Daigaku Z: Life In The Slow Lane

Daigaku Z:

Daigaku Z is a weekly column describing Z’s journey to learn the Japanese language while at the University of Pittsburgh. She impressed the East Asian Language and Literature department with her first-year performance, but she stumbled over the summer semester’s Accelerated Program course. Still, she is nothing if not persistent, and now she faces the second year of the program once more. This is (the continuation of) her story.

We’re moving into Week 4 of the semester, and looking at how grades have shaken out between the same material’s time frame from the Accelerated Program, I have to say that things are progressing much better. Having a scientific background, though, I am not entirely sure as to why that is. Having a writing background, too, means I’m probably going to meander for a few paragraphs before I get to the real point.

The most obvious answer could be that I’ve experienced this material before. After all, we’re still working on telephone etiquette, and re-cementing the use of the extended predicate; more than that, though, the use of cause-and-effect language like kara and no de is finally clicking within my understanding. But I’ve been sadly not as dedicated to my studies throughout July and August as I expected I would be, and the material was mostly gone from me by the time the fall semester started again.

The material itself hasn’t changed, either. What has changed is the pace– from a certain point of view. During the Accelerated Program course, we had four hours of interactive work to every one hour of lecture; the standard pace is five hours of exercise to two hours of lecture. A minor difference in the ratio, granted, but the span of time encompassing the two cycles– a day and a week, respectively– makes a world of difference. There’s also the fact that the time in between sessions is dramatically different, as well; from an hour of preparation time to almost 24 hours (not counting weekends).

As we’re all well aware, I’m not exactly your typical collegian. I was the first time around, but now I fall squarely into the “non-traditional” sector. But even though my first year back was a rather smashing success, I quickly learned that my limits for capability were not where they had been fifteen years ago. I had to drop a course my first semester back because I didn’t think I could perform up to my usual standards in it. My struggle over the summer was due in no small part to that same sentiment, and to say that I had reservations about blaming it entirely on the pace would have been accurate.

But if nothing else, these first three weeks back have proven to me that taking my time is exactly what I needed in order to get back on track. Having time to absorb the material and understand it has been vital and necessary for retaining it, which may seem obvious or counter-intuitive, but it does work. Most everyone in school now is starting to notice the gold paint flaking off the new school year. That’s perfectly fine. But don’t give up. Just take your time.