Preparing to study overseas is an exciting time for any student when expectations, questions, and nerves are at an all-time high. As their teacher, your input will be of great importance to your learners as they prepare for their study abroad experience. Here are seven things you can do.
1. Decide on the destination
“Where should I study abroad?” Undecided students may ask you this, thinking you’ll automatically know the answer. Fortunately/unfortunately there’s no “right” answer to this question. Depending on each learner’s individual goals and reasons for overseas study (as well as their interests, budget, likes and dislikes) more then one destination could be a perfect study abroad fit.
To help them narrow down the search and select the best destination for their needs, train your students to identify and set clear, effective, manageable short to long-term language learning goals. That brings us to…
2. Teach goal setting
Students who set their own goals enjoy greater autonomy and control over their learning, and ultimately are able to select what is important to them. Consistency, self-awareness, and honesty are key in this process. There are a number of goal-setting models out there designed to teach people to set clear, realistic, specific goals. An example of these is SMART:
SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Students can identify if their goals are “smart” by asking themselves questions about each step:
Specific – What exactly do I want to achieve? Why? How will I do it?
Measurable – How will I know when I have achieved it?
Attainable – Taking everything into account, is it possible to achieve my goal in the time I have? What external help do I need? Who can I call upon?
Realistic – Is the goal important enough for you to take the steps necessary to achieve it? Are you prepared to give up other activities to do so?
Time-bound – I will begin taking action on (date) and achieve my goal by (date).
3. Teach self-evaluation
If a goal is never evaluated, was it ever made? The process for teacher self-evaluation can be adapted for your students’ individual assessment of their goals. Another option is to implement a pair interview practice to evaluate progress. To incorporate these, set up semesterly interviews between pairs in which they discuss the goals they have set for themselves and identify strategies to continue to make progress during the next semester.
4. Set up research projects
If you have a group of students preparing to travel abroad, allow them to research their destinations’ food, culture, history, language, landmarks, cities, celebrities, music, and more. Increase excitement by allowing learners to share their findings in speaking activities, presentations, free-writing activities—and whenever possible!
5. Don’t forget the practical
Besides prepration for academic success, your students will need to know how to apply for the correct visas beforehand, ensure their papers are in order, find and introduce themselves to a homestay family, get from A to B during those first few days, work through homesickness, and so much more. Incorporating this content into vocabulary, reading, interview, writing, and role-play activities. Don’t know where to start? EF’s GO Blog has a number of articles with practical advice for study abroad students here, here, and here.
6. Host a Q and A session
Have other students or teachers from your school already traveled abroad? Invite them in to have a round-table question and answer session with your learners, in which they can talk about what they wish they had known and your class can pepper them with questions.
7. Work on listening skills
While overseas your learners will be spending far more time than ever before actively listening to native speakers. If unprepared, the experience can be draining and even frustrating. Set students up for success by incorporating more listening activities in class; particularly real listening practice from authentic material (such as lectures, podcasts, news reports, Ted Talks, and radio).
8. Boost in-class challenge
Because studying abroad is an experience full of challenges (both expected and unexpected), encourage your learners to dig a litle deeper in the months leading up to their departure. This may mean promoting a growth mindset, practicing Demand High teaching technqiues, increasing overall confidence, and regularly revisiting the skills your students find most difficult, such as speaking in front of the class. Find out more about increasing challenge in class here.
Helping your students prepare to study abroad can be extremely rewarding, especially once they return full of confidence and independence. Setting and reviewing clear goals, focusing on challenges, and knowing what to expect are invaluable in the planning stage. Good luck to you and your adventurous class!