Remember way back when, I said “do as I say and not as I do... “ well here’s another one of those stories. 🙂
One of my greatest weaknesses is to bite off more than I can chew. Then doubling down on my choice by being stubborn to the point of hurting myself. I will not ask for help when I should, even though I know I should. There are a thousand things I could have done better in my past, but I have to learn my lesson and become stronger!
Last quarter, I bit off more than I could chew. I took close to the maximum allowed course units including very challenging classes. Some, like computer science, math, and physics, were going towards my major, while some were for potential minors. One of those classes was the second year of Italian.
In high school, I loved learning Latin. I visited Italy once to see Roman ruins and fell in love with both modern and ancient Rome. Additionally, ever since I was little, I had a dream of being fluent in more than one spoken language. I would gobble up books on Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, Japanese, even ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I took the first year of Italian with very few problems. I loved learning ASL and computer languages too. My teachers were nice and supportive, but I rarely asked for help. I struggled to ask for help.
Last quarter, Italian 2 was much harder. In Italian 1, we studied from books and spoke to each other (students and teachers) in class very slowly. Italian 2 was much more intense and immersive in Italian culture. I treated Italian the same as my other classes – I used the microphone, and sat near the front, but that was a mistake – I needed more help when listening to a new language. My teacher showed uncaptioned YouTube videos in class. My teacher assigned movies without subtitles to watch outside of class. Everyone else learned in leaps and bounds, but I was struggling.
I told my teacher I could not watch videos without captioning – he understood, but there were no captioning for the YouTube videos, and we had no idea how to overcome that hurdle. And I was frustrated because I was having a harder time hearing my peers. Everyone spoke too fast for me. I did not know how to ask for help. Additionally, while trying to keep up with Italian, I was now struggling in my other classes. Computer science was usually easy for me, but growing more difficult. Math problem sets were often put off till the last minute because I was watching the Italian news segment for the umpteenth time. I excel when I have something to read and follow. I fail when I hear incomprehensible speech and need to back up more than once.
I stuck with Italian 2 way longer than I should have. At no point did it occur to me to ask my Office of Accessibility for help. The office could have found a captioner for the YouTube videos, the office could find movies with working subtitles. But how could I ask for help? I was swamped with the maximum course load. I was stubborn - I wanted to learn Italian like the other students, but in doing so I was putting more strain on my brain and neglecting my other classes. When I finally did ask for help, it was too late. I cried the night I dropped Italian. I cried the day after. I was so angry at myself for not asking for help. I was angry at myself for being so stubborn. I was angry at myself for not accomplishing the impossible, for not being superhuman and getting good marks in all my classes.
However, my other classes soon begin to bloom. I was no longer attached to Italian, and I could do my math problem sets with time to spare. Computer science became my most enjoyable class. Physics was understandable for once! By cutting a class and giving my stubborn ego a good blow, I could excel again. I asked for help in my other classes. I learned from my mistakes. My performance and understanding of my other subjects started an upward trajectory. And I felt much better in the long run, not stretching my brain to the max.
I still want to learn Italian, but I learned several lessons from this quarter. The most important lesson is to ask for help not when I am about to have a mental breakdown, but earlier at the first sign of trouble. Another equally good lesson is to not take the maximum allowable course work, to know how much I can actually swallow at once.
P.S. Because I survived this quarter with its ups and downs, I did reward myself by getting Harry Potter in Italian, and am currently reading it and continuing my study of Italian at my own pace. Arrivederci!