As August morphed into September, I felt impelled to wake up the student in me.
I had long debated learning Spanish spoken by many of my neighbors and fellow salsa dancers or reviving my French, which I once spoke well. Finally, a free placement test at a nearby French cultural center enticed me.
I sat there with sweaty palms, guessing which bubbles to fill out on the trickier grammar questions. The sigh of relief came when I found out I didn't have to go back to 101. Still, I had only five days before 201 started, and I scrambled to put together a few sentences to introduce myself.
As the class approached last week, I had that mix of excitement and nagging doubts familiar to everyone who's ever had a first day of school. Would I embarrass myself by not remembering the most basic words or by butchering their pronunciation? Would I find enough time to do homework? Would I relearn French only to forget it again?
None of these questions mattered as my classmates and I immersed ourselves in the beautiful language that had brought us together. Among us were a Colombian student, a Zimbabwean doctor, and several Americans planning trips to France or Montreal. Our teacher's gentle corrections and sense of humor set us at ease, and perplexed looks soon gave way to smiles.
On my way home, French words for objects that I saw surfaced almost miraculously. And as if to reassure me that I'd find opportunities to use the language, two groups of French speakers crossed my path in the space of half an hour.
I was happy I had chosen French, but any class would probably have yielded the same result: an alertness and exhilaration that even the crisp autumn air can't parallel.