The beauty of studying overseas is that you will be immersed in both the language and culture of the country, experiencing local customs, people and activities such as sports. With language courses available all over the world, you really can choose to study in a place that reflects your lifestyle and personality. You can plan to study a language course overseas just as you would a holiday – big, metropolitan cities, tourist towns, quiet English village or exotic, tropical location – and you can quickly see the benefits of combining study and travel. So with many things to consider – which school, which course, where to stay and arranging it all – we’ve come up with this guide to choosing the ideal language course.
There are many languages that you could choose to learn, let alone the thousands of course programmes across the globe that are available to you. As you would expect, however, the quality of the courses and teaching methods can vary so you should always look out for independent school association memberships at the very least. If you want access to programmes which are routinely inspected and so guaranteed to be of a high standard, you should look for endorsement from the country’s education ministry.
The other important factor in choosing your language school is obviously its location. In order to benefit most from studying an overseas programme, you should choose a place that really matches your interests and lifestyle – being in a happy and interesting environment will do wonders for your learning ability and you will amaze yourself with your progress. You could take the following factors into consideration when choosing your language school:
And by location we mean what type of place do you like to be? City centres are great if you like going out and partying, as they have fantastic bars, cafes and restaurants as well as fabulous shopping facilities. And with large cities such as London there is always something going on with many cultural events and things to see-and-do. Remember that these areas are going to be busy
But perhaps you prefer to be somewhere that involves less travelling between your school and where you will live, you enjoy a slightly less busy environment but can have quick access to the city centre, then the suburbs may be the place for you.
Perhaps you enjoy outdoor activities such as country walks with breathtaking scenery. If you enjoy a quiet and relaxed lifestyle, then perhaps being in a quaint village would be perfect.
Size of School
This is an important element to consider and there will be different advantages and disadvantages for each. Larger schools tend to have better resources, such as libraries and language-labs; better depth and breadth of courses; and often several specialist courses. There are the social benefits too of meeting more people and having a busy, structured timetable of a wide-range of activities. However, the downsides are that you may fee lost amongst the see of faces and course sizes may be quite large and often never at a 1-on-1 or group level.
Small schools tend to offer a different and more personal atmosphere. Class sizes are often quite small consisting of normally just a few students. So you’ll really get to know the other international students you’ll study with and often students form close friendships. Teaching is often more personal too. However, as it to expected smaller schools will have a smaller selection of courses to choose from. So in order to benefit from the advantages of more personal teaching you may have to compromise on the language course you which to study.
If you want to get the very best from your time studying overseas you should choose a school that has a student body made up of a wide range of nationalities. You’ll meet so many different types of people, all with different backgrounds and cultures and who all speak different languages. So, as you meet people and relax with your friends outside of class you will speak to each other in the common language you are learning. This will improve your language skills considerably. In other words you won’t’ fall into the easy trap of speaking to your friends in your native language – remember, you’re studying overseas to learn a language after all!
There are a wide range of courses to suit your particular needs. Where language learning is popular, such as the UK, you are likely to find that the majority of schools offer a mix of the following course types.
Every school there is should offer this type of course, which consist of four group sessions per day. Students will be given a good base in the language, focusing on speaking, writing, reading and listening. This kind of course is best for people who want to combine studying with a holiday and learn a language in a general context.
These courses aren’t for the faint-hearted, but if you want to make the most of studying overseas and are motivated, you should choose an intensive course. As well as the features of standard courses, you will attend extra afternoon sessions. You could potentially have six lectures per day and the required homework on top so don’t consider an intensive course unless you really want to achieve the maximum you can. And don’t forget, this may impact on your social time so be sure weigh up the pros and cons carefully.
These courses are for students who have been asked to demonstrate their level of proficiency in English as a foreign language. Perhaps they have applied to study a course at a higher education institution such as a university as an international student but are required to achieve a score in a particular English test such as IELTS before being permitted to attend. You will be taught to specifically pass the test, focusing heavily on the test’s contents and practice of past papers. These courses really are a fantastic way to achieve the required qualification helping to maintain students study focus and covers a very wide range of language skills.
