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Studying in a foreign language

If you want to study in Europe, many institutions across the continent offer programmes in English. You can also opt for programmes in French, Spanish or Portuguese, depending on where you choose to go. It can be scary to pick a study in another language than your own. It does not have to be, as long as you come prepared. We will share some tips how you can make the best of your study programme and improve your English while doing so. Many of the tips will help improve other non-native language skills as well.

1. Take the test

Many institutions require you to do an English test as part of the application procedure, in order to establish that you hold the right level of English. Even if you do not need to do a test, it is always handy to take it anyway to know where you stand. It is important that you take the test yourself, and without outside help. It will only make things more difficult later if your English is less than sufficient.

A number of tests you could take:

If a test is required for admission, make sure that you take the right one!

2. Study English before starting

There are many ways to study (academic) English before you start your programme. You can study online, but there are also English language courses that you can follow at a large array of institutions across Europe. Often you can choose the intensity and duration of such a course. Many of them are hosted in the UK, but don’t forget that English is an official language in Ireland and Malta as well.

3. Study while studying

Once you’ve started your studies, you may find possibilities at your institution to study the native language or English next to your official programme. This way you can ensure your level of English increases and you can directly apply what you’ve learned in classes and social life. These courses may be free or available for a reduced (student) rate. Be sure to ask your teachers about it.

4. Don’t be self-conscious

Especially in the early stages of your studies, you may be afraid to speak up, because you are insecure about your language skills. There is no reason for this: the important thing is to express yourself, and people will not mind that you may make a mistake or two. As long as you try, you will learn more quickly. And if someone corrects you, it’s meant positively to help you – not as a criticism!

5. Make international friends

When studying abroad, it is easy to connect to people from your home country and speak your native language. It helps you to feel at home to have people around from the same area. But for your English skills, it is useful that you also have an international network. This way, you converse in English outside your studies on a regular basis. In almost every student city there is a branch of the Erasmus Student Network that you can connect to. There may also be other international communities.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Speaking in English is one thing, but writing in English can be a whole other challenge. If you feel that you cannot keep up in class, or that you cannot deliver the standard of written work that you are ought to, reach out to your teachers or guidance counsellor. The teaching staff can help you identify the core of your problems, while a guidance counsellor can make suggestions on how to improve.

7. Have fun!

Learning is easiest when you have fun in the meantime. So even when you struggle at the start, just go out there, make friends and do things. The language will improve eventually. Next thing you know, you’re dreaming in English!

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