On Poetry and Culture Shock

Schedules (because stereotypes are sometimes true)

It infuriates me when Spaniards who have never lived abroad make generalisations about the national character. Among one of the self-propagated myths is that we are not practical, responsible or professional, and that everyone to the North of us is. I have already talked a bit about that before.

There is an aspect in which the stereotype is true: class schedules at University.

Why can’t classes in Spain officially last 50 minutes and leave ten or fifteen minutes between them, like they do in Aberdeen and Cornell? In the two foreign universities that I know, that happens so that students have time to go to classes that are not in the same building. In Spain, at least at Seville University (which I think is the rule rather than the exception), people take all their classes in one building. No need to run all over campus, well, maybe run down one corridor or two. The thing is, instead of having classes scattered through the week, we have between four and eight hours of classes on a row. Imagine having classes from 2 pm to 9 pm four days a week, no breaks (I’ve done it for four years, and it’s not nice). At some point, you will need to get a coffee, get a snack, use a toilet, or simply walk a bit to ease the back pain. Right? OK, in the Spanish system nothing says that classes have to last any less than sixty minutes. It is at the discretion of the professors to start at o’clock, or five or ten minutes later. Of course, professors can have three classes in a row too, which I guess has its own disadvantages.

By the second week of classes you have learnt which professors start the class ten minutes later, which ones start punctually but don’t mind if you come in late, and which ones put you down in front of the other students if you walk in after them, even though they should know perfectly well that you had to run to do something very personal and embarrassing between the previous class and theirs. That is just not right. When I’m the Head of the Languages Department (hey, why stop at that? when I’m the Decana of the University, I mean) classes will officially last 50 minutes and give people a little time to breathe. Besides, after I put a café in place of the chapel people will have another reason to take coffee breaks.

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