The semester is winding down very quickly. With the end, as at Berkeley, are final exams. I was in my discussion section for Scandinavian Politics preparing for the final exam with I was struck by another cultural difference.
Minutes before the review was over, I slowly raised my hand and asked ‘Which format are we using?’
Discussion Leader: What do you mean? Intro, theory, emperical, and conclusion.
Me: I mean, format – do you want MLA, ASA…?
DL: What are those?
For the exam, we are given two essay prompts and I have to write a three to four thousand word essay. Usually at home, before we go over the content of the exam, the professor lets us know if the format will be MLA, ASA, or even the dreaded Chicago.
All I was told for this essay was that it should be 12 point font, margins of 2.25 centimeters (well, one inch margins for you non-Europeans out there), and have an alphabetical and chronological bibliography. This is where my problem came in.
I recognize they gave us a lot of details on the formatting, but I’m used to having a name for the formatting so I can google it later to ensure everything is right. Turns out no one knew what those are. They hadn’t hear of MLA before. I have written my essays in MLA for fifteen years. It never occured to me that other countries would use a different format or not have a specific name for it.
I started my evening by studying with a friend and somehow found my way into a delicious Polish and German dinner. I was hanging out with a friend from Spain tonight. We have an exam next week so we were trying to tackle some of our readings. Our breaks consisted of showing each other our favorite songs. As we returned to our work, I heard someone walking down the hallway knocking on doors and telling each inhabitant that dinner would be served in five minutes. I’m like “cool, okay, let’s end the studying and I’ll let you go eat.” The person knocking on doors finally got to our room and I knew her. She told her that dinner was served and that I could join if I wanted to. I ended up joining the kitchen of eight people and am so so grateful they opened their kitchen to me.
Walking into the kitchen, it was clear the cooks were prepared for us. Each seat had forks and knives. There were little trays of mouthwatering Polish chocolates. The two girls who cooked served each of us. We had some meat stuff rolled in string, purple kale, and dumplings made of potatoes. This is a common dish to have for Christmas in Germany. When we were all stuffed and feeling Itis heavy, they pulled out a beautiful cake. My god, I have never been happier. The Polish girl cut into the layered cake to reveal layes of cream, chocolate, and cherries. I bit into it and my goodness, it was so light, yet incredibly rich. As we finished our meal, each of us opened the Polish taffy candies on the table to reveal our “fortunes.”
The night was a surprise and has been one of my favorite experiences of cultural exchange. You can’t always plan for nights like this, but these are the ones that stick with you forever I think. I hope my shared kitchen will soon be full of German, Danish, Cuban, Norwegian, Spanish, and American dinners.