I had my first class tonight at 5. It was Cultura Visual, in Aula 2.

You can imagine how nervous I was, how illegitimate I felt going into the classroom, filled with a group of second year students who all seemed to know each other. I sort of pass here, I don’t look un-Spanish, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. I almost wish I could warn people right away that I’m different, that I’m foreign, that I may not understand – instead people treat me so legitimately, so normally. I’ve even been asked for directions once already. In the classroom, the students do not stare at me or seem surprised to see me or welcome me or pay any attention to me at all. They treat me totally normally, at least until I open my mouth to say more than a syllable, and it makes me feel like an impostor.

The lecture is pretty interesting, and I’m glad to find that I understand enough to take good notes, that I only occasionally miss a chunk big enough to matter at all. I think altogether I understand about 80%, including the explanation of the grading structure and almost 100% comprehension during one segment of the discussion, a most interesting one about America, our signs that say Walk, Don’t Walk – how street signs are a product of the cultural consciousness that gave birth to them, how in America these signs give orders – how in America the law is sacred, the law comes from God…

I think I can handle this class. I really think I can. It’s a new and strange thing for me to have any doubts at all, though, and doubts I do have. He’s asking us to make groups sometime over the next week, to split ourselves into groups of five and pick topics for a certain upcoming project. I don’t know anyone in the class, and suddenly I feel like I’m back in 6th grade. How am I going to find a group? Worse yet, how am I going to make a worthwhile contribution to the group? How can I be as good for them as a ‘real’ student? How can I be anything but a burden? I’m not used to this. I’m good at research, I’m good at speaking in front of the class. I’m used to having a lot to give to a group project.

They told us we would gain confidence by studying abroad. I’m wondering if that’s really true – right now I feel I’m learning more about my limitations than about my potential, although maybe the line between them amounts to the same thing. So far what I’ve gained is a healthy dose of humility.

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 20:14  Leave a Comment  

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