Persian Immersion II

David on B-cycle
Madison, USA
June 21, 2014

Summer school is settling into a daily rhythm. Communal breakfast with classmates and instructors in the dining hall runs from 7h30 until 8h00. If I linger until 08h05 that allows just enough time to walk across campus to Babcock Hall where my classes run until 12h45. Another walk across campus brings me to another dining hall for a half-hour lunch. Supper doesn't start until 20h00. (The rumor is that that late start was scheduled to accommodate classmates and instructors who will fast over Ramadan.)

Taking three meals a day in another language while keeping on top of four-and-a-half hours of class (not to mention hours of homework in preparation) would be a lot to take on, anyway. But I think I'm at an additional disadvantage from my classmates. I think they've placed me into a level higher than my true ability in the language allows.

Babcock Hall Dairy Plant
The results of my placement test (which, in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have tried to do well on, at-all) determined I should be at the second-highest of five levels of class. It's rough on me. I have only five classmates: all of whom clearly have solid backgrounds in Persian. There are a couple Ivy-league students who had some teacher who was obviously focused on cultivating exact pronunciation and grammar. There's a Ph.D. student who spent years living in Saudi Arabia so benefits from a strong background in Arabic to complement his Persian. There are a couple of undergraduates, each of whom have at least one parent from Iran. And then there's me.

I haven't given up on this level yet but have been making inquiries into seeing how hard it would be to slip back down to attend the intermediate level class.

Though I feel out of my depth in terms of class level I have been enjoying re-connecting with the language, trying to remember any bit of what Persian I picked up at some point long ago. One bright side of the class I've been placed into is its location. It meets in Babcock Hall. That's where the university's Dairy Plant and Dairy Store are located. Large signs in the hallways give background on new products being developed. Exhibitions throughout the building offer the history of the dairy industry in the state. It seems that Babcock Hall has been a focal point in Wisconsin dairy production for several decades. What I'm most intrigued by is the always-crowded ice cream shop through which I walk when entering the building to get to my classroom every morning. That's got to be some good ice cream.

Kayla on B-cycle
Despite my strict homework, class, and meal schedules I have managed to do other things around Madison and have begun getting to know some of the other students in the program. Madison has a bike-sharing program, B-cycle that I've signed up for. I'd considered getting a bicycle of my own to get myself around town over summer. But, with plentiful banks of bicycles spread throughout the city I figured I could just nab a bike whenever I needed one. After signing myself up for a $20 student membership I found there is at least one other APTLII student who has also enrolled in B-cycle: Kayla.

Since becoming bicycle buddies Kayla and I have been running errands around town together on bright, red B-cycles. Trips around town are free as long as the bike is docked into any kiosk within 30 minutes of the moment it was checked out. She and I have also started going to a campus gym, the Natatorium, just a brief walk from our dorm to play the occasional round of badminton. It's difficult to be social when neither of us speak Persian very well. (We are obligated to speak in only that language even when in informal situations outside of class.)

Rough as it is to keep up with, I am enjoying the immersion setting--for now. I suppose I'll see just how far I can advance in the language and just how well I can forge friendships when bound by the program's "language agreement" this summer. Perhaps I can manage to do well at both.