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Costa Rica coastline, a photo of a trip I took with my high school for language immersion before coming to Dartmouth.

My language journey at Dartmouth started the summer before matriculating (starting courses) and at that time I took a written Spanish placement exam. During orientation week I also took an oral placement exam to try to get the most accurate placement for my abilities and background with Spanish. I landed right around the end of the introductory sequence, so a quick conversation at the end of my oral exam determined that it was best if I took Spanish 3. I recognized that I come from a background with several different Spanish teachers over many years who had a variety of styles and that this would not necessarily lead to a smooth transition into the Spanish courses at Dartmouth. Be kind to yourself and try to be open minded when realizing that you might have some knowledge gaps in some areas, as in try not to compare yourself to your peers—everyone brings something to the Dartmouth experience and that varies widely.

I was also aware of some study-abroad options before coming to Dartmouth, so during my placement process I had my eye on the Santander, Spain LSA (language study abroad). The thing about a LSA as compared to a LSA+ is that if you are overqualified, you cannot go on the trip, so that is part of why I was okay with being realistic about my abilities and accepting that even though I had prior experience with Spanish, I still had room for growth. LSA options are for when you are still in the beginning of a language at Dartmouth, whereas LSA+ is if you are more advanced in your proficiency of a language, which can come from taking more courses at Dartmouth! An interesting exception to look at is the FIRE study abroad with the Italian department—it does not require prior courses in Italian.

I was accepted into the Santander LSA program, so that worked out well! Currently, in my spring term, I am taking a drill to prepare for the LSA this summer even though I am not taking a Spanish course. Drill is basically a time to work on the grammar and vocabulary skills in a conversational context outside of class time multiple times a week. In my case drill is three 50-minute blocks on set times and days each week. 

*For an overview of all of the pathways based off of your language background check out this page from the registrar.

As a side note, the photo I used for this post is from a trip I took with my high school to Costa Rica last summer for Spanish immersion. 

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