I still have to write about my bologna trip, but I can't resist a wee post about Day 1 of my job interview at the IIO (Important International Organisation).
Day -1 was, unsurprisingly, marred with transport chaos since a bit of snow had fallen across France and Belgium. My train to Paris Montparnasse was about 25 minutes late, so I was relieved when I got to Gare du Nord 15 minutes before my next train left. There was a huge queue of people waiting in front of the entrance to the platform, but a worker I spoke to said they were just waiting to allow people on. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when the train just pulled off with no one on it and the information disappeared from the displays. Typically, no one told us anything that was happening, and I had to chase down several workers before someone told me to get in the queue for a different train that was headed to cologne via brussels. This wasn't leaving till 12 pm, 1 1/2 hours after my original train. I was nonetheless relieved to be allowed on this one, even if it meant sitting on a flip-down seat in the corridor (along with a family of five from New Zealand, funnily enough). Speeds were reduced because of the snow, so I ended up finally getting to brussels about 2 1/2 hours later than planned, but I was pretty happy that this had all happened the day before my test at the IIO, not the day of, so I wasn't too upset.
After getting lost slightly and trudging through the snow in my slippery tennis shoes, dragging a suitcase, I made it to the luxury suite of a nice hotel located in a lovely central square not far from the Grande Place and the central station. (Thanks IIO!) I'm definitely enjoying the huge bed, jacuzzi bath (complete with jets which aren't actually all that strong but which create a helluva splash all over the floor) and swanky surroundings! It is not like me to travel in such style, so I'm making the most of it!
Anyway, after experimenting with the trouser press and hair dryer (I despise drying my hair, which is probably part of the reason it's always such a mess) the night before, it was up bright and early this morning for breakfast at the hotel (which I was too nervous to eat, I should go on the stress diet) and a taxi to the IIO (which of course was late, so thankfully I left plenty of time to get there). I would love to give all the details about the IIO - it's somewhere that I would never have dreamed of visiting behind the scenes, and it was really quite exciting as well as intimidating to go inside - but I don't want to put too much out there on the blog. (If any of you whom I know are dying of curiosity, feel free to email for more details.)
I will say I had to go through airport-style security to get in. It was quite funny, because the woman who took my bag to go through the X-ray machine asked if I had a cellphone. I said no, but I had an ipad, which she took out to go through separately. When I got through the metal detector, the guard on the other side of the X-ray was talking to the woman about my bag, and he asked me again if I had a cellphone. Still no... Then he poked at the iPod sticking out of my bag. "Oh, that's an iPod", I said. He picked it up and looked at it suspiciously as though it were the first time he'd seen such a thing (maybe I'm the only hillbilly left without an iPhone for my music needs) and asked me if it took photos. "Nope..." I replied, "oh, but I do have a camera!" The camera was swiftly confiscated (although not the iPad, strangely enough), but I had to laugh at how long it took us to get there!
On to the test - first up was a 3 hour written exam (on a computer) which was mainly questions to do with information management, unsurprisingly. I thought it all looked hugely daunting when I first looked at it, but after some initial hiccups with not being able to say what a whole bunch of acronyms stood for, I managed to take some deep breaths and give at least adequate, I think, answers for the other questions (one of which had to be answered in French). I was expecting there to be some on the IIO specifically, but I think I managed to work in some of what I studied up on along the way. After lunch, there was a one-hour French multiple-choice french test, which involved listening and written comprehension/grammar sections. The good part about this is that it gave you your grade straight away, and I pretty much aced it :) It said I had near-perfect grammar and excellent comprehension (although clearly it's never heard me speak or seen me try to write). Hopefully feeling like I did okay will help with some confidence for the one-hour panel interview coming up tomorrow.
It's really hard to know where I stand - of the other two candidates I had lunch with, one was only doing a studentship, while the other seemed already to be in a very similar post. I guess I'm somewhere in between, so who knows. I feel like I've already done really well to get this far - I had to pass an online test already as well as the usual application process - so I suppose I can just cross my fingers that the interview goes okay tomorrow and see what happens. Whatever happens, it probably won't be quick, sinc I applied for this back in August!