I like to tell this story. It is a funny and true story. One of the few I have from the University of Michigan.

I was not your usual student. My existence, at this place, was focused entirely on my education. I only went to two parties my whole time living on campus. I worked two jobs. I was housed, by choice, in an all girl’s dorm next to the law quad. I worked my ass off and studied all the time. I loved this existence.

I was the complete opposite of my M.S.U. party and fun loving sister.

In my infinite wisdom I chose to major in Romance Languages (one step up from basket weaving when it came to future employment opportunities). It didn’t matter. I was studying something I loved.

I only had a handful of friends. I obviously did not have any free time to make them. My classmate and best friend was Melissa. We had the same major and we were the only non-native Spanish speakers in our course group. She was a grammar queen. I spoke excellent Spanish and understood everything said. Together we were stunning in our work. We ranked top above the native Puerto Ricans and Mexicans.

We finished each other’s thoughts. She was a man magnet. We planned that we would study abroad through Cornell University (later proving we were the most crazy and fun set that ever would hit the center). Like most students, we both were strapped for cash. We were on an economic time line. The University of Michigan offered the last 400 level course. It was the only requirement keeping us off of that Iberian plane. I could not afford to go an extra term if I didn’t get that course. Neither could she.

We were looking at Spanish of the Middle ages (think Chaucer but in Spanish). It was the only course filling that needed requirement. So there we were treking down into basement of Angel Hall. A small windowless cramped classroom now overflowing with students. I counted over 50. They cascaded into the hallway. Most were upper class men. Everyone needed this class. I was squeezing my way in.

Professor Goich, the Argentinian, entered the room. This man was impeccable. He wore a double breasted suit and tie. He was short. Well groomed. Elegant and distinguished. Everyone stopped talking when he walked in. Briefcase in hand he marched up to the front of the classroom. He took us all in. It fell silent. He commanded the classroom with just a look. He was no nonsense and efficient. He smacked his briefcase flat onto the desk. He took out a stack of thick paper.

We groan. We all know what is coming. The dreaded course syllabus. He hands them out. It is over 20 pages thick. I feel panic rise up. A buzzing enters my ears. I look at all the required reading. I look at all the required papers. I flip. I read.

I blink. I read.

This is totally impossible. I mean this really is physically and mentally impossible.

I look around me. I am trying to read the other student’s faces. I don’t even know what the professor is saying because I am like:

This is unbelievable.
This is impossible.
I feel panic. This academic panic, my future self, would only again face in law school.

I am facing 30 novels. I am writing over 20 term papers.

I have taken this University’s grueling courses. I have dealt with professor Hafter and the rest of the Harvard clan.

But this, this is impossible.

But here it is sitting in front of me. My mind races. I cannot take this class. But I have to take this class. There is no more time and no more money for another term at this University.

How in the fuck am I going to do this?

I don’t know the When’s and the Where’s and the Why’s. I just know that I am in this corner and there is no way out. I cannot drop this course because there is nothing to add.

Goich calls the class quits and sends us out.

He marches out with this irk like grin on his face. I am sick, literally sick, to my stomach.

Melissa starts to bawl. I mean bawl as in snot, sobbing, shaking, bawl. She is now in the hallway. There is no way we can do this. This is impossible. We are non native and this is old Spanish this is not possible. She slinks to the floor. Sobbing and bawling and sobbing. Heavy, real tears, womanly bawling.

I hug her. I feel anger and sickness. I am on the floor next to her, rocking her, holding her.
I am consoling her and I find words:

“We will do whatever we have to do to pass this class. We will steal all of the books out of the stacks and reserve all the required reading right now. Not one Puerto Rican is going to get their hands on that required reading. Hell, I will hide all the books if they won’t let us reserve them. We will plagiarize. We will violate the honor code. We will double up on the homework and write each other’s papers. You take one topic. I will take another. It will be a divide and conquer course. We have to take this class or we cannot go to Seville next term. We will not finish nor graduate on time.”

She is bawling and telling me how this is impossible. She is giving me all the cant’s. I see them very clearly.

I am not sure of my words. It reflects in my tone.

I do know that I would hide and steal the books. I do know that I am not dropping this class.

I am sick, that whole next week, thinking about the work load.

That next Wednesday we both crawl back down to the basement of Angel hall.

Goich is sitting at the front of the room. Out of habit I take the table located in the very front. Melissa sits next to me. We just look at this man. He is reading a newspaper. A quarter past the hour he looks up. We look around. We say nothing. I count on my fingers.

There are only 8 of us in this basement classroom.
I remember asking God to help this 8.

Goich puts away his paper. He picks up his briefcase. He smacks it back down on the desk and flips the top open. We hear the familiar click. His head pops up behind the lid. He says, “Ahhh…yo tengo una revision.”

He has a small stack of papers in hand. He proceeds to tell us how he, over the last week, had a change of heart. That he thought his class requirements to be way too demanding and impossible even for students of such an esteemed school as this.

As a result, he had made some minor changes.

The course syllabus has been officially revamped and revised.

I am now looking at one page. We have three books to read. I only have three papers to write.

There he sits grinning like that Alice in Wonderland Cat.

I am full of a mixture of extreme relief and utter disbelief.

I think about my wasted worry and that horrible week. I start to think that someone should inform Hafter, the Dean.

Then it hits me.

I now digest the fact that this little man has reduced his grading work load from over 50 students to a mere 8.

He then informs us that class is dismissed. Apparently we all need to get a jump start on all of that heavy required reading.

Melissa and I agree. This man has a lot of moxie for a non-Italian.