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MyLanguageTravel provides reviews and recommendations about language courses & schools abroad.
About SOLEMAR ACADEMY
By Thomas D. (Frankfurt - Germany)
Search, Compare and Choose!
MyLanguageTravel.com is a fun and easy way to find, recommend and talk about what's great and not so great about your language immersion.
Share your experience in our language course directory and help others make more informed decisions to choose their language school! MyLanguageTravel is associated with Maxlanguages.
If you’re only just starting to consider a language course abroad you’re going to have lots of questions, and you’ll probably be wondering what the benefits of studying abroad are.
Let’s face it, there are many good reasons why you might wish to study abroad. Some reasons may be more meaningful for some students than others, but the common factor with all potential language students is the desire to learn a language!
We’ve put our heads together and come up with what we consider to be ‘five good reasons to study a language abroad.
Full Immersion – the best way to learn a language
This has to be the best reason by far! Think about this – when you’re trying to learn something, the best way for most people to learn is by repetition; learning to drive a car is a good example of this!
Usually when you study at school you have lots of different subjects to think about and might only have one lesson a week, so although you might learn things in class, by the time you have the next lesson you’ve forgotten it again!
Learning a language abroad is completely different though because you’re totally immersed. For one, you’re living in a country where a foreign language is being spoken by everyone around you. So, in order to get by you’ll need to learn that language pretty quickly because the chances are the locals won’t understand your language!
As soon as you leave your class for the day you’re putting into practice what you learnt straight away. Secondly, because you’re at a language school all of your lessons will be in that language – this is total immersion and the best possible way to learn a language.
Get to see far away places
Study abroad is a great way to see a country and places that you might otherwise never get to see, and it’s a relatively cheap way of doing this too when you consider how long you might be staying abroad.
Security and safety
Following on from above, when you go to a language school abroad you’re very well looked after. Months of planning go into welcoming you as a foreign language student so that everything goes smoothly once you arrive, and so that you feel as comfortable as possible.
You wouldn’t usually be looked after like this if you were simply on holiday, so you see that learning a language abroad is generally a very safe way of experiencing a foreign country.
Make lots of friends from all over the world
You might choose a language school abroad where all your friends are going, or you might choose one where you don’t know anybody. The great thing is that everyone’s in the same boat as you and making friends becomes so much easier!
Personal and professional development
Study abroad is an excellent way to develop yourself and your character – you’ll become more confident and independent, and it will also look great on your CV or resume when you start applying for jobs!
Having thought about all of the above you’re ready to study abroad! For more tips and recommendations, have a look at the rest of our language travel guide to get the best of your study abroad experience.
Now that you’ve decided you definitely want to study abroad, you have some big decisions to make, the biggest of which is choosing the right language school for you. The points below should help you decide.
Which language school?
Firstly you should choose your study abroad country then narrow your choices down to a particular city or region within that country. The most important factor to consider here is that you choose somewhere that meets your interests and needs.
Consider your budget
You’ll need to decide what your spending limit is, as you’ll have to pay fees to attend your language course. Course fees can vary hugely between different schools so try to find out why one language school is charging more than another – is their language program that much better? Also find out whether course materials are included within the fees. Books and other materials can be very expensive if you have to buy lots of them. Some schools will include these in your fees, or they may provide the books at a reduced cost.
Choose your language program duration
Of course, the fees you’re charged will also depend on how long your particular language program lasts, and this decision is up to you too. Some language schools only offer summer programs for which the duration could last from two weeks up to eight weeks. Other language schools are open year round and are very flexible about their intake dates and durations – you may be able to start any week of term, and you could choose a language immersion program for anything up to a year, or even longer!
Decide on the accommodation you’d like
Accommodation is also a major factor to consider when choosing the right language school for you. Different language schools will offer different types of accommodation and you have to decide what you would be most happy in. If one particular school only offers ‘Homestays’ but you don’t think you’ll like this, you’ll need to consider a different school. The types of accommodation you might find on offer include: host family, residential accommodation, campus, hotels / apartments or you may enrol only for the courses without accommodation.
