Studying abroad in a language immersion program can be simultaneously intimidating and exciting. On the one hand, you may be a little apprehensive about starting a new chapter of your life in a place where you don’t speak the language (at least not yet!). At the same time, you may be thrilled at the possibilities that await. Here are a few tips about what to expect while studying abroad to help ease any language-related nerves and keep your excitement aflame.
Actually Immerse Yourself
It’s called language immersion for a reason! Make an effort every day to listen to music, watch TV, and strike up conversations in your host country’s language. Try to resist the temptation to speak English with your friends. In fact, try to make friends with locals. Truly immersing yourself in the language and culture will make your experience infinitely richer. You will progress quicker, learn more, and will likely even begin to dream in a new language—how cool is that?!
Mistakes Will Happen—Embrace Them!
Making mistakes is a key component of the learning process. In fact, if you don’t make them, you’re probably not trying hard enough to improve. Don’t let the fear of making a mistake hold you back from testing out a new phrase you learned or attempting to use the tricky subjunctive tense. Allow locals to critique you (as long as they do so respectfully) and take their criticisms with grace. And don’t take yourself too seriously! Some of the best inside jokes will stem from innocent grammar mix-ups, and with the right attitude, you and your friends will share laughs you for years to come. The mistakes you make will ultimately make you into a better, more capable master of your language.
You Will Get Frustrated—Don’t Give Up!
Language immersion is not easy. You will probably feel confused, misunderstood, and even lonely at times, especially in the beginning of your program. Your brain will be working overtime and you will honestly have some mentally exhausting days. When you have days like this, don’t forget: it gets easier! By the end of your program, you will have accomplished some amazing feats you never thought you were capable of. I can’t promise you that everything will click at once, but you will have some serious Eureka moments. When you are able to think in your host language without mentally switching back and forth between English, or when you have your first dream in Italian, you will be so proud that you persisted. Because of your determination, you will be able to communicate with another portion of the world’s population, effortlessly making friends in French, or singing along to songs in Spanish.
Don’t Just Smile & Nod—Ask Questions
A lot of students are sometimes too shy or embarrassed to ask their teachers questions in the classroom when they don’t understand something. If this sounds like you, try not to let that habit carry over to your study abroad experience. Students who have gone through language immersion programs often comment on the patience and sincerity of host families, teachers, and locals abroad. People are usually impressed by students who are genuinely trying to learn a new language or culture and are eager to help. Don’t be too embarrassed by your shaky accent: speak out and ask questions—you never know what you might learn!