Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to School

Wondering where I've been lately? No, I haven't been slacking off. In fact, I've been quite busy attending French classes in Nice. If you're looking for a great way to learn and practice a language, taking a vacation at a foreign language school offers many opportunities.

The school provides affordable housing options with a host or a family, which enables you to practice the language in an everyday setting and learn first-hand about the local culture. You even have the option to pay a little extra for dinner and/or breakfast with your host.

The schools screen hosts, but some can be a nightmare, like the one who had me sleep in the living room, or the one who would only let me come out of my room for dinner, which was usually no more than a bowl of green beans or a boiled egg. However, there are some great ones, like Solange, who included my classmates in family gatherings and even went out for dinner and drinks with some of us. If you are unhappy with your host, you can always ask the school to find you another place to stay.

If you don't want to take the risk, the school can also recommend a studio apartment or nearby hotel. After a few bad experiences in the past, I opted to rent an apartment on my own, mostly because I knew exactly where I wanted to stay, and because I planned to remain in Nice after the class.

If you want to look into classes, start with EF International or Apple Languages. Use their sites to select the language you want to study, your preferred city, housing preferences and any other options. For example, I chose the program that included morning lessons and afternoon excursions.

On the first day of class, you will normally take a placement test and be placed in a class, typically no larger than ten students, based on your level of knowledge. Generally, schools don't accept beginners, but you can always take an intro class at home before you go. Most community colleges offer non-credit classes for adults.

Besides learning more about French language and culture, I was also happy to find out more about the countries where the other students live. I also enjoyed going out with them for a glass of wine after the excursions and exploring nearby villages with them on the weekend. Since most students attend  the school on their own, everyone is looking for someone to hang out with, so there's no need to worry about being lonely or bored, even if you're shy. In fact, I actually made several new friends.

Oh, and according to my certificate, I am finally ready to proceed to advanced level French. C'est bon!