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Before coming to university, one of the most exciting prospects for me was the idea of learning something new- trying something completely different in an environment where, for once, I would have the opportunity. As a fresher this year, these opportunities came in heaps and bounds. In only a month I’ve experienced things I never thought I would- from self-defense classes, to singing in a gospel choir- and even writing for a newspaper! Most significantly for me however was the chance to learn a new language – Spanish.
Ever since I was young I have loved language in all its forms, and after visiting Spain numerous times and hearing the language spoken to me by my mother as a child, I knew it was what I wanted. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take two language options at school, so French became my priority – but all this changed when I got to Lancaster, and found so many ways that I could learn a language even with absolutely no prior knowledge.
In the weeks leading up to the start of term, I spent so long worrying about the choice I’d made to study a language from scratch. Would it come as naturally as French had? What if everyone else knew more than me and had studied over the summer? Thankfully, the department were so welcoming that I had forgotten all these worries within a few seminars. Not only was it not as difficult as I had expected, but there was something liberating about throwing caution to the wind and trusting my own ability to do something I had never done before. Although I knew the course would be intense to a certain extent, I don’t think I realised how much I would enjoy it.
Here at Lancaster there are so many ways to pick up a language- as a minor, through the language and culture society (which offers languages classes every week), by attending international lunch clubs, and even just by speaking to people from other parts of the world. Speaking a second language can open up so many opportunities not only in terms of employment, but also socially, and with the resources available here you can learn no matter what your proficiency or your degree subject.
For anyone currently trying something new- whether that be a language or something else- or anyone looking for an opportunity to do so, here are a few pieces of advice I’ve picked up over the last month. Firstly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes- and to sound silly doing so- because almost everyone is in the same boat. Putting yourself out there and really trying will make you more confident in the long run. Secondly, don’t forget that people learn in different ways, and just because you aren’t excelling in one area doesn’t mean you won’t in another. Lastly, don’t compare yourself to others. It’s easy to see someone with a natural aptitude for a particular subject and feel completely out of your depth, but again people learn in different ways- and therefore different speeds. Don’t give up before you’ve had chance to properly give something a go. University for many of us is the best place to take up a new hobby or even a new area of study, so take the opportunity to not only learn something new, but also to learn something about yourself. You never know what you might find.