Why a 4-week Summer Intensive Course was the Best Part of my Year Abroad

By Grace Kirby

For those of you studying 2 or 3 languages and are yet to complete your year abroad, this is for you. Before my year abroad, I was very wary of the fact that I had to do a summer course. I was worried that it wouldn’t be enough time to learn about the culture nor immerse myself. I was especially apprehensive about my language skills; how could I possibly be expected to achieve the same level of language as my peers who had spent up to a year in that country? Well, how wrong I was! I completed a summer course in Tours, France, and it was without a doubt the best part of my year abroad. I arrived with low expectations and I left not wanting it to end. Here are three reasons why a summer course can be such a valuable experience:

  1. When they call it intensive, they’re not kidding! 

The idea of an intensive course is that you learn and gain as much experience as somebody who spends a whole semester abroad. This might seem impossible, but I actually learnt more in 4 weeks in France than I did 4 months in Germany. At university in Germany, I had roughly 10 hours of contact time per week compared to 21 hours in the French language school. You may be thinking you would rather less hours and more free time, but even with these contact hours I had lots of free time to hang out with friends and explore the region. It really was a win-win.

  1. You can do it on a budget

Through University of Birmingham, the cost of the summer school is completely paid for, as well as homestay accommodation. So, the only things you need to fund are flights and any trips you decide to take whilst you’re there. Speaking of, summer schools often run their own trips which tend to be much cheaper than if you were to plan them yourself. Although you may be at the tail end of a very expensive year, it is possible to do the summer course on a budget. 

  1. The opportunity of a homestay 

Many summer schools offered by UoB come with a homestay. A homestay, though nerve-wracking, can be a very valuable experience for a language learner. It was my favourite part of my summer in France, as I was able to eat breakfast and dinner with my host family every day for four weeks (which was also all paid for). That is a lot of speaking practice and, more importantly, a lot of French food. You may find if you spend several months in a country, it is easy to slip into English. But living with a French family and/or students who often don’t speak English, forces you to really embrace the language and culture. 

All in all, whether you study languages or not, I would recommend a summer intensive course. It was an immersive cultural and linguistic experience, where I met people from all over the world and made friends I’m still in contact with. So, if you’re thinking it won’t be as fulfilling or worthwhile as a work placement or a semester studying, think again!

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