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As the semester winds down, I wanted to take the chance to look back on one of the things I’ve struggled the most with: French. Freshman year, I chose to become a French minor, because I was really passionate about learning a second language and I knew it would be extremely beneficial to my future as a reporter. It was something I struggled with immediately when I got to Penn State, but I knew I wanted to stick with it.

This semester was especially difficult for me. I was taking an Honors grammar class with the head of the department. I wasn’t necessarily looking to get Honors credit for French, but it was honestly just the only class that fit with my schedule. I thought it would be pretty easy, because grammar isn’t that difficult, right? I’m great at writing in English, right?

No, I struggled a lot. But I’m really glad I took this class.

Most of my classmates were freshmen who had taken AP French in high school and were able to skip past the introductory levels of the language once they got to Penn State. At my high school, we weren’t offered AP French, nor we even offered French 4. We got up to French 3, and at that point we had barely learned how to write a sentence. So, taking French classes at Penn State was incredibly intimidating for me, because I knew everyone around me had been much better prepared than I had been. 

Throughout the course this semester, I learned I was actually terrible at grammar in French. It’s all about the small details, like remembering agreement (which doesn’t exist in English), and I always glanced over the little details. Eventually, they would add up. Honestly, I didn’t think I was ever going to get to a point where I felt comfortable with my work and comfortable talking to other students about the lessons we were learning.

But here we are at the end of the semester. I have a 5 page research paper due on Wednesday, which I already have finished. I learn that it works for me to read things a thousand times over so I don’t miss the little details, which is what I’ll be doing for the next few days. Looking back at my high school self who only knew how to say “J’ai dix sept ans,” I’m really proud. I was able to write an entire research paper in French. Whether it turns out as good as I hoped, I’m really proud because I was able to push through this.

I’ve learned a lot about just feeling comfortable making mistakes. I’m nervous to speak up in class, because I know I’m not at the level of the other students. However, I always learn so much from the mistakes I make — even it’s in front of a group of 15 other students. Honestly, those are the mistakes you tend to remember the most, and the ones you’ll remember the most from! 

So, looking back over the semester, I’m most proud of growing as a French speaker. No, I’m not perfect, and I’m far from perfection. However, I am taking baby steps and I’ve learned all of the ways in which I can improve myself through this class. Before, I wasn’t sure where to start, but now I know where to head from here. As I finish up my minor, I’ll probably be stumbling