I know it may be cliché, but I have a lot of thoughts about my Spanish self-study experience, and for this reason, I wanted to write about it. First and foremost, I should probably comment on the Spanish itself and the academic outcome of the experience; I am happy with the experience overall. I believe it provided me with a structured outlet to both practice Spanish and motivate me to do so. I am by no means an expert in education, so I do not know if there is a numerical way that I can surmise my experience, but I do know for a fact that I practiced more than if I had not done this experience and I feel more comfortable with the language overall. My honors blog, however, reflects most of my learnings and my feelings about everything that I did, so I wanted to take most of this reflection to talk about the honors experience side of my past semester.
As I had mentioned before, this is my first honors experience, and my first self-designed experience nonetheless. As much as I learned about Spanish, I learned about creating an experience and conducting myself. One of the most difficult tasks for me was creating my schedule and sticking to it. With my involvement in extracurricular and my demanding course load as an engineer, free time can be sparse and it was often difficult to make time to regularly do my honors experience; particularly demanding weeks such as exam weeks were even more difficult, and admittedly there was a day or two in these weeks that I ended up skipping on my honors project because I had more “pressing” work. The first lesson I learned from this was not to make excuses. I feel like this is a common concept in anyone’s life, especially those who are busy. Another example of this would be with working out; many days I might not go to the gym because I am “too tired” or have “too much work” or chalk it up to a multitude of other excuses. And admittedly there were a few days in this experience when I did the same thing. But after, just like working out, I would feel guilty for not doing it. I would feel out of practice and I would try to make it up later. However, “cramming” is never a good strategy and is never as efficient. Eventually I learned to think of this Spanish experience not as a recreational activity but a mandatory part of my life, as something that I wanted to do, had to do, and a part of my routine rather than just homework. This change in mentality can be difficult, and I still have problems with it sometimes. Admittedly, this is something that people learn over a long period of time, but I do know that I am on the right way to mastering this skill.
The second point I wanted to mention about this experience was the importance of flexibility in planning and projects. Generally, I am a very logical, very well thought out, and pragmatic person; I make a game plan for everything I do, and it tends to stress me out when things do not go as planned. So this experience was quite the learning experience for me. I quickly realized that I had overestimated the amount of time that many of my objectives would take to complete, and at the beginning of my experience did a poor job of completing the many tasks that I had set up for myself, which did not help me learn effectively. Eventually, I had to learn to compromise and take a select few things that I found to be the most important of my plan. This was a bit of a struggle for me, as I like to believe that I can do a lot and I can do a lot well, so to have to limit myself and cut back can be difficult. Once I decided on the few things I wanted to do, those changed even more as I discovered better methods, such as using Duolingo instead of worksheets and planning my Spanish practice for small portions every day instead of larger chunks a few times a week. I found that the smaller portions were easier to fit into my schedule and seemed less stressful and therefore it was much easier for me to do them. I think this was my greatest lesson: flexibility, the willingness to modify, and openness to new techniques are all essential to learning as long as they bring you closer to your objective.
Overall this experience was not perfect, but I did learn a lot from it. I learned the Spanish language, increased my time management abilities, and learned the importance of flexibility in a plan. I am happy with what I accomplished in this project and am definitely looking forward to applying what I learned here to future experiences.
During the 2016 spring semester, I will be synthesizing reading, writing, listening, and speaking of the Spanish language in order to increase my proficiency and prepare myself to study and travel abroad; I believe diversity and multiculturalism are fulfilling and important parts of live and self development, therefore, I am embarking on a multi-platformed journey that I will be documenting on this page. Enjoy!