I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last two weeks mulling over my fears and apprehensions for the upcoming year abroad, considerably more than I had in the months leading up to pre-departure training when the year seemed like a far more abstract concept. I’ve catalogued all but one into the realm of fear of the unknown, things I’m equally as excited to experience as I am nervous to endure. Yet the sole persistent outlier that won’t cease to inhabit my thoughts happens to be a rather consequential one – learning the native language of Brazil, Portuguese. I’ve identified this fear as stemming from two contrasting places, one of past trauma and the other of potential implications.
I began to learn Mandarin in the third grade and finished in the eleventh, a span of eight years that incapsulated (involved) four distinct teachers, a handful of celebrations, and innumerable examinations and tests of my competence. I abandoned Mandarin after the eleventh grade with the feeling of alleviation a person gets once realizing they will never have to take another loathed language class again. I felt, for a host of reasons, that Stuyvesant High School had obliterated the joy and wonder I once found in learning Mandarin, turning it into a chore I performed mechanically like an automaton in order to receive the highest possible mark.
I now carry this dread associated with language learning with me to Brazil, where I hope it doesn’t impede my attempts to be outgoing and throw myself into this welcoming society. I take great pride in my ability to connect and empathize with humans from all walks of life, and I’ve taken for granted in the past how key a role communication plays in that process. It seems like it would be difficult to build bonds with others whilst struggling to properly dictate my thoughts. Ironically, the more that I worry the more I fret that I am blowing my broodings out of proportion and therefore can only manage to wait and see how they develop over the course of my time here. For now I must try to be Zen, to leave the past in the past, and respond to the challenges as they emerge from the black.