Week 1 at FSI....
With great pomp and circumstance (and a lot of coffee), I started language classes this week at the School of Language Studies at FSI (Foreign Service Institute). After the year 2000 debacle, also known as "No Spanish for Jen," I was not giving up this time. Come hell or high water, I wanted to have an excellent base Spanish prior to our departure for Managua, rather than my current serviceable, but spotty coverage.
Given that our circumstances are very different this time around and that Nick is already in Montessori, I don't have to stress about the financial aspects like I did many years ago. I don't have to fret about only being able to take an early morning class, since we didn't have the extra $1200/month for daycare (not when I wasn't working) and my class did not suddenly get switched to Main State at the last minute (as in 2000). All in all, things were looking up from the get-go.
I did have one worry, and that was scheduling. The only info I had been given prior to the start of class was my arrival time on Day 1. No way to know when my classes would start or end, and I was praying for anything except an 8 a.m. start. It's not so much that I am not a morning person, but there is no way I could guarantee my arrival, since Nick's school doesn't even open until 7:30 a.m. Not to mention, that would mean Kelsey would need to be up by 7:15 every morning and while she can get herself ready (yes, she does her own breakfast & lunch), if she missed the bus....
I walked into the orientation on Wednesday with quite a bit of trepidation. It was odd for Peter to drop me off, while he had the day to tool around in the new car (safe to say we are both enjoying our new Pilot!). I was worried about getting lost or my i.d. not working, but neither one happened, and I was in my seat 30 minutes prior to the start of the orientation for all language classes.
It was fairly short and sweet and then we were divided up by language. When we arrived in our Spanish orientation location, we were all greeted with books and schedules. I looked through my packet, found our schedule and rejoiced, as my class would start at 10 a.m. Sure, it wouldn't end until 4:15 p.m., but Nick's daycare goes until six and after all, we did allocate a hefty amount to the child care FSA for this exact reason.
Guess what? I was the only one at my table rejoicing. Apparently the time did not work for anyone else. By the end of the day, it was switched to 8 a.m. to accomodate the rest of the class, and I was wondering how this would all play out. Well, it didn't take long to figure out that maybe I wasn't in the right class after all.
When Peter signed me up, the only option was the F.A.S.T. course. This was fine with me, as the timing worked and I assumed that the classes were geared towards level. Not exactly...the FAST course is basic and geared towards survival. If you say, took a year in high school, lived overseas in a Spanish-speaking country for two years and continued to learn Spanish on your own...it may not be the right fit. (If you have no Spanish, and want to get a good working knowledge, I think it would be perfect.)
By Thursday morning, I knew I had to speak to someone. We had met with the teacher on Wednesday, very briefly, and I learned that I had different goals from the other students. Between that and the timing of the class, I was worried that staying in the class might mean that I not get as much as out of the class as I had hoped I would.
I headed to the Spanish department yesterday morning and spoke with one of the directors. My needs regarding the timing of the class and my (limited) background in Spanish were taken into consideration and by 2:45 yesterday, I had finished my evaluation. While it was not stellar, the evaluator could tell that my comprehension was decent (verbs need some work). She recommended a different placement so that I could expand and grow my knowledge, rather than focus on days of the week, the alphabet, colors and the like. I turned in my old books, recieved a new set of training materials and was told to come back at 10 a.m. today.
Just prior to my arrival Friday morning, I received two emails indicating that I had been switched to 8 weeks of the regular Spanish class. I then chatted with the same director I met with yesterday (in the afternoon) and he indicated that there would be a class with several of us that would begin on Monday.He even mentioned something about me having a score of a 1 (I was hoping for 0+, so go me!) and although he didn't confirm it, I was thrilled.
Why? Well, other than that one year of high school Spanish, I have NO formal training. Yes, I took classes at the Embassy, but while they were helpful, it was not a regular class divided into levels. No certificates, no testing, more of a drop-in scenario. Helpful, but I needed something more intense.
Now I have it and I can't help but be a wee bit proud of myself. The year in high school, two years in Caracas, working with Pete somewhat and just trying to learn more Spanish on my own paid off. Even better, I stood up and said something and the instructors agreed my background was sufficient to change my class. I'm not sure how it will turn out in the end, if I will be writing essays in Spanish or still working on lone paragraphs, but I do know one thing: I will feel far more prepared for this post and feel much better having tackled another language more thoroughly. Now, off to study....