24 May 2007

Dealing with Wedls

On Sunday, I had a panic attack due to my sudden change in financial situation. Was all freaking out, couldn't eat and was just about to leave for UCLH because i was so desperate. All banks etc. were closed, so was uni. I did not know where else to go.

The situation is that I might have to return to Vienna for the summer or even for the rest of my course. While the first one is a huge and disadvantageous but I guess bereable sacrifice, the latter would be absolutely inacceptable.

So I went to see my dev UG tutor on Monday even though I was really suspicious about his listening skills. However, I decided that I wanted to contact the uni just in case I mess up the exam (the UG tutor happens to be the course convenor of that class). I was afraid he would send me to my other tutor Jeff (remember, the guy who laughed at me about the expensive study packs). He didn't, though. Instead, I told him what the situation was and he said, "What do you want?" - I told him I am afraid about how this affects my ability to do my best in the exam (it is a rather economic one, so something for which I need to THINK and concentrate hard while revising) and he replied, "SOAS is not responsible for your home economics" at which I snapped, "I know!" but being shocked at this lack of sensitivity on his side. He said some other stuff too which sounded pretty harsh to me, like "Forget about it and enjoy the exam" and "This is just a mood swing! (at which I raised my eyebrows in disbelief) The examiner's board won't consider anything else than medical reasons." Do I have to inflict injuries on myself or throw myself out of the window?? This guy was certainly driving someone to do that. "Why does this happen now? Was this foreseeable before you came here?" and "Things like these happen in life, all the time. This is about managing crises." and the best of all, "So what is the worst thing that can happen? Then you go back to Austria and do your BA there!" By that point, I had semi-successfully tried to hold back crying (he had done most of the talking after the "SOAS is not responsible for your home economics"-part so I did not tell him about the panic attack just about the fact that I experience a lot of stress due to an unexpected financial situation. I was afraid to be too spiteful and "irrational" and that I will cry) but when he presented my return to Austria as the "worst that could happen" in a "what is the big deal about this" sort of attitude, I practically ran out of his office before I broke down in tears. I sat in a deserted staircase for a while until I calmed down.

I mean, I took that patronising preaching and didn't say a thing even though I found it really offensive. Who is he to tell me that life is always like that? I guess he tried to help me in some weird and twisted way but he was being really inappropriate about it.

People in this department have a very hypocritical approach to poverty. They teach about poverty reduction elsewhere in the world but won't see desperation or unequal opportunities when these knock at their very doors. This is not about figures and balances. I believe my tutor was being a male economist on this. He basically told me to get some balls and sit that exam "even if I was living in a tent". It might not be SOAS's job to sort out my home economics for me but it is their job to help me succeed. They fucking recommend and advise you to talk to your tutors about anything that potentially affects your studies in the departmental handbooks! You are not just a full-time studying machine, you are also a human being. Mood swings! He could just as well have said I was an adolescent woman with PMS!

I contacted Lauren (student union welfare and education officer) who was really supportive (it is probably more her job than my teachers but still). She actually tried to find out what we can do about the exam.

In retrospect, now that I have written the exam today (The girl that sat behind me during the exam was given the wrong question sheet. She asked the invigilator to contact her course convenor and guess who that was...) and have replayed and replayed the scene in the office over and over in my head (I just can't believe he said all these things!), I have realised that he is pretty similar to my old maths, physics and head teacher at secondary school, Prof Wedl. It seems everywhere you go there will always be a Wedl. Anyway, my point is that while you may not always like what he tries to tell you, it somehow makes sense which makes you even more furious at him. Also, Wedl was a really hardcore cliché mathematician - feelings are members of the irrational set. All is about fucking ratio. While I see that my tutor's advice might have made sense if there really was no other option, I object and believe that he could have at least tried to talk me through the options. Maybe I am expecting too much of my teachers but now that I have actually told people about it, I realise that having someone listening to you can actually be a huge relief. You know you are not on your own (what initially made me panic) and that there are people who understand your situation.

4 courageous comments!:

natascha said...

that wedl remarks are just ... rude. :-I

Heidi Jahn said...

did you mean

1) what jonathan said to me
2) what i said about jonathan
3) that i compared him to wedl?

Kat said...

Oh my goodness, I had no idea this was so bad... *hugs*. I thought there would be the money from the flat-selling?

Heidi Jahn said...

thanks for your support! technically yes but our retail agent seems to be ripping us off. more detail in due time.