In our pre-course meetings for PGS we were asked to complete an assignment listing out our personal goals for the program. Now, at the end of the semester, we have been asked to reflect on those goals. Below, I am going to recreate my list and reflect on each item as I go along. The list will be in black and my reflections will be in orange.
- I want to challenge myself to abandon my crutch of English as my only means for communication. Whether this means reaching proficiency in Italian, or learning how to convey meaning in the absence of words, I want to find my way through these uncomfortable situations.
As I look back on this goal, I think I have managed to reach some amount of success in achieving it. I have certainly not reached any degree of proficiency with Italian–that component was unreasonable–but I have begun to understand the importance of having at least a passing proficiency with a language. In Bordeaux, I had the opportunity to use some of the French I learned in High School; it wasn’t perfect, and I forgot a lot, but I made it through without any major issues. Throughout this semester, I have had opportunities to use the Italian I have been learning in class. A crowning moment for me was last week when a car stopped to ask me for directions and I was able to understand (they were using very simple words), and give (again very simple) directions. Even in those moments where I have not understood, and I haven’t known what to say, I think I have gained enough confidence to deal with ambiguity and try my best to convey meaning. One final thought, this semester has taught me the importance of actually becoming proficient in other languages. Though I wasn’t able to accomplish that goal during this semester, it is a life goal, and one that I can continue to work on.
- I want to become more cultured with respect to food, drink, music, art, architecture, and a number of ‘categories’
I think I have come a long way during this semester towards achieving this goal. I have learned much about food traditions, the importance of high quality ingredients, and the value of locally produced foods and drinks. I have learned much about wine, partially through my own experiences trying wines and partially through my interactions with the Wine Group. I have learned some about art and visited a number of museums during my travels. I have learned about music through my attendance of musical performances (including the opera at La Scalla) and through my interactions with the Music Group. And, I have learned about Architecture thanks to my interactions with my peers in the Architecture program and through my travels, as well. I have learned about more ‘categories’ than just these, however, and I think that it is this fact that I am most proud.
- I want to interact with ‘locals’ and learn more about their perspective on the world and our country
I was able to accomplish this primarily through meeting with two locals, Gea and Igor, on a weekly basis. While the purpose of our weekly meetings was to help Gea improve her English speaking skills (though I thought she was excellent from the beginning), the meetings turned into a co-learning experience that often included conversations about differing perspectives on countries and groups of people. Gea and Igor helped to expand my horizons and show me how much more I should be doing to be a truly active citizen of the world (and citizen of the U.S. for that matter). I have had other interactions with locals throughout my journeys, as well, and each has provided its own gems to reflect on. I am happy I was able to have some success in reaching this goal of mine.
- I want to interact with the incredible group of professors coming over to teach the modules both in and outside the classroom. I want to be involved in intellectually stimulating conversations that challenge my beliefs and help me to become a better individuals all around.
Reading this goal now, I think that I have absolutely achieved what I wanted to achieve. I have not only gotten to know each of the professors who have visited, but I think I have made a number of friends as well. This semester has been the first where I have ever really interacted with my teachers, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I have had intellectually stimulating conversations (and intellectually frying ones as well), but I have also had personal conversations, and I will cherish these just the same. I do think, however, that my original goals was incomplete because it failed to account for all the interactions I have had with my peers. PGS is an incredible and diverse group of people. I have been surrounded my extraordinarily intelligent individuals for a whole semester, and the conversations I have had, and the friendships I have formed, have been just as valuable as those with my professors. Each person who has contributed to this program is incredible in their own way, and it has been an honor to have been a part of such an amazing group.