Friday, August 27, 2010

The Process of "Getting It"

This week has been one of the most terrifying of my life. Minute by minute I am challenged to fit in an environment where I am brand new. As I try to piece together the words to set up a payment plan for my rent I am reminded of how very exhausting this all is. I’m a square peg that is becoming transformed to fit in a round hole and the process is so very difficult. My primary objective this week has been to make friends. I found myself googling things like “conversation starters” and “fashion in Puerto Rico” which made me feel very trivial and lame. I can already notice myself being absorbed into the culture. Interestingly, Puerto Ricans speak much more rapidly than other Spanish speakers and also leave the “s” sound out of language; for example, instead of saying “adios” a Puerto Rican says “adio.” These regional language differences have called me to pull my head out of my Spanish textbooks and make the streets my classroom.

I have made a lot of friends thus far in my classes. My colleagues are so very kind and quick to loan me notes or explain concepts to me after class that I did not understand. Now that we are past the introductory-let’s-read-the-syllabus part of the semester it is easier for me to understand the course material. Today’s lecture in my “Historia de Hispanamerica” regarded geographic features of Hispanamerica. I understood about 90% of the lecture, which was exactly the confidence boost that I needed.

In each of my eight classes I have occasionally taken out my Spanish-English dictionary to look up a word that I do not understand- every single time that this has happened the professor has interrupted his/her lecture to explain the word to me and has told me to ask for clarification when needed. In my experiences in the USA, UK, and Ghana international students were all functionally left to figure things out by themselves; I think that at home it would be kind of audacious and selfish to interrupt the class to ask the professor to explain a word that one doesn’t know. Puerto Rico stands out to me because the learning environment really is a community of people trying to help each other- my professors and my classmates really want to help me to learn Spanish. My colleagues have also been very generous in giving me rides around town.

As my professor was explaining pre-Columbian trade during lecture this morning it hit me how surreal it is that I can be in a classroom of people from a different culture learning together in their native language. The world that is opened to me by being a fluent Spanish speaker- the life changing conversations with non-English speakers, the chance to attend schools in South America, and the opportunity to explore Latino culture- justifies every bit of challenge I am having.

No comments:

Post a Comment