Spending time abroad with a study group is a formative experience for young people. Interacting with those whose cultural habits, views and values do not necessarily match your own is both a delight and a challenge. These experiences feed the mind and grow the character. It is interesting how much a person can grow in such a short time amongst an international group. Tutors tell stories of how young students emerge from out of their shells, having learned to be more confident with expressing themselves. Perhaps it is because the student’s horizons were forced to broaden - and as a result they began to view themselves in a new light.
It is true that the primary purpose of taking up an OISE young learner’s programme is to increase the student’s competencies in all aspects of language ability. Through intensive tuition, the aim is to push the young learner to the limit of their capabilities and beyond. After all, to form a bilingual identity so early on in life is a powerful thing indeed. But there’s more to a course than the crunching of words and phrases and the practice of English - the other essential aspect of an OISE education lies in the emerging ability to communicate on an international stage using one’s inherent self-belief and the trained language artistry delivered by the tuition.
Following through on the decision to learn another language embodies the will to stand tall in an increasingly competitive world, where the ability to communicate, travel, and weave international relations has become essential in order to capture all the diverse opportunities that young people have today, both personally and professionally.
Adolescence can be an uneasy time. Identities are forged, opinions are challenged, the adult world is seen approaching over the horizon. During this time, it is important that young individuals are treated with the maturity and respect due to them, and vice-versa. That means providing them with opportunities to explore independently and to be exposed to new social environments.
A study-holiday abroad is excellent training in this regard, if conducted by experienced educators, as it permits the teenager to express their personality in new contexts. The family and friends they’ve always known are very acquainted to their set of behaviours and characteristics, therefore interactions with those who aren’t supply opportunities for growth and self-reflection.
The moment you choose a holiday abroad for a teenager you should consider the reasons for investing in such a move. If independant, exciting interaction is one of them, then it would be wise not to select courses that allocate students into groups by their nationalities or current spoken languages. It’s a widespread practice that ultimately stimies the growth of their secondary language whilst negating the effort and reward that would come from making new friends whilst using it.
In recent weeks, the writers at OISE visited many of the young learner schools. One of the most impressive traits displayed in all the students was their level of maturity. They took pride in themselves, found enjoyment in being tested, and engaged with the experience in a progressive way. After personally visiting the centres at Folkestone and Newbury, it was clear that the teenagers held great esteem in their study and were empowered by it. The bar was always being raised, expectations were constantly being challenged. The atmosphere could be described as serious and truly international; but without losing the charm and warmth that comes from a summer residential.
Whilst conversing with the students, it became abundantly clear that the learning was not limited to the mastery of the language. All reported an initial disorientation as they found themselves alone in an unfamiliar environment, but it passed quickly and easily, replaced by an appetite for learning and adventure. The word ‘fun’ was brought up over and over again.
The schooling was making a difference in all the ways that mattered. That alone suggested that the summer period was impacting the lives of our brilliant Young Learners.
Written by Sam Kearns, Community Manager.