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How to Create YOUR Perfect Exchange Experience

Are you thinking about traveling abroad to do an English exchange program, but you aren´t sure exactly where to travel to, or even how to find a good program?

Are you scared of finding yourself in an unpleasant homestay, a mediocre school, or even coming back to Brazil without having learned much English?

And even if you have a successful experience, do you have any idea what to expect when you come back home, or even how to incorporate English into your life so you won´t forget what you worked so hard to learn?

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These are all important questions to consider if you want to create YOUR perfect study abroad experience, and RLE is here to guide you on the journey.

The best advice we can possibly start with is relatively simple:

Clarify What You Want & Need.

Open Your Mind to the Possibilities.  

Get Informed.

Learn what separates success from failure. Learn the characteristics of a good program. Learn what to expect, what to avoid, and how to balance all the different facets of what will be one of the most important experiences of your life.

This is your chance to make the experience YOURS, to make it great, and to use it to catalyze not just English fluency, but an entirely new way of thinking and interacting with the world.

INTRODUCING THE REAL LIFE ENGLISH EXCHANGE BLOG

RLE is your guide on the path to English fluency, and now we´re committing ourselves to offerings you tips and advice on the study abroad experience (High School, College, and Independent Exchanges). This is the first in a series of articles that will investigate, contemplate, and review the entire study abroad journey.

We will cover a wide range of topics through the entire study abroad process, ranging from the question of ´when is the right time to study abroad?,´ as well as preparation, how to succeed once you´re there, and how to deal with the experience of coming back and integrating what you learned into your life at home.

4 Questions to Ask BEFORE Deciding to Study Abroad is the first article in a series called How to Create the Perfect Study Abroad Experience. We will expand upon these topics and more, as well as discuss later stages in future articles. Join the RLE mailing list to follow along.

4 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE STUDYING ABROAD

1. Is this the right time for me to study abroad?

The right time is not just a question of your language level, but also a combination of personality traits, age & maturity, as well as other life circumstances.

You have to be mature enough to be able to fully take advantage of the experience, both with the language and the culture. As far as your English level, the people who get the most out of the study abroad experience are generally at an intermediate level or higher.

Be warned, language exchange programs WILL NOT magically transplant English into your brain or compensate for an inadequate process. It demands a solid foundation for grammar and communication. Do you trust the base that you´ve built for your English?  

2. Do I have a compelling purpose to study abroad? 

Just as it´s important to have a strong and clear purpose as to why you are learning English, it´s important to have the same clarity to take full advantage of an English cultural exchange.

Too many people are paying a lot of money for these experiences and not benefiting very much because they are doing what others expect, and haven´t truly discovered why they are doing it. They are doing it because it´s the cool thing to do, because they think it will help their English. This misses the point and offers a mediocre experience AND product (your English).

Having a clear, imaginative, and personal idea of your own purpose demands a high level of maturity, self-awareness, and openness to your own learning processes. Don´t feel bad if you don´t have have a strong WHY, but recognize that it will enrich your experience.

If you don´t have a clear idea, it doesn´t necessarily mean that you shouldn´t study abroad. It just means that you could benefit a lot by brainstorming exactly why you want this, and by talking to people who have done it.

3. Do I really need to study abroad in a program to learn English and expand my cultural perspective? 

If study abroad is not something that really inspires you, and you´re at least an intermediate speaker, maybe you don´t need to spend all that money to study in an official English exchange program in whatever country.

Maybe you would have a much richer experience, learning both English and the cultures of the world, if you took the same time and money and found a way to create your own experience independently. To arrive to this point, however, you´re going to have to talk to people who have done it, research different schools in countries you have visited, and above all, be extremely proactive about your own learning.

This takes a lot of soul searching and imagination, but the more you understand your own particular process, wants and needs, what success means to you, and the options you have available, the easier it is to make sure this happens.

You could backpack through Europe visiting museums AND find schools to study in. Every major city in the world has English schools where you can study for a week at a time (or even just a few days), and you can even use this as a chance to go to conferences and workshops associated with your profession.

4. Start dreaming NOW! Imagine the possibilities!

Dreaming precedes and is present throughout the entire process. If you haven´t already started dreaming, this is a very urgent part of creating YOUR perfect study abroad experience.

Dreaming doesn´t cost anything, and if you learn how to use your imagination in an intelligent way, it will give a lot of life to your language learning process. And, if you want it bad enough, no matter what the obstacles, dreaming will help you find a way the experience possible by dividing it into actionable steps.

This is your chance to free the child in you and start investigating which cultures you find interesting and attractive. This is your chance to open your mind and heart to the places you are passionate about discovering. It might sound a bit cheesy (overly romantic), because it is, but that doesn´t make it any less true.

People who intensely enjoy and absorb their study abroad experiences are dreamers who invest their emotions and creativity into this experience. Here are a few ways to start dreaming in an intelligent way NOW!

Start listening to music from this place, trying to meet people from there online, and finding ways to connect your life, language, and profession with the people that live there. This is not hard with the current state of technology and social networks.

