wasn’t flummoxed by my tutor saying that she thought it was, in general, pretty well written. If I hadn’t been prepared, however, I probably would have passed out. Or started crying, seeing as I had just run to the meeting all the way from St. Stephen’s Green after having spent half an hour at the Milltown Luas stop, not being able to squash into the sardine-packed morning commuter trams, and only got into town six minutes before the meeting was supposed to start (let this also be a lesson to you: don’t expect to get on one of the first eleven trams that come your way if you’re attempting it between 8 and 9:30 on a weekday unless you have literally zero compunctions about standing way, way, way too far inside several other peoples’ personal bubbles and/or being pressed up so close to the door that you actually fall out whenever someone opens it and then have to tiptoe your way back in and hope for the best).
The moral of this story is pretty simple: Know Thy Marking Criteria. Like learning the metric system and Celsius temperature, getting used to twenty-four hour time and cars on the opposite side of the road, grading methods can be weird and confusing but they’re necessary to know if you don’t want to have a nervous breakdown for no reason. (I believe that the Semester Startup Programme goes over the marking criteria in the different departments, but I didn’t do Semester Startup so I had to learn the hard way.)
That’s a lesson I get to use for the next term. For the IES students who came over with me this fall, however, that’s something which is soon to be in the past. I’m the only full year student in Ireland for this academic year, and last week was the last week of term, so everyone else is going back to America while I stay here. And I have to say, I’m glad I’m staying. Dublin is an amazing city and Trinity is an incredible school and the four months I’ve had here barely seem like anything. I’m really looking forward to spending the next five months learning more hands-on lessons about the differences in Irish and American academic culture (and trying for a First as I go.)
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hannah Vose is a University of Rochester junior, majoring in English with an interest in literary translation studies. When not burying her nose in whichever book has most recently been plucked from atop the dangerously tall pile on her desk, she can be found obsessively learning new languages, squinting through her (very stylish, thank you!) bifocals at someone else's writing in her job as a Writing Fellow, drinking stupid amounts of tea, squinting through her bifocals at her own writing in her job as a scathing self-critic, or dreaming of living somewhere which gets even less sun than Rochester. Born in England but having lived most of her life in Endicott, New York, she has traveled back to the Land of Her People twice and visited Dublin once on the way over. She considered applying to Trinity College as an international student, but was deterred by tuition costs (yikes!) so she's absolutely 100% thrilled to be living in Dublin and taking classes at Trinity for an entire year (and only about 34% of that is because she might get to take a class on Patrick McCabe -- will it happen? Stay tuned!)</span></p>