Find out what other language students think
Finding out about the reputation of a language school is very important. If there’s been a spate of bad reports about the school you should find out why before deciding on it. On the other hand, don’t choose a school simply because a friend enjoyed their time there; make sure you still research it to check it meets your own requirements.
Although there will always be similarities between the different language courses available to you, no two language courses will be identical because there will be different teachers, different teaching methods, different course material and different exams. So there are many factors to consider when choosing which language course you want to study.
Language course duration
Course duration and start dates are covered in further detail here, but these are important points to consider. Think about whether you want a summer study abroad program, an intensive program or maybe an extended program of a year or more.
Language course level
Choosing the most appropriate language course level to study is extremely important – the level should be high enough that you’re not wasting time covering things you already know, but not too high that the vocabulary etc is too advanced for you. More information on language course levels can be found here.
Language course examining body
You may not be aware, but there’s more than one examining body when it comes to foreign language courses. For English study abroad programs for example, there are several different examining bodies who will have their own language course structure and their own format for exams, and these can vary suite substantially from one examining body to the next.
Make sure you research the different language course structures available and choose the one which you think suits you best. You may find that the foreign language school you wanted to study abroad at doesn’t offer the course you prefer. In this case it would be better to look at the alternative foreign language schools rather than sign up for a language course you won’t enjoy.
Cost of the language course
Obviously your budget will also play a big role in choosing which language course to study. Fees for the different language courses vary, in terms of examination fees, as do the language school fees for the tuition. Language schools which offer more in terms of additional facilities, such as excursions and sports and leisure facilities will undoubtedly charge more for their language course than a school which doesn’t offer these things. See our How Much Should I Budget page for more information on this aspect of choosing a language course.
The most important thing to consider when thinking about language study abroad, is your desire to learn. If you have the desire to learn then you should do really well at language school and go home after your course knowing what a great experience it’s been!
Finding the right language school
Other than this you’ll need a little patience in order to do all the necessary research! Research is a very important part of choosing a language program – you should research into which country would be best for you, and then which part of the country. With this information you can then start considering the specific language school you want to attend.
Bear in mind what language courses they offer and other important points, such as their teaching style, how many students there are in a class, what type of accommodation they offer, and obviously what fees they charge.
Starting your application
When you’ve chosen your language school and the course you wish to study, you can start your application. Usually you’ll apply and pay a deposit, though it depends how far in advance you’re booking your language program – you may have to pay in full if your program starts soon.
Applying for your visa
Once you’re enrolled with the language school, most schools will give you all the information you’ll need about a visa – such as whether a study visa is necessary for you, and if it is, how you go about applying for one. Generally you’ll get a letter from the language school confirming that you’ve enrolled and this is what you’ll need to show when applying for your study visa.
However, processes do vary depending on the country you’re going to study abroad in and the language school you’re going to attend, so make sure you’re clear on this because the last thing you want is to arrive without your visa in hand!
What’s it like, studying in a foreign language school?
Learning a language abroad is a very rewarding experience and language students usually report that they’ve had a really great time!
If you’re travelling abroad on your own for this first time it can be nerve-wracking, but your language school will usually send a representative to greet you at the airport and take you to the school or direct to your accommodation, so you don’t need to worry about finding your way around a strange city!
The chances are you won’t be the only language student arriving that day so the opportunity for making friends starts early on, and so does the fun!
Other than this, study abroad is really what you make of it – if you start your language course with a positive attitude then you’re bound to enjoy yourself!
Do I need a visa? Probably!
The best way to look at this is to assume that you will need a visa. Before you start worrying about applying for a visa you’ll need to have a passport to be allowed to travel, and to be granted a study abroad visa.
