Generally speaking, the advice can be split into two categories: practical, travel-related advice, and advice on how to prepare for your learning experience.
General travel-related advice
As is the case with any foreign travel, it’s advisable before you go abroad for your course to:
1. Organise suitable travel insurance, and keep a copy of the policy.
2. Get any vaccinations that you need – this applies in particular to anyone going to South America, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. Information on what vaccinations you require can be found via your doctor, or on a website such as the NHS Fit for Travel site (UK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (US).
3. Make sure that you have any visas required for your time abroad, or that you have registered your details online with the US government if you’re going to America. You won’t be allowed into the country if you haven’t done this.
4. Tell a relative or friend where you’re going and give them contact details for you if possible.
5. Tell your bank that you’re going abroad if you intend to use your debit or credit card whilst you’re away. Failing to do this might result in the bank assuming your card is being used fraudulently, and putting a stop on all transactions.
6. Get some currency to use in the country you’re going to – at least enough to last you for the first few days of your trip.
7. Make sure that your passport is valid and that there are at least another 6 months before it expires.
8. Learn some basic vocabulary in the language you’ll be learning – especially if you’re a beginner. Particularly useful are basic greetings, so that you know what to say to your host family, and transport-related words and phrases so that you can get where you need to be.
Course and accommodation-related advice
No language school will make any specific demands on you in terms of preparation for a language course, but you are likely to get more out of the experience if you heed the following advice:
1. Do some basic revision of what you already know if you are starting at any level other than beginner.
2. Buy or borrow a lightweight dictionary (and/or) grammar book that will come in useful when it comes to doing any homework.
3. Familiarise yourself with basic grammatical terminology that might be used in the classroom – even if it’s just revising the definition of a noun/verb/adjective etc.
4. Make sure you have details of where the school is, and what time you need to be there on the first day of your course.
5. If you’re going to a country that is quite culturally different to yours, it might be worth reading up on a little cultural etiquette before you go, especially if you are staying with a host family. The majority will be used to having foreigners stay with them, and will be aware of different cultural practices, but to save your own embarrassment or confusion it might be a good idea!
6. If you’re staying in a private apartment, or renting a room from someone (even if this has been arranged on your behalf by the school), it might be wise to have money to hand when you arrive in case you need to pay a damage deposit for your accommodation to the landlord. This is probably something that you could check with the school before you leave.
Have you still got questions relating to your language course? If so please leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you…
Cactus offers language courses of varying lengths and formats in countries all over the world. For full listings of locations and details of course types, please visit the Cactus Language website.