Comparative Linguistics at the UAM

What is arguably my most interesting class is my class in the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.  It takes me roughly an hour to commute to campus from my host home, getting on the Metro on Delicias and eventually getting off the Cercanias train at the Cantoblanco station.  One thing I definitely think is important to mention is the biggest cultural difference I have noticed in my UAM class compared to my college classes in America.  In this particular class, which is mostly comprised of Spanish students, the noise level usually becomes extremely loud.  I found that it is very common for my professor to talk over students and for many students in my class to not pay attention.  I found this a bit frustrating in the beginning, as it was seemingly difficult to hear my professor at first.   

I am taking a class called Comparative Linguistics, and it is taught in English.  However, my professor will have the class compare languages like Basque, French, Brazilian Portuguese, and European Portuguese.  My professor there is actually very patient and great at explaining things which I didn’t expect at first.  I suppose I am pretty pessimistic; I expected many negative things about the class and about a professor I had never met before.   

I think it is important to acknowledge that it is way too easy to assume the worst.  I thought my professor would never reply to my emails, would never bother to learn my name, would never care whether I understood the material, and everything in between.  Although this is surely true for some professors at any universities, I was pleased to find out during my first day in the class that it was false for mine.  My professor always replies to my emails, understands that I have not taken any prior linguistics classes like all the other students, and is patient at explaining to me the topics I struggle with.   

My interest in linguistics began in middle school when I was introduced to English grammar and peaked in high school when I began to perfect my Spanish grammar.  That being said, it was clear to me during my first day in the class that I lacked the extensive linguistic knowledge that my peers had.  It was intimidating to come into a space like this.  Usually, amongst my friends and peers back home, my syntactical knowledge is far more extensive.  It felt very strange to feel things shift so quickly, but at the same time, it was refreshing to be in a room with people who knew so much about the topics that interest me so much.  This class was the first time I felt absolutely immersed in something I am so interested in.   

I want to make it a point that immersion is a tricky concept to balance in one´s life, especially in a country that one does not identify as her own.  It is easy to get lost in anything one is unfamiliar with, and for the first few classes, my “immersion” in the class felt a lot more like drowning.  Much patience is required to get accustomed to living in an entirely new country and to be surrounded by a new topic which for me, in this case, was linguistic comparisons.  It was imperative for me to use every resource available from the program (the people here, the mental health resources that are available nearby, etc.) to ease my way into Spanish culture and to feel like I belong in the spaces I occupy while I am here.   

Nicole,
student blogger, fall19

Nicole—or Nico for short—is an Afro-Latina from the Bronx, NY who dabbles in poetry, prose, photography, and vocalism. She has published two books to date, both written in English and Spanish.  She is currently attending Skidmore College with hopes to obtain two bachelor’s degrees for Spanish and Linguistics.  Her ultimate goal is to someday open a school for deaf children in the Dominican Republic.  She uses her writing to discuss taboo topics, like what it means to be a woman of color today’s world and how that shapes her perception. 

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