Apply for or renew your passport
The first thing you should do when you’re considering a study abroad program is to apply for your first passport. Applying for a passport can take several months depending on your country of citizenship, so make sure you do this with plenty of time to spare.
If you already have a valid passport, check how much time is left on it. If it is due to expire soon (or within the period you are expecting to be studying abroad) you should renew it so that there is plenty of time left on it. If your passport is soon to expire you may have trouble getting your student visa, or being approved for entry into your study abroad destination.
How do I get a visa?
Getting your passport is just the first step of several towards getting your study abroad visa! You can’t actually apply for your study abroad visa until you’ve been accepted onto a foreign language course, so here’s what you need to do…
Get enrolled at your foreign language school
The sooner you decide on which foreign language school you want to enrol at, and which foreign language course you want to study, the sooner you can get the ball rolling with regards to applying for your study abroad visa!
Get the enrolment paperwork
Once you have enrolled, the foreign language school can send you all the paperwork you need in order to apply for a study abroad visa. This paperwork will provide confirmation that you have been enrolled, confirmation of the duration of the course, and of the start and end dates.
Talk to the consulate
Once you have the paperwork from the foreign language school you can set about applying for your study abroad visa. The language school may be able to give you a few tips and advice about this part of the process anyway, but what you need to do is get in touch with the consulate of the country you will be studying abroad in within your own country. So for example if you were going to England for a study abroad program you would contact the British Consulate in your home country.
The time it takes to apply for and be granted a study abroad visa varies with the different countries. The sooner you apply the better, so you can be sure that you have your study abroad visa in your hand when you arrive.
First, we’d like to point out that we can’t give you an exact budget to work to as there are so many variables to bear in mind that what one language travel student needs to spend could be completely different to the next! What we can do is to tell you about all the costs you’re going to incur; that way you can do some research yourself and hopefully come up with a more accurate idea of your costs.
A big chunk of your budget will go on travel expenses, i.e. getting to your language travel destination! It is very rare that a foreign language school would organise this for you, so it’s your responsibility to organise and pay for flights. What the language school will do is arrange transfers from the airport for you (often for a fee).
Foreign language course fees
Another large chunk of your study abroad budget will go to the foreign language school to pay for your course fees. How much these course fees are depends on many different factors – your course start date, course duration, level of course and the school. Some schools will charge much more for a course than another, perhaps due to the fact that they have a very good reputation.
When calculating your budget you should find out whether the language schools give you all of the course materials you will need, such as books, free of charge. With some foreign language schools, language travel students have to purchase all of their course materials, and this can become costly. Others may offer materials at a reduced cost, and others still may loan you the materials so that you don’t have to buy any at all.
There are usually several different options available to you when it comes to choosing what type of accommodation you want to stay in for the duration of your language travel course. These different types can significantly vary in price, so which one you choose may be dependent on your budget. Not sure what options you have for your accommodation? See our Study Abroad Accommodation article.
Living & fun expenses!
How much you’ll need to spend on living expenses will vary too. If you’re staying in accommodation where meals are provided then your expenses will be significantly less, though you might like to set some money aside to go out for the occasional meal with some of your new language travel friends! You’ll also want to budget for going out on day trips, maybe some shopping and souvenirs, plus nights out. The best thing is to decide on a budget and stick to it! Remember that these different expenses will vary depending on your study abroad destination; some countries will be much cheaper than others and this will impact your budget.
In addition to all of the above it’s really a good idea to have some money set aside in case of emergency or just for unforeseen circumstances as there are bound to be some things you’ve forgotten to take into consideration or something you need to replace because you left it at home. Whatever the circumstances, set a little aside just in case!
Why you need international student travel insurance?
As with all other insurances you buy student travel insurance to cover you should anything go wrong. Insurance covers unforeseeable events though more often than not you’ll pay out for the insurance but not need to make a claim because everything went smoothly. While this is great news for you, it doesn’t mean that next time you shouldn’t bother buying any annual travel insurance just because last time everything was ok!