Home Stay and Learn Courses
These are a special type of course and like the intensive courses you can significantly improve your language school over a short space of time. You will live in your teacher’s home and as such you don’t have classes, but the learning process continues throughout the day. Your teacher will involve you in all aspects of their social and family life. It’s worth noting that you will be totally immersed in the language and will not have any contact with people who speak your native language. The obvious benefit is that you will effectively be taught your own individual programme, tailored to your specific needs. You will be able to find this type of course available for a wide range of subjects for both students and executives and they are all very flexible with mixing study and social time.
Being the most expensive type of language course you really do get what you pay for. Similar to the home stay and learn courses, your language programme will be able to completely tailor this course to your needs. Students can choose the level of intensity of study as well as the language skills and topics covered. The largest benefit is that you will always be communicating in the language with the teacher who can provide you with constant feedback. This will help you to improve your language skills very quickly indeed. Of course, by studying a one-on-one course you will develop your skills much faster than studying in a group. But that isn’t to discount the benefit of some group study and the majority of school which offer one-on-one courses often combine them with in-school group activates and classes. This ensures that you get a highly targeted, rounded foreign language programme.
People who study business courses benefit most if they already have knowledge of the language. As a result many business courses focus on more advanced aspects of the language and how to communicate in a business context. Topics covered include correspondence, presentation skills and telephone manners and etiquette. In order to provide a good level of training to students, most of these courses are conducted in groups no bigger than six students. This allows the easy reproduction of common business situations, such as meetings, presentations and question and answer sessions. As well as general business language courses you will find that many schools offer more specialised business language schools targeted at particular professions, for example, secretaries, lawyers and IT professionals. As well as the skills of standard business courses, students will also be taught subject specific vocabulary.
Where you choose to stay during your studies should be a big part of your planning process. As we’ve already discussed, it’s very important to be in a happy environment for you to succeed with your studies. And as they say, everything begins at home. So, what are the accommodation possibilities for an international student studying overseas?
If you will be studying a long course and really want the best opportunity to experience and explore your surroundings then arranging private accommodation may be best for you. Of course there is more to arrange and prepare for but you shouldn’t let that put you off!
A host family could be an individual or a family with children and home stays, as they are often referred to, are a popular option amongst younger international students, especially when studying English as a foreign language in the UK. Your host family will provide you with meals as well as support and guidance. Having been carefully chosen, they are great at helping students settle in and will often arrange special trips for you. You should be sure to get all the information about the host family before deciding, as in some cases you may have to share a bathroom or maybe a bedroom.
Shared Student Accommodation
Similar in nature to private accommodation in that you will be living in a private house or flat, as the name suggests you will be living with three to six other international students. You will be able to have your own bedroom, but will have to share the bathroom and kitchen with the other people in your house. This option is great as it allows you to interact and practice with other students on your language course. You will be able to make good friends and enjoy your social time together. But you will have to be disciplined to ensure that you don’t choose to live with people who speak the same language as you or you won’t practice outside of the classroom!
These are a fantastic option no matter what kind of course you are studying. Hostels come in a wide variety of forms and have something for every budget. You will likely be able to find a hostel very close to your school. They are often very sociable environments and offer good quality, inexpensive accommodation.
Arranging it All
We hope that this guide has helped to answer some of the questions you may have about studying overseas. Hopefully you now have a good idea of what to look for and how to achieve the most out of your study experience. So, what next? We have provided some useful resources that will help you make your overseas language experience a reality. Want to find out more? Visit our Find-a-School section to be able to search our extensive database in a variety of ways. You can search by course type, location and many more options. If you need help arranging your accommodation, our Housing Clinic may be of great help. Working closely with you we will find the right property for you. If you have any questions then please Contact Us so we can help you. Or, you could leave us a comment here on our blog.