When I started out my university studies, I decided to take a Russian language course in my first year. It was mainly due to the fact that all the French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese courses were full, and my only options left to study a foreign language were Chinese, Hebrew and Russian. So Russian it was. Besides, this was towards the end of the Cold War, so it would be interesting to learn the language of the other side.
I thoroughly enjoyed studying that first year of Russian and decided that I wanted to continue with it. However, I transferred to a different university during my second year and when I started my second year of studying Russian, I found that I hadn’t learned the same material nor the same amount as they had at my new institution. I struggled quite a bit, so I decided to take an intensive summer course to fill in the gaps.
It didn’t matter that I was repeating the same course level that I had taken. I wanted to be adequately prepared for the following year of Russian and not struggle as I had during my second year. I expected that I would work hard and suffer. After all, who wants to spend their summer doing homework? However, surprisingly, I found it to be an enjoyable experience.
We were expected to go to four hours of class in the morning and do a couple hours of homework in the afternoon for the next day. I had never worked as hard as I did that summer, but it was well worth it. I learned whether nouns were masculine, feminine or neutral. I could decline nouns in the accusative, genitive, and instrumental cases. I felt that I was fully prepared for third year Russian, and indeed, the third year went much more smoothly.
That may not sound particularly pleasant, but I must say that it was. You would think that studying during the summer would be totally depressing, but I found it particularly relaxing. Yes, I worked hard and studied a lot, but I didn’t have the constant pressure as I did during the academic year. I had a part-time job working at a local bookshop on the weekends, so I had to cram turning in papers or preparing for tests for other classes into the week. Dedicating most of my time to language learning had been impossible.
I also had a fascinating teacher. This is not to say the other teachers were boring, but Daniella had some incredible experiences. She was born in West Berlin and travelled to East Berlin to study Russian. She told us about the special documents she needed to pass Checkpoint Charlie once a week, and that every time she went to East Berlin, there was a spy following her. He was even in a trench coat and sunglasses while carrying a newspaper. Priceless.
As you can tell, I remember my time at a summer intensive language course with great memories. What about you?
To find out more about our summer intensive language courses, please click on the photo.
Nancy Lee, responsable del Servei d’Idiomes d’UManresa