Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Student Reflection: Jacqui Kukulski

by Jacqui Kukulski

Well, hello there.  It’s a bit into the first semester and I’ve been to my community partner several times.  I recently spent the summer in Spain working on my Spanish and all things Europe related.  A regular Spanish class for my Spanish (second) major didn’t fit into my schedule and I didn’t want to take a semester off of Spanish so I thought this class would work nicely.  And I’m ecstatic with my decision.  I’ve been learning Spanish since I was 13 years old and up until last June my Spanish was only mediocre.  I was terrified to speak, zoned out whenever someone talked to me for more than 30 seconds in Spanish and fell asleep reading it.  But I could write.  Boy, could I write.  But, that’s probably because I was able to look up all the words I couldn’t think of off the top of my head.  When I got back from Spain, I was pretty confident with my Spanish skills and took on quite an undertaking.  I started talking with Frances Nelson Health Center about volunteering with them this semester for my community partner.  In their blurb, it says only work here if your Spanish is very strong.  Maybe Spain boosted my confidence, maybe my Spanish really is pretty strong, but I got my work there. 

This first post was suggested to me to be about my experiences with Spanish and I feel that my decision to double major in Spanish is a story required of that suggestion.  When I was a junior in high school I had completed all four levels of Spanish that I needed to not only graduate high school, but also college (at least here at UIUC).  I had an open space in my schedule and I could fill it with a study hall, two photo classes, or Spanish AP.  To this day, I still can’t put my finger on what drove me to take Spanish AP.  I had cursed it all through high school, dreading the exam that I didn’t prepare for, not putting nearly as much importance on that class as I had my sciences or math.  In my senior year I applied for the Spanish language scholarship, the one requirement I didn’t like: I had to take at least one semester of Spanish in college.  I was not going to continue with it.   Registration came and went for U of I and I registered for Span 204, or Spanish grammar.  First semester came and went and I received an A in the class.  Second semester came and Spanish didn’t fit into my schedule.  I got sad.  I missed it.  How was that possible?  How could I miss a subject that I had loathed in high school?  I decided to minor in it and took two Spanish classes the next semester.
At this point I had discovered my love for Spanish.  My life would not be complete without it.  It had to stay in my life.  A minor would not be sufficient.  I worked through my schedule and discovered I could double major in it.  I came in with enough AP credits.  And then, I applied to study in Spain.  That was the key to making this work.  And then I went to Spain.

I like to compare learning Spanish to running a marathon.  I’ve never run a marathon so the comparison might be off, but they always say that when running in a marathon you hit a wall and you have to work past that wall in order to finish the race.  In terms of Spanish, that wall is the first “ah ha” moment when things start to click: the point when you stop translating in your head and you start thinking in Spanish.  My wall was when I took Spanish AP.  We practiced for the exam by writing 200 words in 10 minutes.  At first it was difficult, but by the end of the year, it was like breathing.

I was helping a friend yesterday with his Spanish homework, and someone else asked if I was fluent, because according to her, I sounded fluent.  I said no.  My friend with the Spanish homework asked me: Have you ever been to Spain? Yes.  How long were you there? Six weeks.  Did you speak Spanish the entire time? Yes.  My friend smiled at me.  That was sufficient enough to tell me that I am in fact fluent.  I still disagree; there are many words, phrases and idioms that I do not know.  But I know enough Spanish to order in a restaurant.

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