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How to Arrange Your Own Study Abroad Program (3/5)

22 April, 2009 18:09  EasyExpat EasyExpat

This is the third article of a series of 5, explaining how to arrange your own study abroad program.

StarFirst article: Decide Where to Go

StarSecond article: Determine When to Go

Language Problems and Programs

Even if you are attending a study abroad program conducted in your native language or in a language you speak fluently, you will undoubtedly have to navigate your way around unfamiliar surroundings, if only to get back and forth to class. Also, unless you are fluent in the language of your host country (which may or may not be the same language as your program), even familiar tasks such as mailing a letter can become challenging. This is especially true if you stay for a longer period of time and live "off campus."

Most study abroad programs will have multilingual staff and instructors. Don't be afraid to ask them how to negotiate such practicalities as train schedules, mobile phone refill cards and grocery shopping, either before you leave or on site. Once you arrive, depending on where you travel, it may even be safe to obtain assistance, especially directions, from people on the street, although it is always wise to keep your wits about you whenever you are in unfamiliar territory. If you speak English, again, you will find yourself at a definite advantage. Many people worldwide speak at least some English.

While it can be tempting to associate only with other people from your own country while traveling abroad, you will lose much of the advantage of being abroad if you do so. It's really not necessary to do this if you are willing to be flexible and perhaps learn a few words of the language of your host country, or at least pick up some of the customs.

If you have selected a language immersion program for your study abroad program, your language skills will really be put to the test. If you have followed the advice given earlier and were honest about your language abilities, you will be glad. If not, you may find yourself disoriented. In either case, try to speak the language of your program as much as possible, and especially with locals. In most instances, people will be pleased by your attempts to speak their language and will be patient with your mistakes.

Speaking the language with locals will also help you pick up common idioms which you might not otherwise learn. But be careful about which idioms you use. If you're not sure about the exact meaning of a particular phrase, err on the side of caution. Otherwise, you might say something very crude by mistake, which can be quite embarrassing at the very least.

If you are pursuing a language immersion program, you will most likely also have language classes in grammar and conversation, or perhaps literature as well. This is a good idea, because you will be less likely to pick up bad speech patterns (which native speakers sometimes have) if you have language classes than you would be with an immersion program without classes. If your program does not have language classes, for instance, some volunteer programs or internships, try to set aside time for grammar study on your own.

The following list includes language programs in a number of commonly-studied languages. Many more programs can be found with an Internet search.

Language Study Abroad Programs







Next Steps

The next step is to work out your finances so that you can pay for your study abroad program. That subject will be covered in the next article.

Audrey Henderson
Freelance writer based in Chicago


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Language requirements [Reply]

I'd like to add that if you're going abroad to study part or even your entire degree at a university in a different country, you may be required to provide proof that you'll be able to follow the course contents, i.e. have sufficient working knowledge of the language in which the classes will be taught in. Applying to schools in the UK through UCAS that meant taking a proficiency exam (academic level) at my local British Council. Remember to factor in enough time to obtain such qualifications to add to your application.
On a slightly related note, I remember friends of mine who went for a semester abroad to Barcelona and how unpleasantly surprised they were when they found that some classes were actually taught in the locally predominant Catalan, and not in Castillian Spanish.
In other words, do your research and make sure you're prepared! Then, en-joy!!!
Best, Dee

  Dee     23 Apr 2009, 04:14


Dee> About Catalan and Castillan, it reminds me of the excellent movie "The Spanish Inn" (L'auberge espagnole)

telling the story of Erasmus students in Barcelona.

  EasyExpat     23 Apr 2009, 08:31