I sat an exam on Wednesday this week. It was 3 hours long and as I feared, you need to know a lot to fill 180 minutes.
This was a project management exam, industry standard, internationally recognised, UK government originated and heaven help us, the course book doesn’t do much in convincing me that these people get out and enjoy life a lot. It’s dull, even with an interest in the subject and even with experience in the field. And even with some additional motivation that comes from a will for improved job prospects in a new country. That’s a will that I definitely wouldn’t be motivated by if I was sitting in a comfortable fast jobb or permanent position, as I was for so long, in another place and time. They say that necessity is the mother of invention; looking for work is the mother of all sorts of inventive considerations, including trying my hand at studying and a 3 hour exam. Despite all of that, it was still dull.
I thought my exam days were over a while ago. Like most people, I went to school, I was lucky enough to go to university and get a degree. I went back to university as a mature student in my mid-twenties and studied some more. I started working and then work took me on a winding course of career path and progression. One job led to another, one promotion even led to another throughout my thirties. Exams? Are you kidding me, I was far too busy working.
Moving to Norway was a clear new start for all of us but work wise, I had hoped that I could find some sort of career continuance, not because I absolutely loved what I did so much but because it was logical at my age, in my forties, that experience would trump education any day of the week. Life would be very dull if it was that predictable. It would never be that easy, I was untried and untested here in a very competitive jobs market, particularly so with the down-turn in the oil industry over the last few years. So without specific skills like cloud architecture or nondestructive testing, I would have to find my way, wisely and slowly. No stumbling as I ran fast here.
As many of you will know, you usually have to get your education acknowledged and accredited when you move country. Funnily enough, they were not too familiar with the University of Limerick in the West of Ireland here, or if they were, they don’t show it. No, there is an impressive, rather serious process here, administered by an organisation called NOKUT (short for no shortcuts surely…). NOKUT ultimately sits under the Ministry of Education. So I submitted all my paperwork for my degree in Ireland, parchment, transcript with grades, details of thesis, identification (passport) and so on. They thought about it for a while, assessed it, checked education frameworks that applied and so on. After some time. they came back to say, we believe you, we authenticate your education and here is what is is worth in Norway.
In a nutshell, they tell you how much that degree or masters you are so proud of is worth in “local currency”; it’s accessed and you are given a credit score that is recognisable in Norway. The Norwegians don’t accept euros, dollars, British pounds or any other funny money here. There is no way they would accept your education at face value either, rightly so of course. It was just not something I had really contemplated before.
The fun really started when I tried to get my graduate diploma certified – and if you are wondering what that is, so was NOKUT. One phone conversation was along the following lines:
Them: “So is this a degree?”
Me: “No, it’s a post-degree qualification.”
Them: “Oh so it’s a masters”, she said with relief, as she really was eager to help.
Me: “Ah no, it’s a masters course but you could get a graduate diploma if you just did one year instead of the 2 year masters. Which is what I did.”
Them: “But what is a graduate diploma exactly.”
Me: I am beginning to wonder that myself, said the voice in my head. “It’s a 3rd level post degree qualification.”
Them: “Oh Ok. So it’s a masters then.”
You have figured out that there is no such thing as a graduate diploma in Norway. We eventually got it sorted after I set up inter-country relations between the 2 institutions. They seemed to understand their own special language and after talking code for a while, all was well and I got my accreditation.
The whole process did make me think about all of the migrants who are moving across the globe at the moment, trying to get to European countries, many of them highly qualified and skilled and experienced in their own countries. It may take them a long time to re-establish themselves in their new world, learning a language, getting education recognised, learning the system. I suspect that many, particularly middle-aged migrants or refugees, never aim to re-establish themselves to a career level or path similar to where they were. From civil engineer to bus driver, from lawyer to kindergarten assistant. There is a demarcation – that was my life then and this is my life now.
So back to the exam on Wednesday, I have been carrying around the weight of it for 6 weeks since I booked it. The weighing scales backed me up on that, nothing to do with too much cake. Every spare moment, I felt like I should be studying, grabbing every snatched moment after the kids were gone to bed, study days, neglecting Netflix terribly. It was arduous.
But it’s over now. Netflix is back. The whole family is exhaling again as apparently, I was “a bit absent” for a while, mentally if not physically. I am back, 100% back. And THAT book is no longer hovering around the kitchen table the whole time. Normality resumes. The table is covered with Lego again.
As for the result, that was due on Friday, there is normally an impressive 2 day turnaround. Then I got word at 4pm that my prerequisite exam credentials were not right and they couldn’t issue the result. The marriage certificate showing my name change, which I brought with me to the exam but they didn’t need to see, now needed to be scanned on to the system so that the customer service team in Greece could validate it. That’s done and I now await with bated breath.