This week has been difficult, as evidenced by my lack of posting. My sleep schedule still hasn’t normalized, and I am ensnared in the dangerous cycle of up late/afternoon nap/up late.
Arabic classes have begun (see “First Day of School” post), and next week our area studies courses begin. I’ll be taking Jordanian Media (taught in Arabic) and the Archeological History of Jordan (taught in English).
Confession: I am a terrible language learner. Spanish was difficult for me. My mother is fluent and I grew up hearing Portuguese all the time. Yet I struggled through six years of Spanish, right through the AP/IB level. That, my friends, is sad.
Arabic classes have proved to challenge everything I thought I knew about my self as both a student and a person. In America, I’m an excellent student. I get good grades. Teachers tend to like me. Classes I remotely care about end up just fine at the close of the semester. However, this isn’t because I’m smart. It isn’t because I do every reading (which I don’t) or because I’m some kind of study wizard. It’s because I know how to work the system.
Please don’t get me wrong. I do generally love school and have formed true friendships with teachers and professors, individuals who have shaped who I am as much as anyone. And I do enjoy classes. I love asking questions, I love discussions. However I also love sleep, and this love tends to outweigh many of my other loves on a day-to day basis.
But in Jordan, there is no system to work.
It’s me and my teacher. Everything is in Arabic. If I don’t understand something. It’s obvious, and she will point it out without hesitation. Oh, and I’m one of three students in my class. There’s nowhere to hide.
I am doing all of my homework. Many times over. On average, I have to do each reading 5-6 times to gain a decent idea of what’s going on. One page = about 15 minutes. That’s about an hour and a half just to understand the article. Never in my life have I been a slow reader. So not only does this take forever, but it’s also agonizing and a little mortifying. And it’s just the beginning. After reading for comprehension, I have to summarize. Not “This article is about different types of hobbies and sports as well as the founding of the International Olympic Committee” (actual reading) but “This article discusses the importance of hobbies. Hobbies can reflect these 3 things. There are this many type of hobbies, and here are examples of each type…” etc, etc. Our teacher likes long summaries, but at this point, I’m unable to summarize off the top of my head in Arabic, so I have to memorize. I’ve been in many a play, and can memorize nearly anything in no time flat–in English. Arabic is a whole other, slower story.
Clearly, class is difficult. I find myself questioning my intellect. My decision to even be here. To the point where, in the middle of the night, I thought “add-drop is still going on. I could still register for classes at AU and return to DC.” Note to self: it’s never a good idea to think things in the middle of the night.
Despite this difficulty, I continue to try to spin things positively. I actively push aside my embarrassment and give everything my all. I let go of my ego. When it became evident that I would have to memorize my summary, I accepted it and committed myself to spending however much time it took (mind you this was assigned Tuesday and due Wednesday). I’m happy to say that my summary went very well. My teacher was happy, I was ecstatic. It took hours and I felt more nervous than I did before I played Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew. Three minutes (maybe) of speaking in Arabic as a 20 year old wracked me with more fear than performing Shakespeare as a 13 year old did.
Week 1 is complete. The intensity is evident. It will be hard. It already has been. But I remain just as, if not more, committed to the program as when I began. I’m up for the challenge, celebrating every little milestone along the way.