Summer is just round the corner, and many students and parents are making plans to study in Canada and the United States in July and August. Summer study travel can be a rewarding and un-forgetful experience, but you should take a few precautions and shop around to find the program that is perfectly suited to you and your needs!
How to Pick a Program
Before you start looking at different programs you should first ask yourself why you want to go study overseas. Is it a holiday? Do you want to improve your English for school? Or maybe you want to improve you’re language skills to find a better job. What ever the reason is, make sure you are clear of your goals and you will not be disappointed with your choice.
The next major questions you have to ask is: what is your budget? If you are on a tight budget you should avoid tour groups, big cities and big name schools. Being more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. Schools in smaller cities offer lower tuition and living costs without sacrificing quality.
Location of the school is a factor not to be overlooked. The city in which you will live will provide every bit as much of learning experience as the school you will attend. In general, bigger cities offer greater cultural, sporting, shopping, and nightlife activities while smaller cities are friendlier, safer and cheaper. People in smaller cities are somewhat friendlier and it will give you more opportunities to meet locals. Not to mention smaller cities tend to have a lower population of Asians, so it will be easier to experience a western lifestyle and speak English.
Tour Groups or DIY
Possibly your biggest choice will be whether to join a tour group or do it yourself (DIY). Over 10 years ago the vast majority of all people, regardless of age, would join tour groups. However, as many people have had experience traveling, the DIY option has become more and more popular, to the point that tour group participants are usually no older than 16. The reasons for this are many. Arranging travel plans on your own or with a couple of friends will allow you to tailor make an itinerary that is perfect for you, including choosing the right courses, the best departure and return times, all the extracurricular activities and freedom you want! Tour groups tend to be costlier with an average three- week tour group costing between NT$120,000 to NT$140,000. A more economical, all-inclusive DIY four-week program could be as low as NT$ 75,000. One other major drawback of tour programs is that you will be with at least 20-30 other Taiwanese students for the whole time of your program, which may make it easier to speak Chinese and harder to speak English!
Agency vs. 100% DIY
You might consider completing the registration process all by yourself rather than using a study abroad agency. While you might have limited bragging rights with your friends, applying on your own does not make much sense, and it could end up costing you more. Reputable study abroad centers, first, will be able to give you a wide selection of schools from which to choose and professional counseling to make sure the school you choose is most appropriate for you. Second, agencies will be able to complete school, housing and visa application for you, as well as arrange your bank remittances and insurance. Larger agencies also act as consolidators for airline companies to sell student tickets at a discount – something you could not do on your own. Finally, and probably most importantly, good agencies will be able to provide you pre-departure training and full emergency service until you return home – this just cannot be done on your own!
However, not all agencies are equal. Here is a checklist of things an agency should be able to provide to you to show their reliability and ensure your safety.
1. Ask to see their company license. Note that travel agencies and cram schools are not permitted to do study abroad business, and high schools, colleges and universities are not permitted by law to recruit students off of their campus.
2. Does the company use a government-provided, standardized contract? As of July 1st, 2004, all study abroad companies must use one of two standardized contracts as stipulated by the Ministry of Education and the Consumer Protection agency. Protect yourself – demand to use the standard contract!
3. Make sure you receive receipts for all money you give to an agency
4. Check out the company’s reputation: ask for student references and examples of the experience they have had in the past. Ask to see how long the company has been operating. Also look at the size of the company – in general, large, multi-branch companies with 20 or more employees are more stable and reliable.
5. Compare Prices. Most agencies will not charge a handling fee to apply for language programs!
A Final Word about Domestic Camps
If you cannot travel overseas this summer, you can still have a summer English camp experience right here in Taiwan! Several colleges and campuses offer one- to three-week residential programs at very reasonable fees. One note of caution, though, many of these camps do not use certified English teachers. One that does is being hosted at Fu Jen catholic University this summer with licensed high school teachers from Canada. The total cost of the three-week program is only NT$39,000. For more information visit: http://ohcanada.net/oc_6/new_promotion/Canada_English_Summer_Camp.htm
The author is the Director of the Oh Canada and Oh America Education Consulting Centers, http://ohstudy.net, (02) 2751-1919..
Summer study travel is much cheaper if you go DIY rather than with a tour group. For comparable quality and period of study, you could save as much as 40-50% going DIY rather than with a group!
Writer’s Corner -- Learn to Be a Better Writer!
Rule #1: Your writing process must be separated into two stages: first, tackle the content of your writing and then move onto a second stage of putting your prose together. Too many students (and professionals) sit down at a blank piece of paper and expect to write a final draft on their first try – this is a big mistake! All writing should be a multi-stepped process whereby your ideas are cultivated, organized and researched prior to the final stages of actually putting syntax and prose to paper. Once, you have constructed your sentences and paragraphs in a coherent manner, and then be prepared for many re-writes and polishing before you get your final product. Complete lesson with examples is available at http://ohstudy.net
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