Not only is studying abroad an excellent way for ESL students to learn English, but it’s also a great life experience. You get to travel, perhaps for the first time or the first time alone; you can meet new people, especially people from other countries; and you can experience a whole new culture.
But there are right ways and wrong ways to study abroad. For example, a right way is making an effort to engage in conversation with native speakers as frequently as possible. A wrong way, on the other hand, is only hanging out with people from your own country.
If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to study English abroad, make sure you take full advantage of it! Here are some strategies for ESL students to implement when they’re studying abroad.
Do’s and Don’ts for ESL Students Abroad
Talk to Native Speakers
You’re in the U.S., or Canada, or Australia – so talk to Americans, Canadians, and Australians! We know it’s intimidating; you’re afraid of making a mistake, or you don’t know how to say something correctly.
However, you won’t improve unless you try. You’ll also find that many locals will be patient with you and happy to help.
The good news is that your interaction doesn’t have to be completely spontaneous. If you’re practicing wh questions in class, for example, plan to ask native speakers a few questions starting with where, why, and who.
For example, ask the barista at Starbucks where the napkins are, or, if you’re in college, ask a student in line behind you at the bookstore what time they close (don’t worry: Americans won’t find this weird at all).
This way, you’re practicing what you’re learning in class outside of the classroom – and you’re using real English and gaining confidence, as well.
Make Friends from Other Countries
When you study abroad, you have the chance to meet people you would never have met had you stayed home, people from different countries with very different life experiences. It’s an incredible chance to learn and grow.
Try to make friends with other people in your program. Have lunch together, take trips together, and discuss the joys and challenges of life abroad. You’re all sharing a unique experience, and ESL students studying abroad often develop a deep bond.
Only Hang out with People from Your Country
Many ESL students go abroad with the intention of speaking English as much as possible and spending most of their time with native speakers and students from other countries.
Unfortunately, when you’re living abroad it’s very common to experience loneliness and culture shock, and a natural reaction to these feelings is to seek out the familiar.
While clinging to people from your own country feels good in the short-term, you may look back on your experience and regret not taking advantage of the rare and amazing opportunity you had to learn something new and get out of your comfort zone.
Sure, you can make friends from your own country, but don’t spend all of your time with them. Branch out and grow!
Only Have Fun and Forget to Study
You’re guaranteed to have fun – lots of fun – when you’re studying abroad. There are new people, new sights, new food, and new alcoholic drinks. It’s tempting to get sucked in and neglect your studies, but remember that you only have one shot at this. Don’t go home with regrets.
Play hard, but work hard too!