Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Huyen's Thesis Defense: AKA Vietnamese Idol

(PICTURE: Huyen and I outside of her classroom. And no, I didn't buy her any of those flowers or the pillow. I'm a jerk. Read below.)

On Sunday Huyen defended her thesis at the Foreign Trade University. Her thesis was something about International Business and Human Resources. To be honest, I really couldn't understand a word of it, and no, not because it was in Vietnamese. I'm just clueless when it comes to business...or basically anything that is a cousin of math. Frankly, I'm 29 years old and still don't understand my father's job. Seriously, what exactly is a bond?

Anyway, I went to Huyen's university at 7:45AM to see her present her thesis. I had wanted to buy Huyen a copy of Dr. Seuss's, "Oh, The Places You'll Go" but couldn't find it. To be honest, i didn't look that hard since no Vietnamese person I asked had ever heard of Dr. Seuss. So instead I just wrote Huyen a card which kind of summed up the message Dr. Seuss put into the book. I thought I was being nice...until I showed up and EVERYONE at the school had HUGE bouquets of flowers for the graduates. Well, that is everyone except me. Yup, you can say it, I'm a bad boyfriend. I felt terrible until I handed Huyen the card I wrote. Her face immediately lit up like it was Christmas morning.

When I got to the classroom I was immediately surprised at how small it was. I mean it was tiny. I had pictured a large lecture hall but the room was no bigger than the classrooms I teach in every night. This meant I had a great seat--row two, baby! I gotta tell you, it was like sitting ringside at a prize fight.

Basically this is how it worked:

STEP 1: 7 girls were given a time slot between 8AM and 11AM.

STEP 2: The 7 girls were told at 8AM what order they would be presenting. Huyen was number five.

STEP 3: One at a time a girl would present her thesis for between five and ten minutes.

STEP 4: When she finished a three-teacher-panel would take turns RIPPING apart the thesis. Obviously I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying but facial expressions go a long way. I turned to Huyen after the first girl went and said, "That teacher in the middle is really mean." She looked at me with wide eyes and nodded really fast.

STEP 5: The students would take notes while being ripped apart and then respond to the teacher panel's criticism.

STEP 6: The teacher-panel would rip apart the response and dismiss the students.

STEP 7: The students would run/walk away from the stage to a round of applause from the audience...

This process may sound slightly familiar to you. Yeah, it's basically the formula American Idol uses. A performer goes, a panel rips them apart, the performer defends themselves, the panel rips them apart again. The teachers also reminded me of American Idol: one was nice most of the time, one was ridiculously mean most of the time, and the third was sort of drunk.

Huyen did a great job. The whole time she was going I was on pins and needles. I think I was more nervous than she was. When the male teacher started to rip her apart I had to take a bunch of deep breaths because I really wanted to get up and pound his stupid-clown-shoe-wearing-baggy-pants-ugly face into the blackboard. I wanted to yell out, "Those who can't do, teach, A-hole." But then I remembered that I have the utmost respect for teachers...and, well, I'm a teacher too. It also occurred to me that I if I beat up the teacher it would probably hurt Huyen's score.

After the last student presented her thesis, the teachers read out-loud everyone's scores. Huyen got a 8.73 out of 10. This wasn't the highest score and it wasn't the lowest score either. Huyen was momentarily upset about her grade. Personally I thought she did a phenomenal job and I told her that a number can't measure how amazing she is.

Oh by the way, I didn't realize until this week that Huyen's been going to TWO universities at the same time. She graduates from the Foreign Language University in December. Yeah, that's right, two schools...at the same time. My girlfriend is totally smarter than I am.