Also posted on my Global Engagement blog found here.
As I write this, I have officially finished my first week of Spanish. I say finished, I mostly just mean muddled through. Every single day of the class I was lost. Our instructor is fluent. Most of the students in the class have had some background in it. Therefore, from day two the class has been taught in exclusively Spanish. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t want to cry because I had little to no idea what was going on. We had a homework assignment due at the end of this week that I just finished last night. Any guess how long it took me to complete?
That’s not distracted browsing on Facebook and pinning quotes on Pinterest work either. That is sitting down and focusing completely on the task before me. I am positive that I have never spent that long on an assignment- ever. In high school, I took difficult classes, but none that challenged me near as much as this class has and we’re “just getting started”. I am so far out of my learning comfort zone. Already, though, this class has challenged me to a broader view of the world.
Probably the third day of class my instructor, Señora Audas, came into the classroom a flurry of activity as usual. She pulled out her phone and started chatting excitedly in Spanish. She told a story with large hand motions and a smile in her voice. I listened intensely, desperate to understand. At the end, she and the majority of my classmates laughed. I wanted to cry. I felt isolated. I felt stupid.
You see, in high school, there weren’t that many times that I really struggled to understand a concept more than any of my classmates. If I didn’t get something- hardly anyone else did either. I graduated with a 4.0. I was part of the National Honors Society. I was an Oklahoma Academic All Stater. School was my comfort zone. Now, here I was completely lost. I had to take a deep breath. I had to remind myself to be patient with me because I am just beginning.
It hit me that there are so many incredible people who experience that every single day when they come to America. People who are stunningly intelligent and experts in every field with more knowledge than I could ever hope to obtain who come here and feel that same way when it comes to speaking English. I suddenly could sympathize (though my Spanish class is a substantially smaller scale) with those I see from other countries struggling to grasp the language I just happened to be born into. This moment reminded me to have compassion for those struggling at the post office, or at the restaurant, or even just in front of me in class.
I challenge you to do the same. Open you eyes and open your heart. Don’t take things for granted because you never know when you’ll be on the opposite side of the situation.