There is No Try

A year in to my stay in England, the calendar was not my friend. My job search was not going well (200 resumes sent resulted in 5 interviews, being a finalist for 2 positions, 0 offers), and my visa was about to run out. In my head, going home at that time would have been a failure. I needed more time to find a job.

So I did what I had to do…

After having just completed a Master’s degree (including thesis – part of my collection of degrees I do not use) in 12 months, I signed up for more school. I needed full-time hours, so I went to the equivalent of a community college and pieced together a workload. The scariest part going in was the French class. This was 6 ½ hours of instruction per week designed to lead to an A level (somewhere between AP and an AA) in 2 years. I hadn’t taken a French class in a decade, and I had only one year to complete it. The British system is based on sitting national exams, so the teacher’s role is not to give grades, but rather to impart the skills and knowledge needed to pass them. To complete this journey I would need to sit double sets of exams at the end of the year.

Rusty doesn’t even begin to describe where my French was when I started. I was completely lost for the first 3 weeks. The class was exclusively in French, and I had no clue what was going on. Eventually I learned enough to at least be able to follow along. I was really regretting my fear of practicing my spoken French as an undergrad, because it was biting me in the butt in this class. With only 6 of us, there was no hiding!

We had our first in-class practice test two month in. The teacher graded them as she felt the exam board would. I got a D.

The Letter D
Tammy, the honor’s student, teacher’s pet, ace in the classroom, got a D. I was numb.

I walked home and sat on the bed of my studio flat. Then and there I needed to make a decision. I could either go through the motions and attend the class (in theory I could have simply quit going to all of my classes – the Home Office was not known for checking up on people with student visas – but my paranoia of getting caught kept me going) but not take the exams at the end of the year OR I needed to throw myself into this class. Was it even possible to get my skills up to where they needed to be? In the back of my head was the added knowledge that if I got a job offer at any point during the year, I was quitting my studies. Did I really want this?

I sat there a long time.

Then I stopped listening to the voices in my head, turned to my very knowledgeable gut, and made my decision … and started making flashcards … and started speaking in class A LOT. In addition to the 6 ½ hours of class time each week, I spent at least that outside class studying French. When I was walking around, I was thinking in French – or at least translating into French.

I don’t know if it was my bruised ego or what, but I didn’t realize how much I wanted it until it looked like I might not be able to get it.

I am a workhorse. Give me a goal that I really want, and I will move mountains to get there. I studied on my own, went to study groups, listened to French programs, went to Paris for a week (yes, I took that one for the team!). I wanted this!

And I got it! I sat all the exams, including two sets of the fear-inducing oral boards, and I got an overall score of “B”!

What have I done with my A level? Proudly added it to my collection.

In what things have you been able to persevere despite obstacles being placed in your path?  What was the turning point that kept you working towards “impossible”?

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