One For the Language-Lovers...
Coming into Dartmouth, I really didn't know much of anything about the foreign language classes here. I had taken up to AP French in high school, but my test scores didn't exempt me from the language requirement, so I knew that I'd end up taking at least one course here. Plus, I knew that I wanted to study abroad at some point, so a refresher was due regardless. It wasn't until this term that I finally decided to sign up for my first Dartmouth French class, and so far, I've been blown away.
All of the language classes here at Dartmouth use something called the Rassias Method, a style of teaching developed by a Dartmouth professor that has since picked up a lot of popularity worldwide. Just to clue you all in to how effective it is, I've been learning French since the sixth grade, and I have classmates who have only been speaking for two-and-a-half terms and are just as fluent. In fact, the French Department here only requires that you take two classes before you're qualified for the lowest level of study-abroad, the LSA, and they're confident that they can have you fluent enough to survive in a foreign country after just twenty weeks – and I'm really starting to believe it.
An important part of the learning experience here is what we call "drill." It's an extra session taught outside of class by a student who's fluent in the language where you work on formulating sentences instantaneously. Whether that means conjugating verbs in different tenses and moods, adjusting phrases to use indefinite pronouns, or working on vocabulary in-context, it quickly gets you comfortable speaking the language with ease. As somebody whose first language class was French III, I was the only one in my session who had never done drill before, and though it takes a little getting used to, I can promise that it comes quickly. Personally, it wasn't long before I found myself having a lot of fun, and I could swiftly feel myself improving.
However, I think the coolest part of my French experience here so far has been the people that I've gotten to meet. For instance, our class had a private lunch with influential French author and Montgomery Fellow Édouard Louis, who spoke about poverty and identities and how they all play into the complex French political scene. Though, it wasn't just some dry lecture; we had a fluid conversation in which we all asked questions and genuinely interacted with this ground-breaking individual, and in a foreign language on top of it all. While I haven't had the chance to speak with him yet, the other French III section recently had a lunch with Didier Eribon, a famous French author and sociologist who's another a Montgomery Fellow currently on campus. The fact that not only do I have the opportunity to meet these people, but also that I've learned the skills to communicate with them in their native tongue, has been absolutely invaluable, and it's really encouraged me personally to pursue language even further here at Dartmouth.
Above all, if you're even remotely interested in studying language, I can promise that Dartmouth is the place to be. My experiences here in just half a term have been enough for me to see how awesome the opportunities are, and I would encourage you all to look into it more yourselves. Bonne chance!