Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Professional Student

 There’s a normal kid’s last day of school- hurray, moving up a grade!... then there’s Natania’s last day of school- hey, something is probably going to go horribly wrong! In addition to it being the last day of the school year, it was also the last day of my undergraduate degree at Hebrew University in biology. The 3 year degree of which I was currently finishing semester number 9. Yes, your math is correct. Four and a half years later and I had finally finished all my requirements (for a more in depth explanation of my academic delay, see previous posts). I had even gone to both my counselor and the secretary of the department to confirm 100% that I had completed all requirements and that none were lurking behind any corners or under any rocks waiting to pop out at me half an hour before graduation and ruin the plans I had foolishly made for life. It was confirmed. Twice. By two different unconnected people.
This was a huge relief. By this time I had moved out with my cat Johnny (more on that later) and had gotten the green light from my boss to continue at my job in the lab. Even better, my boss was pretty sure that once I officially finished my degree (officially being the code word for filling out a form and then waiting a few months for it to be taken care of, though they actually lost it the day you sent it in, so that you have to fill it out again and then it magically gets taken care of the next day, the result being that the degree is officially “closed.” In Israel you have to “close” your degree; it doesn’t happen automatically.), I would get an automatic pay rise from the university for having a degree. This was added incentive for me to fill out that form. Of course this turned out not to be the case for hourly workers, but I guess it doesn’t much matter now since I am sadly currently still enrolled as a student.
A few weeks after sending in this form, I got an email from the administrator of bachelor degrees in the math and science department saying that in fact the permission I got from my counselor (2 years ago!) for not having to do one of the labs was erroneous, and I was not going to be able to close my degree. But maybe I could send an email to the head of the department and maybe he’d pity me enough to do... something. I just sat there in shock for a few seconds until I started laughing. Of course something had to go wrong! Who did I think I was, someone who hasn’t gone through 4.5 years of bureaucratic and administrative disasters resulting in a year and half delay in my degree?! The more I thought about it the more I realized that I would have been more surprised had I been allowed to close my degree in a timely manner with no epic calamities or Hollywood worthy disasters. In fact, I realized I had been sitting and waiting for the next bureaucratic hurdle to come at me. It seemed to good to be true that I could just fill out a quick online form, press the submit button, and close my degree. Who ever heard of something so easy at Hebrew University?!
About 5 minutes after receiving this email, I got a phone call from the administrator herself. She informed me that she had decided to call because “I realized that receiving an email like that could send a person into a panic.” I assured her that this was indeed the case, and I was definitely in a mild panic at that moment. She reassured me that she herself was going to talk to the head of the department and see what she could do.

I didn’t hear anything about it for a few weeks so I shot her an email inquiring whether any progress had been made. The response I received was that I was not the only person in this situation. A few people had gotten erroneous permission not to have to retroactively take a required lab after switching programs. In fact, the situation had been upgraded to a discussion between the department heads and the dean. So it’s anyone’s guess whether I’m finishing school this year, though I can’t say I’m optimistic (I’m not a pessimist- my lack of optimism is based on experience). It also makes it difficult to answer the very simple question, “so, are you done with school yet?”