As I walked into the Spanish Conversation classroom in January 2011, I wondered what it would be like. This was the first time I’d been in a college classroom since 1978 when I received my Masters in Library Science from Spalding College, now Spalding University.
Six short months earlier around my 65th birthday a friend told me that U of L offered tuition-free classes to people 65 and older. I contacted the university, found this to be true, and began the enrollment process as a continuing studies student. Once completed, I contacted Dr. Regina Roebuck, chair of the Spanish department, who told me I needed to take an on-line placement exam to determine what classes I was eligible to take. After taking the exam, I met with Dr. Roebuck and she enrolled me in Spanish 301-Spanish Conversation. So there I was, at the door of my classroom, wondering what I had gotten myself into.
I began studying Spanish in 2004 at Los Monitos, a private language school in Louisville. My wife and I had also studied in language schools in Costa Rica, Chile and Spain. In each country, we lived with a host family who only spoke Spanish. I felt well-prepared and was excited to begin my studies at U of L.
At age 65, I was continuing my adventure in Spanish but now it was one I would share with a group of young adults with whom I had nothing in common other than a desire to improve our abilities in spoken Spanish. How would I fit in?
As it turned out I had nothing to worry about. My classmates were as interested in me and my story as I was in theirs’. We shared our stories before class and sometimes after.
Ty is a young man from Pennsylvania attending U of L on a baseball scholarship. Wesley is an incredibly bright student from Louisville, who is majoring in languages and speaks German. Shelby is a nursing student from Western Kentucky who was on the rowing team her first semester at U of L. And then there were the twins Parth and Puja, brother and sister, from Louisville, who were on the fast track to enter U of L’s medical school after only three years in the undergraduate program. They had taken a lot of college courses while attending Louisville’s Manual High School.
This semester I am, again, the oldest student in my class but there are a couple of older students who have full-time jobs and have returned to U of L to further their education. Melissa, a pharmacist, is studying linguistics, and Tom, also a pharmacist, is studying Spanish.
I am now in my third semester at U of L, still studying Spanish and still having a great time. For each of my courses, I have had wonderful, patient teachers – Dr. Roebuck for my conversation class, Dr. Wagner for my grammar class, and Dr. Mónica Rodrígues-Castro, a native of Western Spain, with whom I have had several conversations, outside of class, in Spanish.
These past couple of years at U of L have been some of the most rewarding of my life. Interacting with my classmates, making new friends and learning a little Spanish, it’s been a great ride. And some of my classmates have friended me on Facebook. How cool is that!
Photo courtesy Harry Jacobson-Beyer