Yes, it’s annoying having to pay out for student travel insurance when you have many other expenses to cover as well. We’re not trying to put you off enrolling on a foreign language course, but you need to realise there are risks involved in travel abroad just as there would be if you were a leisure tourist. Consider all the things which could happen to you while you’re studying abroad…
You may have a great level of health cover within your home country, but when you’re attending a foreign language school in a different country, you won’t be able to enjoy the same level of health cover. In some countries, such as the USA and Canada, health care can be very expensive so if you were to fall ill, or have an accident you could be faced with a very large bill to pay. If you have student travel insurance you know you will be covered and can concentrate on recovering rather than worrying about how much it will cost you!
In the worst cases, you may need to go home to get the medical attention you require. In these circumstances travel arrangements will need to be made which are different to your original arrangements. Making changes to air tickets usually costs a lot of money, so student travel insurance should cover this.
Many student travel insurances will come with cover for lost luggage, or will offer this as an added extra option. It’s a good idea to take this because if your luggage does go missing you will have to spend a lot of money on new clothes and other items, and your insurance company will be able to give you something towards this.
Lost or stolen valuables
It’s not a nice thought but sometimes the worst can happen and you lose, or have stolen, your valuables. This may include your passport, money or credit cards, or items like a mobile phone, mp3 player or camera. Student travel insurance will usually give coverage for items like this.
Shop around for the best student travel insurance
There are many companies who offer student travel insurance, and when there’s lots of competition it means you can shop around and get a great deal. Try to get at least 3 quotes for your student travel insurance, and make sure you compare the levels of coverage that they’re all offering you. Don’t necessarily go with the cheapest because if the level of cover isn’t very high this could be a false economy. Above all else make sure it is a reputable company.
While a language immersion program in a foreign country will be a life changing event, there are several steps that must be taken to prepare properly. From getting your student visa to speaking with the consulate in your country of choice, there are several steps to take to ensure you have all of the proper documentation for traveling to a foreign country.
Streamlining this process can save you a lot of time and hassle before its time for you to catch your plane.
Get your passport and visa
One of the first things you will need to do is get your passport if you don't have one already. This is required by most consulates for you to obtain your student visa. The process of getting your passport can take several months, so you must plan ahead accordingly. But, once you have your passport and have chosen and enrolled in a study abroad program, you can apply for your student visa.
The application process for getting your visa will vary depending on the country you choose to visit. However, all consulates will provide you with resources that will help you find out what is required for you to apply for your student visa. This will help make your application process easier.
Get a student travel insurance
Another area of concern when preparing to travel abroad is your health. Depending on where you are traveling, you may be required to get certain vaccinations. You will also need to get insurance for yourself while you are in another country. In order to do this, you will need to obtain a copy of your medical records.
Insurance for traveling abroad will cover most anything that could happen to you, from illness to a broken bone. It can even cover lost luggage! An insurance policy will be required and it is recommended that you purchase yours from a reputable insurance company.
Leave emergency contact information to your family
Be certain that you know ahead of time where you will be staying so that you can provide your family and friends with contact information. Depending on the study abroad program that you select, you may be living with a host family or in a dormitory.
With Internet being available nearly wherever we travel today, it should not be hard to keep in contact with your friends and family, but you should always provide them with emergency contact information so they can contact you directly. You can also purchase worldwide cell phone coverage from most major carriers.
Set aside money
Finally, you need to consider your budget for traveling abroad. Set aside money for food, sightseeing, shopping and other unexpected expenses. Don't forget that you will want to go to sporting events, movies and other attractions, so plan to have some "spending" money as well.
Additionally, emergency funds are a must as well. You may not need the money come the end of your trip, but you definitely need to be prepared for the unexpected. Who knows, by the end of your trip you may be able to use those funds to buy an extra souvenir on your way home.