I am a first year graduate student at a major research university. My program has a majority of international students and faculty. I have a difficult time understanding their speech in the classroom for various reasons (accents, rhythm and cadence, word choice, volume, etc.), particularly in seminar classes.
The faculty all have very diverse and engaging research interests. However, I’ve been to many departmental lectures to “test-run” several of the professors to see how well I can understand and I often leave feeling very frustrated and confused. I’m usually exhausted and worn down by the end of the 3+ hour long seminar classes, focusing my attention on understanding what is being said rather than the material itself. I often don’t realize the content of the class until I review my notes a few days later. I rarely participate because I don’t always know that I’m following the discussion correctly and many of the students are already self-conscious about talking in class. As such, most of my learning takes place on my own outside of class or during office hours, which is fine.
I’m doing fine academically, but I have aligned my coursework with the professors who I can understand the best. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation and it has resulted in me taking on their academic interests as a specialization. The chair of my department recently suggested that I branch out to experience more subject areas. I’d love to take some of the classes that are being offered, but I just don’t know that it’s possible.
Additionally, connecting socially with the other student in my cohort makes both of us feel self-conscious as I have to ask her to repeat herself constantly. I made an appointment with disability services, but they could only offer me an FM system, which doesn’t really work in seminar classes (nor is it compatible with my hearing aids), and/or a note-taker.
Sorry for the length. I’ve worn hearing aids for years and this is the first time I’ve felt truly challenged by my hearing loss. Aside from upgrading my hearing aids to newer technology (which I’m in the process of doing), does anyone have suggestions for how to navigate this situation?