FOREIGN LANGUAGE FAIRY TALES
By Kara M. Andrus, ’03
EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay was the third-place entry to the 2003 BYU Magazine student essay contest. The theme for this year’s contest was Enter to Learn.
A student tells the tale of the enchanting years she has spent in BYU’s foreign-language housing.
¡Hola! Privyet! Wie geht’s? Nestled away in a forgotten corner past Deseret Towers Field lies a small apartment complex unlike any other at BYU. A stroll through its simple corridors becomes a journey from Japan to Italy. Self-contained in its circular construction, the Foreign Language Student Residence (FLSR) forms a private little world where you can study just about any tongue, ranging from the more familiar Spanish and French to the baffling (to me) conglomerates of sound called Chinese and Arabic.
This international microcosm does have its dangers. If you tarry too long, you may feel the need for remedial English classes; for while Italian and Russian are spoken, English is not.
Located directly across from the linguistic mecca of the Missionary Training Center, many FLSR residents harbor a secret yearning to return to those walls, where only those with nametags may enter to learn. On the other side, the FLSR is not only surrounded by Wymount, the sprawling married student housing complex, but also has a prime view of the ultimate symbol of all eternal goals, the temple. Who can blame the FLSR for its fortress-like construction? We language lovers are trapped between worlds, unable to return to our missions, where many love affairs with languages began, yet still waiting for princes and princesses to whisk us off to the bliss of Wymount on gallant white steeds.
Given the precarious location, many residents of the language houses have simply decided to stay put and hold their ground, preferring to learn yet another language than to move out into the world beyond. This tradition of “house hopping” has created an unusual phenomenon where it is quite common for residents to speak three or four languages yet impossibly rare to speak only one. When I first moved into foreign language housing and met these house hoppers, I quickly categorized them as “really weird” and promised myself that I would never do the same.
Four years later I’m still living in the FLSR, having hopped from German to Spanish. Somehow I have been caught. Perhaps it was feasting on borsch at the Russian ward dinner, attempting to dance the flamenco, or munching popcorn over foreign films without subtitles. Maybe it was hearing the sacrament blessed in Portuguese, cracking jokes in Spanish at dinner every night, or actually getting the chance to use my Austrian dirndl. Most likely it has been the giggly delight of chatting with friends from dozens of different states, countries, and backgrounds, each bringing a wealth of experience.
Whatever the cause, my initial infatuation with languages has been replaced by a deeper love and understanding of cultures from all over the globe. My experience living in the FLSR has inspired me to expand my personal horizons by studying abroad in Zimbabwe, serving a mission among the Vietnamese, and volunteering in Peru. And yet after every voyage, I come back to the Haus I now call home to share and learn some more.
Despite its defensive construction, the FLSR is not keeping the world out but inviting it in. In all honesty, I would love to stay here forever, but it is time for me to embark on a new voyage now. Much to my enchanted surprise, I have finally found my prince—a fellow house hopper in the notoriously romantic French house. And although he may not have a gallant steed or shining armor, I am looking forward to being whisked away to the bliss of Wymount, where we hope to live happily ever after.
OF SOLITAIRE AND SARDINES
By Richard D. Salgado, ’03
EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay was the second-place entry to the 2003 BYU Magazine student essay contest. The theme for this year’s contest was Enter to Learn.
In the solitude of Christmastime at BYU, a student discovers the joys of a crowded community.
Staying in Provo during Christmas break can be an enlightening experience. Sure, going home and visiting family during the holidays is great—nothing against Mom, Dad, and Uncle Joe here. But not everyone can go home. I, for one, have chosen to work off campus during my college career, specifically in the thrilling world of retail. Retail doesn’t take a two-week break. In fact, getting a day off around Christmas is a feat akin to scrambling across a minefield blindfolded. And so, when my roommates and friends packed their suitcases and hurriedly made their way to the airport two weeks ago, I sat idly on the couch with two weeks of ESPN SportsCenter in store for me. Witnessing the area south of campus transform into a ghost town is fascinating; even more intriguing is what the contrast reveals—part of what makes BYU such an exciting place to go to school.
Most days, the area around BYU is bustling with students. Two a.m.? Seven p.m.? Doesn’t matter. It’s nearly impossible to drive down 800 North without stopping at a crosswalk. Two days after the end of finals, however, everything changes. My apartment complex—usually pulsating with the collective energy of hundreds of students—is suddenly desolate, every window dark except my own. If only a long tumbleweed could somehow find its way onto 700 East, the image would be complete.
At first, the newfound serenity is refreshing—a welcome change of pace from the frantic, anxiety-ridden urgency of finals week. However, the charm of empty streets and abandoned apartment complexes wears off fast, replaced by a feeling unusual at BYU—loneliness.
During the semester, having a massive student population can seem like a nuisance. Waiting in line to pay tuition, waiting in line at the Testing Center, waiting in line to buy a chocolate bagel in the Twilight Zone between classes—it sometimes seems like patience is the most-often-taught subject at BYU. It’s easy to forget the advantages of attending a large school while sitting on the floor of the massive Joseph Smith Building (JSB) auditorium for an accounting class.
When the advantages disappear, however, their absence is immediately felt. Watching The Simpsons is always funnier when other people are there to laugh with you. Sometimes that impromptu Frisbee game is exactly what you need to break up the tedium of medieval prose. And inexpensive Mexican food at 2 in the morning just isn’t as tasty without three friends to share it with.
There is always something to do at BYU. Thirty-thousand-plus students tend to have that effect. In my four nonconsecutive years at BYU, I’ve played intramural basketball, hiked the Y, bowled in the Wilk, and made a statue dance the Crazy Chicken in front of the administration building. Whatever someone is looking to do at BYU, chances are there is a place to do it and other people excited to join in. So much so, in fact, that I’ve often found myself irritated by the distraction. Socializing is fine and dandy, so long as it stays safely within its assigned sphere and doesn’t leak out into my academic life. After all, I’m here for an education, darn it!
Having other people around is something I tend to take for granted, that is, until those other people disappear for a couple of weeks. Abandoned by friends and left with ample free time to watch TV, go to the gym, and create accounts on LDSSingles.com, I’m left to ponder college life in the absence of the college community.
BYU is huge. There’s no denying that. Part of what makes it great, however, is that enormous size. After a couple of weeks of solitaire, going elbow to elbow with 500 people jammed into one hall of the JSB doesn’t seem quite as traumatic. In fact, it just reminds me how many potential friends there are in the BYU community.
As for me, winter break is almost finished. Some of the windows in my apartment complex are starting to light back up. Life is stirring once again south of campus. In fact, Dan from across the hall just banged on my door.
“Hey, man, you want to go play basketball?”
I’m tempted to pass, to say that I need to finish an essay I’m writing. But on second thought, a game of basketball sounds like a lot of fun right now.