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Column: Soy Alyssa, una estudiante de español

Hola. Cómo están? Gracias. De nada. Adiós. Hasta la vista.

Like me, you’ve probably heard these basic Spanish conversation phrases, or have maybe even used them yourself, even if the remainder of the conversation was communicated in English.

With a personal desire to be able to communicate more than a handful of expressions in Spanish, I’ve gone back to the classroom — the first time since completing my bachelor’s degree 2.5 years ago.

While there’s definitely more “non-traditional” students than me, I’ll admit, even just the two-year absence from the classroom made me feel slightly awkward as I found my seat four weeks ago and opened up my notebook.

While the class is designed to accommodate to any student’s schedule, I definitely underwent a learning curve the first two weeks or so, as I navigated the unknown: devoting time and effort to a college class while working full-time and balancing a personal life. My experience made me respect those who choose to go back to school after 10, 15 or 20 years and balance that with a full-time job and/or a family.

The Minnesota West class is certainly different than any other class I’ve taken. It’s designed to accommodate any schedule, as it’s taught by a combination of classroom appearances and online assignments. Because of the ability to log into the classroom anywhere or even watch the lecture at times other than its scheduled Monday and Wednesday class times, there are not many students physically in the classroom.

While I myself have had to miss a couple classroom appearances, when I am in class, there is usually only one other student — or as it was Monday evening, it was just me and the professor.

While it’s usually no student’s dream to be called upon to answer each question, I had to remind myself — I was literally receiving one-on-one instruction for something I deeply wanted to learn.  

The first time I regretted not taking foreign language classes and applying credits to my bachelor’s degree came last spring, as I’d spent long enough in Worthington to witness firsthand the benefits of knowing how to communicate in another language.

While I have regretted not taking the course the first-time go around when it would have been more convenient, afterthought made me realize the timing now may reap better results.

See, I had categorized the classes I took during my college years into two categories: the classes that applied directly to my major and future career (the ones I wanted to take) and those that were less ‘awful’ than another (the ones I did not care to take, but needed to fulfill my general education requirements).

In hindsight, although only two years separates me today from my college years, a Spanish class probably would have fallen into the latter category. Actually, I distinctly remember making the choice to tack on an additional, one-hour science lab (which was one of my least favorite subjects) than two, three-credit hours Spanish classes — the difference between a bachelor’s of science or a bachelor’s of arts degrees.

So what makes now the opportune time to take on Spanish? Well it’s definitely not that I have a less busy schedule, as I’m finding out.

The difference is that now I actually want to learn the language. I’m afraid that had I taken it for my bachelor’s degree, I would have done a sufficient enough amount of work to get a good grade, but not the work required to best learn the subject material.

In fact, that’s exactly the attitude I had toward the class when I took three years of Spanish in high school.

I easily passed those three years, but I had mastered how to get ‘the grade’ rather than to learn and retain the material I was receiving the grade on.

While I’m afraid I’ll always be wired to be unsatisfied with anything but an “A” letter grade, I’m trying to worry about that less and more about discovering which study skills will allow me to become an effective communicator in Spanish.

I can only dream of the future possibilities it may bring.