Well, it's a little after 1:00 in the morning here in the States, and I'm having a little insomnia for some reason. So, I thought that now would be as good a time as any to finally update my loyal readers on my experience with the E.S.I.T. exam. I kept intending to get to it, but things were so hectic at work that I would come home exhausted and then put it off another day. So, finally, here goes!
Let's begin on Friday, March 31, which is when I had my flight scheduled out of Atlanta to arrive in Paris that Saturday. Well, the flight was cancelled, so I had to call my travel agency to book a new flight so that I wouldn't have to buy another ticket. There was a lot of waiting around the airport, talking on my cell phone to Stella my travel agent, fighting back tears while thinking that my dreams of attending graduate school in Paris would be cut short before I even had the chance to board the plane.
Fortunately, Stella was able to book me another flight the next day (Thanks, Stella, and thank you, STA Travel!!), and I arrived safe and sound in Paris that Sunday morning. My friend Leonce, who owns a hair salon just outside of Paris, was supposed to pick me up at the airport, but because of my change in flight, I had to take a cab to where he was because he was busy doing some bookkeeping at the salon. He paid for my cab, of course, and drove me in his car to my hotel so I could put up my bags. Later that day we took the metro to the Universite Paris Dauphine, where the exam would be held the next day. It's in the 16th arrondissment, which is kind of an upper class area of Paris. Leonce and I bothed noticed how clean and pretty the area was, and I was already falling in love with the place.
The next day, I took the metro again alone, to the Universite Paris Dauphine to take the first exam, which would be starting at 2p.m. This exam would be a test of my competence in the French language. I didn't have my "convocation" that they said I needed along with a "piece d'identite" to be admitted into the exam hall. I had e-mailed the university the day before to inquire about my convocation. They said that I could pick it up in the E.S.I.T office in room P.217 at 1:30p.m. When I got there, I asked a woman who seemed to be ushering people to the exam hall where room p.217 was so I could pick up my convocation. She hurriedly led me to the office to pick it up, and then I had to run to the exam hall to make it there before 2pm. However, the exam didn't really start until about 2:30, I think. They had everyone move around so that the non-francophones sat in the front and the francophones sat in the back. I didn't understand this at first (I'm embarrassed to admit), but I figured it out later and moved down to the non-francophone section.
I have to admit that before I took the exam, I thought the French exam would be the easier of the two. After all, I spoke French, and have been able to speak, read and write it fluently for quite a while, so I thought it would be a piece of cake for me. Boy was I wrong! There were 3 parts to the French exam. The first part wasn't so bad. It was short answer, "fill in the missing word" kind of stuff. In that section, I put an answer for all except one that I wasn't sure about. They had told us about their point system before the exam, that a correct answer was worth 3 points, a wrong answer -1, and if you left it blank you didn't get anything added or taken away, so if you weren't sure, it was best to just leave it blank. Keeping this in mind, I skipped over all the questions I wasn't sure about in the other 2 sections, but when I got to the end of the exam, I noticed that I had way too many blanks on my paper to get a decent score. So I had to go back and fill in some of the ones that I was sort of sure about so that I would have a better chance of passing. I gambled with a few of them, putting answers when I wasn't too sure, but I told myself that it was better than leaving all of them blank. But for some of them, I didn't even try to put an answer because I had absolutely no idea what to put. Also, we couldn't use dictionaries so this made the exam a bit harder.
Anyway, I left the exam exhausted and starving and stressed out of my mind. I had no idea if I had done a good job, and I wanted to cry. My friend Leonce met me after the exam to accompany me on the metro back to my hotel. I told him about how I wasn't sure about the exam. He tried to comfort me and tell me everything would be alright, but right then, I was unconsolable. At that point, actually did shed a few tears and I told him the truth about why I was so upset which was that I didn't want to go back to my family and tell them that I had failed. They'd been so supportive and encouraging through all this, I just couldn't let them down.
After going with Leonce to get something to eat, I came back to the hostel to take a shower and to get some rest. I also did quite a bit of praying that evening, and with all the anxiety I was feeling, I was surprised I got any sleep at all. Luckily, my roommates at the hostel, Johanes and Anna, two German university students on holiday in Paris, were there to help me take my mind off things that night. But the results wouldn't be posted until Wednesday, so Tuesday was just a blur of anxiety and nervousness. I can't remember anything that happened that day, but I don't think I did a whole lot that day because with all the stress I was feeling, I wasn't really good for anything.
The people at the university had said that the results of the first exam would be posted around 10am on their website. Around 11:30am, I mustered up the courage to look on the site and search for my name. My stomach was all in knots as I scrolled down the list. I got near the end, and finally saw my name posted. I don't think I've ever been so happy in my life. It was the biggest feeling of relief in the world followed by the greatest feeling of joy. I wanted to jump up in the air and scream "Yaaaaaaahhhooooooooooo!!!!!!!" right their in the hostel lobby! Luckily, I was able to maintain my composure, but that happy feeling stayed with me all day and for the next couple of days, right up until Friday, the day of the translation exam.
The translation exam was an all-day event lasting from 10am to 4:30pm. I got there a little late, but it wasn't too bad because someone else arrived after me. His name was Walter and he was American as well. We had the same language combination (English-French-Spanish) and we were both from the South, I found out after talking to him during one of the breaks, and he'd even visited my hometown before. He was working as a bilingual assistant at a law firm there in Paris, and was surprised to learn that I had come all the way to Paris JUST for the exam. I smiled at the thought, realizing just how far I'd come for this. I think that realization helped through the rest of the exam.
At the end of that exam, I left feeling relieved rather than stressed, and Leonce was there again to meet me and ask me how everything went. He noticed how different I was from when I came out of the first exam, and he was happy to see me like that. We had a pleasant metro ride and then a pleasant dinner that evening. I returned to my room and told Johanes and Anna about the exam. I also wrote home to my family and friends to let them know that I was all done.
So, now I have to wait until May 9th for the results, and my old anxiety is coming back. I'm surprised I can still function. Some major life decisions are depending on the results of that exam, so I feel like my life is on hold until I know the results. I mean, I can't make any definite plans until then.
Anyway, that's my experience, and I'm sorry it took me so long to write about it. Last week, I remebered that one of my readers, Alexis, had said that she would be taking the exam as well, and I was happy to see her name on the list of "etudiants admissibles" as well. CONGRATULATIONS, ALEXIS, AND GOOD LUCK ON THE SECOND EXAM!!
And good luck to all those who took the E.S.I.T. translation exam this year, and I hope to see you in October!!