panic sets in

I'm not exactly sure how it's happened, but I have less than two weeks left in Kampala.

As this week wore on, I started to sense a bit of panic rising up inside of me. Have I done enough? Have I learned enough? I finally feel settled in - and now it's time to go?

Part of the panic probably stems from the fact that this week was, apart from daily class, a bit of a waste. I came down with a cold that everyone in my guest house seems to be sharing, and after class every day I was very, very tired. I went home to nap and to read, but had less engagement than normal with daily Ugandan life. I felt guilty about it - but also too tired to do anything else.

Additionally, now that I am solidly outside of the "beginner" Luganda stage, I find it is harder for me to gauge my progress. Now that I am well past the early stages of just being happy to remember how to count to five in each noun class, or how to make a singular word plural, I am within the murky waters of an intermediate learner. This murkiness adds to my anxiety, because it seems to me to be harder to measure than the beginning levels. So I am weighed down with doubts.  Have I really advanced almost a full year's worth of study? I haven't yet administered any kind of self assessment, and I imagine when I do so I'll feel a lot better about my progress. But the ease with which I could acknowledge and celebrate success as a beginning learner is now gone.

Additionally, I think I've moved the goal posts a bit. When I arrived, I of course just wanted to advance my language skills in a general sense. But I made the mistake of not setting out a well defined goal before arriving here. Now that I am in Uganda, the idea that I could actually become proficient - or even fluent - doesn't seem so far-fetched to me. And so, the concept of fluency has crept into my brain as a goal. And even though it's not the goal for this summer, now that I've got the idea in my head, I'm panicking a bit about leaving before I've achieved it. Had I set a clear goal at the beginning, I would likely be able to say "Yes, I've achieved that!" and move on. Instead I have a lingering sense of not having become fluent over the summer. At least I'm aware of this subconscious and unreasonable expectation of immediate fluency, and at least intellectually I can push it aside.

Finally, I am already looking ahead to the next year of study with a bit of nervousness. There are many things I'll be well-positioned to do: work on grammar and vocabulary with more purpose, for example. But I am really, really going to miss the numerous opportunities I have every day to practice speaking and listening. I am concocting plans for how to bring regular communication with native speakers into my life in Madison, but no matter what, it just won't be the same.

This panic is good for something, at least. It is compelling me to really throw myself fully into things, and to make the most of these final two weeks. And it is pushing my goals - and my belief in what I can achieve - to places I never thought I could go.


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