If you want to travel to Vancouver, Canada, for example, what is there to learn about the city? What´s the climate like, and what are you going to do when you get there? What´s the history of the city? Have you checked out pictures from there? If you study fashion design, are there any clubs or social networks or programs for people who already do this? Do you know anybody who´s been there, and can they connect you with their friends?

The more you dream and learn about the place you want to visit, the more infrastructure, will, and imagination you will build for your ideal experience to happen, and you will start attracting the people who can help you.  Let´s start right now.

Study Abroad!

Interested in studying abroad in Toronto, Canada? Real Life English has teamed up with RCIIS to give our readers an amazing study abroad experience.

So what is RCIIS and what makes them great? Click to find out more about Studying Abroad in Toronto, Canada.

CALL TO ACTION

If you only learn one thing from this article, please recognize that the study abroad experience is not just a practical ´How can I learn English´ experience, but a life-altering cultural and social learning process that is worthy of your attention, your intelligence, and your imagination.

The real potential of the English exchange experience is that YOU have the power to create an entirely new way of interacting with the world, changing the course of your entire life, and making you a better and more complete person.

English fluency, which started out as the main goal, will be just the byproduct of cultural fluency and the expansion of your perspective (which will come to include the rest of the world) and the limitless potential for the positive impact you can have on it.

This is our dream and the message we want to pass to our readers as we inaugurate the Real Life English Study Abroad Blog. Sign up for our mailing list and let us guide you on your journey to English Fluency and Your Perfect Study Abroad Experience.

A few final question for you that we´d love to hear back for are:

  • where do you dream of traveling and how do you think your English exchange experience will make a difference?
  • How can travel change a person´s life and make an impact on the world?
  • We would love to hear your thoughts in any language you want to share in, and remember, we appreciate all feedback. We want to improve what we´re doing by understanding our community of readers.  Thanks for reading!

Did you like reading this article? Want to improve your writing skills? Want the Real Life Guys to edit/proofread your essays? Find out more.

Did you like reading this article? Want to improve your writing skills? Want the Real Life Guys to edit/proofread your essays? Find out more.

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  • Ethan Zinho says:

    This is a really awesome article, Justin. Studying abroad changed my life so much, I don't know where I'd be today had I not taken the leap when I was 18 to study abroad in Germany. It is for sure an experience that you will benefit so much from, and that will change your life forever.

  • Thanks Ethan! I really appreciate your comments. You´re a good example of how the power of a positive experience can not only teach you a language, but it can change the course of your life too!

    How many languages do you speak now?

  • Anwi Mundi says:

    Justin i appreciate the efforts you are putting in to help the world out here. Traveling abroad to improve on ones English is wonderful. but with an open and enthusiastic mind and making use of openings like this we could still make it. I am a beginner from Cameroon. i'll remain stick to this site for more

    • Justin says:

      Anwi, Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate your support. Keep it up and let us know if there’s anything we can do to make your experience better!

  • chellini chellini says:

    thank you for this ravishing article and ? want to add to this issue . ? know that going abroad is very attractive but on the other hand in order to go abroad (actually wherever you want) passengers (or how you call these people ) have to spend a lot of money when even they want to go to that country where they are willing to go so in my opinion or you can take this advice just friendly , before you start to contemplate in order to have a nice trip you ought to take all thoughts into consideration to not regret after all events so for example as far as ?’m concerned you must ask yourself this question ”?f ? go to this country can ? do right things or can ? focus on learning language that ? want while this trip so ? can give an example for this actually this is a kind bad one but it can be very effective in fact my friend told this story in the dormitory so this is real. My friend went U.K five times and he was very cheerful while he were telling the story but the truth is that although he went to U.K five times, he were asking the simple or we can say fundamental things about english grammar and ?f you can think about accent because of going abroad but nothing so ?f you decide to go to another country and ?f you are decisive you must keep in mind all things that ? told you just a little advice actually and thank you again for this article

  • chellini chellini says:

    thank you for this ravishing article and ı want to add to this issue . ı know that going abroad is very attractive but on the other hand in order to go abroad (actually wherever you want) passengers (or how you call these people ) have to spend a lot of money when even they want to go to that country where they are willing to go so in my opinion or you can take this advice just friendly , before you start to contemplate in order to have a nice trip you ought to take all thoughts into consideration to not regret after all events so for example as far as ı’m concerned you must ask yourself this question ”ıf ı go to this country can ı do right things or can ı focus on learning language that ı want while this trip so ı can give an example for this actually this is a kind bad one but it can be very effective in fact my friend told this story in the dormitory so this is real. My friend went U.K five times and he was very cheerful while he were telling the story but the truth is that although he went to U.K five times, he were asking the simple or we can say fundamental things about english grammar and ıf you can think about accent because of going abroad but nothing so ıf you decide to go to another country and ıf you are decisive you must keep in mind all things that ı told you just a little advice actually and thank you again for this article

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