Q. I’m having a hard time with my English. I don’t know if other students are having trouble with this, too, because there are so few International students here. But I have a hard time understanding my professors in class sometimes, and I definitely don’t know what people are talking about in Sodexo or at Prime Time! What can I do?
A. Believe it or not, this is a common problem! Maybe not just with English, but with practicing and improving language skills in general. You have an advantage over many people because you are immersing yourself in the language you’re studying. That is, by far, the most successful method for improving your English speaking skills, as well as your comprehension.
First of all, know that you are not alone. People struggle with English all the time, and I recommend being honest with your professors about this, too. They are enthusiastic about helping students get the most out of their education at Whitworth so they will work with you to better understand lectures and to improve your English vocabulary, as well. I recommend asking for access to their PowerPoint slides so you can see what they were talking about visually. Also, request to audiorecord their lectures so if you missed something you can always play it back until you understand what they were saying.
As for the social scene, go ahead and ask people to repeat what they said, but more slowly. It is very easy to talk fast and incoherently. I have been speaking English my entire life, and I still can’t understand certain speedy talkers. Lastly, don’t avoid conversations just because they are difficult. In fact, seek them out! Go to special events and programs around campus, go to your classes’ study sessions (that way you can better understand your class lectures as well as practice speaking and listening with peers) and purposefully spend time with residents in the dorm lounges and kitchens.
You wouldn’t be at Whitworth if you weren’t already an impeccable English speaker. Have the confidence you have earned, and you will surprise yourself with your improvements!
Q. The semester is almost over, but I still don’t feel like I figured out how to balance my life! I never have free time it seems. I am always swamped doing homework or studying, and I never get enough sleep each night. Is this what next semester will look like, too? I want to be able to have more of a social life.
A. You’ve probably seen the diagram that says, “‘Good Grades,’ ‘Social Life’ and ‘Enough Sleep’: Pick Two.” I don’t believe in that. You can definitely have all three; however, sacrifices will have to be made. Most people I know who juggle a full course-load, multiple part-time jobs, and still manage to pursue hobbies, have friends and get eight hours of sleep every night all have one thing in common: they live by their schedules. It is amazing what you can do with technology. Whether it is an Excel spreadsheet, your Outlook calendar or the iCalendar on your iPhone, staying on-track has never been easier.
Step 1: Schedule your mandatory commitments. Classes, work and regularly scheduled meetings fit this category. This allows you to see how much free time you actually do have.
Step 2: Schedule your time-consuming routines. This can be anything from your daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, to your shower times, to the time you take off to read a good book or talk on the phone with your mom. Putting this into your schedule better answers your question, “Where does all my free time disappear to?”
Step 3: Make time for your priorities. You know all those things you say you will do, but then never get around to actually doing it? That’s where this step comes in handy. First, make a pact that whatever goes on the schedule will happen. Then, schedule your daily workout, hour of reading, allotted time for homework, and time block where you seek to catch up with people over coffee. It is so easy to say, “Let’s do this!” but without action, nothing will get done. You’ll be surprised how much free time you still have left over! Which leads me to the last step.
Step 4: Organize your free time. That’s right! You have found your free time. Now instead of asking yourself if you are going to be able to fit in a nap, you will be wondering how you can fill up any spare blocks in your Excel spreadsheet — productivity at its finest.
By Rosie Brown