My American high school education, including three years of Spanish, did not prepare me for classes at Colegio Aleman in Quito some twenty nine years ago. In the U.S., I had been a good student with primarily As and some Bs at my public high school. I graduated in the top ten percent of my class. I was an officer in the local chapter of the National Honor Society, a cheerleader, and editor-in-chief of our high school yearbook. I was a big fish in a small pond.
At Colegio Aleman, I was a small fish in a completely foreign pond. I was enrolled as a “sociales” student meaning most my classes were in the social science field. One problem was there were no textbooks for any of the classes. The classes were taught as lectures. With my limited Spanish ability, I was able to focus on what the teacher was saying and get a basic understanding of the class, but not have any notes to refer back to in order to study. Or, I could attempt to copy down what I heard, but then I would not have any idea what the lesson was actually about. And the notes didn’t make much sense. I tried copying other people’s notes after class and during breaks. I just couldn’t keep up.
Another problem was that most of the sociales classes were subjects that I had never studied and didn’t have a background in. The History of Latin America, the History of Ecuador, the History of the Laws of Ecuador, and Social Psychology were completely unfamiliar to me. Even the math was more complicated than what I had studied in Calculus. I did ok in English class, but in German class I was completely lost. I don’t speak a word of German.
Colegio Aleman was a humbling experience for me.