May 21, 2010

Study Abroad Programs

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Signing-up for study abroad programs can be very frustrating. Having completed a study abroad program during my undergraduate, and about to embark on another for my Masters program in the fall, let me take a moment to shed some light on these often intimidating programs.

Study abroad programs should be focused on communication. Thank goodness the days of drilling grammar in a classroom are long behind us. No one speaks in perfect sentences all the time, and constantly looking up words in the dictionary will end up hindering your speech more than progressing it. Look for courses that are taught by native speakers, (they are also the ones who can teach you slang, so you don’t sound like a walking textbook) and focus on communication versus absolute correctness.

Look for a program that has tons of activities to offer. I’m not talking about summer camp, where your meals and everything are rigidly planned, but a program that sees the need to get outside of the classroom and practice the material that has been taught in class. This is also a great way to meet new people and make friends with the locals. International Projects has a variety of programs that offer classes as well as an enjoyable vacation.

Also, look for a program that will offer some amount of certification or proof that a course was completed. Employers as well as educational institutions look favourably on any time spent abroad learning another language. The benefits of language learning are countless and boosting a CV or application is just one of the many.

Most importantly, don’t leave home without a sense of humour! Be able to laugh (especially at yourself), enjoy the moment and realize that everyone makes mistakes. Learning a language is fun, with lots of idioms, and jokes that will make being away from home even more enjoyable. So pack those bags, take on the challenge, and look for some amazing study abroad programs that will make your summer or semester abroad simply unforgettable.