Monday, December 15, 2003

The Truly Educated Never Graduate
Q: So, what do you want to do after you get your degree?
A: Get another one.

A while ago, I got a brochure in the mail from St. Louis University about getting a master's degree in Spanish at their campus in Madrid. Basically, I could get another MA by spending a month in Madrid, three summers in a row. Three master's degrees in three years? Hell yeah. The prospect of spending three summers in Spain? Gee, darn, guess I'd find some way to force myself.

It isn't that I need another degree. I'm already scheduled to get two from MSU as it is, and yes, I do remember this. Some *cough*my mother*cough* have said that they think getting a third degree would be overkill and perhaps interpreted by some PhD programs as a sign of lacking commitment. Overkill I grant you, but it'd be fun, no? As for the other, I don't think an MA in direct continuation of my BA major would be a bad thing, and besides, it's tangentially related to linguistics.

Maybe it's just because I'm destined to be a perpetual student that I'm interested in this. During the summer is even convenient timing, if I had the money. I am inclined to think, however, that I am really interested in pursuing this because I am being driven insane by my current program. My assistantship only pays for 12 credits' worth of classes, which means I get to take 3 a semester, which is really all I can do while teaching anyway. But because there's only 3 per semester, and I want to get both degrees in 3 years, I have to take only the basic, required, stultifyingly boring TESOL classes. No room for foreign language anywhere in there. What, you're pursuing a degree in linguistics and you want to study foreign language at the same time? Surely you jest. How irregular.

I have taken a foreign language class every single semester of my life since I entered sixth grade. I studied German all through middle school, switched to Spanish in 10th grade, took Spanish and Japanese simultaneously in 12th grade and again during my second year at Grinnell, took Maputh√ɬľngun during my semester in Chile, took Spanish and Chinese simultaneously for a semester in my final year at Grinnell, and studied Japanese on my own while in Japan. All this focus on teaching ESL with nothing to stimulate my own mind is about to drive me crazy. Always before when I had to deal with a lot of other boring classes, I at least had my foreign language class to look forward to. I want to go to Spain and take classes that look like fairly close repeats of what I did at Grinnell just because I'd have the chance to actually exercise my own mind again for a change.

When I got back from Japan, at first it was a relief because I was suddenly, blessedly literate again. But soon I realized it felt like my brain was only running at half-capacity, because I was surrounded with pretty much nothing but easily, automatically understood English. I didn't have to concentrate to understand conversations around me, and as a result, the mundane was rendered... mundane. Communication with people in my everyday life holds no challenge, except with my students, and then it's a challenge to simplify my language enough to get them to understand, rather than reaching and stretching my mind to the limits for that half-remembered vocabulary word that I learned yesterday. When half the German department got into the elevator with me one day on my way to teach, I felt more at home in the only partially understood language flying around me than I sometimes do surrounded by English.

I came back from Chile feeling more confident in myself than I ever had before, knowing I could handle anything thrown at me. I came back from Japan to feel mostly frustratedly bored. Will I ever be satisfied living in my native surroundings again?

I think I'll just dream about running away to Spain right now.

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